Friday, May 3, 2013

John Swana - Philly Jazz [From The Archives]


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

It’s a such a shame.

Today’s Jazz players are constantly being compared to the Giants of Jazz of halcyon days gone by.

Bull puckey!

These guys can play … period.

If there’s any doubt about the veracity of this claim, skip the rest of the text, scroll down to the embedded YouTube and listen to six [6] minutes of the finest recorded Jazz that you are ever likely to hear anywhere at anytime.

Now that “we’ve” cleared that up ….

This piece was originally written for a friend to help him follow along with what was happening in the music.  Discovering it again, the editorial staff  thought that it might make an interesting audio-video feature for JazzProfiles.

The tune is Philly Jazz.  It was written by trumpeter John Swana who, as you would imagine, hails from Philadelphia, and it appears on his On Target Criss Cross CD [1241].  Joining with him on the album are Dutch guitarist Jesse van Ruller, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Eric Harland.

After reading a brief introduction about how the tune is structured, just follow the timings listed under each musician’s name while playing the video, open your ears and you’ll hear it all fall into place. You can always pause or re-set the video if you lose your place or wish to hear something again.

Philly Jazz is a typical 32-bar tune that is formed around four [4], eight [8]-bar sections.

This song structure is often referred to as “A-A-B-A.”

This first “A” = 8 bars or measures of the theme or melody [0-7 seconds of the video]

The second “A” = 8 bars or measures of the theme or melody repeated [8-14 seconds].

“B” = 8 bars or measures of an alternate melody sometimes called the release or the bridge [15-20 seconds]

The third “A” = 8 bars of the theme or melody restated [21-27 seconds].

Philly Jazz’s entire 32-bar A-A-B-A configuration is thus heard in the first 27 seconds of the video.

The melody and the related chords for the A-A-B-A song structure then become the basis upon which subsequent improvisations are developed; in this case by Swana, then by van Ruller and lastly by Harland: first in conjunction with Swana and van Ruller and then he solos alone. Patitucci does not solo on Philly Jazz.

To put it another way, the musicians repeat the 32 bar A-A-B-A sequence, each time making up and super-imposing new melodies on the tune’s chord progressions.

Every time a musician completes a 32-bar improvisation, this is referred to as a “chorus.”

On Philly Jazz, Swana takes 5 choruses [from 28 seconds to 2:38 minutes], van Ruller takes 3 choruses [from 2:39 to 3:54] and Harland takes 4 choruses, sharing the first two with Swana and van Ruller [from 3:55 – 5:38, en toto].

Following these solos, the tune’s A-A-B-A pattern is repeated at 5:39 [A], 5:44 [A], 5:51 [B] and 5:58 [A], thus closing the track.

We thought it might be fun to post a listing of the timings for the tune and the improvised choruses to help you better hear what’s going in the music.

To make things a little less confusing, the first two “A’s” or 16 bars of each chorus have been combined.

So John Swana’s first chorus’ A/A = 28-39 seconds, its B = 40-45 and its last 8 = 46-53 seconds.

At this point, you may wish to “Play” the YouTube and follow along with the timings noted below it.  And please don’t be concerned about missing the video’s images while you are checking the track timings as you can always go back and watch it again later once your ear is trained!


Philly Jazz
0–7 = “A” first 8 bars of the theme/melody 8–14 = “A” theme/melody repeated for 8 bars 15-20 = “B” bars of the bridge 21-27 = “A” theme/melody restated for 8 bars

John Swana [trumpet]
First Chorus 28-39 = A/A 40-45 = B 46-53 = A
Second Chorus 54 – 1:06 = A/A 1:07 – 1:12 = B 1:13 – 1:19 = A
Third Chorus 1:20 – 1:32 = A/A 1:33 – 1:38 = B 1:39 – 1:45 = A
Fourth Chorus 1:46 – 1:58 = A/A 1:59 – 2:05 = B 2:06 – 2:11 = A
Fifth Chorus 2:12 – 2:24 = A/A 2:25 – 2:30 = B 2:31 – 2:38 = A

Jesse van Ruller [guitar]
First Chorus 2:39 – 2:50 = A/A 2:51 – 2:57 = B 2:58 – 3:03 = A
Second Chorus 3:04 – 3:16 = A/A 3:17 – 3:22 = B 3:23 – 3:29 = A
Third Chorus 3:30 – 3:41 = A/A 3:42 – 3:47 = B 3:48 – 3:54 = A

Eric Harland [drums]
First Chorus 3:55 – 4:07 = A/A 4:08 – 4:13 = B [improvised by John Swana]
4:14 – 4:20 = A
Second Chorus 4:21 – 4:32 = A/A 4:33 – 4:39 = B [improvised by Jesse van Ruller]
4:40 – 4:45 = A
Third Chorus 4:46 – 4:58 = A/A 4:59 – 5:05 = B  5:06 – 5:11 = A
Fourth Chorus 5:12 – 5:24 = A/A 5:25 – 5:31 = B  5:32 – 5:38 = A

Restatement of the theme and song closing:
5:39 – 5:43 = “A” first 8 bars of the theme/melody
5:44 – 5:50 = “A” theme/melody repeated for 8 bars
5:51 – 5:57 = “B” 8 bars of the bridge
5:58 – 6:12  = “A” theme/melody restated for 8 bars

And there you have Philly Jazz, by way of a bassist born in Brooklyn, NY, a drummer from Houston, TX and a guitarist from Amsterdam.

At least trumpeter John Swana, it’s composer, is a native Philadelphian!

Jazz … the universal language, indeed.



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