Coltrane Pitch Diagrams

Go to the profile of Lucas Gonze

In the mid 90s I was browsing in the bookstore at Berklee College of Music in Boston. I was looking for Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns, a book of algorithmically-generated scales which had a following among jazz musicians, most notably John Coltrane.

Near it on the shelves I came across a similar but more peculiar book, Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns, by Yusef Lateef.

As a frontispiece he had included two surprising images.

What were these? A small note at the bottom of the acknowledgements said:

Geometric Drawings: By John Coltrane, 1960. Gifts to Yusef from John.

Over time I became fascinated by the Coltrane drawings and set about decoding them using a protractor, compass and tracing paper.

First I made a clean schematic of Coltrane’s marked-up diagram.

In thinking about it I realized it could be simplified from two rings to one without losing any of the intrinsic relationships.

Of course, from a musician’s perspective this had the surprising result of converting from a whole-tone scale in Coltrane’s original to a chromatic scale in my single-ring version. Then I realized there could be a three-ring version as well, with the intervals on each ring describing diminished triads.

This new three-ring version was visually strange and beautiful, and had a feature that wasn’t evident in either the one-ring or two ring versions: a winding pattern.

Pick a section starting with C and walk to the next C, one semitone at a time. The first four notes of the series would be C, C#, D, Eb. In the one and two ring versions D and Eb are adjacent, but in the three-ring version Eb is on the far ring.

That got me to thinking of the series as a winding banner.

And from there a 3D pattern, not a flat one.

I made a clean final version of this sketch.

From there it was natural to go on to versions with four, five and six rings.

When I had finished my six-ring version, I was sorry that I couldn’t go any further, because each set of rings shows a symmetric interval, and there are no symmetric intervals larger than this.

My drawings were complete, so I made a little title page for the collection.

Not long after I went to a Yusef Lateef concert. It was at Lincoln Center in New York City. He was a stellar player and the show was unforgettable.

After the performance I made my way to the crowd of people chatting by the stage door with the musicians, introduced myself, and asked him to sign my copy of his book.

We talked about the Coltrane diagrams. I showed him a version of my work. He told me that Coltrane had been drawing the original diagrams between sets on a gig they did together, and had given them to him. Lateef said this wasn’t the first time. “He was always doing that,” Lateef said.

That was probably during a period when Coltrane was studying Slonimsky and thinking about generative patterns for melodies. The year was 1960. He was growing from the modernist formalisms of bebop harmony — all bright lines and strict causality — to the ecstatic spirituality of free jazz. The connection between his post-bop and free jazz was numerology, a belief that divine or mystical phenomena can arise from quantitative thinking.

1960 was arguably his peak year. He founded his landmark band with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones and recorded his signature hit, “My Favorite Things.” Whatever the diagrams meant to him, they were connected with his best art.

Lateef was warm and generous with his time. I promised to send my own schematics, and later that year I did, along with a cover letter.

Tributes paid to South African musician and activist Hugh Masekela

‘Father of South African jazz’, who had career spanning more than five decades, dies aged 78

South Africans have paid tribute to Hugh Masekela, the legendary jazz musician and activist, who died on Tuesday aged 78.

The South African president, Jacob Zuma, said the nation would mourn a man who “kept the torch of freedom alive”. The arts and culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa, described Masekela as “one of the great architects of Afro-Jazz”. “A baobab tree has fallen,” Mthethwa wrote on Twitter.

A statement from the trumpeter’s family said Masekela “passed peacefully” in Johannesburg, where he lived and worked for much of his life, on Tuesday morning.

“A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with a profound loss. Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memories of millions across six continents,” the statement read.

Relatives described Masekela’s “ebullient and joyous life”.

Masekela had been suffering from prostate cancer for almost a decade. He last performed in 2010 in Johannesburg when he gave two concerts that were seen as an “epitaph” to his long career.

South African social media was flooded with tributes to “brother Hugh”, whose career and work was closely intertwined with the troubled politics of his homeland.

The singer Johnny Clegg described Masekela as “immensely bright and articulate … an outstanding musical pioneer and a robust debater, always holding to his South African roots.”

Masekela was born in Witbank, a mining town in eastern South Africa, and was given his first trumpet by the anti-apartheid activist archbishop Trevor Huddleston, who formed a pioneering jazz band in Soweto in the 1950s that became a launchpad for many of South Africa’s most famous jazz musicians.

Masekela went on to study in the UK and the US, where he had significant success.

Hugh Masekela with ex-wife Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon in 1987.
 Hugh Masekela with ex-wife Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon in 1987. Photograph: Phil Dent/Redferns

As well as forming close friendships with jazz legends such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, Masekela performed alongside Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.

He returned to Africa where he played with icons such as Nigeria’s Fela Kuti, and in 1974 he helped organise a three-day festival before the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing clash in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

In 1976, the man who became known as the father of South African jazz composed Soweto Blues in response to the uprising in the vast township. He toured with Paul Simon in the 1980s while continuing his political engagement, writing Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) in 1987. The song became an anthem of the anti-apartheid struggle. James Hall, a writer and broadcaster who spent time with Masekela in the 1990s, said he “could have prickly personality” at times “due to the tension and frustration of being away from his own country for so long”.

Masekela was briefly married to Miriam Makeba in the 1960s and remained on good terms with the South African singer after their divorce. “They had a wonderful friendship and were very, very close,” said Hall, who co-wrote Makeba’s autobiography.

Masekela refused to take citizenship anywhere outside South Africa “despite the open arms of many countries”, said his son, Selema Mabena Masekela, on Tuesday.

“My father’s life was the definition of activism and resistance. His belief [was] that the pure evil of a systematic racist oppression could and would be crushed. Instead he would continue to fight.”

After more than 30 years in exile, Masekela returned to South Africa in the early 90s after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the end of apartheid.

In 2010 he performed at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup in Johannesburg.

Masekela had many fans overseas. “Hugh Masekela was a titan of jazz and of the anti-apartheid struggle. His courage, words and music inspired me … and strengthened the resolve of those fighting for justice in South Africa,” said Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter.

Hugh Masekela photographed for the Guardian in 2011.

It’s Christmas eve and our 24th Advent Window is Maestro Marsalis and JLCO

René Marie joins the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis in concert for “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” off their new live album, BIG BAND HOLIDAYS.

Advent day 21 and Harry Connick Jr with ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time’

The foundation of Harry’s art is the music of his native New Orleans, where he began performing as a pianist and vocalist at the age of five. He was schooled by two of the city’s keyboard legends – James Booker, who allowed a pre-teen Harry to sit at his elbow in local clubs, and Ellis Marsalis, who provided more structured instruction during Harry’s teenage years. When Harry left for New York at age 18, he was equipped with a precocious command of jazz and popular music styles.

My Lunch with Miles Davis

Go to the profile of Miles White


I Flew to New York to meet the enigmatic trumpeter. He felt like talking.

Photo By: Hal Mathewson/NY Daily News Archives via Getty Images

When Miles Davis walked into the Carlyle Hotel in New York City in 1985 I deliberately let him pass me by while he was looking around to figure out who he was meeting for his luncheon interview. He was probably looking for some scruffy dude in jeans like one of those misfits who write for Rolling Stone. I was dressed in a blue jacket and red tie. I remember he was dressed in all black, wearing a black hat and carrying a black cane. He was walking. When he came back by me I called to him — Miles. He looked surprised; I was not who he was expecting. He said — Oh, it’s you? He seemed pleased.

Miles is my legal name, but it is not the name I was born with. My parents named me something no kid should have to go through life with (No, I’m not telling you). I promised my mother that as soon as I came of age I was going to change it, and when I turned 21 I walked into the office of a probate judge and did just that. Had I imagined that I might have even the most remotest chance of ever meeting the man, or that I would someday try to play jazz (at the very least I had to give up the trumpet, so I picked up the saxophone), I would have chosen a different name. I am still haunted by the choice I made. I had heard he hated interviewers, but at the time USA Today was the mammy jammy on the entertainment media scene — everybody wanted to get in it.

The tough sale was with my editors. If you are not the pop culture flavor of the moment you don’t really get into USA Today. I begged for months to interview him. Did he have a Top Ten album? Well, no, but he is Miles Davis. The thing is he had been retired for half a decade and was still just getting back to stride. He had released The Man with the Horn in 1981, hailing his comeback, and Star People two years later, but it was when he released the monstrous Decoyin 1984 that I went to my editor again and, probably to shut me up, she said fine. Go interview him.

He ordered lobster salad for lunch. I have no idea what I ate. I didn’t come there to eat. I sat a tape recorder on the table and we started talking. I do remember asking him about Cicely Tyson, whom he was married to at the time. It was the only time during the interview that he took a bite out of me — Talk about music or don’t talk at all!, he snapped, that fierce look in his eyes. He scared the shit out of me. He saw it. I was young and stupid, and very naive. He lightened up. She balances my life, he said, tossing me a bone. Then he started telling me stories — about the time he was riding a taxi cab with Charlie Parker, who was giving some gal some head and Bird told him to turn his head and not look, to which he replied — Man, I don’t want to see that shit.

I asked him the real story about how he damaged his voice after being told to not talk after vocal cord surgery. According to him, a club manager was pissed because Stan Getz was high and wanted him to do something about it, so he yelled at the guy to go yell at Getz instead of him. After this, he said, is when he began talking in his famously raspy tone. I asked him about death. He said he wasn’t afraid, and offered me as simple an affirmation of belief in an afterlife as I have ever heard — There’s something, he said. He also made a very plain and honest assessment of his career and time on earth, which was simply: I’ve done something with my life.

Near the end of the interview, I’m not sure how we got on the subject, but he offered this comment, which I memorized word for word. He said: If somebody told me I only had one hour to live, I’d spend it choking a white man. I’d do it nice and slow. If I got tired I’d stop, have a glass of water, and choke him some more. I was stunned. I had every intention of using it and I asked him if he was concerned people would think him a racist. He didn’t blink. It’s the prejudice white people I’m talking about, he said. If the shoe don’t fit they don’t have to wear it.

Flashback to 1959. Miles is standing outside Birdland in New York where he is playing a gig. He had just helped a white woman hail a cab, and a white cop saw it. Miles decides to have a smoke and the cop comes over and tells him he can’t stand there. Miles tell the cop he is playing there and points to his name in lights on the marquee. The cop doesn’t care. Miles refuses to leave and a scuffle ensues. A plainclothes cop shows up out of nowhere and opens Miles’ head up with a blackjack. He is covered in his own blood. It was an infamous incident that by the time I talked to him was buried in nearly a quarter century of old newspaper headlines, all but forgotten. At the time it was widely covered. Photos of him — wounded, defiant, and indignant — flashed across the country. Years later, I believe he still brooded over the indignities he put up with being a black man in America. In her 2006 portrait of pioneering jazz musicians, Three Wishes, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a member of the Rothschild family (born Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild) and who had been a patron to Thelonious Monk and other jazz greats, asks each of them to tell her three things they wished for. Miles gave her only one: “To Be White!”

When the lunch was over and we were both gathering up our belongings, the CBS publicist chaperoning him asked — Do you want anything else, Miles? Both of us, without looking up, blurted — no. We looked at each other bemusedly, simply having forgotten we shared the same name. He smiled at me. He asked me about the name. I told him my father gave it to me because he was a fan. What the hell was I gonna say? A few weeks later I was sitting at my desk and the phone rang. I picked it up. It was him. I was stunned again. Why was he calling me? Was he pissed at the article? Hardly. He called to tell me he was leaving Columbia, where he had been for three decades, and going to Warner Bros, who had offered him a huge signing bonus. Who’s going to turn down a million dollars? Not me, he said. I called around but could get nobody to verify that piece of information, so my editor decided not to run it. It turned out to be true. I remember him saying to me before he hung up — I’m glad I told ‘you.’

He was letting me know he liked me. ###

All That Jazz – Writing and thinking with music

Then I found jazz music.

Of course, I didn’t “find” it. But obviously, most young people don’t listen to jazz music. Because it’s not 1950. And I considered myself “young” until relatively recently. I don’t consider myself young anymore, and so a few years back I started getting into jazz music. And not only do I enjoy it, I absolutely love it when it comes to working.

The caveat here is that I mean jazz music without any vocal component. I actually realized some years back that it’s not music that distracts me from work, per se, but rather the singing and lyrics of a song. Because I’m an audible learner, and I’m always listening to words and thinking about them.

But non-vocal jazz is perfect. Electronic music would work for the same reason, and to fit the coder stereotype back in my web development days, I tried to get into this. But it didn’t stick. I think because I just didn’t like the music. For me, it’s jazz when I write at night and classical music when I read in the mornings — another tell-tale sign of growing old, no doubt.

I was thinking about this the other night at a jazz concert. It’s not just that I can work with jazz on in the background (which I’m doing right now!), it’s that it spurs activity in my brain that I seemingly don’t get in other ways. As such, I actually like to bring notebooks to jazz concerts. Because I have so many thoughts that reveal themselves at such times (and obviously don’t want to use my phone to jot them down during a show).

I’m sure a large part of this is simply having time to think. Again, I can listen to jazz and do something else at the same time: thinking falls into this bucket too. But I do think there’s something about the genre that spurs more activity in my brain than normal. I also like it while writing because it lends a unique cadence to my typing — as if my fingers were another instrument, riffing

Photo by Gabriel Barletta on Unsplash

¹ Or really, any noise. Even more distracting than music is when a few people are having a conversation nearby. So I often need to find a balance of a cafe that’s either entirely empty or jam-packed — because crowd chatter, or any “white noise”, doesn’t bother me.

Today’s FFM Stage Belongs to Mario Abney – “The Step”

Trumpet Legend – Arturo Sandoval


10 time Grammy Award Winner
Emmy Award Recipient
6 Time Billboard Award Winner
2015 Hispanic Heritage Award Recipient
2016 Honorary Doctorate recipient in Fine Arts from The University of Notre Dame

A protégé of the legendary jazz master Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval was born in Artemisa, a small town in the outskirts of Havana, Cuba, on November 6, 1949, just two years after Gillespie became the first musician to bring Latin influences into American Jazz. Sandoval began studying classical trumpet at the age of twelve, but it didn’t take him long to catch the excitement of the jazz world. He has since evolved into one of the world’s most acknowledged guardians of jazz trumpet and flugelhorn, as well as a renowned classical artist, pianist and composer.

He is one of the most dynamic and vivacious live performers of our time, and has been seen by millions at the Oscars, at the Grammy Awards, and the Billboard Awards.

Sandoval has been awarded 10 Grammy Awards, and nominated 19 times; he has also received 6 Billboard Awards and an Emmy Award. The latter for his composing work on the entire underscore of the HBO movie based on his life, “For Love or Country” that starred Andy Garcia as Arturo. His two latest Grammy award winning albums, “Dear Diz “Everyday I think of you” and Tango “Como Yo Te Siento” are now available worldwide. Arturo Sandoval’s newest CD, Eternamente Manzanero. Performing the music of revered Mexican romantic pianist/singer/songwriter, Armando Manzanero, this is a true labor of love. Performing Senor Manzanero’s music with co-headliner Jorge Calandrelli, the album is a fresh, modern and pleasant take on his beautiful bolero music.

Recently released, is a new book chronicling his relationship with Dizzy Gillespie entitled “The Man Who Changed My Life” Arturo also is the 2013 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Marx Theatre 1986 

Sandoval was a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning group Irakere, whose explosive mixture of jazz, classical, rock and traditional Cuban music caused a sensation throughout the entertainment world.

In 1981, he left Irakere to form his own band, which garnered enthusiastic praise from critics and audiences all over the world, and continues to do so.

Sandoval is also a renowned classical musician, performing regularly with the leading symphony orchestras from around the world. Arturo has composed his own “Concerto for Trumpet & Orchestra”, which can be heard on “Arturo Sandoval: “The Classical Album.” Arturo has performed with the foremost orchestras in the country as well as abroad and recorded John Williams’ Trumpet Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra. His classical artistry has earned him the respect and admiration from the most prestigious conductors, composers and symphony orchestras worldwide.

Arturo Sandoval’s versatility can be heard on recordings with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Woody Shaw, Michel Legrand, Josh Groban, Tony Bennett, Bill Conti, and Stan Getz to Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Rod Stewart and Alicia Keys amongst many others. He has performed with John Williams with the Boston Pops, and in the Super bowl with Tony Bennett and Patti LaBelle.

His compositions can also be heard in movies including “1001 to 1” starring Beau Bridges, “At Middleton” starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga, Dave Grusin’s soundtrack for “Havana” and “Random Heart”, in the “Mambo Kings” soundtrack with his Grammy nominated composition “Mambo Caliente”, in the soundtrack of “The Perez Family”, “61”, “Mr. Wrong”, the documentary “Oscar”, and “The Family Fuentes” among of others. He also was commissioned by the Kennedy Center to compose the music for the ballet “Pepito’s Story”, “Soul Possessed”, as well as “Oman O Men”, and “The Chocolate Hot Nutcracker, choreographed by Debbie Allen. And as mentioned above, he was awarded an Emmy for his composing work on the entire underscore of the HBO movie based on his life, “For Love or Country” starring Andy Garcia.

Arturo Sandoval reaches beyond the scope of mere effort. His struggles while in Cuba and since his defection have given him more energy and strength, urging him to accomplish and surpass his childhood dreams. Filled with a virtuoso capability, he desires nothing more than to share his gift with others who feel the same intense adoration for music as he does. One frequently speaks of Arturo Sandoval’s virtuoso technical ability or his specialty in high notes, but he who has seen him on the piano, lyrically improvising a ballad, or has had the opportunity to enjoy the diversity of his music, through his compositions from the most straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz or classical, knows that Arturo Sandoval is a prominent musician, and one recognizes that Arturo is one of the most brilliant, multifaceted and renowned musicians of our time.

Today’s FFM Stage belongs to New York City’s Stephanie Jeannot

Please give a warm welcome to NY jazz singer and song writer Stephanie Jeannot. Check out and subscribe to Stephanie’s channel below and listen to her music on Spotify.

Stephanie Jeannot
Stephanie Jeannot live in NY
Stephanie Jeannot
Singer song writer Stephanie Jeannot
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Much love and happy music making,
Roger Moisan