Moanin is one of those songs that I am sure we’ve all heard about, but are not sure where to place it. To be quite honest, I’ve seen the Moanin Lead Sheet go around in many different scenarios.
I’ve played the Moanin Lead Sheet in big bands, small bands, jazz jam sessions and just for fun with friends, but there’s no situation that I can think of where I say: “I really like the version of…”
So, with that being said, I had to do a little bit of digging to find out more about the song, and this is what I found!
Moanin was originally written by Bobby Timmons and was actually first recorded by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in 1958 on an Album with the same name.
If you’re interested, you can find a link to Art Blakey’s rendition here!
When I look back at the composition and set up of the song in a variety of different settings, I always thought that playing the melody was a ton of fun. The chords themselves gave the song a very modal feel, and so when it came down to performing and playing solos over the chord changes everyone always had a lot of fun.
Now, this song is a perfect example of what you can change stylistically to a cover to change things up.
During the 40s and 50s, jazz and bebop was THE genre everyone was playing and listening to, and so when I recently attended university and started studying music and performing in jazz clubs, I noticed that even though a lot of the renditions and versions of songs that were played were swing and bebop, sometimes some of these classic jazz standards would be covered in a straight feel. Or there would even be a backbeat given to it very much like a neo soul or RNB song.
This would make a lot of jazz standards really fun to play and could be a thing to think about when you’re trying to arrange jazz standards or put together a performance.
Soloing over jazz songs became easier when the song was played with a straight feel, and also most often because we would be playing it with an RnB soul-ish kind of feel, the tempo would also be slower, allowing for much more breathing room, however also allowing for many more notes to being played over the chord progressions when it was everyone’s turn to solo.
This allowed students and musicians to really practice their scales and patterns while practicing over a simple chord progressions, and while this was an approach that wa done on many jazz standards, Moanin was already set up well for that and of approach.
Like I mentioned earlier, it had a very modal and blues-y feel to it, and while there were many students and musicians that treated playing over it as if it was a bebop standard, this type of rendition really allowed us to practice our pentatonic and hexatonic scales. Messing around with altered patterns, just because the tempo was slow.
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