Displaying Solo Information in Jazz Discography

In my article on compiling and displaying solo information in jazz discographies, I address the positioning and characterization of solos within a jazz performance using parameters such as the number of bars and/or choruses. An alternative involves using timings to indicate the location and duration of each solo. In the article, I only mention this option in the context of free or formless improvisation where counting measures or choruses is virtually impossible.

Therefore, it was with great interest that I noted in his recent, excellent book “Experiencing Big Band Jazz: A Listener’s Companion” (Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2017), Jeff Sultanoff uses timings to place not only solos but other significant features within dozens of examples of big band recordings. This is a very effective way of directing the reader/listener to these highlights because: 1. No musical knowledge or training is required to understand the performance landscape, and 2. With most music now being listened to on digital equipment, a timing point is much easier to locate than in the days of analog releases.

Here is a comparison of the two approaches using an example from my Lucky Thompson Discography (“Boppin’ the Blues” recorded April 22, 1947 for RCA Victor – track h):

Example 1 (using bars and choruses):
h – Jackie Mills (d) 4-bar intro; Dodo Marmarosa (p) 36 bars (3 choruses); Neal Hefti (t) 24 bars (2 choruses); Benny Carter (as) 24 bars (2 choruses); Barney Kessel (g) 36 bars (3 choruses); Lucky Thompson (ts) 60 bars (5 choruses); Jackie Mills (d) 4 bars

Example 2 (using timings):
h – Jackie Mills (d) 0:00; Dodo Marmarosa (p) 0:13; Neal Hefti (t) 0:44; Benny Carter (as) 1:04; Barney Kessel (g) 1:23; Lucky Thompson (ts) 1:54; Jackie Mills (d) 2:43

This example uses bars, choruses and timings and is the most informative but also the most labor intensive for the compiler:
h – Jackie Mills (d) 0:00, 4-bar intro; Dodo Marmarosa (p) 0:13, 36 bars (3 choruses); Neal Hefti (t) 0:44, 24 bars (2 choruses); Benny Carter (as) 1:04, 24 bars (2 choruses); Barney Kessel (g) 1:23, 36 bars (3 choruses); Lucky Thompson (ts) 1:54, 60 bars (5 choruses); Jackie Mills (d) 2:43, 4 bars

Discography considerations aside, Sultanoff’s book is highly recommended.

The Art Farmer Discography

For many years I had considered compiling the discography of trumpeter, flugelhornist and flumpeter Art Farmer. One of the most lyrical of jazz soloists, he has been on my radar since I first became interested in jazz in the early 1950s. But his 50-year career and substantial recording output discouraged me from embarking upon such a seemingly overwhelming undertaking.

Earlier this year, I learned that my friend Lynne Mueller, Farmer’s companion and manager in his later years, was assembling a website in his honor and with her support and encouragement I agreed to work on his discography. There was also assistance available provided by my Gigi Gryce co-biographer Michael Fitzgerald who had already compiled a discography of the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet. Since both Mike and I were users of the BRIAN discography software, I was able to import a portion of his database into my own which avoided a considerable amount of data entry.

I am delighted to report that Farmer’s discography is now available and can be seen here. This was a major effort that includes solo information. I encourage all of you to have a look and provide comments and corrections as you see fit.

Frank Strozier Solos

I have now added solo information to my Frank Strozier discography. This includes many live sessions where he really stretches out. In the process of doing this, I was forced to analyze some of the original compositions recorded in the 1960s and 1970s and discovered that they often have very unusual structures. In certain instances, I have described these briefly in the session notes.

You can also find a table in which I have compiled all of Strozier’s solos by recording date and performance title between 1959 and 1984. This information, which includes solo duration, was extracted from the discography.

If you are not familiar with Strozier’s work, I would highly recommend that you check it out. He was also a gifted composer and saxophonist Chris Byars has recorded several of his pieces for a Steeplechase CD to be issued in 2017.

Lucky Thompson Solos

I have added a  table (pdf) that lists solos of Lucky Thompson by recording date and performance title between 1944 and 1973. The information, which includes solo duration, is also found in the discography, from which the data was extracted. Needless to say, this was an enormous amount of work, involving listening to every performance and using a lap counter in order to accurately determine solo duration in bars. And there were some interesting revelations along the way. For example, on the iconic Miles Davis All Star Sextet session of April 29, 1954 for Prestige Records, Lucky Thompson takes the longest solo on both “Walkin'” and “Blue ‘N’ Boogie,” 10 choruses on the former and 12 choruses on the latter, despite the presence of not only Davis but also bebop innovator trombonist J.J. Johnson and up-and-coming piano star Horace Silver. These solos exemplify the saxophonist at his very best on tenor, demonstrating his unique and artful construction along with elegance and passion. I doubt that there was any controversy over Thompson’s stretching out on Davis’ date after the musicians and producers listened to the playbacks.

The table can be found here.