First Published July 8, 2005
A reader of Rifftides or Take Five (both, I hope) has been listening to Jim Hall’s 1974 Concierto CD in which Hall’s sidemen are Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Roland Hanna, Ron Carter and Steve Gadd. She sent a message asking a question at which musicians tend to guffaw when civilians ask it, one that arises out of genuine interest and does not deserve scorn. Here’s the exchange:
Q: The track “Concierto de Aranjuez” is hauntingly beautiful. Do the musicians totally improvise, or do they each have a kind of musical outline around which they create? You can guess from the question I’m not a musician, but it’s something I’ve wondered about.
A. Except in the most unfettered avant garde improvisation, there must be a plan or the result will be random noise, which, come to think of it, describes the most unfettered avant garde improvisation. Virtually every piece of music has some sort of tonal organization, whether or not there is a formal chord structure. In the case of “Concierto” on the Jim Hall album, the musicians improvise around the simple and quite lovely harmonies that Joaquin Rodrigo wrote into the adagio section of his famous “Concierto de Aranjuez.”
There’s more. To read the whole thing, go here.
Was she the cousin of the airline stew who asked PD, “How many people are there in your quartet?”?
Concierto is my nomination for the greatest jazz combo LP/CD in the most recent generation (since 1975). Not only their jazz version of the Aranjuez second movement, but also “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” the lead track, I think. Baker-Desmond counterpoint, Steve Gadd’s fills gloved to the soloists’ lines, Roland Hanna flying effortlessly in the last of the solo turns….