A few of my favorite things

To celebrate International Jazz Day, Product Marketing Manager - Combined Arts, Sam shares one of his top tracks, John Coltrane's My Favorite Things, and how you can hear some live jazz near you.

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad - I turn to John Coltrane's My Favorite Things. But what is it about this track that makes it just so good?  

Borrowed from Rodgers and Hammerstein's final musical together, The Sound of Music, this tune was already a masterpiece before it got the Coltrane treatment in 1961. A song that touches on the primal fears and innocent joys of life and reminds us that this too will pass - something I think we could all hear from time to time.

Once Coltrane and his quartet take hold of it, it is transformed into a hypnotic track that mesmerises and delights. From the start, you have the soprano saxophone (think of a brass clarinet) playing the familiar melody rhythmically just behind the choppy piano of McCoy Tyner, drawing you deep into their sound world.

1959 Broadway Production of The Sound of Music (from the R&H Archives)

There is a glorious ambiguity around the feel of the song as well. Is it happy, is it sad? This is all down to the melody missing an important note, the third of the scale. The third decides whether a chord is major (happy/bright) or minor (sad/dark), and without this we are left drifting between the two moods.

Coltrane exploits this uncertainty, swapping between the two emotions, building and releasing tension as his saxophone slithers and flutters through the murky waters, passing off to the piano to go on an adventure of its own.

Deeper and deeper we go under their spell, with fleeting glimpses of the tune reminding us of our journey so far. It is not until the very end that we are snapped out of our stupor at the only appearance of the "When the dog bites, when the bee stings..." section, releasing us from our trance and taking us back to the beautiful simplicity of Rodgers and Hammerstein's show tune.

Coltrane continued to play this song throughout his long and illustrious career, blessing us with multiple live recordings which act as milestones in his development - for those who wish to be as nerdy as me!

All this aside, what is left to do is listen. Listen and let your imagination run wild in the looping and spiralling solos for a magical 14 minutes of bliss.

As wonderful as all these recordings are, there is one thing you can't beat: live jazz. If your interest has been peaked, then make sure not to miss the effortless flows of Dave O'Higgins's saxophone when he plays at Forest Arts Centre in New Milton on 7 May. Get your tickets by following the link below.


“O’Higgins plays with quite exceptional fluency and his fund of ideas never runs out.” The Observer

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by Sam Olivier

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Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.
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