I was listening to a particular jazz song the other day,

"First Song", composed by Charlie Haden, recorded by him together with Enrico Pieranunzi and Billy Higgins in 1990.

I realized something which I found to be rather odd (for Jazz): it had, what I think is a Coda, i.e., after everyone finishes their solos, the pianist Pieranunzi starts a somewhat free and faster cadence-like improvisation that seems to conclude the song. In the particular recording I linked to, the pianist's solo ends around 7:22, they all repeat the theme, and then at around 8:32, instead of going to the last note of the theme, the pianist start a somewhat free improvisation which feels a bit like a pedal point or a coda.

My questions are:

  1. Can someone characterize a bit more precisely what is happening at that moment?

  2. If this is indeed a coda, how common is it in jazz?

  3. Can you provide other examples of such phenomena in jazz?

  1. What is happening starting at 8:32 is what jazz players often refer to as an ending vamp. In this case it is a loop of 4 bars, one chord per bar that they are improvising over. This is basically the progression they are playing:

    Cm/E♭ D7 D♭maj7 Cm

    Although it seems like they speed up in fact they keep the same tempo but play more rhythmically and sometimes imply a double time feel. After a while they ritard and play a final Cm chord.

  2. The ending vamp is also a coda, it is a section used to end the piece. Coda has a very broad definition and this definitely fits within it.

  3. There are dozens if not hundreds of jazz recordings that have ending vamps or more structured codas. The unique thing about this song is the coda uses material that doesn’t appear anywhere else in the song. Sometimes the coda is like the intro. Here are a few examples of jazz recordings with different types of codas but it only scratches the surface:

    • Autumn Leaves by Cannonball Adderly from the album “Somethin’ Else” The ending vamp starts at 8:56 and is based on the intro.
    • All The Things You Are by Charlie Parker; The ending vamp is based in the intro.
    • If I Were A Bell by the Miles Davis Quintet from “Relaxin’ With the Mikes Davis Quintet” The coda starts around 7:36 and is a combination of a vamp and an arranged ending.
    • Woody n You by the Miles Davis Quintet from “Relaxin’ With the Mikes Davis Quintet” The coda is a short vamp in 6/8 that starts at 4:38.
    • Nica’s Dream by Art Blakey from the album “The Jazz Messengers” This is an arranged coda starting at 11:26.
  • 1
    Also thanks to @Glorfindel for the suggested edits. I’m going to learn how to make those real musical symbols one of these days! Apr 10 '20 at 17:16
  • Thanks John! It would be great if you could provide links to particular recordings since these are very popular songs which have been recorded many many times and have many versions. Moreover, if you could point out precisely where this "ending vamp" starts it would be great!
    – PPR
    Apr 10 '20 at 18:53
  • 1
    @PPR I added some extra info on the examples on my original answer, enjoy! Apr 10 '20 at 21:15

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