5. Miles Davis-"Freddie Freeloader" - "Kind Of Blue" (1959). "Freddie Freeloader" is easily the most accessible track on "Kind Of Blue". It's basically a twelve bar blues and it's also the only tune on the recording that has Wynton Kelly playing piano. A huge amount has been written about this album and it was an incredibly influential recording. If you want further info about the record the best source is "Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece" by Ashley Kahn. Miles's solo is a masterpiece in brevity. Not one wasted note. And he has such a great blues sound. The solo is also immensely lyrical. Jon Hendricks actually wrote lyrics for the solo which were recorded on his album "Freddie Freeloader. It's now almost impossible for me to separate this solo from Hendricks's lyrics. Just a classic.
4. Paul Desmond-"In Your Own Sweet Way"-"Dave Brubeck And Jay & Kai At Newport" (1956). In the post bebop years, Paul Desmond was the only alto player who never tried to emulate the sound of Charlie Parker. Instead of a hard, aggressive sound he went in the other direction entirely. With a soft, almost classical tone it would be hard to recognize the two musicians as even playing the same instrument. Desmond always said he never practiced because he felt like it made him play "too fast". Desmond was also a legendary wit. On the secret of his tone he said: "I honestly don't know! It has something to do with the fact that I play illegally." His solo on "In Your Own Sweet Way" is Desmond at his absolute best. Lyrical, full of ideas and sounding effortless, Desmond weaves his way through these changes with supreme confidence and ease. My favorite moment is when he slips in the sly quote from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" with no apparent difficulty. While there are many great Desmond solos ("The Song Is You" from "Jazz Goes To College is another) this is my favorite. Check it out.
3. Gerry Mulligan & Clark Terry - "Blueport" - "Gerry Mulligan And The Concert Jazz Band At The Vanguard" (1961). I'm cheating a little here. This is really a series of trades between Mulligan and Terry. So you get two solos for the price of one. They start out with Mulligan playing four bars followed by Terry's eight bars. Halfway through they reverse with Terry playing the fours and Mulligan playing the eights. The person playing the fours is always completely solo while the band backs the person playing the eights. This is done at a lightening tempo so the ideas come in a virtual blizzard. The whole thing turns in a quote-a-palooza with quotes from the following tunes: Camptown Races, St. Louis Blues, Indiana, Broadway, I've Been Working On the Railroad, Playmate, Way DownYonder In New Orleans, Forty-Second Street, and the inevitable Mop-Mop. This is jazz at its most exciting and creative. How Mulligan and Terry were able to pull this off at such a blazing speed is a complete mystery to me. Guess that's why I like it so much.
2. Stan Getz - "Soul Eyes" - "People Time"(1991). Recorded in March of 1991 at the Cafe Montmartre, this is one of the most inspiring solos I've ever heard. Getz was playing a week's worth of duos with the great pianist, Kenny Barron. He was very ill and passed away just three months after the engagement. He had massive breathing problems and was completely winded after each solo. It's like he's pouring his entire soul out on this tune every note is meaningful and drenched with passion. This even includes a "clam", after which you can hear him mutter an expletive at his mistake. Even the mistake is perfect. Sorry, but this one makes me tear up every time. That "Getz Sound" will never leave my mind.
1. Phil Woods - "You Must Believe In Spring" - "Michel Legrand: Recorded Live At Jimmy's"(1975). Phil Woods is the antithesis of Paul Desmond. Very much a disciple of Charlie Parker, Woods has the hard tone you associate with bebop alto. There's a little history behind this solo. Woods began his career in the 1950's as one of the "young guns" in New York City. He played with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band and on a multitude of other recordings. He received a degree from Julliard on clarinet. Gradually he migrated to studio work in NYC in the 1960's. But he was not satisfied. He wanted a career as a working jazz artist. In 1968 he moved to France and started the "European Rhythm Machine". This group was very successful and garnered him the critical notoriety he was searching for. After several years he decided he wanted to move back to the United States, doing so in 1972. This solo was recorded after not having much success with continuing his solo career. He got a one week gig with Michel Legrand in NYC. He was featured each night on "You Must Believe In Spring". He saw this feature as an opportunity to jump-start his career. So, like Getz, you are hearing a man playing on the edge. He takes almost three minutes to play the melody of this classic song. This is raw emotion mixed with an incredible amount of technique and life experience. His improv is haunting, inspiring and will knock you out. Fabulous, simply fabulous.
So, there you go. My favorite five solos (for today, anyway). I hope to hear many better but I bet I won't. If you would like to share some of your favorites or would like to comment on the column, please log in and make a comment, below.