From Jamey Aebersold's "Cantaloupe Island," Maiden Voyage, vol. 54.

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This is called a bend!

It (normally) means exactly what it sounds and looks like: you start on the pitch, bend it down, and then return to the original pitch. More rarely, composers will notate bends to also mean you scoop up into the pitch.

Bends are really reserved for brass and woodwind players, so the fact that this is in a piano score suggests that it's probably an arrangement of a chart played by brass/wind players.

Edit: After hearing the example here, two things become clear:

  • The notation here is for the latter intention mentioned above, where one is to scoop up into the note.
  • It's played by piano, so the notation actually creates a bit of a grace-note E♭ that scoops up and resolves to F.
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    Bending can be done on the piano as well, if you have a hydraulic press.... – Scott Wallace Nov 15 at 14:27
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    Or it could be a synthesizer part? – Duston Nov 15 at 14:43
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    Well, you could try, sort of, to imitate a bend by moving from the Eb to the F while holding the C – Carl Witthoft Nov 15 at 15:09
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    After hearing the actual recording, I've edited my answer. – Richard Nov 15 at 15:16
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    @ScottWallace You don't even need a hydraulic press. Just get a woodwind, climb onto a piano, and play that as notated. Bam, bending on a piano. – Nic Hartley Nov 15 at 22:30

This example is from a c.1991 Hancock arrangement for a treble clef solo workbook. The articulation is indeed traditionally called a bend and does not appear in other charts of this standard tune. I’ve never seen it on a piano part but I would perform it as a kind of reverse mordant on the top note F. The middle finger bounces on the Eb while the fourth finger sustains the F, etc.

If playing right-hand synth, you may also bend by briefly flicking the pitch bender down during the note, having set the synth to top-note-only pitch bend mode.

I don’t know about brass but on sax the bend can be done by slightly dropping the tongue and jaw quickly during the note.

  • I didn't know that you could set a synth to "top-note-only pitch bend mode." Good to know! – Richard Nov 15 at 16:52
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    My first DX7IIFD had that feature! It’s really nice to have when using the sustain pedal a lot. – Richard Barber Nov 15 at 16:57
  • Thank you! to everyone who responded. This makes a lot more sense now, especially with the preceding grace note. – C. B. Nov 16 at 20:28

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