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The Anatomy of Improvisation 2*3
both improvised and written in such ternary times (triple pulse) as 3/4 and 6/4.
Waltz time, in order to be compatible with jazz and to maintain the same basic pulsation, requires only a group of musicians already naturally equipped with a feeling for the 4/4 beat, a theme that lends itself to syncopation, and a performance with the same dynamic nuances heard in 4/4 solos and arrangements. That the results are jazz can hardly be disputed in the numerous cases on record. The outstanding big band examples are Ellington's Lady Mac on Columbia; Woody Herman's Tenderly, on Capitol, treated not simply as a waltz but as a jazz ballad in 3/4, and Johnny Richards' bombastic Waltz Anyone? (Bethlehem). Jazz performances by smaller bands include 6/4 Trend, on Kapp, and Lighthouse 6/4, on Decca, both composed and played by John Graas' West Coast group; Thelonious Monk's puckish 6/4 treatment of Carolina Moon on Blue Note; Joe Wilder's Six BU Blues on Savoy; Sonny Rollins' Vahe Hot on Prestige; Flutter Waltz from this writers Hi Fi Suite, played as an organ solo by Dick Hyman on MGM; Mary Lou Williams' Waltz Boogie on Camden, Mary's Waltz on Storyville, and Art Peppers Waltz Me Blues on Contemporary. All these examples feature ad lib solos by jazzmen who clearly had no difficulty at all meeting what might have seemed an unreasonable challenge. Even a vocal waltz can swing: Dinah Washington established the principle unforgettably in Look To The Rainbow (EmArcy).
An attempt to show that even as apparently unnatural a time as 5/4 could be turned to jazz advantage was undertaken by the writer; the result was Bass Reflex (Blues in 5/4), recorded in Dick Hyman s arrangement by an orchestra we assembled jointly for the Hi Fi Suite LP (MGM). The soloists, Thad Jones, Frank Wess, Oscar Pettiford and Hyman, each took 12 measures ad lib, despite a psychological handicap far more severe than that involved in the adoption of a ternary time.
Obviously not all compositions by jazz writers are necessarily ipso facto jazz. Teo Macero and others have used a staggering variety of time signatures, but both in writing and execution they qualify mainly as "classical" works. Even Fats Waller s Jitterbug Waltz, ironically the best known 3/4 composition by a jazz