A long-running discussion (or argument) about the authorship of a major jazz tune may have been resolved once and for all. The tune is â€œSolar,â€ copyrighted in 1963 with the name of Miles Davis as composer, nearly a decade after he recorded it. It is a 12-bar minor blues based, with certain departures, on aspects of the harmonic structure of â€œHow High The Moon.â€ Here, from the compilation album Walkinâ€™, is the trumpeterâ€™s 1954 recording with Davey Schildkraudt, alto saxophone; Horace Silver, piano; Percy Heath, bass; and Kenny Clarke, drums.
Keep that melody and its harmonies in mind. Among musicians and jazz insiders it has long been alleged that â€œSolarâ€ is in fact a piece called â€œSonnyâ€ written in the mid-1940s by guitarist Chuck Wayne (1923-1997) and later lifted by or credited to Davis. What has been missing until now is aural evidence of Wayneâ€™s claim that he wrote the tune. Larry Appelbaum, the Library of Congress jazz maven, and Wayneâ€™s widow have posted on the Libraryâ€™s website a recording of Wayne, trumpeter Sonny Berman and unidentified others playing Sonny. At the time of the recording Wayne (pictured) and Berman were members of Woody Hermanâ€™s First Herd. The MP3 is only one chorus of melody and a few bars of Wayne improvising, but it leaves no doubt of a similarity to â€œSolarâ€ that it is all but impossible to credit to coincidence.
To see Appelbaumâ€™s story of the discovery, pictures of him, Mrs. Wayne, the acetate recording, the Davis copyright claim andmost important to hear the 1946 â€œSonny,â€ go to this Library of Congress page.
It will be disappointing if Appelbaum does not release the complete performance of â€œSonny.â€ This discovery has stirred up anew claims and counter-claims about other compositions that Davis allegedly appropriated from others, among them â€œFour,â€ “Tune Up,” and â€œBlue in Green.â€
As for Chuck Wayne the guitarist’s guitarist, here he is with George Shearing in the late 1940s in one of the pianistâ€™s most successful quintets. The other players are Don Elliott, vibes; John Levy, bass; and Denzil Best, drums.