Check back often for more analyses, recordings, and thoughts as I work my way through my series of transcriptions.
I first checked out Mad 6 in high school, mostly because I knew who John Coltrane was. “How cool must this be? It’s his son, so it must be pretty cool.” was my thought process as I picked it up at the library. The first track was this one, and it blew me away. I had never heard anything like it – burning fast, odd meters over Trane changes. I hadn’t heard 26-2 before, but I had a pretty good idea of what was happening here and that it was impressive. Now that I finally got around to transcribing it, I know a little better of what’s happening, but am still as impressed as I was at 17.
What starts as a simple ostinato in 5 quickly becomes a much more complex groove in 9 – broken up into (usually) 5+4, which is then further broken up into (usually) 2+3+2+2. What makes it so astonishing are the built in rhythmic changes to that ostinato. In the last bar (of 9) of the first A section of each chorus, we see a switch to 3+2+2+2: a brief hiccup in the pattern that sets the entire arrangement off-balance, if only for a moment. In the second A section of each chorus, we see another hiccup, this time to 4+5. This time, it almost sounds like the band is abandoning it’s odd-meter groove for the bridge. Making it more convincing is the fact that this 4+5 shift occurs again on the first bar of the bridge. It seems as though Ravi has telegraphed this switch to a simple 4/4 bridge into the last few bars of the second A section. Instead, these two instances throw the arrangement off balance again before righting itself into the (now natural) astinato in 9 (5+4, 2+3+2+2). We remain in that astinato for the rest of the form.
Learning to play the melody of this already-tricky tune in 9 was a great exercise. I remember doing something similar in college: taking bebop heads and fitting them into 5 or 7. It’s interesting to see how Ravi splits up the melody here to fit over his ostinato. There actually isn’t much adjustment in each bar – over the five side of each nine, he fits two beats over three. On the four side, he plays the melody unaltered. It’s interesting then, to see where the formal adjustments are in the ostinato and how they compare to the original melody.
Once we get to Ravi’s solo, it’s pretty straight-forward – or at least as straight-forward as you can be on an odd-meter arrangement of this tune. Ravi and the rhythm section keep the formal structure of the arrangement all the way through, and Ravi gives a masterclass on playing his dad’s changes.