John Coltrane

Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #11: John Coltrane’s solo on “Chasin’ The Trane”


This whole project was conceived as a way to celebrate the birthday of John Coltrane. This grand artist would have been 88 today, as he was born on 23-September-1926, in Hamlet, NC. If you don’t know, the song title of “Chasin’ the Trane” is compelling for all of us modern saxophone players: John Coltrane’s saxophone soloing is the pinnacle of saxophone performance. All of us are chasing after him!
What makes him the best? Here is my list:

1. Passion. Anyone can hear how emotionally/spiritually intense this music is
2. The most beautiful tone
3. Technical mastery, in terms of both orthodox execution and innovative extended techniques
4. Innovation. Whether it’s his mastery of bebop, sheets of sound, Coltrane changes, the magical middle period, the suites, and his exploration of avant-garde stylings, JC was always pushing the envelope
5. Gravitas: Coltrane played with the best (Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, etc.) and always elevated each recording
Why am I publishing this particular solo? Because it’s a rare version of a blues. One of my favorite Coltrane recordings is called “Live at the Village Vanguard,” and “Chasin’ the Trane” is a long blues that throws down! Afro Blue Impressions is a series of bootlegged recordings from around the same era.
Disclaimer: there are a few typos in here.

Download: john-coltrane-chasin-the-trane-from-afro-blue-impressions-c

Download: john-coltrane-chasin-the-trane-from-afro-blue-impressions-bb

Doug Rosenberg’s transcriptions #4: John Coltrane solo on “Take the Coltrane”


This is a solo from one of the great albums of all time, a meeting between two giants of American culture. It’s a fast blues and clearly Duke Ellington is not playing in a bebop style. Throughout the entire album, the rhythm sections are varied, and this one features Trane’s bass/drum duo of Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. The mixture of styles is compelling.

This is definitely not sheets of sound. It is also not bebop, although there are certainly elements of bebop in Trane’s playing. This is squarely in the middle period of Coltrane’s career, a few key elements are:

  • Use of unusual chromatic substitutions
  • Heavy use of pentatonic scales
  • Alternate fingerings
  • Lots of triads and wide intervals
  • The saxophone tone seems on the edge of “overblowing,” with a powerful overall volume

There are actually two solos here, the first one is from :47-2:50, measures 1-133. The second is shorter, and occurs from 3:32-4:07, when the recapitulation occurs.

Download Solojohn-coltrane-take-the-coltrane-bb

Download Solojohn-coltrane-take-the-coltrane-c


Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #3: John Coltrane’s solo on “Limehouse Blues”


Similar to “Bye-Ya” and “Someday My Prince Will Come,” this is a solo solidly in the middle period of John Coltrane’s illustrious career, and features another key element to understanding his style: so-called “Coltrane changes.” As the aforementioned “sheets of sound” period is an incredible exploration of the harmonic possibilities of the saxophone, this use of a novel chord substitution is another innovation.
“Coltrane changes” are roughly bVI-VII7-III-V7-I (two chords per bar). The most well-known song to use them is “Giant Steps.” In this solo, CM-Eb7-AbM-B7-EM-G7-Dm-G7 (transposed to Bb) is substituted over the beginning G7, and similar phrases are used when there are 4 bars of a dominant chord.
Why are these there? Because they sound great! Haha. In brief, he was playing with novel sounds that a composer named Olivier Messiaen notably used: the mode of limited transposition using C D# E G Ab B. This could be thought of as three triads a major third apart. Practically, it is just a way of guaranteeing you will sound “out,” a term for playing wrong notes on purpose. It can sound awesome!
At the end of the sheet you’ll notice some Cannonball Adderley passages. I will have more to say about this great artist in later installments. Also, a brief note on the song. “Limehouse Blues” is an old-fashioned song, from the 20’s, and was played by artists like Sidney Bechet back in the day. This version is a late 50’s very fast version of it. It also features long sections of IV7 and II7, which are relatively unusual places for an American song.

Recurring phrases:
Measure #22: a Bm9 arpeggio that is played either ascending or descending
Measure #23: a nice lick on E7
Many implications of Coltrane changes

Download: John Coltrane Limehouse Blues- Bb John Coltrane Limehouse Blues- C

Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #2: John Coltrane solo on “Someday My Prince Will Come”


For the second solo in this series, I have published the sheet music to John Coltrane’s solo from “Someday My Prince Will Come” [SMPWC]. This is a musical situation where you can hear the tumult of the 60’s impose itself on the very last remnants of Eisenhower’s 50’s. The whole album, a Miles Davis classic, is generally subdued, a 5-star classic. Despite its neo-conservatism, it deserves all its popularity for the excellence of playing. It’s swinging, beautiful, sonorous, despite being stylistically regressive. Within the next ten years, Miles Davis would make two huge innovative impacts with his mid-60’s quintet and the electric stylings of his 1967-1975 period.

The two exceptions on this album are the John Coltrane solos. You can plainly hear the built-up passion and raw energy of American culture through these 4 minutes of improvisational high art. The other solo is on the song “Teo.”

Let’s take a deep dive into John Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” period. This can be considered the tail end of this era. “Bya-Ya” is more bebop-rooted than this solo. The solo on SMPWC has a few bebop moments, which we will detail, but i’d say it’s getting close to the more raw, arpeggio-based improvisation style found on recordings such at Live at the Village Vanguard. If early sheets of sounds seem like an attempt to channel passion via virtuosity, this is passion from a less-tightly structured, more ad-hoc style. This split can be heard as a major theme in contemporary jazz improvisors, compare say the melodic vocabulary of Dave Douglas and Wynton Marsalis, Eric Alexander or Mark Turner.

I consider this solo to be mostly lyrical, and the passion can be plainly heard. The tone quality is his most “metallic,” a difficult to describe quality.

A few recurring melodic themes are as follows:

measures #8-10: ascending Dm scale, Db7 or C7alt, C major arpeggio

m#16-18: a typical bebop lick

m#35-45: a “loco” passage, where the notes are difficult to determine

Download: john-coltrane-solo-on-someday-my-prince-will-come

Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #1: John Coltrane on “Bye-Ya”


To celebrate the month leading up to John Coltrane’s 88th birthday, I decided to begin with his masterful solo on “Bye-Ya,” from Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane Live at Carnegie Hall. The improvised solo is roughly from 1:06 to 3:48, for four choruses, or roughly 32 x 4 = 128 bars.

The solo is shocking by its sheets of sound. Just listening to it is intimidating. Focusing on the sheer virtuosity and macho nature of the improvisation is exhilarating. The rapid speed and display of technical mastery is on the same lines as a European baroque musical sonata, think Bach or Vivaldi; sixteenth note scales and arpeggios at quarter note equals 180! I say that because Trane is revolutionary in some regards, and evolutionary in others. His “sheets of sound” period 1957-1961 is a departure from predecessors, but to my ears, this is most similar to European Baroque music. The song itself (“Bye-Ya,” by Thelonious Monk) is notable because of its unusual chord changes.

After digging in, you will start to realize that Trane plays a few recurring licks. You can find them in measures 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 23, and 29. They are as follows:

#4: Fast ascending arpeggio 357911

#7: Eb dorian scale

#9: Over Eb7, EM, FM use of an ascending scale and choosing notes from EM that are also in C7+5+9 (Db, Eb, Ab, E)

#10: FM pentatonic

#11: similar to #4, a fast ascending arpegio of 357911

#23: a ii-V-I lick starting with ascending C# dorian scale

#29: a fast minor arpeggio utilization M7, m7, and M6. This lick is transposed in a few different keys at different points: Bbm, Dbm, Ebm, F#m


Download Transcription hereJohn Coltrane solo on Bye-Ya