Iguana

Photo by Patricia Guillory

“Iguana” began its life as a bass line. I wanted to write a groove-oriented jazz tune like Herbie Hancock’s iconic “Chameleon.” (“Chameleon”…”Iguana” Get it?) The bass line soon morphed from a dirty funk into a smoother, jazz fusion groove with an ever-ascending harmonic sequence. While I was working on the melody I was also memorizing Thelonius Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.” I was fascinated (and a little bit infuriated) by the way Monk takes one melodic motif and then shifts it to different positions in the meter each time it appears. A little of that leaked into “Iguana.”

The final test for any jazz tune–especially a groove-oriented one–is how well it works with real musicians soloing over its form. The first version of Iguana unraveled in that setting. The form was AABA, but the final A was so similar to the first two that no one ever knew when the song started again! In this final version, I simplified the form to AAB with a clear cadence marking the way back to the beginning. Voila! It worked like a charm.

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