Miles’ Tenors: A Study of Tenor Saxophonists Associated with Miles Davis

Mark Kraszewski / jazz

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A presentation on the style of 3 major Jazz saxophonists: John Coltrane, George Coleman, and Wayne Shorter. A transcription of a solo from each player will be analyzed, and then performed.

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Mark Kraszewski received his Doctor of Musical Arts in Saxophone Performance from the Eastman School of Music. Currently he is a Lecturer in the Music Department at the University of Rochester, where he leads the jazz combos and teaches improvisation and music theory. Prior to this appointment, he taught saxophone at Cornell University. Recently he has performed with Eddie Daniels and the Hal Mcyntire Orchestra, and he is a member of the Orquesta Antonetti. His group, the Vertex Saxophone Quartet, has worked with composers such as Dexter Morrill, and they were featured on WXXI Classical 91.5’s series Live from Hochstein. He won first place in a concerto competition at the Eastman School, and he also went on the 2004 Asia Tour with the Eastman Wind Ensemble.

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Miles Davis changed personnel in his groups frequently, including his tenor players. After John Coltrane left the quintet, he went through several tenor players before settling on George Coleman in 1963 and then Wayne Shorter in 1965. This presentation will focus on the style of these three seminal figures in Miles Davis’ groups. A transcription of a solo from each player will be analyzed. Starting with John Coltrane, his solo on “Straight, no Chaser” from Milestones shows a harmonic style that is rooted in the bebop language. His frequent use of descending minor seventh chords and tritone substitutions fits directly into the bebop harmonic idiom. What Coltrane contributes for saxophonists is an unprecedented facility over these bebop chord substitutions, executing melodic sequences and complex figurations over tritone substitutions with great command. Moving onto George Coleman’s solo on “Autumn Leaves” from Miles Davis in Europe, we see that Coleman is heavily influenced by Coltrane’s virtuosity within the bebop language. Coleman uses descending chromatic minor seven chords frequently in the double time sections of his solo, and he also uses the altered scale in a similar fashion as Coltrane on “Straight, No Chaser”. Overall, during Coleman’s period with Davis, his use of the diminished scale shows roots in Coltrane’s use of the diminished scale in the late 1950’s. Moving onto Shorter’s solo on “Gingerbread Boy”, this solo is not predominantly characterized by Coltrane’s late 50’s style. There are instances of a Coltrane-esque use of bebop, particularly with the bebop scale over the IV chord of this blues. But Shorter predominantly breaks away from the bebop language in this solo. What is interesting however is that the main harmonic device in Shorter’s solo, pentatonics in alternate key centers, is taken from Coltrane’s later modal style, after he had left Davis’ group. All of the concepts from these solos will be exemplified by score examples, as well as a complete listening of the original recording and a performance from memory of each transcription. After each solo has been analyzed and performed, an improvised solo will be played which will display the stylistic features of all three of the transcriptions. Ultimately, an analysis of these three tenor players shows that Coltrane had a pervasive influence on subsequent saxophonists in Davis’ groups, and that while Coleman borrowed features from Coltrane’s earlier style, Shorter was influenced by Coltrane’s later style. This evolution in the saxophonists’ styles also fit with the changing aesthetic of Miles Davis’ groups as a whole.


12/07/2015 11:00 - 11:45

Cité de la musique et de la danse - Salle 19

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Musicians / speakers

  • Kraszewski Mark / Tenor Saxophone (United States)