See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription
Michael Brecker's Tenor Sax solo on: "If Ever I Should Leave You"(Lerner-Loewe)
Well, here we are, ready to present the third in our series of five Michael Brecker solo transcriptions from "MEDIANOCHE," the great Don Grolnick's last studio CD as a leader. For those of you who are now visiting these pages for the first time, I am going to again offer the same paragraph of important data which should bring you up to speed concerning just how this recording came into being.
In 1995, my dear friend, pianist/composer/arranger Don Grolnick recorded his final CD "MEDIANOCHE" which was eventually picked-up and released by Warner Bros. Sadly, it was not too long after that, we all lost Don to a battle with lymphoma. To this day, Don is missed tremendously by his family, friends, and by all those who loved his playing and compositions. Don and I were close friends and musical associates for nearly 30 yrs. and, in some small way, I feel like I had a hand in this recording. You see, it was many years before when I gave Don my 'extra' LP copy of Cal Tjader's recording, "SOUL BURST," which features some brilliant playing by Chick Corea. Don always loved this recording and when he decided to explore the world of Latin jazz, this recording, its feel, its attitude and even many of its tunes became the model for the band he assembled. A band which included longtime colleagues like Michael Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Don Alias and, from the Latin world, Dave Valentín, Andy González, Milton Cardona, and Steve Berrios.Even though Don will always be one of my most respected friends and bandmates, that doesn't negate the fact that we might have disagreed about any number of things. Like Don, I have my favorite standards, but I have to admit that "If Ever I Should Leave You" from Lerner & Loewe's "CAMELOT" would never have been a tune that I would have chosen. But, the inspiration to record and interpret this tune came from Don's love for the recordings Sonny Rollins made with Jim Hall during the early '60s. Their interpretation of this tune first appeared on the LP titled, "WHAT'S NEW?"(RCA). But the track was recorded around the same time as those which appeared on the more highly regard LP, "THE BRIDGE"(RCA). Here, Don gives it a 3:2 rumba clave treatment by the band, as he cleverly and evenly distributes the melodic tasks to his frontline of Mike Brecker, Mike Mainieri and Dave Valentin, giving the arrangement a great sense of variety. Though the tune is in the traditional A-A-B-A format, it is interesting to note that the [A] sections are all 8 bars long but [B], for some reason, is only 4 bars long. I don't know that there much more to say than that. It's just the way this particular tune is!
Michael Brecker's tenor sax solo follows Mike Mainieri's seemingly effortless vibes solo. When one is 'analyzing' another's work, especially with 20-20 hindsight, one can pretty much conclude damn near anything. And, such conclusions are always at risk of being viewed as the ravings of a complete lunatic. So, I suppose that what I am about to say about Michael's entrance to this particular solo could easily qualify as total nonsense. But, let's see what happens. I've never really spoken to Mike about this particular solo, but I know that he was, in general, really pleased with everything he played on this particular recording. Surrounded by old and dear friends, and, in the most capable engineering hands of James Farber, what's not to like?
Even though the tune is being played in "cut-time," and 'felt in two,' I decided to write it out using double-time 16th-notes. Had I done it the more traditional way, with most double-time Latin tunes being notated in cut-time, this transcription would have taken up too many pages. In this way, I believe that, what you now see best represents the feeling and intent of what Mike was playing. It should also be noted that, like most of the solo transcriptions shared here, this is written in concert key, but it is written in the register of the guitar which means that it is written one octave above where it actually would sound on a piano. So, always keep that in mind!!!
Most of his solos on this recording begin with a very simple melodic phrase, something which makes total sense from almost any perspective. However here, on a rather banal standard, the opening phrase has a most 'sideways' harmonic perch. When Michael and I began to play together in the early '70s, I would often ask him about various lines he had just played, and his answer, in those days, was almost always the same: "Oh that was nothing, just a b5 sub!" Well, usually it was a "b5 sub," with its iim7 inserted in front of it. Here in bar one, we have a simple iim7(Cm7)-V7(F7) to Bbmaj, so when we look at the notes Michael played, it is relatively clear that there is a sense of a B major triad there. If we simply carry that a step further, it is easy to conclude that here, B major is the b5 substitute for F7. So, this certainly conforms to Michael's rather 'stock answer.' I don't know that attempting to explain all the other nuances to this particular solo will be so simple. Out of this opening phrase comes four notes which seem to hint at a Bb blues-type feeling with an emphasis on the high Db, a 'blue note' in this key. Finally, there's some consonant relief, as on beat 1 of bar 3, the notes are clearly down the center of the Cm7 chord.
The solo is really full of forays which drift away from the consonant, and then resolve beautifully back into lines which embrace the great traditions of the 'language' of jazz and the particular modal chromaticism one would expect to find. Examples of this style of playing through a 'standard' can be found in bars: 1-5 of [A]; 2-4 of [A2]; and 2-3 of [B].
Often times, when playing over standard sets of harmonic changes, there are just certain notes which you want to glance over to observe those changes. Here you can view this each time Mike comes to bar 5 of letter [A] or [A2]. There, we are moving from an Ebmaj7 chord to an Ab7(13). The pivotal note which is moving, changing, is that a 'G' is becoming a 'Gb.' Notice that Mike places his Gb's on beat 3 each time. During that bar of [A3], Mike passes by the Gb on beat 4. Had he played more choruses, there might have even been more of them. In the bar that follows, as the progression moves down in the cycle to Dm7-G7(alt.), Mike uses a very traditional linear and/or harmonic device by, in a sense, ignoring the m7 sonority and substituting an altered dominant 7th chord sound in his lines. In bar 6 of [A], you can see the F#(the 3rd of a D7 chord), and then on beat 2 he actually spells out a Dm7 arpeggio. In bar 6 of [A2] he doesn't actually touch upon F# specifically but plays an Eb(b9) and a Bb/A#(the #5), though the latter note is still the root of the fundamental tonality of Bb major. To change things up during the last [A], [A3] Don uses a series of traditional chords substitutions descending from Em7b5-Ebm7-Dm7-Db7 before arriving at Cm7. Here, during bar 6 of [A3] as the changes are moving through Dm7 and Db7, Mike ignores the 2nd change and, while playing the upper extensions of a minor 9 arpeggio, he plays Dbm9 before resolving down to Cm7. This is a very traditional approach to playing through changes like this as well.
No matter how creative an approach one might take to their lines, it is obviously important to observe the traditions as well. Mike does that beautifully in his V7(alt.) approaches to cadences. You might want to examine the following bars: 4 into 5 of both [A] and [A3]. There are also some really ii-V7(alt.) 'licks' which would be great for you guitarists out there to explore. They seem to occur mostly when Mike is passing through an F7(alt.) chord. Look at, and listen to bars: 1 of [A]; 4 of [A2]; 7 of [A2]; and 1-3 of [A3].
Mike offers a moment of great consonant relief to all the creativity which has come before when he make the transition to [B]. This is also a lovely modulation from the composer as the we have been in the key of Bb major, and we now go to D major. If you study Mike's anticipatory line in bar 8 of [A2], it is almost as though he's thinking of those entire 2 beats as A7(alt.) and not paying full attention to the Em7(iim7 of D major). From there, through the 1st beat of bar 2 of [B], his line is totally consonant, and again, is a release from the tension created by his relentlessly creative freight train of 16th-notes. I also love the way he makes the harmonic transition out of D major and back to Bb major where an Eb/F or F7(9sus) sonority is used. If you observe the configuration of the line which begins at the end of bar 3 up until the 2nd-half of beat 3 of bar 4, it is as if he has delayed the resolution until the line ascends from A-B-C# to D. On beat one of bar 4, he's spelling out F(#5)-Db/C#(3rd)-C(#9)-B(passing tone)-Bb(b9) these degrees of A7(alt.). The great lesson here is that your resolution can be delayed.
Well, while I'm having some fun here discussing this solo, allow me to stick my neck out and discuss what might have happened in the little modulation during [B] where we travel from D major to Gb major, but ever so briefly. I would preface this by noting that I know this group played one week live at New York City's Blue Note before the recording. So, more or less, everyone was familiar with these tunes and the changes, but they were all probably reading from charts during the sessions. Mike's transition to Gb major is either really interesting or really curious. I can't decide which. Again, this is all nonsense on my part, over-analyzing, based more upon what I "see" on the paper rather than what I hear on the recording. When I listen, nothing sounds too totally out-of-whack. However, there are some really 'strange' notes in this cadence. If you look at beat 3 of bar 2, over the Abm7 chord, you see an arpeggio beginning which is pretty clear, but on the last beat, he suddenly plays a D major 7 arpeggio over the Db7(alt.) chord. I am at a loss to explain because it doesn't conform with any 'traditional' substitution pattern. Then, on beat 1 of bar 3 where we are expecting to see something resembling Gb major, Mike clearly spells out a Gb minor 7 chord before finally pulling out of this and playing a Gb triad on beat 2. It's a most curious moment. At the risk of sounding like a moron, I wonder if this change just slipped his mind for an instant and he 'righted the ship' on beat 2?
Like all his solos on this particular recording, Mike affords himself of the full range of the saxophone covering some 3+ octaves. As we observed in his solos on "Rainsville" and "Rojo y Negro," he offers more great 'honks' from his low notes. Especially some great low A's and Bb's. Listen to bars: 2 of [A2]; 2 of [B]; bar 8 of [A3].
As it should be when discussing the flow of the lines in any great solo, one must always take a look at how a player, like Mike Brecker, anticipates the arrival of the coming chord change. These are phrases where the cadence is not designed to come out on beat 1 of bar of arrival. In other words, Mike is already playing in the harmonic area of where he's headed before the change has arrived. This device always sounds great and helps give any solo the sense of flowing over the bar lines. Examples of this can be seen in bars: 8 of [A] into 1 of [A2]; 3-4 of [A2]; 8 of [A2] into 1 of [B]; and 4 of [B] into 1 of [A3].
It is our pleasure to bring you these wonderfully inventive and energetic solos of Mike's, and we continue to hope that they serve to enhance your enjoyment of this great artist, and of our music in general. In the coming months, we will also be bringing you his solos over the tunes: "Cape Verdean Blues"(Horace Silver) and "Oran"(Chick Corea). I know that you are going to enjoy those solos as well. As always, here in New York City, we are looking forward to welcoming Springtime. This, after another frigid winter, where we have been pounded by snow, pounded by snow again, and then, pounded by more snow!!! Abrazos para todos!!!