Daily Licking 032: 16 Measures of Bill Evans on "Oleo"


Happy Pi day. And Albert Einstein's birthday. So if you saw a black hole today, thats why.

And speaking of Nobel-prize winning german physicists and the speed of gravity, how about some Bill Evans licks?

I took this one from "Oleo" off his record "Everybody Digs Bill Evans". I predict that after listening and checking out what he did in just the first 16 measures of the tune you will see why the title of that record is very accurate. It was a trio with Sam Jones and Philly Jo Jones.

As you may or may not know, Oleo (by Sonny Rollins) is a tune based on what in the fancy business of show is referred to as Rhythm Changes. This is because the chords came from a tune called "I Got Rhythm" by Gershwin, but this progression was subsequently hijacked by jazz musicians as the basis for quite a few other tunes. The musicians would keep some or all of the chords but write a new melody over the top. Oleo is one such tune, and one of the most popular for playing rhythm changes over.

Bill Evans. What to say? There is jazz piano before Bill Evans, and then jazz piano after, he changed it that much. If you hear him today and say "well, I don't get it, what's the big deal", it's like seeing "Rebel Without A Cause" today. The James Dean rebel character has become such an archetype, and so familiar, that when you see the movie now you have to put it into perspective that no one had ever done that like that before, or else it just seems like a cliche. There was no THAT before THAT.

It's the same way with Bill Evans, the reason he may not sound as different today is because every jazz piano player has taken a little bit of what he does. His style has become almost its own genre of jazz, he impacted it that much.

In addition to his playing, he also had a series of trio's that were the benchmark for jazz bass players. If you were a bass player in Bill Evans' Trio, you were a monster player. Sam Jones, Scott Lafaro, Gary Peacock, Eddie Gomez, Marc Johnson - the heaviest of the heavies all were in the Evans trio at various times.

So below you can see the first 16 measures of what Mr. Evans played on Oleo.

As far as chords go, I just put one chord up there. Partly because I haven't figured out what chords they are using yet, and also, after you look at his line, it kinda doesn't matter. The reason I say that is because he uses so much chromaticism that analyzing what he is playing on a chord by chord basis would end up in some very wonky results. I think he is really just playing a series of cool melodies that are in and around the main key center of the tune, Bb major.

I hope you like chromatics and fourths, because you are gonna get a giant pile of them in just these 16 measures. And if you thought that the Coltrane stuff from Mr. P.C. made your fingers ask what-the-hell, wait until you see these. There ain't no nice little box patterns here.

But having said that, the last phrase fits on bass extremely nice! It uses a collections of fourth and half-steps, (go figure) and it sounds awesome and fits under ones fingers. Everything else.....

And even beyond his crazy lines, check out the rhythmic phrasing. Wow. Beyond wow. As impressive as his completely altered melodies are, the way he phrases is a huge part of why he sounds like how he sounds. It's not that there are any weird rhythms or ones that are all that complex, no sixteenth notes, a few tied notes, but mostly just eighth notes and quarter notes. Oh, semi-qauvers for those across the pond. But look at how he groups them and then moves those groups to start on different places in the bar. That is some deep stuff. And it that kind of stuff that gives a solo cohesion and makes it sound like melodies, not just a bunch of scales.

As far as chords go, you can use any version of Rhythm Changes you want, maybe the somewhat corny original version or a more hip updated set.

I don't think it matters for these lines, they would sound good over any version of the chord changes in Bb.

I also included the solo, slowed down. It is pretty quick, up around 230-240, so if you can get it up to that tempo - bravo ridiculoso!

Bill Evans on "Oleo"
bass lick 4/4 tempo 240 | Bbmaj r2 f+4 bb | eb e eb db | bb f e4. eb8~ | eb8 db4 d8~ d8 bb8 f eb | d bb+ r4 r4 r8 gb | g a bb c db eb e g| f d bb+4 r2 | db-4 r4 c8 bb f eb| d4 r4 (c+4 db4 ) r4 | db4 r8 c [db8 c bb] f8 eb | d4 r4 r2 | eb+8 gb- b e eb b gb8 r8 | d+ f- bb eb d bb f8 r8 | r2 eb+8 gb- b e | eb b gb8 r8 d+ f- bb eb | d bb f8 r8 r2 |


Peter said...

I've been following you for a while, and just wanted to say: keep up the good work! This is great.

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Thank you sir! Glad you find it helpful. And thanks for the comments yourself, it is inspiring to know that people actually read this stuff. ;)

Mike said...

I read it every day -great job!

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