One of the more enduring myths about this tune is that Miles Davis wrote it. In fact, as has been the case with Mr. Davis and his many “composer” credits, he didn’t. This song was written by Chuck Wayne in the late 1940s, as a tribute to his close friend and Woody Herman band mate, the great trumpeter Sonny Berman, hence, the song title is a play on words with Mr. Berman’s first name. Solar is essentially a modified 12-bar blues that starts in minor key, but quickly moves to the major IV chord, before traveling back to the I chord by way of the same tonicizing sequence to the bIII and bII areas, as found in Toots Thielman’s “Bluesette”. The last I heard was that Chuck Wayne’s daughter was suing Miles Davis’ estate for copyright infringement and back royalties.
Steve Rochinski, Guitarist, Composer, Arranger, Author, Professor, Harmony Dept., Berklee College of Music
Solar, pronounced “so-LAHR” by the jazz community (attributed to Miles), rather than the usual “SO-ler,” is still popular and often called at jam sessions, encores, and occasionally on programs. The relative simplicity of its form (only 12 bars) and harmony (Cm with a string of [slow/chord-per-bar] ii-V-I’s make it easy to memorize and “blow” over yet this simplicity allows for much creativity and “stretching out” for the soloist and accompanists.
“Solar,” on Walkin’ by Miles Davis All Stars with Horace Silver, Percy Heath, etc., is taken at a relaxed, medium swing tempo and features Miles with his famous muted tone.
Keith Jarrett’s Tribute CD features a more aggressive and quicker version.
Roland Davis, composer, performer
Are you a published Vocalist or Instrumentalist?
Add a comment and we'll credit you with a link to your site. (more...)