Play Jazz Standards! Nefertiti Jazz Play Along
“Nefertiti” is a fascinating tune. Composed by Wayne Shorter, it was first performed by the Miles Davis Quintet at their recording session for the group’s 1968 album, Nefertiti. The most unusual aspect of the recording is that Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter play the melody together over and over, and there are no improvised solos. Instead, the rhythm section improvises underneath the melody. But at the same time, Davis’ trumpet and Shorter’s tenor sax don’t keep playing the melody exactly as written. They gradually loosen up the rhythm and go in and out of sync with each other in a compelling way. It kind of reminds me of those Cubist paintings of someone walking down a staircase. You see multiple images at the same time, just like on “Nefertiti” we hear multiple phrasings of the melody at the same time!
Taken by itself, this “cubist approach to melody” was already being used by jazz musicians since at least the late 1950s. You’ll hear it in the music or Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, and other progressive jazz musicians. Even though it was very “new” at this time, this approach to melody may have been right there at the very beginnings of jazz. In his book Early Jazz, Gunther Schuller interviews the early jazz musician George Morrison, who reports that jazz began by one musician playing the melody as written while another musician embellished re-phrased the same melody. SO at least in this sense, musicians like Davis, Shorter, Coleman and Mingus were in fact evoking the early days of jazz polyphony but playing their melodies in this manner.