Giant Steps (composition)

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"Giant Steps"
Composition by John Coltrane from the album Giant Steps
Released 1960
Recorded May 1959
Genre Jazz, hard bop
Length 4:43
Label Atlantic
Composer John Coltrane
Producer Nesuhi Ertegün
Giant Steps track listing
  1. "Giant Steps"
  2. "Cousin Mary"
  3. "Countdown"
  4. "Spiral"
  5. "Syeeda's Song Flute"
  6. "Naima"
  7. "Mr. P.C."

"Giant Steps" is a jazz composition by John Coltrane, first appearing as the first track on the album of the same name (1960).[1] The composition contains a rapid progression of chord changes through three keys (see Coltrane changes) shifted by major thirds, creating an augmented triad.

Recording[edit]

The original recording features Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Paul Chambers (double bass), Tommy Flanagan (piano), and Art Taylor (drums). John Coltrane was known for coming into the studio with unrehearsed songs, and "Giant Steps" was no exception. On the original recording, Flanagan played a choppy start-stop solo where it sounds like he is struggling to improvise over Coltrane changes without adequate preparation. Flanagan revisited "Giant Steps" on several recordings later in his career and mastered the progression. In some of the alternate takes, Cedar Walton is at the piano, declining to take a solo and also playing at a slower tempo than the takes with Flanagan.

Chord progression[edit]

From Giant Steps (1960)

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The saxophonist had previously used this technique on the LP Blue Train on the tunes "Moment's Notice" and "Lazy Bird". Coltrane continued in this vein on a recording with Cannonball Adderley of the standard "Limehouse Blues" and on his original "Fifth House". He continued to use this approach on other tunes, such as "Countdown", based on the Miles Davis tune "Tune Up"; "26-2" based on Charlie Parker's "Confirmation"; and a reharmonization of the jazz standard "Body and Soul". Songs such as "Naima" and "Like Sonny" also show some harmonic similarity to "Giant Steps". Coltrane continued to employ similar concepts in his soloing during his more open and modal middle period. A Love Supreme features examples of lines based on "Giant Steps" cycles over modal vamps, to create a polytonal effect (see modal jazz).

The progression continues to stimulate harmonic thinking in contemporary jazz. There are a number of different approaches to soloing on the song. While Coltrane favoured arpeggiation over the changes, other players have used different tricks and patterns to bring out the sound of the changes.

Interpretations[edit]

The chord progression was later used by Freddie Hubbard as a basis for his composition "Dear John" (on Hubbard's 1991 album Bolivia). Covers have been recorded by such artists as Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pat Metheny, Buddy Rich, Jaco Pastorius, Mike Stern, Greg Howe, Tommy Flanagan, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Werner, Kenny Garrett, Woody Herman, New York Voices, Taylor Eigsti, Gary Bartz, and Chaka Khan.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Giant Steps (1959)". jazzstandards.com. Retrieved May 16, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]