Footprints (composition)

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Wayne Shorter in 2006

"Footprints" is a jazz standard composed by saxophonist Wayne Shorter, first appearing on his 1966 album Adam's Apple. Another well-known recorded version, also featuring Shorter, is on the 1966 Miles Davis album Miles Smiles. It has become a jazz standard.

Rhythm[edit]

Whilst often written in 3
4
or 6
8
, it is not a jazz waltz, since the feel alternates between simple meter and compound meter. On Miles Smiles, the band playfully explores the correlation between African-based 12
8
(or 6
8
) and 4
4
. Drummer Tony Williams freely moves from swing, to the three-over-two cross rhythm—and to its 4
4
correlative.[1]

The ground of four main beats is maintained throughout the piece. The bass switches to 4
4
at 2:20. Ron Carter’s 4
4
figure is known as tresillo in Afro-Cuban music and is the duple-pulse correlative of the 12
8
figure.[2] This may have been the first overt expression of systemic, African-based cross-rhythm used by a straight ahead jazz group. During Davis’s first trumpet solo, Williams shifts to a 4
4
jazz ride pattern while Carter continues the 12
8
bass line.

The following example shows the 12
8
and 4
4
forms of the bass line. The slashed noteheads indicate the main beats (not bass notes), where one ordinarily taps their foot to "keep time."


{
       \relative c, <<
        \new Staff <<
           \new voice {
              \clef bass \time 12/8 \key c \minor
              \set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t \tempo 4 = 100       
              \stemDown \override NoteHead.style = #'cross \repeat volta 2 { es4. es es es }
       }
          \new voice {
              \set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t \tempo 4 = 100      
              \time 12/8
              \stemUp \repeat volta 2 { c'4 g'8~ g c4 es4.~ es4 g,8 } \bar ":|."
       } >>
       \new Staff <<
          \new voice {
              \clef bass \time 12/8 \key c \minor
              \set Staff.timeSignatureFraction = 4/4
              \scaleDurations 3/2 {
                  \set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t \tempo 8 = 100       
                  \stemDown \override NoteHead.style = #'cross \repeat volta 2 { es,4 es es es }
              }
       }
          \new voice \relative c' {
              \time 12/8
              \set Staff.timeSignatureFraction = 4/4
              \scaleDurations 3/2 {
                  \set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t \tempo 4 = 100      
                  \stemUp \repeat volta 2 { c,8. g'16~ g8 c es4~ es8. g,16 } \bar ":|."
              }
       } >>
  >> }

Harmony[edit]

Harmonically, "Footprints" takes the form of a 12-bar C minor blues, but this is masked not only by its triple time signature but by its avant garde turnaround (series of chords that return to the main, or I chord). In the key of C minor, a normal turnaround would be Dm7(5), G7, Cm7. But Shorter doubles the harmonic rhythm of the turnaround, and the progression reads: Fm7(5), F7(11), Eaug7(9), A7(9), Cm7. In jazz jam sessions and for educational purposes, players often choose D7(11) D7(11) Cm7 as turnaround, which also fits with the original melody. Although the song has a C minor feel, the melody is actually in C Dorian, as it has A rather than A.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Footprints" Miles Smiles (Miles Davis). Columbia CD (1967).
  2. ^ Peñalosa, David (2010: 43). The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins. Redway, CA: Bembe Inc. ISBN 1-886502-80-3.