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Giant Steps (the album): Bad drumming?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by hoedown_j, Dec 27, 2005.

  1. hoedown_j


    Mar 3, 2005
    I love Coltrane, but just don't really like listening to Giant Steps. I think it's because of the drumming. There's not much to it, just all high-hat, very phlegmatic. Anyone feel this way?
  2. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    I think, personally, that it's a difficult recording to be critical of. Trane had just brought the tune in before the session. He had been working on it for weeks if not longer and none of the other musicians saw it until that session. PC's basslines are pretty generic. Tommy Flanagan's solo is God-Awful (which is why he recorded a version later after he'd worked the tune out) not to mention Jimmy Cobb's drumming.

    As for the whole album, I think there are great performances throughout the rest of the record. If the drumming is bad in any way, it's just pretty stagnant at times. But I think bad might be a bit too strong a word.
  3. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Yeah Flanagan's solo was quite terrible on that. I was wondering why, thanks for clarifying.
  4. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Intersting, I'll bear this in mind when I listen to it next time... I love some of the tunes on the album, but I find it hard work compared to some of his other albums.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It's a truly great album but it's not an album you can listen to once and get it - it's hard listening at first , but I hear it now as a real "original" - nearly all the tracks have become Jazz standards and I've seen them played many times by current Jazz musicians in the UK!

    Coltrane was moving quickly and taking the musicians in a new direction - it's interesting to hear them grappling with the demands of this and shows up the improvisatory nature of Jazz and how it was developing rapidly in the late 50s early 60s ...

    There are 3 different drummers on the album - but I think to say the drumming is bad or "all hi-hat" is just rubbish and to me, betrays a very 'shallow' appreciation of Jazz - this aint rock and roll we're talking about here....:meh:
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I just looked in the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD review and they mention :

    "..only newcomers to Coltrane will be unaware of the extraordinary enterprise that had such seasoned players wrestling with a new conception in Jazz."
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Actually, to be fair, it's Coltrane himself I find hard work. I find his tone very direct (in a screaming, stabbing kind of way) at the best of times, and I like it for that fact, but this album is still a bit too full on for me. I love some of the melodies and sounds, but..
    Same goes for My Favourite Things. I find it very hard to relax listening to these albums, they are just a bit too intense for me at the moment. I can get into Blue Trane and Love Supreme much easier.

    Obviously my taste is still developing, but, so far, I prefer Coltrane as a sideman. I love his playing with Miles, I can hear some of his ideas more clearly. Plus, to be blunt, I like his solos to end! :D
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It's in no way "Easy Listening" !! ;)

    But I like these tunes and love playing them - like our group did at the last Summerschool!! :)

    I think the other thing is that this music is much better live - this is the kind of Jazz that is really exciting when you are at a small club and the band is really "cooking" - a corny term I know, but I can't think of anything more appropriate at the moment!! ;)

    So now I listen to Giant Steps having heard all those great live versions of the tunes and having attempted to play this stuff at those tempos - and I listen to it in a different way , with a kind of awe at what was going on in the late 50s in Jazz!! :)
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Ah, but Mr PC is the exception, a good old fashioned minor blues. Giant Steps has a great melody, but it's so fast as those changes are beyond me at present, I just cant hear what the hells going on! And some of the other tunes (names escape me) are just plain discordant.

    I'm not saying I cant appreciate the material on a performance level, that is, I dont have to try to play it to know how difficult it is!

    By contrast I listened to The Real McCoy on my homeward journey last night, a beautiful album and a breath of fresh air following Giant Steps.
    To me, Coltrane often sounds cold and forced, like he's more concerned with playing a million notes in some contrived mathematical pattern than expressing any kind of emotion. Wheras as a side man he seems to play more musically... I've no idea why this is, perhaps he feeds better from a band leader and plays better with some one elses style and taste as a constraint? Or maybe I just dont get it yet?!
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Jimmy Cobb was only on "Naima" - which is a very slow and beautiful ballad, which is played very tastefully by the whole ensemble!!

    The rest of the tracks on the originally-released album had Art Taylor on drums.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've played Mr PC many times before - but what I was getting at was that the group I was in at the Summerschool this year spent a lot of time getting "Syeeda's Song Flute" right and I got a lot of appreciation from doing this. It can be a really exciting tune live! :)

    The other tune I really like and have heard many great versions of is "Naima" which is a very beautiful slow ballad and in the best hands can sound magical live!!

    Well - we're talking about one album from 1959 - he released a large number of albums in a short period of time as well as playing on loads of other people's albums !!

    I think you have to see it as him getting all these ideas out, as he knew he wouldn't have long to get it all down ...:(

    It's a legacy for others to take up and develop and as I mentioned - so many since and current Jazz musicians have played these tunes and made something great out of the music - it's seeing it all in a context ....
  12. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Like elbows, everybody's got an opinion. Ours are 180 degress apart.

    To me, Coltrane's sound cuts like a knife through snarls of pretension and the gauze of half-effort. More emotion comes from Trane's horn in ten seconds than I can express in ten minutes. Iit's like a stream, never exhausted, always pure. Nothing is surplus.

    Coltrane did nothing just to show off. He played like he played because he had to. He blew down doors for others, but only because those doors were in his own way.

    That said and meant, there are other knives besides Coltrane's and some of them work better for me as goals for my playing.
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well, I do freely admit I've only just started listening to Coltrane and probably dont 'get it'. I've by no means given up on GS or any other of his albums, I'm just working slowly!

    Like I said, to me he is very direct, so I think I understand what you are saying, I can appreciate how that might be how I learn to hear him in time. I can also see how it is possible that I am misunderstanding that raw and forceful expression of ideas as 'cold and calculated' because I cant hear all the ideas, i.e. missing the point

    I think a lot of it comes to do with the context as well. By the end of his solos I am ready for a break, I cant take it all in, so an entire album of his playing I find exhausting! I was listening to Milestones recently and his solo on the title track (I think?) just blew me away, I loved it, it is so strong, it really grabbed me and I went back to it about 6 six times

    I guess what I'm saying is that this statement;

    "To me, Coltrane often sounds cold and forced, like he's more concerned with playing a million notes in some contrived mathematical pattern than expressing any kind of emotion."

    ..comes from a person at the beginnig of their life listening to Coltrane. It's not really 'my opinion on Coltrane' per say, just statement of where I am listening to him. I'll no doubt change my feelings on him over time :)
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've been hacking away at "getting" Coltrane for quite a few years now, and have come to the conclusion that while I can and do appreciate and respect what he did, it isn't my cuppa joe. I can't get past the biting tone and the intonation most of the time, but I have come to understand just how many doors he blew open, and I am grateful for that. Reading about his life and the physical problems he had (especially with his teeth) and the pain he endured just to play at all toward the later years helps me to "get" more of his sound than I would have otherwise.

    But in the end, we each are drawn to what we are drawn to. While it's good to try to expand your horizons, you also have to accept that some music will speak to you more directly than others, and you might likely never learn why. Musicians I have never been able to "get" include composers like Chopin, Wagner, Stockhausen, and Webern, and I don't think for a minute that my not "getting" them lessens the impact that they had one iota...especially when many people whose musical opinions I greatly respect seem to prefer this group over my favorites among their counterparts like Mahler, Bartok, Schoenberg, and Ligeti. Taste is personal, and that's as should be.
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    It wasn't so much that Tommy Flanagan hadn't "seen the tune before the session". because he had. He said (in any number of interviews) that he thought that it was going to be a BALLAD.

    I dunno, I dig GIANT STEPS. SYEEDA'S FLUTE SONG, COUSIN MARY, NAIMA, there's something there evry time I put it on. I don't listen to much after LIVE AT THE VANGUARD, but pretty much everything up to that point speaks to me on a very personal level. The BALLADS record, Johnny Hartman, the first record on PRESTIGE, alla the RIVERSIDE things, the new Monk record....what a mind, what a soul, what depth of feeling. And human and on this planet.
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm more with CF on this one. I can appreciate what he did, just can't listen to it too much. This kinda makes living and playing in NYC (Land of Coltrane Clones) a bit grating at times. I'd kill to hear a tenor player going for Getz, Zoot, Prez, etc.
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    A-freakin'-MEN to that, bro. :)
  18. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    If you're expecting Art Taylor to sound like Elvin Jones, you're gonna be dissapointed. It's a different thing. IMO, all the tracks on Giant Steps swing HARD. I think the rhythm section is driving the whole album.

    As far as Coltrane, I'm with Ed. Listen to "John Coltrane and Jonny Hartman" and tell me he can't play beautiful ballads and lyrical lines with the best of them.
  19. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    sorry if I've misunderstood you, but just in case you think thats Coltrane you're listening to on The Real McCoy, it isn't. It's Joe Henderson. Sorry if you already knew that! If you didn't, other JH to check out would be his albums 'art of the tenor' and 'innur urge'.
  20. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    Its interesting to me how many people who love Coltrane's music still don't like or listen to his late stuff. Personally I love most of his albums, although my favourite period is when he was getting freer but still had Elvin and McCoy in the band, ie Crescent, Meditations, the recently released 'one up one down'. I listen to the very late stuff as well, but normally only in short bursts. The recording of his penultimate concert ('olatunnji', on impulse) is incredible,but so overwhelming I don't think I've ever listened to the whole thing in one sitting.

    But much as I love Coltrane I agree with Ray re his influence. Too many tenor players think that Coltrane and Brecker are the be-all-and-end-all of music.

    RE Giant Steps, I think its best listened to as a step on a process Coltrane was goign down... not his greatest work IMO, but an important one.