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    Jazz transcription for non-jazzers

    Hello, everyone!

    [Short version]

    I'm seeking recommendations of a short (approx. 1:00 long) jazz solo that sophomores with minimal jazz experience could reasonably transcribe at home in a week. A link to what we've used in previous years can be found below, and ideally, we're looking for something that's roughly "the same" in terms of difficulty.


    [Long version]

    Every year, our Theory/Aural IV students are engaged in simultaneous three-week units on jazz harmony. Though there are many things gained from this experience, the PRIMARY goal is being able to "work" from a lead sheet -- whether that is improvising guide-tone-like vocal accompaniments, or experimenting with added tensions on top of basic 7th chords, or (in the case of many of our students) just figuring out what notes are in the chords printed on a lead sheet. Most (and soon, all) of the students in these classes have little to no experience in jazz music.

    In the Aural Skills class, part of this unit involves a take-home transcription project, where they are asked to notate a fairly simple jazz solo.  For the last several years, we've been using the introduction and first chorus of Chet Baker's 1955 "Summertime" recording (0:00-0:55 in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu4RCvO1o1k ).  But, it's time to change that up for academic integrity concerns: (1) too many existing copies in the hands of upper-classpeople, and (2) there's even a transcription of the whole thing on YouTube.

    So, I'm seeking recommendations from any of you for a similar kind of solo for transcription.  Similar length, similar difficulty (vaguely defined!), and so forth.  (When we picked this recording, Chet's clarity of pitch throughout was a major deciding factor -- which ruled out a lot of heavily "stylized" options.)

    Thank you very much for any suggestions you might have!




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    • 5 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • Hi Zac,

      I shared your post with my theory/musicianship cohort, and Eric Lindsay, who uses a lot of contemporary materials in his musicianship classes, wrote "I think of the late Dave Marriott in terms of quality improviser without a likely broad base of transcribers of his solos. Something like his solo in "Midnight Walk" from Open Season might have some potential."

    • Hi Zac,

      I have been using the trumpet solo from Lambert Hendricks and Ross's version of "Sermonette." Each chorus is about one minute long and the trumpet player (Harry "Sweets" Edison) takes two very simple choruses with lots of feels.





    • Thanks, Amy and Joon (and Eric, by proxy!) -- these are great suggestions.  I've listened to them both, and I think the Sermonette solo might fit my students this semester a little more naturally than the Midnight Walk solo...but I think I'll go and listen to some more of Marriott's stuff -- great playing!  I'll tuck that one away for another semester, for sure!

      Thanks again!

    • Hi Zac,

      I like Chet Baker's trumpet solo on the Chet Baker Sings version of "But Not For Me":  .

      I also love Sarah Vaughan's solo from "All of Me" from Swinging Easy: 

      Ella Fitzgerald's iconic How High the Moon solo also works well -- it's a bit faster but the choruses get progressively harder, so students could design their own challenge based on how accessible they find the task: 

      I'm enjoying following this thread!



    • Thanks, Megan -- these are great options, too!  That Sarah Vaughan solo is sweet, and I really like the idea of a "choose your own adventure" assignment with Ella.  Really appreciate the suggestions!