August 14, 2006

Jimmy Raney's unfinished book

In the 80s, Dad starting doing more formalized teaching. More and more, he was invited to do jazz clinics, both in the US and abroad. I was fortunate enough to be able to get free room, board and classes at Attila Zoller's "bandcamp" nestled in his idyllic backwoods second home in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1982. There, I was witness to one of Dad's amazing lectures on polymetric phrasing. He also performed Bach duets with Ola Miracle his companion on piano, playing the flute part on guitar. He executed all the Baroque ornaments flawlessly and correctly.

Because of the new teaching demands, Dad began a manuscript on the construction of melodic line (circa 1983-1984). I saw a copy in progress when I stayed with him in 1985. Although the book was somewhat raw and perhaps in need of a bit more material, the book was nevertheless brilliant and original. Unfortunately, Mel Bay didn't see it that way and it was turned down for publication. I think he took the rejection hard because I didn't hear any more about it. Dad passed away in May, 1995 and I didn't see this manuscript again until last year. When I reread it, I was even more blown away by its potential.

The original manuscript is in good old fashioned xerox "mock-up" copy, in handwritten block print and pasted music examples- 31 pages in all. To date I have transcribed 15 pages into MS Word and have married jpeg snapshots of Finale files to the text copy. I also did some minor text edits, section summaries and a few footnotes.

As I discussed the project with friend and business partner Charles, he expressed the opinion that text manuscript with images alone may not be up to today's product delivery standard. Indeed, many jazz method books I see these days are available as pdf downloads, book and CD sets with recorded excerpts and even interactive programs either thru cd or a linked website. Although basic deliverable manuscript is "square one", the electronic version is our current goal and we're currently working towards this.

In terms of just the method book standard, the original manuscript at 31 hand-written pages is a little short of examples. Although he included some great samples, the typical Raney enthusiast undoubtedly will be looking for more of his signature recorded solos that demonstrate the concepts he discussed. This would've been my job to tell him as an editor: "More of your stuff, Dad!" "How about this solo?" "What about this phrase on Stella By Starlight?" and the like. When he was alive I think he considered my views of his oeuvre helpful. To this end, I have done some transcribing and plan on augmenting his work with the transcriptions. And not just his solos but some of his favorite players and influences, such as Parker and Getz. Both material selection and additional transcription will take extra time but I think it's well worth it.

My job here is really almost like finishing the "unfinished symphony". If he were alive today and had help what would he want to do? This is a big responsibility, however I feel stronger than every that during my lifetime I should do everything I can to trumpet his teachings and sing his praises. As if to say, "Hey there was genius in your midst and you blew it!" Here's your/our second chance to see.

Wish me luck!



Chris Johnstone said...


I have to see this book! When it comes to the singke note melodic line your dad was really in a class own his own.
Please finish!


raneyjr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sergio said...

Any release date?? Im a big fan of Jimmy! A pdf download would be great to buy! Best regards from Spain.

raneyjr said...


None yet. Still on editorial on this. Just finished some transciptions. It's good to get your feedback about this

It's coming. But it will take a little time due to various factors. In the mean time stay tuned to blog. I will be dispensing information as to the progress. Maybe even doing polling. In the meantime, if you'd like to subscribe to the blog hit the rSS button. under my picture

Sergio said...

Hi Jon. Thanks for the info! I have subscribed to this blog. Anyway I have added it (and your other main page)to my bookmarks so that I can visit them frequently. It is so nice to have all this info about J.Raney (not too many pages on the net about your father...).
I have also checked your mp3 files and you sound great.
Best Regards

A said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexander said...

Woaw! I hope you get around to finishing this book, I will most certainly buy it!

Also, being from the Netherlands, I find albums with Jimmy (and Doug) pretty hard to come by. Internet is getting better nowadays, but still...

I wish you much success and inspiration with this book!