"Blues in C Minor" - Aaron Diehl and Warren Wolf

This week we will listen a different take on the blues. The vibraphonist Milt Jackson composed "Blues in C Minor," for his combo, the Modern Jazz Quartet. Unlike musicians such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker, who embraced the night club image with its sense of cool, and associations to alcohol and drugs, the Modern Jazz Quartet established a very polished image by wearing fashionable suits, and performing in concert halls. They wanted their music to have a complex image, and attract an affluent audience that might not consider spending a night at the jazz club. Besides their high fashion, and choice of venues, the musicians in MJQ also studied classical music and integrated its influence into their jazz style.

"Blues in C Minor" was recorded on the MJQ album "Blues on Bach," for which the group's pianist, John Lewis, arranged music from 5 compositions of J. S. Bach. The group played an original blues between each Bach work. They modeled the title of each blues after instrumental music titles in the baroque era, "Prelude in F," "Suite in A," "Fugue in G." MJQ determined the key of each blues using Bach's name. This blues is in C because it is the third blues on the album (third letter in Bach's name). Enjoy this video of Aaron Diehl (piano), Warren Wolf (vibraphone), David Wong (bass), and Pete Van Nostrand (drums) performing this tune.

Unlike "Stormy Monday" that we heard last week, this blues is a waltz in a slow 6/8 time, but it keeps the traditional 12-bar chord progression. In the waltz style, jazz musicians do not swing the eighth notes like they would in a traditional blues. At the beginning of the video, listen for the step-descent bass (listen for the left hand). Classical composers have the step descent bass to create a sad or melancholy sound for centuries. One of the most famous uses of this musical tool is the aria "Dido's Lament" from Henry Purcell's opera Dido et Aeneas. In this video, listen for the bass line around 0:50.

Next week, we will take a look at the 32-bar song form and its popularity in jazz.