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Moanin' (1959)

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“I said, ‘OK, we’ve got it down...We played it and laid them out. Boy, they loved it. The name of the tune was ‘Moanin’.’ ”

- Benny Golson

Rank 565
Words and Music Jon Hendricks
Bobby Timmons

Jazz journalist Bob Bernotas interviewed Benny Golson, tenor saxophonist and musical director for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1958-1959), in 1992. Here is the text of that interview as it pertains to Bobby Timmons’ composition, “Moanin’.”

Golson cajoled Jazz Messengers pianist Bobby Timmons into expanding a funky little lick into what would become one of the signature tunes of hard bop.

“Bobby Timmons on the gigs, in between tunes, he had this eight-bar thing he used to play. He would play it, and we’d always say, ‘Oooh, that’s funky.’ And we never thought anything about it. But I started thinking about it, that funk thing that he used to play. When we got to a place called Marty’s in Columbus, Ohio, I called a rehearsal and I guess they were wondering why, because we had memorized everything. ‘So, what are we going to rehearse?’ I said, ‘Trust me.’ I used to always say that, like I was some authority.

“So we went to the club the next day and I said, ‘Bobby, remember that little thing you play in between the tunes when you’re on the bandstand, and we all laugh because it’s so funky? What we’re gonna do, we’re gonna use that eight bars with another eight bars, and while we’re here I want you to write a bridge to it.’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s nothing but just a little lick.’ I said, ‘Believe me, I think there’s something there. We’re going to go over here and sit down and lollygag, and you go on the bandstand and you write a bridge for it.’

“So in about fifteen or twenty minutes he says, ‘OK, I got it.’ He played it, and I said, ‘Bobby, no, you missed it. You’ve got to get the same feeling on the bridge that you have on the part that precedes it.’ He said, ‘Well, you write it.’ I said, ‘No, it’s got to be you. I’m going to sit down again, and you come up with something else.’

“And he did. I said, ‘OK, Bobby, that sounds good.’ And Lee [Morgan] and I learned it. Lee and I, for some reason, had the extraordinary ability to play and think and breathe exactly the same. And we never practiced it. I wasn’t aware of it myself ’til somebody pointed it out. We played exactly as one. I said, ‘OK, we’ve got it down. Now we’re gonna play it tonight, and I’m going to pay particular attention to the audience and see what it does to them.’ We played it and laid them out. Boy, they loved it. The name of the tune was ‘Moanin’.’ ”

- Courtesy of Bob Bernotas

You can visit Bob’s website at www.jazzbob.com.

The full text of the interview is in Bob Bernotas’ excellent book, Reed All About It: Interviews and Master Classes with Jazz’s Leading Reed Players.

- Jeremy Wilson

Musicians' Comments

The Jon Hendricks and Bobby Timmons tune “Moanin’” is a great example of the African tradition of “call and response” found so frequently in jazz. It uses two complementary phrases. The second phrase answers the first like the “amen” cadence ( IV - I ) in a hymn tune.

Dalt Williams, bassist, jazz educator
www.jazzforalloccasions.com


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Jon Hendricks and Bobby Timmons

Year Rank Title
1959 565 Moanin'

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