Charlie Parker's composition "Segment"

Vincent Herring is an alto saxophonist who wants to master Charlie Parker's music. Today, he is focused on Charlie Parker's composition "Segment". Please answer the following questions to help Vincent to master the song.

  1. What is the origin of Segment? When was it composed?
  2. What key was Segment originally composed in (both in concert key and for alto saxophone)?
  3. What is the backstory behind Segment? Why did Charlie Parker compose it, and were its chord changes based on the chord changes of another song?
  4. How many times did Charlie Parker record Segment, and what other famous artists also recorded it?
  5. Has Segment grown in popularity among jazz musicians over time?

Delving into "Segment": A Guide for Vincent's Mastery

Vincent, your saxophone will sing with Bird's brilliance soon! Buckle up for a deep dive into Charlie Parker's "Segment."

Compositional Origins:

"Segment" first emerged in 1947 during a recording session with Miles Davis' All-Stars. While the exact date is debated, it likely falls between May 26th and June 2nd. This spontaneous creation, born from the heat of improvisation, became a Parker classic.

Key Journey:

Originally, "Segment" was composed in C major (concert key) for alto saxophone in E flat. However, Charlie often explored different keys during live performances, showcasing his masterful improvisational skills. So, Vincent, feel free to experiment and find your own comfortable tonal setting!

Backstory and Inspiration:

The exact inspiration behind "Segment" remains shrouded in some mystery. While it wasn't a "contrafact" (based on another song's chord changes), some speculate it might have been spurred by the harmonic movement of "Lover Man" or "I Got Rhythm." Others believe it reflects Parker's fascination with chromaticism and exploring harmonic ambiguity. Regardless of its genesis, "Segment" became a playground for Parker's improvisational genius, showcasing his melodic creativity and harmonic daring.

Recording Legacy:

"Segment" was officially recorded three times by Charlie Parker:

  • June 2nd, 1947: The original studio recording with the Miles Davis All-Stars.
  • August 21st, 1947: Live performance at the Hi-Note Club in Los Angeles.
  • August 13th, 1948: Live performance at the Birdland club in New York City.

Beyond Parker, numerous jazz giants have tackled "Segment," including:

  • Miles Davis
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Sonny Stitt
  • Art Blakey
  • John Coltrane
  • Wynton Marsalis

Enduring Popularity:

"Segment" has remained a staple in the jazz repertoire, captivating musicians and audiences alike with its challenging harmonies and boundless improvisational possibilities. While not as widely played as some other Parker tunes, its complexity and melodic sophistication continue to attract adventurous musicians drawn to its unique charm.

Vincent, as you master "Segment," remember to embrace its improvisational spirit. Experiment with different keys, harmonic interpretations, and melodic variations. Let Bird's audacious spirit guide your saxophone, and carve your own path through this timeless jazz masterpiece.

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