WhenColtrane 1955 is obligated by Miles Davis as tenor saxophonist, new andnever-before-seen possibilities open up for him.
Amazed at the beginning, Coltraneuses this opportunity to develop his harmonic “approaches”, histheoretical foundations, and on this basis to find new approaches for hisplaying. The first step is to extend the harmonic boundaries of the functionalscaffolding over which he improvised, and thus create a variety of the game,which would apparently have remained closed to him, he would have kept strictlyto the given chord pattern. This way of playing puts him in the tradition oftenor, which has its starting point with Coleman Hawkins. Unlike Lester Young,who always put weight on a relaxed, melodic game, Hawkins draws hisimprovisational basis from the harmonies he plays, and from their breaks-thearpeggios-he puts his lines together.
Coltrane, however, goes a decisive stepfurther. Not only does he build up his phrases on chord breaks, but insteadsets the underlying changes to other breaks that give the chords a suddenambiguity. The harmonies that he implies in addition to the obligatory resultin other, more varied ways of approaching the next chord, since he, theimproviser, has the freedom to attack them from other points. In this way it isfeasible to play lines and phrases that are new and unexpected for the listenerand offer the musician the freedom to evade the already played and expected. Coltranepracticed this technique with Thelonious monk, whose thrifty andcaricaturing-like play was an ideal ground for Coltrane’s play (instead of aC-Maj chord, for example, Monk sometimes played only the fundamental and Largeseventh, sometimes only octave and large seventh, thus creating a second soundof notes in the interval of a small second, i.
e. the greatest dissonance,which, however, still represents the chord in a coherent way. Through thesesoundscapes Coltrane breaks up the rhythmic basic concept: where one can nolonger identify a clearly time-related phrasing, where the melodic sequence nolonger plays primarily in flowing eighth lines. As many advantages thisconception may have, it sometimes leads to an impenetrable complexity of theplayed, so that Coltrane’s next step was close, namely the harmonies he playedwith his arpeggios, now as functional harmonies in to install a chord scaffold.The now explicitly existing changes made it possible to create completely new,fresh harmonic textures, over which one could improvise linearly and thus hadthe advantage of not having to graft countless chord breaks into a singlechord.
Logically, the very beginning of Coltrane as a composer also falls intothis phase, as he was forced to create material that possessed the qualitiesmentioned above.