Giant Steps (4:46)

Cover of The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (disc 2)

From The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (disc 2) and 103 other releases

“‘Giant Steps’” is a jazz recording by John Coltrane, on tenor saxophone, which is the first track on the album of the same name and is 4 minutes and 49 seconds long. The composition is a milestone for jazz musicians’ progress, given the difficulty of improvising its rapid progression of chord changes that progress through three keys shifted by major thirds.

The saxophonist had previously used this technique on the LP Blue Train on the tunes Moment’s Notice and Lazy Bird. Coltrane continued in this vein on a recording with Cannonball Adderley of the standard “Limehouse Blues,” and on his original “Fifth House.” He continued to use this approach on other tunes, such as “Countdown”, based on the Miles Davis tune “Tune Up”; “26 2” based on Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation”; and a reharmonization of the jazz standard “Body and Soul.” Songs such as “Naima” and “Like Sonny” also show some harmonic similarity to “Giant Steps.” Coltrane continued to employ similar concepts in his soloing during his more open and modal middle period. A Love Supreme features examples of lines based on “Giant Steps” cycles over modal vamps, to create a Polytonal effect.

The progression continues to stimulate harmonic thinking in contemporary jazz. There are a number of different approaches to soloing on the song. While Coltrane favoured arpeggiation over the changes, other players have used different tricks and patterns to bring out the sound of the changes.

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  • moanin

    THE UNMISTAKEABLE SOUND OF THE TRANE STRAIGHT AHEAD,CLASSIC!!

    17 Sep 9:04pm Reply
  • spoonere

    pass the brandy

    4 Jul 8:36pm Reply
  • StuartHaden1

    giant steps from a giant of jazz

    26 May 8:21pm Reply
  • clutnuckle

    one time i played bass when a few people at my high school performed this song live and i literally just played random notes quickly to give the impression that i knew how to do a walking bass line. it sounded ok.

    28 Dec 2013 Reply
  • clutnuckle

    the sound of a mind moving in three dimensions. cranial architecture. BEAUTIFUL. 5/5

    28 Dec 2013 Reply
  • twolliebollie

    i'm swinging too hard

    19 Nov 2013 Reply
  • StuartHaden1

    keep up

    1 Nov 2013 Reply
  • pkflyers

    Genius

    23 Oct 2013 Reply
  • Assedor

    Tonally uninhibited improvisation by Coltrane allowed subsequent generations of musicians consider him one of the pioneers of free jazz

    23 Jul 2013 Reply
  • Im2Jazzy4U

    i'm actually hearing the alternate version with cedar walton on piano...and in any event...keepin' up with trane's giant steps wasn't that easy... ; D

    12 Jul 2013 Reply
  • mikesmusic107

    A Masterpiece...

    30 May 2013 Reply
  • ISCBTK

    Makes the scenery so much better ^_^

    11 May 2013 Reply
  • NEWAME

    Tell'us aboutit!!

    21 Mar 2013 Reply
  • StuartHaden1

    He was a giant and punched above his weight

    11 Mar 2013 Reply
  • StuartHaden1

    The Garry Winogrand of the tenor sax. Way out front, street wise, miles ahead of his time!!

    11 Mar 2013 Reply
  • StuartHaden1

    Yes, last.fm,please keep this version. Full hard on. No one comes close to his genius. Thank you Trane.

    11 Mar 2013 Reply
  • tasteofcherry

    Masterpiece.

    11 Mar 2013 Reply
  • gungh0

    Must suck to be someone else trying to be this good. ;-)

    4 Mar 2013 Reply
  • mcflyyoubojo

    maybe my favorite song ever

    26 Feb 2013 Reply
  • LondonLouis

    Blows everyone else off the park.

    12 Jan 2013 Reply
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