Reasons To Be Cheerful Part II…

It has to be Tommy Flanagan’s solo on Scrapple From The Apple from the Ballads & Blues album. This was the first album of Tommy’s I ever bought and it’s been a firm favorite ever since. I just love it! I find it so joyous and bouncy (but not in a cliché way) that it just brings a smile to my face whenever I hear it. I must have a thing for real digging and raw soloing! Ballads & Blues, recorded in 1978 in New York, is a piano and bass duet album with George Mraz looking after the lower registers. It’s straight ahead bop, but played with all the warmth that Tommy’s known for.

It’s not without its faults. He repeats himself on numerous occasions and resorts to some typical stock-in-trade be-bop lines, but it’s his touch and composure that strikes a chord with me. His flair and tenacity give recycled lines a fresh, meaningful revitalization. This album is a lesson in touch as much as it is about melodic invention.

My 5…

  1. To quote Stanley Crouch, it’s the “lilt of Flanagan’s line.” Flanagan’s beat intentionally lies just behind the tempo, giving his solos a very distinct rhythmic feel.
  2. Just listen and look at some of those licks. No wonder he repeats them! They’re just inspiring.
  3. The underlying witticisms of this solo that, I believe, are tied-in with his lyrical nature. Bar 62 for example, with those appoggiaturas symbolizing the vocal yearnings Tommy would have accompanied countless times with Ella Fitzgerald. Again, to quote Crouch, it’s “the fusion of melancholy and awe” that entices me to his work.
  4. He is soloing at a high tempo here, but he still plays with such tenderness.
  5. It’s simple, warm, unadulterated swing. He keeps my feet tapping and my mind active with just long right-hand lines and left-hand vamping (obviously Mraz’s perfect bass counterpoint helps!) Gorgeous…

Did anyone spot the tritone substitution? Mr Flanagan! I didn’t know you had it in you?!

About Will Rodway

what you hear, what you read...
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One Response to Reasons To Be Cheerful Part II…

  1. vova47 says:

    Good job Will, or rather half of it!…Flanagan didn’t play with one hand, did he? He wouldn’t be a Jazz piano master we think of him if he did, and relationship between the lines in the right hand and voicings and accents in the left is what makes Jazz piano exciting.
    So i am eagerly waiting for the left hand part of the transcription, in fact the most important one.
    And while you at it, write out the bass line Mraz is playing. Very important as well.
    Good luck with that!

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