Moment’s Notice – John Coltrane


So here is John Coltrane’s solo on “Moment’s Notice” from his classic album Blue Train. This is one of those tunes that gets put up there with “Giant Steps” for challenging an improviser’s prowess. Unlike that other infamous piece whose intervalic leaps, both in minor and major thirds, make it a task to learn, “Moment’s Notice” in essentially only made up of very standard though often unrelated ii V’s separated by small intervals usually half steps. It’s form is also at first unfamiliar but boils down to an ABAC where the A is 12 bars, the B is 4 bars, and the C is 10 bars. Though that section of 10 bars might be a bit confusing on paper the ending 8 bar vamp makes sense in context and serves as a prominent marking of the end of the form.

On close examination Coltrane’s solo is almost entirely “inside.” There are only two occasions where he plays any notes that are outside the appropriate major scale. The most ear-catching begins in measure 74 where he plays a Bb7 diminished scale pattern over the vamp. This is the classic Coltrane diminished riff. It’s made up of a whole tone pattern repeated in minor thirds. Once you get that pattern in your ears you hear Coltrane play it or variations on it constantly. The second instance where he plays “outside” happens occasionally over a V7 chord, such as the Bb7 in measure 21, where he outlines a flat V substitution, (in this case it would be an Fb7, or just E natural 7). There are also instances where he uses chromatic passing tones or leading notes, but I often consider these just applications on the major scale. Because this tune contains so many ii V’s and Coltrane’s solo follows those changes in such a straight forward manner it makes a great exercise on ii V patterns as well as changing between unrelated scales.

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