Solo Soundclip:

See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription

Michael Brecker's Tenor Sax solo on:

"Point of View"(Hal Galper)

    As most of you, who follow these pages, would know, I just love the 1971 Hal Galper album, "THE GUERILLA BAND"(Mainstream). I consider it to be perhaps the greatest recorded example of a particular blending of Jazz/Rock/R&B sensibilities that anyone produced during the '70s.THE GUERILLA BAND On this album, the players featured were: Randy Brecker(Trumpet); Michael Brecker(Tenor & Soprano Sax); Bob Mann(Guitar); Victor Gaskin(El. Bass); Steve Haas(Drums); and Don Alias(Drums). Yes, in the spirit of the times, two drummers playing together at the same time! When Hal Galper made the 2nd recording in 1972, "WILD BIRD"(Mainstream), the rhythm section changed, but the Breckers and Bob Mann remained. These recordings really resonated with me about 'spirit of the possible' all fueled by Galper's original tunes and a spectacularly romantic interpretation of the obscure Van Heusen-Burke song, "Welcome to My Dream" as well. When I had my first New York band, "Future Shock," we even played some of Hal's tunes.
    The only other Michael Brecker solo that I transcribed from this album was his soprano sax solo on: "Call" and that was so difficult to do and to then write out that I was fairly certain that I would never attempt to transcribe another one. But, years have passed and it is nearing Mike's birthday again and thoughts drift back to him as a friend, a wonderful person, and, of course, one of our greatest musicians and tenor sax players. Other thoughts and feelings caused me to do some listening, yet again, to "THE GUERILLA BAND" album and, in addition, to the magical aura of the music, I was again struck by just how brilliantly and intuitively Randy and Mike interpreted and phrased Hal's melodies and arrangements. It's so special that I found myself drifting to Hal's composition "Point of View" which closed the album - though, to me, it feels very much like an opening tune. First, I decided to make a working lead sheet of the piece and I was immediately struck by the fact that it was actually so short. If one was writing it out in 4/4, it would be 12 bars! I can't be certain but, I am guessing that, in the greater traditions of Jazz, Hal might have written it out in cut-time, making the piece 24 bars. Tucked into this very expressive melody stated in long notes are some wonderful Galper harmonic touches of a most subtle nature - and all of that happens over Victor Gaskin's E-pedal on the electric bass with punctuations on either the and-of-4 or on 4 depending upon how you chose to write the piece out. If you are interested in seeing my Lead Sheet, just take advantage of the link. Now, let's take a look at this great solo.

    Mike Brecker's solo on "Point of View" - as it often is - proved to be more difficult to hear and then to write out in any reasonable form. Like all of the soloists on this tune, Mike played 3 choruses. As beautiful as his phrasing could be, when you have a format, a musical environment like this, with two drummers being creative and funky, each in his own way, and then, you have the chordal accentuations. In this case as I have written Mike's solo out in 4/4, those accents, can happen every 2 or 4 bars on the and-of beat 4, anticipating the chord that is coming, can really blur the sense of the usually precise nature of what Mike hears and plays - even if he is purposefully laying back behind the time. Relative to Hal Galper's chords that Mike was soloing over, I actually felt compelled to consult with my longtime friend and often musical colleague, Rob Mounsey to see if he would label some of these chords or sonorities as I had originally chosen to label them. We only modestly disagreed on one chord/sound. I decided to label the principal chordal sound of the song as E2(no 3rd). The main voicing, spelling up, you might have: B-E-F#-B over E. To my ears, it is basically an E Major/Ionian [E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#] area, though throughout the course of the solo, Mike really never plays a D#(maj7th). What informs the entire tune and the soloists is the D-natural that appears in bar 2 of the melody, if written in cut-time. So, even though, if it stood alone, the E2 chord seems to be major, there can always be a sense of ambiguity that could lead the soloist down any number of harmonic and linear paths. One must remember that, when "THE GUERILLA BAND" was recorded in 1971, Mike was only 22 years old and was really a new arrival here in New York City, having left college @ University of Indiana and following big brother Randy here. He was already a wondrous hybrid of all of the musical influences that had deeply affected all of us - including Rock, Blues, R&B, Soul and Folk music as well. It was all there and everyone was free to absorb everything and make it a part of their own musical gestalt.
    As I often say about the transcriptions offered here @ KHAN'S KORNER 1, Mike's solo is written in concert key, but transposed an octave up from where it sounds, as this is also where one writes for the guitar. The tenor sax is written one octave plus a whole-step above where it sounds, as it is a Bb instrument. So, what you might be looking at is actually close in written register to what a tenor saxophonist might actually see. Here's hoping that this is not too confusing for those non-guitarists out there who are visiting these pages for the first time. I would also hasten to add that most of the theoretical strategies from soloing/improvising can seem like a bunch overly cerebral nonsense, but all players in their younger years went through this process in their own minds and imaginations when trying to learn to play and progress more quickly. Those players who were and are exceptionally gifted, many of them could just hear this stuff and all the theories don't mean much. But, often times, at jam sessions, practice sessions, rehearsals and even actual recordings, musicians talk to one another about these very things. So, just extract what you might find of interest and leave it at that. Was Mike Brecker thinking about such things while he was playing? Of course not! Real playing is not the time to be practicing! It is the moment to offer something of yourself to the music and your bandmates.

    Before we get started, I want to present two important soloing options over the E2 chord/sonority that, in this case, Michael Brecker never really fully employed, but perhaps, depending upon how you view things, he alluded to them? One option would certainly be the E Blues Scale [E, G, (G#), A, Bb, B, D], and there might be moments, as you are listening, when you might feel that he's putting this to use. But, throughout the entire 3 chorus solo, he never plays a Bb as a blue note! Another option used by any number of great R&B or Rock/Blues players would be C# minor pentatonic [C#, E, F#, G#, B]. Throughout the solo on or around that E2 chord, you are going to hear Mike putting a degree of emotional emphasis on motifs that involve B-E-C#, and G# could be in the neighborhood of that phrase too, but in this context, you never hear him even brush by an F#. Often times on major 7th chords, Jazz players will avoid playing the root of the chord because it can actually clash against the maj7th, if it is appearing in the harmony. But, when skilled and soulful players use, in this case, the C# minor pentatonic, which includes the root, they make feel so natural, even adding in the bluesiness of a G-natural, the other blue note. I offer these references as improvising strategies, if any of you, who might be reading this, choose to try your own interpretation of "Point of View."

    If you were to consider Mike's long line entrance into [Chorus 1] of the solo, really through all of bar 1, and if you look at the notes, he's really playing/hearing the notes via E Dorian [E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D] with some Jazz-based chromaticism thrown in as well. It's very interesting that he would land on an A-natural with its chromatic upper neighbor Bb. So, one might think that Mike heard the E2 sonority as minor or something bluesy? But, let us withhold judgment on that until we have gone through the whole solo. In bar 2, over what I have now labeled as Am6/E, which should produce notes from A Dorian [A, B, C, D, E, F#, G], but it feels like Mike is still hearing things in a minor oriented way, but more with E Dorian, notice how he doesn't play any D-naturals in the long ascending line. The target note is the C# which is certainly not in A Dorian, but is very much a key note in Hal's tune, and in E major as well. When the E2 sonority returns for 2 full bars, bars 3-4, Mike's approach to these sounds becomes a bit more clear. Now you see G#(maj3rd) appearing. In bar 3, on beats 3-4, you hear him descending through an E triad and a D triad, the latter finally gives us some sense of a 7th, in this case the b7. But maybe this has more to do with a kind of Rock/Blues approach to "major" chords? You have to remember that, already by this time in his musical life, Mike had played in lots of Rock and Fusion groups and had listened to lots of Rock and Blues guitarists, so this kind of approach, where you could have the 4th(A-natural) and the 7th(D-natural) present becomes possible, even common in certain Rock guitar styles. In bar 4, notice as he ends the phrase, he plays F#-E-B - and those are crucial notes in Hal Galper's fundamental E2(no 3rd) sonorities. As the Phrygian sounds of Dm9/E arrive for bars 5-6, Mike is not playing D Dorian [D, E, F, G, A, B, C] exclusively, but because of continuing to include C#'s, it sounds more like D Melodic Minor [D, E, F, G, A, B, C#], or in Mike's way of thinking F Lydian Augmented same notes in either case. In bar 6, you hear the influence of bent guitar notes on Mike's playing - as he was always fascinated by such things, especially in those years, and he came-up with ways of evoking those sounds and feelings with certain saxophone techniques including alternate fingerings, which I have tried my best to indicate. The phrase concludes in bars 7-8 as the E2 sound returns and Mike vaults up to a high G# and comes back down using a simple E triad(E-B-G#). You can't be much more 'major' than that!
    In bar 9, the chord clearly becomes Em7, where we might expect to see notes from E Dorian [E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D] and, sure enough, we do - well, more or less. Mike vaults up to a stratospheric A-natural(4th), mostly via a simple E minor triad. A note like the 4th of any minor or dominant chord should remind one of the emotional impact of that note when Rock guitarists do something very similar by bending up from the G-natural just a whole-step below. Remember that Mike had spent a sufficient amount of time, in some Rock bands and listening to the music of our youth - so adopting these techniques to the saxophone was very natural for him. As the chorus continues, he comes back down that way as well, but no flurries of notes - however, he places a lot of emotional emphasis on the 4th, A-natural. When Chorus 1 concludes, though it is that now familiar E2 sonority, it is an ambiguous one, because we really don't hear many G#'s(maj3rd) or major7th(D#) or b7's(D-naturals), but Mike seems to be hearing it as dominant. Notice the emphasis that he places on D-natural in bar 11, as the phrase begins. As he descends, mostly with chromaticism, the bent note effects reappear around G-natural and G#. The chorus ends with a short phrase that offers: B-E-C# - all notes that he has placed emphasis upon during this 1st chorus.

    As the solo continues to develop in [Chorus 2], Mike is still placing a lot of emphasis on C#, but this is the only time during the solo that we hear him using an A#(#4) as the approach tone over the E2 sonority. I think that it's far too big a stretch to see this as an E Lydian [E, F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#] approach, just because of a brief moment on that note, A#. The real phrase is going: C#-B-E, and then as the chord quickly changes to Am6/E, the melodic fragment becomes C-natural-B, and then down an A-minor triad. But, as this chord change resolves to E2, Mike plays D-natural to E - remember Am6 should be seen as the iv chord, making a plagal cadence - and that is as musical, historically speaking, as one can get. Again, it appears that he's hearing this E2 sonority as being dominant or bluesy in some way. In bars 3-4, with the Dm9/E chord coming, the more jagged and angular Jazz-type lines begin to appear. On beat 4 of bar 4, he plays what appears to be an A augmented triad(F-C#-A), but now knowing the possible scale or modal treatments for that Dm9/E chord, it could just be some foreshadowing of the coming chord using D melodic minor. But, in bar 5, over that same chord, Mike's linear ascension heading towards that target note of C# again, it could be seen as he is passing through a piece of Bb Dorian [Bb, C, D, E, F, G, Ab]. Just look into the notes that make up the 1st 2 beats of that bar before he transitions so gracefully into E major and a high C# down to B-natural. In bar 6, as he descends from that same C#, you have the bent note references between G-natural and G#. He then descends through F-C#-A, that little augmented triad again. He seemed to be on his way down to A-natural only to re-ascend through an E-triad again and a cadence over the E2 chord in bars 7-8.
    As the Em7 chord arrives for bars 9-10, Mike vaults up through E minor pentatonic [E,G, A, B, D] with the target note being his high A-natural again. He then descends through fragments of that same configuration of notes until he arrives at our home E2 chord for bars 11-12. Here he is using a connected sequence where you can see that the 1st note of each grouping, more or less, is descending chromatically: E-Eb-D-Db. This winding phrase began as he passed through a D triad(F#-D-A-F#) where that same D-natural points to Mike hearing this more as dominant than major. The appearance of G-naturals can also make it feel like there are bluesy elements at play, and that G-natural is really more of a blue note as opposed to the m3rd. The blues would be a most common part of Mike's own special language that he was unifying during these formative years.

    [Chorus 3] arrives with Mike putting to use similar melodic motifs as he began [Chorus 2]. Notice the configurations of C#-B-E repeated over the E2 chord. With the chord change to Am6/E in bar 2, the fragment becomes C-B-E. As the line develops, he is ascending through an A minor triad, vaulting up through an E minor triad - all are notes within the A Dorian mode. When he hits a D-natural, he quickly descends while employing more Jazz-oriented chromaticism. In bar 3, as the E2 chord returns, you clearly hear the G#(maj3rd), but on beat 3 that is quickly replaced by G-natural. As he snakes his way down, in bar 4 on beat 3, he plays another grouping of notes familiar to this solo: B-E-C# - he closed [Chorus 1] that way. But the line really cadences to a G-natural as the Dm9/E chord arrives. Here, Hal's comping seems to indicate Em7 more than the Phrygian sounds during the melody. Going into bar 6, you can see that Mike is ascending through a scale passage that includes that C#, which could indicate D melodic minor. In bar 6, he is using the saxophone to create bent note effects around G-natural and G#. On beats 3 & 4, notice the recurrence of that little augmented grouping of: F-C#-A. When E2 returns at bar 7, Mike is back to using E major triads until, on beat 4, he passes through that little augmented sound, and then there are the rather strange sounds of B-D#-F# - using a familiar rhythmic grouping, but we haven't heard a D# over the E2 chord during the entire solo!
    With the arrival of Em7 in bar 9, Mike's lines take a much more jagged and/or disjointed approach, beginning the phrase by giving us his lowest note of the entire solo, register wise, a honking and short A-natural. Ascending up to a G-natural, he descends quickly with his now very familiar style of chromaticism. As he vaults upward through an E major triad over the final E2 chord, he is headed for what becomes the highest note of the solo, a really off the horn B-natural! In closing out the solo, he places some emotional emphasis on the mid-register A-natural before winding down on beats 3 and 4, passing through an E-triad and a D-triad. he has done this at least two times prior. He lands of most consonant B-natural given the fundamentals of that E2(no 3rd) sound. From there, brother Randy Brecker picks up and develops his only magical solo.

    At this point, I would want to add that there has always been this myth that Jazz musicians are constantly inventing, and that there is a flow to any solo/improvisation where nothing is ever repeated. It is all brand new on this earth, never heard before. That it is all some kind of an inexplicable journey to somewhere - not determined when one begins to play. But, this is far, far from the truth, because even the greatest players not only repeat themselves within a solo, but repeat themselves with certain phrases throughout their careers, or within certain periods of their careers. Hearing this, seeing this does not, in any way, diminish their greatness. Not at all. On many of the great recordings that we all hold dear to our hearts and memories, the great players involved were often seeing those tunes for the 1st time. Maybe they might have had the benefit of a rehearsal or a run-through, but often that was not the case. So, as one in in the flow of playing through a new tune with the rhythm section, one is sometimes connecting ideas by using portions of phrases that have become like vocabulary for them. This is something that everyone does. So be assured, when I pointed out such things in this particular Michael Brecker solo, that is just what I heard and saw. I wouldn't have bothered with this transcription and analysis if I didn't feel that what Mike played way back then wasn't truly extraordinary.

    As always, I am happy to admit that, in order to complete this particular transcription I needed the help of Andy Robinson's brilliant program called "Transcribe!" Because of circumstances that I have already described, there were any number of 'trouble bars' during this particular solo. The many flurries of notes, both arpeggios and chromatic lines were cause for constant concern regarding accuracy. In truth, I could not have done it without this kind of technological help. No way! It is all a bit ironic because, of all things, it was Mike Brecker who first told me about "Transcribe!" I remember the glee in his voice when he said to me: "YOU are going to love this!" How about that for some irony? I remain grateful to him for this little gift and countless other things both musical and personal.

    Friendships and partnerships in music can have a prescribed lifespan to them, but the relationships between Hal Galper and Randy & Michael Brecker really endured for quite some time. I can't say that I am fully conversant with all of the details, but we could certainly say that it all began with Randy Brecker's 1969 debut recording as leader for Solid State, "SCORE." Hal contributed 3 of the tunes on the album, including his very beautiful "Name Game," which provided an early look into just how beautifully and intuitively Randy and Mike would play his melodies together. When one hears them playing together like this, one realizes that there are not all that many trumpet/tenor sax unions that can sound like this, and are this expressive.
    Of course, this musical and personal connection continued for many of Hal Galper's recordings as a leader. This particular piece of writing was obviously focused on a tune, "Point of View" from 1971's "THE GUERILLA BAND" album. That magnificent album was followed by 1972's album "WILD BIRD"(Mainstream). These two albums, when viewed together, are really just about the best of the early Fusion projects from the dawn of the '70s. When you look back, and have a sense of musical history, few recordings, especially a pair of them like these, can compare - and on all levels.
    Perhaps the best testament to Hal's enduring connections to Randy & Mike is best exhibited by his more pure Jazz Quintet albums from later in the '70s that would have to include: "REACH OUT!"(SteepleChase)(1977); "LIVE AT THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIC"(Origin)(1977); "REDUX '78"(Concord)(1978) and "SPEAK WITH A SINGLE VOICE"(Enja)(1979). So, if you truly consider yourself a fan of the Brecker Bros. or, for that matter, Hal Galper, you MUST investigate all of these recordings immediately!!!

    Those Hal Galper sessions were all recording sessions we so looked forward to doing. Hal was always well-prepared, and we had played some of the music on gigs - so we just basically set-up and played. They are so far in the past, a time when we were working in the studios just about every day, so everything tends to run together in my head.
    At this point, the only thing I do remember was looking over at Mike during Wayne Dockery's bass solo on "Children of the Night" during the "REACH OUT" session, and Mike had his horn perfectly balanced, but he was totally asleep on his stool. So I quickly kicked it, he woke-up, and we managed to come in on the melody just in time! Then weeks later I happened to be at Hal's, taking a lesson, when the test pressing arrived, so we quickly put "REACH OUT" on the turntable and listened to the whole thing, "Children of the Night" was the last tune, and lo and behold, during the bass solo, you could hear Mike snoring! We both were on the floor laughing!
    As for playing the heads with Mike on anything, we just had a special 6th sense to phrase together. The pitch was always nailed, and we never had to talk about the phrasing. Conceptually, we always heard things the same way: the use of that particular vibrato on certain notes, or lack thereof on other notes; the bending of other notes; adding grace notes, things like that. So we developed that so-called Brecker Sound together without any discussion. It was just natural. There was a certain joie de vivre in our sound that people seemed to latch onto! We just loved playing together, and that's about all that I can say about it! - Randy Brecker

    As Randy has spoken specifically about Hal Galper's "REACH OUT" album, I have to mention, from a personal/family perspective that there is a wonderful interpretation by Mike Brecker of the ballad, "I'll Never Stop Loving You" - written by my father, Sammy Cahn with composer Nicolas Brodszky. And, as a bonus, here's the "live" version: "I'll Never Stop Loving You." My sister, Laurie and I have always been thrilled by these performances.

    Hal Galper's 1971 recording, "THE GUERILLA BAND" was so very much ahead of its time, and to hear the Brecker Bros. in their most youthful sense of adventure is going to be a real treat for anyone amongst the uninitiated. While immersed in this particular analysis, I found myself listening to "Welcome to My Dream" even more closely. This rare Jimmy van Heusen-Johnny Burke tune first appeared in the film "ROAD TO UTOPIA"(1946) which starred Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Of course, the original version of the song was by Bing Crosby. As I listened, it was as if I was hearing it, understanding it, from a rhythmic perspective, for the very first time. Hal transformed it into a Latin 6/4 feel using all dominant 7th(sus) chords. It was so inventive, imaginative and it is absolutely gorgeous. The way that Michael and Randy interpret the melody together is the perfect example of beautiful ensemble playing, and the very intuitive phrasing connection that these two amazing brothers had together. Always take pleasure in the small things, because they are so easy to miss!!!
    And so in closing, please enjoy this wonderful early Michael Brecker tenor sax solo with our best wishes!!!

[Photos of: Michael Brecker; Randy Brecker & Bob Mann
by: Raymond Moss]

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