Flirting with Coherence
There are different flavors of puns, but one of the most common in jazz is what might be called a “recursive pun,” which Wikipedia defines as “one in which the second aspect of a pun relies on the understanding of an element in the first.” This describes not only the multistep logic behind “Evidence,” but also the rationale for a host of other classic compositions titles: Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” was followed by Sonny Rollins’s “I Know,” Miles Davis’s “Tune Up” preceded John Coltrane’s “Countdown,” “How High the Moon” was reimagined as Coltrane’s “Satellite,” and so forth.
On a hazy afternoon last summer, I sat listening to John Coltrane with a friend in Brooklyn. This friend, who is a drummer, and I had gotten together to play some duets and before we played he put on a 1958 Coltrane record called “Soultrane.” Aside from being a very swinging record, the album is significant because in its liner notes, the critic Ira Gitler coined the term “sheets of sound.” The phrase is tossed around here and there in jazz history classes, but in practical terms it refers to Coltrane’s rapid-fire sequences of notes, which cascaded in groups of regularly ascending or descending tones.
Every Saturday morning, I would leave my house in suburban New Jersey and take a train into Manhattan, transfer to the subway, and make my way over to the Manhattan School of Music on the Upper West Side. It was there that I became a musical glutton.
If not, perhaps you’re not familiar with the word “troll,” as in the slang verb form “to troll.” This usage derives from another, narrower meaning of “troll” that emerged out of the proliferation of online chat rooms and web forums circa the ’90s, which Wikipedia defines as “Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”