Soundclips - Lead Sheet: | Michael Brecker's Solo:
I suppose that it is no less significant that, amongst musicians, the most remarkable aspect of the recording of this track is Michael Brecker's 28-bar tenor sax solo which occupies the main solo section of the tune. And so, this particular analysis will be devoted to a discussion of the components of the composition as well as a detailed look at Mike's brilliant solo which, in its way, embodies his command of the blues and funk idioms, while mixing those elements with his deep love and respect for the linear configurations and inventions of John Coltrane. And, it should never be overlooked that Mike has a fantastic sense of humor which comes through in this solo too. One small note, the transcription is written in 'concert' key, and in the written register of the guitar, which is, of course, the same as the tenor sax.
The tune begins with an [I] section, a real 'Intro' which never appears again. The very elementary guitar melody line is harmonized by the 'slash chords' of that period. Here we see mostly 7(9sus) chords to accomplish the task. It now seems interesting that we felt the need to add the extra 2/4 bar to give the 'hold' a sufficient length.
During the '70s, all the members of the Brecker Bros. Band were crazy about the recordings of Larry Graham's GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION. And, it should be pretty obvious that the essential bass line at [I2], executed perfectly by Will Lee, is most typical of Larry's bass lines which employed octave leaps. Stated by the bass along with Steve Gadd's drums, this is joined after 4 bars by Don Grolnick and his playing of the basic keyboard part which was written as 'tip of the cap' to the great Richard Tee. During these years, he had a profound influence on anyone who was lucky enough to perform or record with him. Just for the record, Don Grolnick always could do one of the best "Tee" impressions, when necessary!!!
When the guitar melody enters at [A], as an afterthought while mixing, we decided to 'color' the guitar with a similar Eventide Harmonizer effect which we used, at Mike Brecker's request, for his tenor sax solo. The difference however is that we colored the guitar by using the lower octave from the harmonizer. The melody is simply two blues or R&B oriented phrases, one in answer to the other. The last bar of this section again employs some Randy Brecker-esque slash chords, as we prepare the harmony to move to [B], a section which hovers around the area of Em7.
The right-hand voicings which make-up the 'meat' of the [B] section bear the influence of the organ style harmonies of Larry Young. These chordal voicings, played on the Fender Rhodes by Don Grolnick, were reinforced by the Oberheim synth colors of Bob James. But, once the track had been recorded, we all felt that this section was a little 'empty' sounding. So, when Mike arrived to overdub his tenor solo, we asked him to just play some 'fills' over [B] and this is what you now hear. In a sense, it serves to announce the presence of the sax and that a solo is about to arrive. The 2nd time [B] appears, the guitar plays fills which 'announce' the solo to come over the fade. On the 'live' version of this tune, which appears on the co-led recording, "ALIVEMUTHERFORYA"(Columbia), the guitar plays the main solo in the body of the tune, and Tom Scott's tenor sax plays the fills both times that [B] appears. And, instead of taking the easy way out, and having a 'Fade' for an ending, I have written out what we did for the 'live' version here on this lead sheet. This 'new' section appears as [A3].
If one is following along with the version from "TIGHTROPE," after the 2nd statement of [B], which follow Mike Brecker's solo, we decided to add 2 extra bars of a 'hold' on the final sonority to allow Steve Gadd to create a small crescendo into the return of [I2] and the final statement of [A]. As we're about to dive into the sax solo, I suppose I should make note of the fact that after the first time [B] is played we go directly into [I2] and then a very brief 4-bar statement of the [A] melody to serve as life-off into [C] and the solo section.
As I mentioned earlier, the sound, with which Mike is heard during this solo section, was totally born of his ideas. He had apparently used this harmonizer setting on another recording, and thought that it would add something unique to the character of the track. As it was with so much of the 'funky fusion' music of this period, the solo was designed to be played over a one chord(G7) vamp. So, needless to say, it falls on the player to be stylistically alligned with the track, but also to be inventive within these boundaries. As he almost always does, Mike supplies those elements.
The language of the 'blues' and 'R&B' is everywhere in this solo. You might want to pay attention to the phrases at: bars 1-2; 3-4; 8-9; 12-13; 14-16; 21-22; and 24-25. I know that Mike spent a great deal of time listening to all the great blues guitar players of that time, and you can hear that influence. The 'root' a 'G' is always a pivotal and emotional note in this idiom and you might learn a lot from taking a closer look at the phrases where the 'G' is approached from the 'F' directly below, and then sometimes by the 'E.' I consider the 'E' to be a much softer approach tone and associate a lot more with great R&B and "Soul sax" and guitar playing.
After he had completed this solo, I remember that Mike told me that he was trying to imitate of my bent-note mannerisms during those years. So, and though it is much more difficult to execute on the saxophone, here are some of the bars you might want to check-out during this solo: 2-3; 8; 11; 12; 14; 15; 21; 22; and 26. There is another element to this solo which draws from both the blues and guitar-type bent-notes often associated with blues, rock, and jazz-fusion players alike. Those of you who happen to be guitarists would know that we often bend-up from the 'blue note,' the m3rd up to the 4th and then release that note in a variety of different ways. So, in this key you would expect to see an emphasis on 'C' being released down to a Bb. This occurs in bars: 8; 10; 14; 18; 22; and 23-24. It is especially effective to me when Mike take this one step further, in bar 19, and drops down yet another whole-step to an Ab(b9), which is obviously a note outside of the consonant G Mixolydian mode(G, A, B, C, D, E, F) one might expect to see, in addtion to the 'blues scale.' It's the kind of note you will either respond to and be taken with it, or you'll feel the other way, and be repulsed by it!!! What do you think?
Another key element in any solo is this rhythmic component, one's time feel and just where they might choose to place the emphasis in their phrases. Like all great players, Mike is sensitive to what is going on around him, and over a vamp such as this, one can't ignore the 8th-note synchopations in the keyboard part, nor Steve Gadd's backbeats on 2 and 4. You see the 8th-note subdivisions in bars: 1-2; 3-4; 4-5; 6; 7; 23-24; 25. Backbeat emphasis can be found in bars: 8; 9; 11; 12; 17-18; 20; 21-22; 25-27.
For those people who have always been fans of this wonderful little solo, the 'showstopper' line begins as a pick-up from bar 16 and continues all the way through the middle of bar 20. It is at this moment that, after playing right 'down the middle,' in the idiom for the entire solo, Mike takes things 'sideways' and adds the influence of jazz and Coltrane to the linear mix. This line begins with a rather 'classic' outline of the iim7(Dm7) sounds, but with grace and skill, on the 2nd half of the 3rd beat of bar 17, you can hear and see that he's drifted away from the chromatic modal approach and has entered into the area of Ab melodic minor(G, Ab, Bb, Cb/B, Db, Eb, F,). This is, of course, the same as playing the G altered dominant scale, giving you all of the altered notes(b5, #5, b9, #9). Depending upon just how one has studied this particular scale and its usage, it's easy to note that some consider this scale to be from the root a half-tone/whole tone diminished for the FIRST HALF; and then from the b5, it could seem to be a whole-tone scale!!! So, on beat two of bar 18, it looks as though Mike is going up the scale in a very diminished sounding way, but it's still the same scale. Notice as he hits the high 'C' and brings it down to 'Bb' that these notes are important components of the language of the blues scale!
As the line nears it conclusion, the phrase which begins on the 2nd-half of beat 2 of bar 19, the little skip down from the Eb to B-natural(as I have notated it here) is a classic configuration normally reserved for lines which would resolve to C major or C minor. Of course, there will be no such resolution here. However, as this line descends towards a 'cadence' to the root note of 'G,' Mike surrounds this note beautifully by playing the Ab to Bb, and B-natural to resolve to a brief 'rest' on 'G.' Wow! What a great line.
From this point, to the end, the solo relies on the previously mentioned mannerisms from 'blues' and 'R&B.' The very last climatic phrase is interesting to note too. We are heading towards a section which will be centered around Em7(sus) sounds, and so, Mike alludes to that tonality, but also observes the final chord of B7(#5) by simply spelling out that triad(B, D# Fx/G) while vaulting to his high 'B' on the horn and holding that note out over the transition. Wow, what a great little 28-bar solo!!!
Through all this, I am reminded of an anecdote. During '78-'79, I was fortunate to have been a co-leader with saxophonist, Tom Scott. He was in charge of selecting our rhythm section and so, when I arrived in Los Angeles to rehearse(after having sent out the music ahead of my arrival), I was greeted by: Russell Ferrante(Keys); Jimmy Haslip(Elec. Bass); and Ron Aston(Drums). The three of us remain close friends to this day!!! And, obviously, I am just overjoyed at the success and recognition that Russell and Jimmy have attained as founding members of the Yellowjackets. When we went to rehearse "Some Punk Funk" the next thing I knew, Russell was playing that great line of Mike's from the end of bar 16 through bar 20. It was amazing that he had learned it, and we smiled and laughed about it.
I would imagine that most artists have a difficult time in assessing the value of their own work at any particular time in a long career, and in that regard, I am no different. However, what has always been abundantly clear to me is that the contributions of my fellow musicians, especially the solos which were played by Michael Brecker, Don Grolnick and David Sanborn remain as treasured memories for me and do withstand the test of time! This is why I chose to share Mike's incredible solo along with the lead sheet, especially because the composition is so bare. As always, from Korner 1 & 2, we hope that you have enjoyed the opportunity to view the music and perhaps gain something from my insights.
[Photo of Steve and Michael Brecker by: David Tan in moody lighting at Skyline Studios, New York during the "CROSSINGS" sessions, December, '93. Same two artists, just 16 years after "TIGHTROPE" was recorded.]