John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, two important tenor sax players of the Hard Bop style of jazz, embraced two different approaches to improvisation; the scalar approach and the harmonic approach. The scalar approach is where an improviser emphasizes the melodic or linear aspects of a song’ s chord progression and form. A player using the harmonic approach tends to emphasize or outline each chord in song’ s progression.
I will discuss how Coltrane and Rollin’ s improvisations differed based on their use of these different approaches when soloing on the blues progression. My analyses of important blues solos on tunes composed by these two jazz masters as well as their famous “ cutting contest “ on the song Tenor Madness will show that Coltrane tended to think of the harmonies when soloing (the harmonic approach) and that Rollins tended to focus on the linear aspects (the scalar approach) of a song.
Bridget Hilke, ’06 Chicago, IL
Sponsor: Donald Chamberlain