that one recording, Herbie Hancock's "MAIDEN
VOYAGE"(Blue Note), recorded in 1965, can contain
so many classic tunes and, in addition to this, so many
memorable solos. The title track has become a jazz "standard"
and was, in huge part, responsible for ushering in the
"modal jazz" era. Though I suppose one must
never forget tunes like "So What," "Milestones,"
and "Impressions" in the chronology, and the
role they played! At the time, I always related to "Maiden
Voyage" as having two versions, Herbie's own
aforementioned version, and the interpretation which
appears on Bobby Hutcherson's "HAPPENINGS"(Blue
Note) recording. The two recordings were done just six
months apart, and I was struck by how the two versions
could be so very different, especially in their rhythmic
treatments, and yet retain the mood and the attitude
of the composition as it stands.
The Herbie Hancock version, with Ron Carter and
Tony Williams, has an incredibly loose feeling
to it and demonstrates that jazz can have a elasticity
to it. That the interpretation of 'time' can
be flexible. The Bobby Hutcherson version, with Bob
Cranshaw and Joe Chambers, is a very driving
even 8th-note pulse with the emphasis on all the quarter-notes.
Of the two, for the players who have come afterwards,
the "feeling" of Herbie's version is
almost impossible to recapture. It's truly magical!
Though saxophonist George
Coleman was a member of the Miles Davis Quintet
during the mid-'60s, he was replaced by Wayne Shorter
and sadly, in a sense, seems to have been forgotten.
Apart from his many great moments with Miles, one of
his greatest solos has to be what he played on "Maiden
Voyage." What does it say about a solo, which is
only one chorus in length, that it seems to be longer
when one is listening to it, and yet, it is almost a
work of perfection? It stands as proof that great playing,
a great recording, is not necessarily marked by performances
where everyone plays 10 choruses and each track is 20-minutes
long. Though this is an 8-minute performance!
The song, "Maiden Voyage," is actually a classic
A-A-B-A form and is 32-bars in length. Harmonically,
it uses the very simple device of applying rich textured
m7(sus) chords, usually with the 4th in the bass, moving
up and then back down in the interval of a minor 3rd.
The fact that [B] simply moves up a half-step
is also a much used device, but always effective in
its emotional impact. The tune is played at a very sensitive
dynamic during the [A] sections and, of course,
rises in intensity when the band arrives at [B].
As Coleman's solo
begins, the rhythm section drops down further in dynamics
giving his smokey sounding tenor sax a place to begin.
For most soloists, for most solos, this is always a
desirable point of departure. Throughout the solo, he
seems to play many phrases which have groupings of two
16th-notes to an 8th-note or quarter note. You can see
this in bars: 1-8; 11; 13-15; and 30. Then, as the harmonic
movement would indicate, at [B], his rhythmic
activity picks-up and he unleashes a completely relaxed
8-bars of double time which contains all the classic
linear language that one would expect from a great jazz
Though the solo is only
one chorus, Coleman makes beautiful usage of the device
of anticipating the next chord change during the previous
bar. In bar 4, he has landed on the note 'C'
which is common to both Am7(sus) and to Cm7(sus), but,
to gracefully flow from one chord to the next he plays
'D' to 'Eb' to anticipate that Cm7(sus)
is coming and then lands on an 'F'-natural.
In the transition at bar 8, from Cm7(sus) back to Am7(sus),
there are really no notes common to each chord but he
lands on 'D' going to 'C' and those
notes are common to both. So the fact that they are
preceded by an 'F' makes it another gorgeous
transition aided by a 'bent' note, falling
off the high Bb. In bar 12, there's another great
transition as he plays a perfectly placed string of
16th-notes, all in A-Dorian, going down in the mode
and making the change right on the downbeat of bar 13
to an 'F'-natural. Perhaps the most harmonically
interesting transition he makes is from bar 16 into
17, and the arrival of [B], where he must move
up a half-step from Am7(sus) to Bbm7(sus). Here he employs
another great device by playing 1/2-step above the chord
he is about to go to. So, if you're doing the 'math'
involved, you would expect to see that he's playing
in or around B-Dorian(B, C#, D, E, F, G#, A) as the
chord 1/2-step above is Bm7(sus). If you look closely
you will see those modal notes. And, it's especially
effective how the last two 16th-notes in bar 16, 'E'-natural
to 'D'-natural, then become Eb to Db on the
downbeat of bar 17 as the new chord arrives.
As the solo concludes
in [A3], Coleman continues with a bit more in
double-time during bars 25-26. But this precision gives
way to an arpeggiated flurry in bar 27. Here he essentially
outlines a Cmaj9 arpeggio which should be considered
as the upper extension of an Am7 chord, just ignoring
the note 'A.' The last four bars of the solo
conclude with choppy staccato phrases and three more
short arpeggiated bursts which outline intervals of
fourths in C-Dorian: Bb-F-C. If you review the solo,
as a whole, the interval of the fourth plays an important
part in what Coleman "hears" over m7(sus)
solo gives way to Freddie Hubbard's
2-chorus trumpet solo which is also a work of tremendous
scope, power, and beauty. For those of you who are young
and just beginning to explore the wonders of this great
music, I will hope that you might be inspired to now
pick-up a copy of "MAIDEN VOYAGE" and
fully enjoy all its compositional and improvisational
wonders. It will be obvious why students of this music
consider it to be a time honored classic.
This particular transcription was done because a former
student of mine chose this solo for one of his college
courses. However, he did such an awful job that I felt
that I had to try and help him. I remembered that I
actually had a transcription of this solo buried in
my files. That transcription was originally done by
an old friend, pianist Steve Robbins, during the '70s.
So, I found it and made some of my own modifications
and corrections, and the result is what you now see.
For those of you interested in hearing more George Coleman,
from the same time period with Miles Davis, you might
want to listen to: "'FOUR' AND MORE"(Columbia), "MY FUNNY VALENTINE"(Columbia),
and the collaboration between Miles and Gil Evans,
As this is being written
during late September of 2001, it's hard to let this
moment pass without wishing that all of you are now,
and will be for all times, safe and well. That somehow
there might be a peaceful outcome to this most horrifying
of situations in which we now find ourselves as citizens
of the world. In such an awful moment in human history,
it's a great comfort that there exists beautiful music
to listen to. Enjoy this particular solo with my deepest wishes for
peace, and a safe and happy life for everyone.