improvisation Jazz Music Transcriptions

Stan Getz’ Pennies From Heaven

Everything about Stan Getz’ playing is worth transcribing: if you’re a woodwind player, his articulation and butter-like sound should be on the top of your list; his chops and the way he plays over the changes rival most of the greats, in my opinion. However, I think Getz stands out the most for the way he tells a story through his improvisation. This solo has some of the shortest, simplest yet most interesting motivic developments I’ve ever analyzed in jazz. As always, the full solo will be in a free PDF at the end of the page. Make sure to follow this blog on Instagram (@thejazztranscripts) and Facebook (The Jazz Transcripts). Also, click on the next link if you want to buy me a coffee for my hard work!

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Now, on to transcriptions and storytelling.

Getz plays very clear «call and response» phrases. He’ll frequently play a two bar melody as «the call», let it rest for a couple of beats, then answer the call with a complimentary melody of about the same length and rhythmic complexity (or in this case, simplicity). The reason this works so well is because Getz ends the call on a high note and the response on a low note. Take a look at the first phrase after the solo break.

The call ends on the first beat of the Dmin7, the response starts on the last beat of that same Dmin7.

True simplicity is hard to master. There’s a bunch of times he does these small 4 bar, call and response phrases. Just take a look at this one 4 measures later.

As you can see here, the high note and low note where he ends the call and the response just depends on the contexts of the phrase. Here they’re just a fifth apart on a relatively low registry. However, there is a clear sense of resolution and a sense of calmness to develop the following idea. Rather than a long essay, these are short stories weaved together.

I’ll give you one more example of this and let you figure out the rest of them. The format in this short story is different, given that it’s slightly longer. Getz uses a simple altercation of notes (between C and A) to create a compelling melody, while constantly altering its rhythm and adding other notes to give the phrase more of a narrative arc. Check it out:

Again, this is one of my favorite solos of all time, so I think every nook and cranny should be studied. Without further ado, here’s the full PDF.

Happy studying, and don’t forget to like, subscribe and follow the blog on Instagram!

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