Almost Blue is a ballad written by Elvis Costello that Chet learned during his time with him when they collaborated in the early 1980s. The tune was also recorded by Chet in the documentary “Let’s Get Lost” and played often in his live sets. This recording is from the famous “Chet in Tokyo” concert, and the haunting and melancholy lines played by Chet make it a great lesson in ballad playing.
I have transcribed both Chet’s solo and a leadsheet of the tune as well. The rhythm section appears to add in more jazz chords than the original Costello version, which is typical of most popular music that is covered by jazz artists. Although not very technically demanding, something I love about this solo is that every single note seems so well thought out and blends so well into what the pianist is playing. Chet never goes beyond an E (concert D) in his solo but builds excitment through a combination of rhythmic tension and gradually shifting the melodic content higher as the song builds dynamically. He also builds tension by going into the extreme lower register of the trumpet. I love the care that he takes to the ending of each phrase and the vocal qualities that are present in his trumpet playing. Every note is so perfectly placed and resolves to the next chord that you can clearly hear the harmonic rhythm while playing the solo without chords.
This is the 3rd transcription I have done from this album, with the tune Portrait in Black and White being the next on the list. Below I have included both C and Bb leadsheets as well as a transcription of Chet’s solo.