“When You Find Me, Will You Blind Me With Your Glow?”

Yesterday I took a lesson with Charles McPherson. The previous lesson was transcribed and placed on DTM to universal acclaim.

Charles talked to me about patterns a bit, which surprised me as I don’t think of the classic bebop language as pattern-based in the way that John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner’s music is. According to Charles, Charlie Parker didn’t play patterns, but Dizzy Gillespie did, simply because when exploring in a fashion that makes complex harmony the base, patterns are a logical way to elaborate the harmony. Charles said that Dizzy Gillespie had a copy of Nicolas Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns in the 1940s. (It was published in 1947, but most of us think of it entering the jazz practice room with John Coltrane’s recommendation a decade later).

Charles mentioned “Lover” as a good place to hear how Bird avoided patterns. The harmony is all parallel, but Bird never plays sequences. This is not true (at least not in the same way) when Coltrane plays “Lover.” Tellingly, Bird starts with a major chord, Trane starts with a II/V.

I wanted to hear Charles on “Lover,” and he stomped it off at Coltrane’s fierce tempo but with a melodic purity that is closer to Bird. Lynn McPherson caught the moment on video.