John Coltrane’s recording “Giant Steps” is a monumental jazz work. Not only is it a popular melody, but also features what most consider the most difficult jazz improvisation in the history of jazz. The chord changes occur increasingly fast and Coltrane plays through it all effortlessly. John Coltrane liked to record songs unrehearsed and this was the case with “Giant Steps.” Due to the complexity, the pianist, Tommy Flanagan, could not keep up with Coltrane and floundered trying to play a solo over the others for the first take. The video below is indeed Tommy Flanagan on another shot at playing, when he was better prepared for the piece. This just goes to show that even professionals can get in over their heads when they work with such extraordinary musicians as John Coltrane.
The video is a transcription of the solo as it is played on the recording. It is fascinating to watch the notes unfurl effortlessly and see all the changes he is accounting for instantaneously. Astounding.
In a more contemporary setting, Slam Poetry has taken somewhat a similar role to jazz poetry. Slam poetry can sometimes include music as well, alluding to its roots in the jazz culture. There is an inherent performance quality to this style of poetry, something else that is remarkably similar to jazz. Here, one of my favorite slam poets, Rives, uses sign language and humor to make some beautiful points. Much like jazz musicians (like Coltrane in “Giant Steps”) utilizing the entire range of the instrument and technical facets, poets use their gamut of emotions and physical gestures to enhance the performance.