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An LP by John Coltrane; the 1959 sessions included members of the rhythm section from Miles Davis' quintet, in which Trane was still a member - the success of Giant Steps allowed him to form his own group. The title track and "Countdown" feature a chord sequence ("Coltrane Changes") that formed the basis of Trane's future innovations. Other tracks featured a harmonic sparseness akin to modal jazz. "Naima", named for his first wife, was a ballad that made its way into the jazz canon.

Recorded in 1959, released in 1960.

  1. Giant Steps
  2. Cousin Mary
  3. Countdown
  4. Spiral
  5. Syeeda's Song Flute
  6. Naima
  7. Mr. P.C.
  8. Alternate takes added to the CD version:

  9. Giant Steps
  10. Naima
  11. Cousin Mary
  12. Countdown
  13. Syeeda's Song Flute


Couldn't resist.

Also an LP by the The Boo Radleys, released in 1993 this album was critically acclaimed, as a fusion of styles between shoegazing and pre-empting the Britpop revival that was shortly to occur. The Boo Radleys went onto chart-topping success with their next album Wake Up!. Track listing follows

  1. I Hang Suspended
  2. Upon 9th and Fairchild
  3. Wish I was Skinny
  4. Butterfly McQueen
  5. Rodney King (Song for Lenny Bruce)
  6. Thinking of Ways
  7. Barney (...and me)
  8. Spun Around
  9. if You Want It, Take It
  10. Best Lose the Fear
  11. Take the Time Around
  12. Lazarus
  13. One is For
  14. Run My Way Runway
  15. I've Lost the Reason
  16. The White Noise Revisted

    Michael was standing in his garage, clearing a space to work on his bike when he suddenly thought of his daughter. Michael stopped for a moment, surprised. It wasn’t that he never thought of her. On the contrary, he frequently thought of her. She had a permanent place at the periphery of his consciousness. She was not exactly a conscious thought, but never entirely absent.

    What surprised him now was how she had leapt to the forefront of his mind unsolicited. It would perhaps have made sense, had he memories of spending time in a shed with her, or repairing her bicycle. But he had never seen her ride a bike, let alone worked on one for her. In fact, the last time he saw her, had she owned a bike it would likely have been one with those awkward little training wheels.

    Katie must be about twelve, Michael thought. Her birthday was in March, though her conception was likely on a warm summer day similar to this. Several weeks ago Michael began playing his saxophone again. He hadn’t played professionally in fifteen years and rarely took it out although he carefully packed and carried it every time he moved. He wondered briefly if there was a connection between the saxophone and his daughter. He wasn’t sure how though, he had stopped playing a couple years before he met Katie’s mother Jean.

    The profession of jazz musician was dying. Michael had held on longer than most. But eventually he had to admit defeat. He watched his profession die as painfully as his city. He scarcely recognized the streets of Detroit as the neighborhoods of his childhood. There was no deli on the corner, or bar that sold packs of gum to the neighborhood children before seven o’clock. After seven Mr. Ramsey would chase them out, telling them it was no place for children.

    There were many hypotheses thrown about as to the reasons for the death of Detroit. There was everything from the coolly rational economic arguments to the romanticized death of the elm trees. But as much as these may have contributed, Michael believed that its real demise was the death of jazz, which had left the city soulless.

    Michael had voiced his theory to a girlfriend years later. She was the only one who had ever challenged him about his daughter. He talked a lot to Julie about music. While she loved to hear stories about the people he had played with, and where he had been, she never heard him play. She seemed to surround herself with people who pursued their passions and never tired of hearing about them. Julie herself never followed her passion. Michael believed it was not a lack of passion that plagued her, as she herself believed. He thought that her passion was in conflict with her personality.

    The conception of Katie had changed Michael’s life. Like the end of his career, it was not a voluntary change. It was a decision devised behind his back by Jean, an executive businesswoman who wanted to have a child. It was a hot day in late August that Jean informed Michael of her pregnancy. She told him calmly that she had chosen him to father her child, and that he could participate or not as he chose.

    The drama that followed was a bitter one of wills, emotional manipulation, and unspoken expectation. When Michael called to arrange with Jean to sign the lease on an apartment they had seen, she informed him she had already rented one on her own. When Katie was born eight months later, Jean encouraged Michael to participate in his daughter’s life, but silently cut him out.

    At first Michael tried to reason with her, bringing in friends and later consulting lawyers. Eventually he gave up. He did not pursue a custody battle; after all, he cared for the well-being of his daughter and was in no position to raise a child. Jean wasn’t irresponsible. She made a good living and had a tight system of support from her own family and friends. After all, she had been the one who wanted this child in the first place, had planned for it. She would be a good mother.

    The last time Michael had seen his daughter she was seven years old. It had been nearly six months since they had last met. Jean brought Katie to the restaurant where they were to meet. Michael smiled at the sight of his daughter. She looked like him. She greeted him and kissed her mother goodbye. They sat down and she began talking to him. Something was off, incongruous. Suddenly it dawned on him. The words coming out of her mouth were not those of a seven year old. It was the words of her mother. As if she had been coached. Michael spent the rest of the afternoon trying to coax his daughter out from behind that tight smile but it was no use. After that afternoon, Jean cancelled two more scheduled meetings, and Michael stopped calling.

    When Michael left the Midwest for Arizona he made sure to leave Jean his address. His daughter sent him a card. Michael met Julie a few months after he moved. She worked in a café near the bike shop where he worked. It was funny how these days, when he called forth the image of his daughter, the image of Julie also came.

    Perhaps this was why he was irritated, and surprised, when his daughter leapt unsolicited into the forefront of his mind. In the two years that they dated, Julie never voiced an opinion about the situation. She would listen sympathetically while he talked about what had occurred. She understood the anger and frustration that he felt. Occasionally she’d ask if he wanted to call his daughter, or perhaps invite her out for a visit. He always declined, saying she knew how to reach him if she wanted to. It wasn’t until the end of their relationship, that Julie challenged him.

    They were arguing about something, when somehow Katie came up. He had no idea how. Julie looked him straight in the eye and said “For heaven’s sake, she is just a child Michael. It is your responsibility to stay in touch with her, not the other way round.” At the time Michael was taken aback. At the time he thought that she was wrong. She wasn’t there, she didn’t understand. How could she know what it was like to be cruelly cut from his daughter’s life? The emotional pain of being manipulated, first by Jean and then suddenly seeing his daughter’s own personality disappear under the influence of her mother? Besides, Jean was a good mother. She doted on Katie, and provided her with the best care, encouraging her hobbies and focusing on the quality of her education. She was a good mother. “But you are her father…” He could hear Julie’s voice echoing. She really didn’t understand.

    Michael kicked a box aside. The afternoon sunlight slanted in through the door, making the dim light bulb seem extraneous. He was never exactly angry towards Julie for speaking her mind about Katie. He was simply convinced that she was wrong. She was careful to say that she had no intention of judging him about it. But that she had to voice her opinion anyway. It would be irresponsible not to.

    Katie was twelve now. What did that mean in terms of school? A kid starts first grade at six, right? That would put her seventh grade. In a year she’d be off to high school. Michael flipped his bike upside down and popped off the tire. He threaded the tube around between his fingers, looking for the leak. He nodded satisfied when he found a small slit halfway round. It was easily patchable.

    Stretching his arms behind his back as he stood up again, Michael thought about Katie in high school. He wondered where she would go. Stepping over a box Michael left the garage, squinting as he entered the sunlit yard. He lifted his hand to his face, examining the rose bushes along the edge of the house. He needed to prune them. Michael turned back towards the garage and wondered where in his papers he had Jean’s current address. Maybe he would write Katie a letter.

    || B   D7   | G    Eb7  | Bb     | Am7   D7   | 
     | G   Eb7  | Bb   F#7  | B      | Fm7   Bb7  |
     | Eb       | Am7   D7  | G      | C#m7  F#7  |
     | B        | Fm7   Bb7 | Eb     | C#m7  F#7  ||
    I have yet to find a way of noding chords with melody, and when I do, I'll add it. However, the melody here is one note per chord, and is very trivial. Suffice to say that the melody does not make the song, and is not the genius of it. It is the chords that are of interest - and they are what is presented here.
    Some music theory
    John Coltrane released Giant Steps (both the song and album) in 1959, and with it started a musical revolution. The base of Giant steps is the Coltrane Changes, which you can read about there, but basically - until then, jazz music had been based largely on one tonal center, or on movements of a fourth, or a major or minor second. But no one before had moved the tonality up and down a major third! Coltrane had been working on this harmonic approach for a while, and brought it out with Giant Steps, and also Countdown, on the same album. The thing is, tonalities a major third apart are very different, and it is difficult to move smoothly between them. Giant Steps is, in fact, based on three tonal centers, all a major third apart - B, Eb and G. (If you want, you can view them as Bmaj7, Ebmaj7 and Gmaj7). In fact, it is easy to see that all other chords are just cadences to these tonic chords. D7 is the fifth of G and Am7 - D7 is a II-V progression to G. Likewise with fifths and II-V's to Eb and B. So, stripping away the cadences, and leaving just the tonal centers, we have Giant Steps stripped to:
    || B   G    |      Eb   |        | G          | 
     |     Eb   |      B    |        | Eb         |
     |          | G         |        | B          |
     |          | Eb        |        | B          ||
    Which maybe makes it seem a little less intimidating. And it helps see the movement of the tonailities. As you can see, it always moves up or down a major third. This will help if you want to 'scrape through'. A trick you can use is to play the major pentatonic of the fifth of the tonic over the entire tonality. It may sound complicated, but it isn't. You can play D major pentatonic over any chord that is in the 'G tonality' (Am7, D7 or G), Bb major pentatonic over Eb and F# pentatonic over B. Of course, if you do that all the time, you're going to sound pretty boring, so you're just going to have to learn the hard way if you want to sound any good over this. Anyway, it's only II-V-Is (and V_Is). How difficult can it be? Haha.

    The thing that makes it so difficult to play over this is that tonal centers a major third apart have few notes in common. For example, G major is G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and Eb major is Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D. They have 3 notes in common. For comparison - moving a fourth leaves 6 notes in common, and moving down a major second leaves 5 notes in common. And there is not a single note in common to all three scales. Which sucks. You can't even aim for a 'sure' note if you're stuck. Hehe. That was hardly the case before Giant Steps came along. The tonality never flew around like this. Oh, and it's played at almost 300 bpm. That means you have to negotiaite all 3 tonal centers in less than 2 seconds.

    Coltrane's recording
    Giant Steps is so named because of the bass movement. Usually, the bass moves in steps (whole / half tones) or fourths (as in the common cadence), but here, the bass is moving in minor thirds and fourths (and also tritones). And that is why the piece is called Giant Steps.

    Rumour has it that Coltrane practiced virtually nothing but Giant Steps prior to recording it. I am not sure about that, but I do know that at the time, virtually nobody could have played it. Looking at Coltrane's solo, he plays a lot of 'patterns' on the chords. Patterns like 1235 and 1351 (i.e. on B major - B C# D# F# and B D# F# B respectively). With the chords and tonalities moving so fast, it is important to play inside the harmony.

    Tommy Flanagan
    Tommy Flanagan was the pianist on the recording, and Nat Henthoff, who wrote the liner notes for the album, wrote "Tommy Flanagan's relatively spare solo and the way it uses space as part of its structure is an effective contrast to Coltrane's intensely crowded chorus." What a euphemism! With as much respect as I have for Tommy Flanagan, his solo seriously sucks. But then again, you can't blame him. Nobody can, and nobody has. It was a bit brutal of Coltrane to even think that anyone else could play a solo on it then - and you can hear the strain in Flanagan's solo. It is quite easy to hear that he's not coping at all well with the changes. In fact, Flanagan was quite annoyed at his performance on that particular song. 23 years later, he released an album also titled 'Giant Steps', with his trio. The album had the same songs as the original Giant Steps album he recorded with Coltrane. Probably the reason he did so was to prove to the world that he could play Giant Steps. I personally haven't heard it, but I am assured he did a great job.

    Coltrane actually wrote this tune when he was trying to get a good handle on "Have you Met Miss Jones?". I forget who originally asked John "why did you write Giant Steps?" but my sax teacher, Bob Mover has a million stories like this and he said that Trane did it to get a better handle on Miss Jones. After playing both tunes and not having a good handle on either one, I'd have to say that if you can play Giant Steps, you can play Miss Jones...

    The reason Trane did this is because the bridge of Miss Jones is a series of II-V-I progressions in descending major thirds. Well, the last major third is not descending, but it's still a major third (up). The bridge looks like this, essentially:

       BbMaj   ->    GbMaj   ->   DMaj   ->   GbMaj

    Of course, the above pattern is a series of II-V-I's but the key centres are the ones given. You can see that they are just keys that are a major third apart, and that is what Giant Steps is, as Footprints states quite clearly.

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