The Legend of Cheops and Rosewood Transcriptions

Woody Shaw – Rosewood

Here are two transcriptions from the 1979 album Rosewood. Both tunes have long forms with several different sections, and Woody only takes one chorus on each tune. The Legend of Cheops is by Victor Lewis and for the most part has a samba feel to it. The opening section is in concert A, or B major for the trumpet – this is a very difficult key to play in but Woody copes with ease. In fact, the B pentatonic scale appears to be one of Woody’s favourites and he uses it in several of the solos I have transcribed (for example: If, What Is This Thing Called Love and Zoltan). He also spices things up a bit by inserting C naturals (eg. bar 16) and G naturals (eg. bar 18). Woody’s playing in this opening section is a mixture of strongly diatonic, pentatonic material and chromatic scales.

From bar 41, the start of the next section,  Woody does not venture outside the changes for the rest of the solo. Instead, he concentrates on constructing smoothly flowing, melodic lines, often using pentatonic scales but using them in an inside manner – for example, the I pentatonic over a I chord (as heard in the first 40 bars) can be heard at bars 41, 65 and 86, and the II pentatonic over the I chord can be heard at bars 57 and 85. Woody uses the pentatonic scales in an extremely melodic way. His time feel is, as usual, spot on, and I should make a special note of the phrase he plays between bars 52 and 56. This is an exquisite phrase and shows his complete mastery of articulation, as well as the ability to navigate wide intervallic leaps at speed with ease.

The tempo on Rosewood, this one of Woody’s compositions, is again very fast, and his articulation and speed of fingers is astounding, particularly on the semiquaver passages. A fast tongue is essential to playing the wider intervallic leaps employed by Woody, and Woody has developed his tonguing ability to outstanding levels. I am not sure if he is maybe using double tonguing – however, this would also be incredible as double tonguing large intervals is extremely hard.

As with The Legend of Cheops, much of the material is based on pentatonic scales. He uses pentatonics in some of the standard usages – for example, I pentatonic over a I chord (bar 4), V pentatonic over a I chord (bar 8), II pentatonic over a I chord (bar 13), and IV pentatonic over a sus chord (bar 25). But he also uses pentatonics as a means of playing outside. In bars 38-40 he uses chromaticism to switch from C pentatonic down to B pentatonic, then down again to B flat pentatonic, resolving with and F and G over the D-7 chord at the start of bar 40. Then over the Aflat maj7 chord in the next bar, he sets up to play a phrase using the E flat pentatonic scale, only to again use chromaticism to switch to B pentatonic, implying A flat minor – however, he still manges to ensure he resolves correctly with a C natural for the A-7 chord in bar 42. Bar 53 is also interesting – here he starts off playing using the B pentatonic scale, switching up a semitone to C pentatonic on the 4th beat, only for this new scale to become an inside sound as the chord moves to D-7 at the start of bar 54. This is another example of the anticipation of a change of chord, seen already on several other occasions in other solos I have transcribed. Bars 62 to the end are also very effective – here Woody plays almost exclusively notes from the E flat pentatonic scale over shifting chords. The scale is consonant with each chord except for the passing chord of A7sus, and creates a stable frame of reference on top of the shifting harmonies underneath.

Things for me to work on:

  • melodic use of pentatonic scales, using simple applications such as the I pentatonic scale over a I chord
  • mixing strongly diatonic material with chromatic lines
  • faster tongue and finger speed, and an improved time feel (maybe experiment with double tonguing fast passages)
  • shifting between pentatonic scales a semitone apart through the use of chromatic material
  • chord change anticipation
  • use of one consonant pentatonic scale over shifting harmonies

NOTE: Due to a complaint from Victor Lewis, the composer of ‘The Legend of Cheops’, I have removed the transcription of Woody’s solo on this tune.

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What have I been practicing?

Here is an idea of some of the things I have been working on in my practice, and ways in which I need to develop further.

  1. Sound – Woody’s sound is one of the things that attracts me most to his playing. I have been playing long note exercises, really focussing on the sound I am making. My aim is a full, fat sound in all areas of the instrument. I have also been working on vibrato exercises and gradually I hope to include more vibrato in my playing. I have also been attempting to include a wider range of articulations and inflexions into my playing. The way for me to tell if these exercises are helping my sound is to record my playing and I hope to be doing this with a band very soon.
  2. Time/feel – I have been working a lot with a metronome on the Herbert L. Clarke Technical Studies book, trying to increase the speed and regularity of my fingers and tongue on basic scale and arpeggio exercises. I feel my articulation has improved since I started working regularly on these exercises, but I still have some way to go until I can match Woody’s articulation skills. My aim is to slowly keep on notching up the metronome markings once I have mastered the previous mark, and to keep on pushing myself by playing at fast tempos. I had a gig in Liverpool last week with the band Marley Chingus which was a real workout for me as they like to play tunes at incredibly fast tempos – however, attempting to play at fast tempos is part of the process of improving and I feel it was very beneficial for me.
  3. Pentatonic scales – I have been working with Jerry Bergonzi’s Pentatonics book, trying to gain fluency with the various patterns he mentions and working out in which contexts various pentatonic scales can be used. I have also been practicing the ability to link together pentatonic scales a certain interval apart in various rhythmic groupings, and I have been studying various contexts where these linked pentatonic scales could be used – I will go into this in more detail in a future post as my ideas are still crystallising. Again, I feel I have improved in this area and pentatonic scales are now an essential part of my improvisational vocabulary. I now need to gain even more fluency, especially when linking scales in irregular rhythmic groupings.
  4. Outside playing – I have been attempting to play outside the harmony a lot more than I used to, and I have been trying out a few ideas, with mixed results. This is the area where I need to put in the most thought in the upcoming weeks and months. The pentatonic approach seems to be to be a fruitful one, especially the linking together of scales a minor or major 3rd apart. I also need to try out the idea of using bebop language in an unconventional manner, as Woody did on his solo on Zoltan. To judge my improvement in this area I really need to record my playing and then transcribe what I played, analysing it to see what I did in what context, and picking out the ideas that worked best to develop further.

Zoltan

I had a really great tutorial with Martin Speake yesterday in which we looked in depth at Woody’s tune Zoltan from the Unity album. I had been having trouble working out the chords for the middle 8, but with Martin’s help I have managed to work them out. Here is a lead sheet for the tune:

Zoltan

The tune opens with a march like theme taken from Zoltan Kodaly’s Hary Janos suite. This theme is a prime example of the lydian sound heard when the pentatonic scale based on the II is played over the I bass note – in this case, D pentatonic over C. The second theme of the tune, marked A on the lead sheet, switches to a latin feel but is harmonically similar, switching between a D pentatonic scale over C to a C pentatonic scale over B flat. This tune is in AABA form, and the solos are over this form. The B section is also comprised of lydian chords which appear fairly straight forward in the head – however, I was later confused by what Woody was playing in his solo. Here is a transcription of the solo:

Woody Shaw – Zoltan

(Warning: this solo is at B flat trumpet pitch, ie. one tone higher than it sounds)

What confused me was the fact that Woody was clearly playing phrases using bebop language outlining the chord of Eflat7 (concert) where I had reckoned the chord to be Gflat maj7#11 – see bars 17 and 49. However, Martin helped me to realise that the chord is still Gflat maj7#11, Woody is just superimposing fresh harmony on it. Here is an example of Woody using bebop language in the ‘wrong’ key to create a fresh sound. Joe Henderson also does this is his solo but in a more ‘inside’ manner – if you listen around 3’38 on the track he can be heard playing F7 bebop language over the chord Eflat maj7#11. Martin and I then proceeded to try out this idea on all of the lydian chords in the tune – firstly, Joe Henderson’s inside way using the bebop scale starting a tone above the root note (Woody also uses this idea – see bars 13 and 37), and then Woody’s more dissonant way using the bebop scale starting a minor third below the root note. In both cases, familiar bebop language is used in a different context to how it is normally used.

Woody does a few other interesting things on this tune. He consistently uses the A pentatonic scale over the Cmaj7#11 chord – this scale mostly fits but there is a clash between the C in the bass and the C# in the scale. In fact, the only time he uses the conventional approach to lydian chords seen in the head – using the pentatonic scale based on the note a tone above the root – is at bar 81 where he plays Aflat pentatonic over Gflat maj7#11 (concert pitches). This solo shows that Woody was not content to use the conventional pentatonic approach, he wanted to explore and discover new ways of incorporating dissonance. It also shows his respect for jazz language of the past and a willingness to incorporate it in fresh situations. There is much in this solo for me to explore further.

Song of Songs (1972)

This album was Woody’s follow up to Blackstone Legacy, and features Emanuel Boyd on flute and tenor sax, Ramon Morris and Bennie Maupin on tenor saxes, George Cables on piano and keyboards, Henry Franklin on bass and Woodrow Theus II on drums. All four tunes on the album are composed by Woody, and he is beginning to develop his own compositional voice. The music is generally pretty avant garde and reveals the influence of several key musicians.

The influence of John Coltrane can be heard in the extended sections of collective, free improvisation over drones, especially in the first tune, Song of Songs, and the last tune, The Awakening. This tune also morphs into a funk groove which sounds very similar to the type of music being made by Miles Davis during this period. The Goat And The Archer, the second tune on the album is loosely based on a blues structure in F concert, although the actual chords being played are constantly changed by the musicians in a manner reminiscent of the tune If from the album Unity (see post below). The third tune, Love: For The One You Can’t Have is a beautiful tune which fits in neatly with the evolution of Woody’s compositional technique. I need to transcribe this tune, as well as others, to try and see what principles he used and developed when composing.

More Transcriptions

Here are two more transcriptions I have done:

Woody Shaw – You Stepped Out Of A Dream

Woody Shaw – If

You Stepped Out Of A Dream is taken from the 1986 album Solid, and whilst it is not a particularly adventurous solo harmonically, it is still a very impressive solo. Woody’s sound and sense of melody on the solo are fantastic, and his time feel is impeccable. He uses a lot more scalic passages than he did as a younger man, and the big intervallic leaps are becoming less evident. Woody uses several sequences in the solo to great effect – for example, bars 1-4, 15 and 57-58. The use of pentatonic scales is sometimes evident – for example, bars 79-80 – but they are less key to Woody’s approach to improvisation than they were a few years earlier. This is a more mature and more melodic improvisational style, one less focussed on ‘outside’ playing and large intervallic leaps.

Woody’s solo on the Joe Henderson blues If, taken from Larry Young’s Unity album, is a very interesting solo. The chords I have put on the solo are some standard blues changes – however, neither Woody nor Larry Young stick to a distinct set of changes, and I have put these in as a reference only. For much of the solo, Woody jumps between two pentatonic scales – B flat major and B major. The B flat pentatonic scale creates an inside, bluesy sound, and can be played over the whole chord sequence without ever really sounding dissonant. The B pentatonic scale is used as a contrast as it doesn’t really fit with any of the underlying harmony. Woody switches between the two scales at will and uses the dissonant B pentatonic scale on all sections of the chord sequence, the only consistent aspect being a consonant resolution at the end of each chorus. I really like the way he varies rhythmically how he links the two scales together, only rarely allowing the change to fall on a barline. This is a novel way of playing on the blues – Woody takes two scales, one consonant and one dissonant, and juxtaposes them to create tension and release. The fruits of such an approach can be seen in his later recordings, and this is a key idea I need to incorporate into my own practice.  This is a truly masterful solo, and Woody was only 20 years old at the time!

Horace Silver – The Cape Verdean Blues (1965)

In the years 1965-66 Woody was a member of the Horace Silver Quintet, and this was his first recording with the group. The other members of the band at this time were Joe Henderson on tenor sax, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Roger Humphries on drums, and of course Horace Silver on piano. J J Johnson also guests on trombone for three numbers. This album was recorded only a month before Woody and Joe Henderson played on Larry Young’s Unity, and the music is far more straight-ahead. Woody proves himself to be a fine hard bop trumpet player – just as on Eric Dolphy’s Iron Man he sounds at times like Lee Morgan and at others like Freddie Hubbard. However, most of his solos contain relatively conventional changes playing. His playing is often bluesy too, especially on the slower numbers. The only tune on which he explores more adventurous harmonic territory is the second tune, The African Queen.

I think that at this time Woody was pursuing various experimental ideas about harmony and improvisation (as shown by his playing on Unity a month later), but he felt the Horace Silver Quintet was not the place to try out these ideas. For one thing, Silver would have been 37 in 1965, 16 years older than Woody, and had already established himself as a big name in the jazz world. Whereas Woody, a young 21 year old, was still finding his way as a musician, and will have wanted to play in a style fitting with that of his band leader, saving his experimental ideas for sessions with more forward thinking musicians such as Larry Young.

United (1981)

This album was recorded with Woody’s working band of the period, and features Steve Turre (tbn), Mulgrew Miller (pno), Stafford James (bs) and Tony Reedus (dr). This was Woody’s second working quintet and was formed in late 1980, disbanding in July 1983. Gary Bartz also guests on alto for two tunes, What Is This Thing Called Love and Blues For Wood.

This album has been seen as heralding a more straight ahead approach for the new quintet. Woody is definitely the star of the show, with far more solo space than anyone else, but his playing is always strong and full of ideas. The pentatonic approach is less evident on this recording than in some previous recordings. One aspect of Woody’s playing noticable on this album is an increased use of incredibly fast scalic runs, a device often used by Freddie Hubbard. Two of Woody’s compositions on this album are based on other tunes – The Green Street Caper is based on the chords to On Green Dolphin Street, while the chords to Blues For Wood are similar to those in Mingus’ Nostalgia In Times Square. Mulgrew Miller’s tune Pressing The Issue is probably the tune most linked to what Woody had been doing in the 1970s, featuring strange harmonies and wierd chord changes for the soloists to explore, and Woody solos brilliantly on this tune. It also features the juxtaposition of swing and latin feels found in many tunes on Woody’s albums up to this point. Whilst this album could in some ways be seen as a backward step in Woody’s forward thinking approach, the playing on the album is very strong throughout and the players manage to keep up a stream of fresh ideas despite revisiting some tunes and chord changes from the past.