Here are the first two transcriptions to go up on my blog, There Will Never Be Another You from the 1986 album Solid, and What Is This Thing Called Love, from the 1981 album United. (The transcriptions are written at B flat pitch, ie one tone higher than they sound)
There Will Never Be Another You is played at a medium tempo and for much of his solo Woody outlines the changes without being too adventurous, concentrating on the melodic line and also his sound. He often uses a sharpened 4th to create a lydian sound, especially on Fma7 chords and the G7 found in the 13th bar of the form. He also makes use of the pentatonic scale based on the tritone of a dominant chord (see bar 49), sometimes combining it with more conventional dominant chord harmony to good effect (for example, bars 9 and 33). The last four bars of each chorus he plays are of great interest. In bar 30, he sets it up with a strong statement in the home key, before seemingly shifting up a semitone and outlining the key of F# major – over the II-V of A-7 – D7, he outlines G#-7 – C#7, a II-V in F#. This then resolves to the G-7 in the underlying harmony, but Woody soon returns to F# major which functions as a tritone substitution over the C7 chord to provide a resolution to the tonic key at bar 34, the start of the second chorus. The four bars at bar 62 are very similar – again, the first bar contains a strong statement in the tonic key before Woody outlines the chord C#7 in the second bar which resolves to an A# on the first beat of bar 64. This can however also be viewed as a B flat, the third of the underlying chord of G-7 , and Woody uses this as a pivot note, linking two harmonies, to return to ‘inside’ playing on the G-7 chord. This does not last long however, and over the next bar or so Woody outlines the tonality of B major, which then resolves to the tonic key of F major once again for the return to the start of the form.
What Is This Thing Called Love is played at a burning tempo, and, propelled in part by Mulgrew Miller’s harmonically ambiguous comping, Woody plays a lot more adventurously and ‘outside’ the harmony. Once again, he often uses the sharpened 4th to create a lydian sound especially over the Dmaj7 chords – on these he also uses the E pentatonic scale (for example, bars 6-7 and 49). In this solo, Woody also shows himself to be a master of more traditional bebop language, particularly towards the start of the solo. This is then developed into more complex pentatonic based language such as that seen in bars 38-41. At this point, Woody links together the pentatonic scales of E flat and B by use of a common tone or pivot note, E flat or D sharp. Neither of these chords fit with the underlying harmony, yet Woody manages to resolve on to a C# for the Dmaj7 chord in bar 41. Bar 71 shows a similar linking of the E flat and B pentatonic scales, as does bar 104. The phrase from bar 121 to 126 is particularly masterful, with Woody combining sequential playing with pentatonic ideas, wide intervallic leaps and chromatic movement all in the same phrase. Another important idea can be seen at bar 56 – here Woody anticipates the A7 chord by two beats. This anticipation of harmony is a device used frequently by Woody, and one I need to look at in more detail.
What points have I taken from these solos to incorporate into my own practice?
- use of the tritone pentatonic over a V chord and the II pentatonic over a I chord
- use of a sharpened 4th over tonic chords to create a lydian sound
- substitution of different II-V’s to create a new sound (this is something I have been discussing with Martin Speake and will be writing more about later)
- the use of a pivot note contained in two distinct harmonies to link the two together
- juxtaposition of more traditional bebop language with more complex pentatonic and intervallic lines
- the linking of pentatonic scales a major 3rd apart as a means to go ‘outside’ the harmony
- the anticipation of chord changes