Tunes: Oh, Lady Be Good!

Pretty please?

The first of many to come, I imagine.  I'll be posting on this blog various jazz tunes in the form of recordings and/or sheet music -- in the near future, I'll be sticking to some ricky-ticky jazz classics from the prewar era if possible, since this music is much more diatonic and easier to learn.  The vocabulary gets into our heads rather naturally!

Lester Young, of course, was a giant of early jazz tenor saxophone, along with such names as Coleman Hawkins.  During his Basie years, Lester got a chance to record numerous times as featured soloist; on October 9, 1936, he laid down his first set of four tracks with the so-called "Jones-Smith, Incorporated," consisting of Carl Smith (tp), Count Basie (p), Walter Page (b), Jo Jones (d), and occasional vocal tracks by Jimmy Rushing.  Oh, Lady Be Good!, a Gershwin brothers tune from the eponymous Broadway musical, was among them; it features the Prez at his finest -- young, spirited, and clever.

The original track, Lester's solo isolated, and then his solo slowed down:

Notice how very pentatonic Lester is.  He favors the 6th very heavily; on his G chords the note "E" stands out.  Look out for Ebs used mainly as passing tones -- this qualifies as the b9 of the V7 chord, but it hadn't yet developed the autonomy it would have under Bird's fingers.  Lots of Lester's licks begin on the third of the chord (as Paul Desmond's did later), and arpeggiate up to the ninth.  There are also a few chromatic enclosures to learn.  Huzzah for the key of G!  Finally, look for rhythmic displacements of the same motivic material.  It's syncopated hemiola.

Sheet Music PDF