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.


Rosewood (1977)

Rosewood is the first Woody Shaw album I ever heard and it is a fantastic record, fully deserving the award of Best Jazz Album of 1978 in the Down Beat reader’s poll. The album is built around the quintet of Woody Shaw (tpt), Joe Henderson or Carter Jefferson (tnr), Onaje Allan Gumbs (pno), Clint Houston (bs) and Victor Lewis (dr) – however, on most tracks these musicians are augmented by a “concert ensemble” including flutes, saxes, trombone, percussion and harp.

Woody composed most of the tunes, with the sidemen Victor Lewis, Onaje Alan Gumbs and Clint Houston submitting a tune each. Most of the tunes on the album are up-tempo with a latin or samba feel to them, and the pulsating, energetic latin grooves provide the perfect canvas for Woody to showcase his masterful use of pentatonic scales to alternate between “inside” and “outside” playing. This is the case both on tunes with fast moving chord sequences, such as Rosewood, and on more modal tunes such as The Legend of the Cheops and Isabel, the Liberator. Rahsaan’s Run is the most straight-ahead number on the album, an extremely fast blues based on sus chords in the manner of Miles Davis’s Eighty One. Another Davis influence is evident on the introduction to Sunflowers which sounds incredibly similar to the introduction to In A Silent Way, the second tune on Miles’s 1969 album of the same name.

Woody is in incredible form on this recording, and there is much I can learn from his playing. His time and articulation are impeccable, even though most of the tunes are played at seriously fast tempos. His explorations of “outside” harmony are measured and confident, and his resolutions are often exquisite. This is definitely a record made by a musician at the top of his game. I have transcribed Woody’s solo from Rosewood and will hopefully post it on this blog soon complete with analysis. Then I will move on to transcribing some of the other solos as there is much for me to learn from this album.