Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns
Is there an example from the work you did, maybe with Michael Jackson, which illustrates what you’re talking about?
Yeah, the best example of me trying to feed the musical principles of the past — I’m talking about bebop — is “Baby Be Mine.” [Hums the song’s melody.] That’s Coltrane done in a pop song. Getting the young kids to hear bebop is what I’m talking about. Jazz is at the top of the hierarchy of music because the musicians learned everything they could about music. Every time I used to see Coltrane he’d have Nicolas Slonimsky’s book.
Yeah, he was famously obsessed with the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. That’s the one you’re talking about, right?
That’s right. You’re bringing up all the good subjects now! Everything that Coltrane ever played was in that thesaurus. In fact, right near the front of that book, there’s a 12-tone example — it’s “Giant Steps.” Everyone thinks Coltrane wrote that, he didn’t. It’s Slonimsky. That book started all the jazz guys improvising in 12-tone. Coltrane carried that book around till the pages fell off.
When Coltrane started to go far out with the music —
Even further out, though, like on Ascension —
You can’t get further out than 12-tone, and “Giant Steps” is 12-tone.
But when he was playing atonally —
No, no, no. Even that was heavily influenced by Alban Berg — that’s as far out as you can get.
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