“Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” solo by Chet Baker, From Quartet Live Vol. 3 (Aug 1954).
What I love about this solo is how surprised I was when I found out this was Chet Baker. The tempo is absolutely blazing fast and Chet just rips this tune apart playing a mix of beautiful melodies and chromatic eighth notes. Chet is known for slow songs, and his eerie singing, but this track shows why Charlie Parker was so excited to play with Chet with Parker got stuck in LA. This recording is part of a set of nights in LA with Chet’s quartet, right after Chet gets back from touring with Bird. I have all three nights (Quartet Live Vol1, 2 & 3) and they’re all phenomenal. It’s clear that this early playing by Chet is the reason Bird warned Miles and Dizzy of a this guy out on the West Coast.
I am a huge jazz biography/auto-biography fan, and based on the couple that I’ve read on Chet, it’s clear that he was a bit of a freak in terms of his raw natural talent. His friends always complained about how little Chet had to practice. They say all he needed was to hear a tune one time and he had it memorized. He was too busy doing drugs (weed in his early days, Heroin and other things later in life) to do any kind of real work. That being said, his middle period with the chord-less quartet (Gerry Mulligan, Chet, bass/drums no chordal instrument) is some of my favorite playing of his, and particularly Mulligan’s compositions are well worth checking out.
What gives the solo away that it is Chet and not some other well-known player out of the bebop movement is how diatonic Chet plays throughout his solo. He will, at times, play long lines ripe with chromaticism and bop lines, but the majority of the time he is developing mostly diatonic melodies. That, and he doesn’t play above an A (concert), which is also typical of Chet’s playing. The real mastery is in his articulation. His ability to single-tongue so fast is nothing short of amazing. Trumpet players would do right to practice mimic-ing Chet’s tonguing, and try and copy the way he “ghosts” eighth notes.
I use certain symbols when I analyze solos. Here is a key that will help you decipher what I am talking about:
GTM = Guide Tone Movement
Guide tones are thirds and sevenths in every chord. (over an A7 chord, that is C# and G). “Guide Tone Movement” is when the soloist resolves one guide tone to another. For instace, in a ii V7 I in Cmaj, if the sololist moves from the seventh in G7 (F) to the third in CMA7 (E), that is guide tone movement.
GT = Guide Tone
I mark guide tones only when they are played on big beats, one and three. GT are often used as foundation, or jumping off points for the soloist to go in to more uncharted territory
I will sometimes mark the scale mode the soloist is using if I like how it is used.
ANT = Anticipation
When the soloist plays notes outside of a chord in anticipation of the next chord.
CAT = Chromatic Approach Tone
An example of a Chromatic Approach Tone is when the soloist surrounds the resolution note with half steps. For instance, if the soloist plays Ab-F# over a G7 and resolves to G over the CMA7, that is CAT.
I will sometimes circle alterations if I like how they are used over a particular chord or passage.