Pip Eastop, Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Posts tagged “Chet Baker

Bea’s Flat

Valentin’s visit has made quite a difference. This morning I made an assault on Chet Baker’s amazing solo from “Bea’s Flat”. I spent an hour or so looping sections of it at half-speed and trying to capture every not and every nuance. It’s coming along quite well, I think – I’ve learned about 75% of it (at half speed). Another hour on it and I should have it, and then I can start speeding it up.
After that bit of work I opened up a blues file in the same key, C, in my computer and was delighted to find I could fit bits of the solo from Bea’s Flat quite nicely here and there. This ties in very immediately with something I read last night in Paul Berliner’s book. Here it is:

Rhythmic ingredients can also constitute the fundamental idea for original figures. Walter Bishop Jr. says that after absorbing Bud Powell’s phrasing he “began to thnk like Bud” so he could abandon Powell’s precise lines and create his own “in the same idiom, playing with the same kind of feeling and intensity”. Arthur Rhames views the process as analogous to emulating personal styles of speech. Because all artists speak with “their own natural rhythm and sequential order.” it is possible to “emulate a person whose speaking you like, using his same effect – how he comes into a sentence or the way he constructs his things” – but without saying the “exact same thing”. That is how Rhames learned from John Coltrane.

“Without directly copying his melodic line, I tried to get the feeling of the line, the phrasing, which allowed me to understand how Trane was talking when he played. What I wanted was the form, the basket that he was using, but the contents I wanted to fill myself. I knew that I had something to say, and I wanted to deal with that. So what I copied was the way John constructed his phrases and their rhythmical base, the stems without the notes, and I put my own noes and harmony – the things I thought about – on top of it.”

Using the computer

Since reading that the best way forward is to learn solos from recordings, I’ve embarked on some study in that direction. The PC has turned out to be a great help. I ripped a Chet Baker track, “Bea’s Flat” (1953), into the PC and then opened it in a .wav file editor. The trumpet solo is very fast and at normal speed it’s extremely difficult to hear the individual notes so it’s wonderful to be able to slow it down and yet keep the pitch of the original. Normally, if you half the tempo of a recording its pitch drops by an octave but the computer works its magic to compensate precisely so that the correct pitch is retained. With this wonderful tool, within half an hour or so I had untangled the first few bars of the solo and even learned a bit of it -much quicker than I could have done just using a CD player. Still, it’s going to take some hard work to get my playing of it up to Chet Baker’s very fast tempo.

The PC has just opened up a whole new way of studying jazz for me.

Later today I met up with Julian Jacobson, a wonderful pianist based in London. I used to play with him quite a lot in the early eighties in a chamber ensemble called “Capricorn”. We always used to mess about together in rehearsals by playing scraps of music completely out of context – we couldn’t stop ourselves; most of what Capricorn played was so boring and difficult that we needed plenty of light relief to keep us sane. With this in mind and thinking Julian must still be some kind of a closet jazzer, I rang him a to see if he could help me. It was a positive hit – we made a date and that date was today.

On his suggestion we met up at the Royal College of Music where he and I both teach. We were both a little awkward to start with and after a bit of a natter we got down to some playing. We started with some blues and then played Stella and a couple of other tunes I didn’t know and couldn’t read. I must admit I was pretty shockingly bad but honest about my current limitations and my intentions and, amazingly, he seemed keen to do some more so we are going to meet again in November having, we hope, found a drummer and a bass player. 

I need to learn some tunes!