VARIOUS ARTISTS / Giant Steps Mixtape

MP3 03 Giant Steps Mixtape.mp3 (73.17 MB)

coltrane 16.jpg 
There are those who argue that Ornette Coleman’s music was more revolutionary in that Coleman completely changed the harmonic basis of jazz in 1959. Others argue that Miles Davis and his introduction of modal jazz and fusion jazz did more to change the direction of modern music than any other musician in the 20th century. But within the context of harmony-based jazz there is no denying that John Coltrane set standards that still hold well into the 21st century.

Of all of Coltrane’s compositions, “Giant Steps” remains the gold standard, even acknowledged by those who deal exclusively in plastic. Unlike Coleman and Davis, with “Giant Steps” Coltrane did not discard traditional harmonic progressions, he just gave us a new way to play traditional changes—a challenging way, that required deep knowledge of western harmony. In the mid-sixties, Coltrane would explore other areas and discard western harmony as the underlying structure but by then Coltrane had established the yardstick that musicians continue to use to measure how well they can “play the changes.”

Saxophonists in particular continue to study and challenge themselves by playing the harmonic cycles that Coltrane developed. You think you can play—well, play “Giant Steps” at a fast tempo and simultaneously take a meaningful solo.

But you don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the intricate beauty of “Giant Steps.” What is significant about Coltrane’s composition is that the movement is as easy to hear as it is difficult to improvise over. In one sense, Coltrane is the supreme Thelonious Monk student. Monk was the master of jazz minimalism, and Coltrane became the chief architect of making complexity sound simple (but not simplistic).

Here are 15 versions that include strings, saxophone quartets, vocal versions and instrumental solos. I had a hard time narrowing the Mixtape down to 15 selections. Indeed, I left some of my favorite versions on the cutting room floor because I was going for variety. It’s nothing short of amazing how beautiful this composition sounds regardless of tempo or treatment—and that’s another endearing indication of how important is this particular piece of music.

While I’m not going to comment on each individual track, I do want to call attention to the second track, the Mary McPartland/Alice Coltrane duet during which you can hear the two women discussing the music as they play the barnburner at a simmering (and shimmering) tempo.

The changes sound so right, so obvious once Coltrane codified them in his composition. I guess you can say Coltrane’s genius was in simply showing us the (previously unseen) obvious.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

Giant Steps Mixtape Playlist

giant steps cover 01.jpg 
01 Giant Steps – John Coltrane

giant steps cover 02.jpg 
02 Piano Jazz – Marian McPartland/Alice Coltrane

giant steps cover 03.jpg 
03 Specially Arranged for Fay – Fay Claassen

giant steps cover 04.jpg 
04 Welcome Home – Jean-Michel Pilc

giant steps cover 05.jpg 
05 Jazz Mafia Presents Hiphopulation – Cannonball

giant steps cover 06.jpg 
06 Solo – Leroy Jenkins

giant steps cover 07.jpg 
07 FIVIN' AROUND – Henry Butler

giant steps cover 08.jpg 
08 The Long March Part 2 – Max Roach & Archie Shepp

giant steps cover 09.jpg 
09 Miami Saxophone Quartet Live – Miami Saxophone Quartet

giant steps cover 10.jpg 
10 Hearts Of Fire – New York Voices

giant steps cover 11.jpg 
11 Live In Tokyo – Michel Camilo

giant steps cover 12.jpg 
12 Trio 99-00 – Pat Metheny Trio

giant steps cover 13.jpeg 
13 Soul Eyes – Vanessa Rubin

giant steps cover 14.jpg 
14 Steps – Deepak Ram

giant steps cover 15.jpg 
15 Return Of The 5000Lb Man – Rahsaan Roland Kirk

This entry was posted on Monday, June 27th, 2011 at 1:40 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “VARIOUS ARTISTS / Giant Steps Mixtape”

Coltrane Jenkins Says:
July 4th, 2011 at 12:59 am

I never heard Marian McPartland’s cover of “Giant Steps”… I love it. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for doing your homework.

Leave a Reply

| top |