The notation for the solo is here:
The other day I had the pleasure of opening my e-mail inbox and finding a transcription of my intro solo to lesson #9 done by Bernd Moser from Austria. I’ve had a few people present me with transcriptions in the past and it’s always a surreal experience. I always look down at the page and think, “Is this me?” LOL! Anyway, Bernd asked me to analyze the solo and kind of relate what I’m thinking during each passage.
Some of what follows is very contrived for sure. For me, a lot of the theory comes after the fact. When I was younger, my approach to playing over changes was definitely more theory based and I can tell you, I didn’t get very far with that. Now, I mostly deal with shapes, sounds, and written variations based on transcribed materials.
The way I make my videos is pretty simple. I pick a topic and just try to give a brief overview of it. The intro demonstrations are usually just thrown together in a couple of takes. The one for lesson #9 was a 2nd take. For lesson #9, I chose to play over the progression to Miles Davis’s “Solar” because I had been working on applying Coltrane subs over it.
The most obvious thing that stands out right away is the use of the B natural on beat 1 of measure 3. I could devise an elaborate theory to explain away my note choice here but it’s really not that complex. Looking at measure 2, you can clearly see the use of the Eb6 (or C- in 1st inversion) arpeggio. From there, I simply lead into G Major by step, which leads to a figure that implies C7b9. Looking at measure 3, you can see that I anticipate the C7 ALT chord by 2 beats and just allow the b9 to carry over the barline. I remember hearing Vic Juris talking about this technique and I’ve been trying to implement it a bit here and there. Honestly, I didn’t really think about what I was playing at the time but I’ve spent a lot of time constructing various “outside” lines on the first 4 bars of this tune. We will see a much clearer example of this in the 2nd chorus.
Starting from the pick up of note of measure 5, you should notice the use of the following triad pair= F Maj/G Maj. Triad Pairs are a huge part of my playing in this current time period. Expect a lesson that topic sometime in the future.
Measure 8 and 9 presents a figure that, believe it or not, is derived from Coltrane’s 1,2,3,5 licks. Basically, at one point I sat down and learned every single possible permutation of the pattern (24 in all) and spread them all across the neck.
Here, you can clearly see that I am using the Ab Major version of the pattern over the F-7 chord.=Ab 1,2,3,5 Pattern: Ab, Bb, C, Eb, F
The use of displacement and misdirection of the line is what disguises it from its original source. Incidentally, the lick is transcribed an octave below where it is actually played on the neck.
To further explain what I’m doing here I am including an excerpt from an e-mail I had written to a friend who was asking me about a similar lick I played in another solo. This excerpt should also give you some idea of how I practice this material:
“Basic 1,2,3,5, grouping=C,D,E,G,
I just look at that as a melodic structure, calling C #1. Simple enough, right?
So from there, I created this routine:
1) I take that melodic structure and figure it out in EVERY key, in ever position, in every direction (horizontal, vertical, etc.) Let’s say I’m focusing on C. So I do the whole routine until I can do it in even 8th notes at a reasonable tempo say…8th notes at 200 BPM.
Then I improvise 6 passes against a C7 vamp (5 minutes each.) Totaling a 1/2 hour of play only using that structure. The permutations are really explored in these improvisations.
I document all my observations after each pass and write what ideas sound good and what I’m lacking. For instance, I might be avoiding certain positions or something like that.
Once, I completed all of the basic 1,2,3,5 studies, I moved on to the other structures, which you seem to understand.
After that lengthy process and completion of all the melodic structures. I would then move on to applying them to chord progressions. Let’s just say the ii-V7-I for starters. Then move on to playing over entire tunes using the structures.
Now, I don’t think in a theoretical way in comparison to a lot of people, so I don’t really spend too much time analyzing the theory. For example, on the first chord of “Stella by Starlight” academic theory says to play that Locrian scale. I’ve rarely ever heard anyone do that though. I transcribed Keith Jarrett and he’s plays what I recently found out is the 6th mode of Melodic Minor. I don’t know the name of it though. I just think of it as a minor scale with a b5 because that’s what the chord is -7b5.
From that I see the melodic structures available to me:
E, F#, G, A, Bb, C, D,->E
3: 1,2, b3,5
9: 1,b2, 3,5
11: 1, b2, 3, 5
Since, I already did the work and permutated them in all positions and all directions…well, I just kind of play.
Now keep in mind, I’m all always thinking about the chord tones and what the next chord is…
So, it’s the same thing with everything else.
Also, I should note that when improvising with these melodic structures, I rarely play them as an entity on to themselves. Also, I will play a lot of licks that span 2 or 3 octaves based on one structure.
Ascending up the neck:
C-D-E (5th string)
G (4th string)
C (3rd string)
E-G (2nd string)
C (1st string)
These passages seem to be fairly straight ahead. In measure 10, you may notice the use of the Gb Maj. Triad over the Ab7 chord. I learned that particular triad relationship from Coltrane. In this particular case, I didn’t think about it consciously but that sound is beat into my head from practicing it forever. For the turnaround in measure 12, I stay very inside the changes by using guide-tones. As you will see, I go fairly outside in measure 13. Generally, I think juxtaposing something inside against an idea that is more adventurous is often a good choice.
In this section you may notice that there is extensive use of triads. Essentially, what I am doing here is taking the CmMaj7 chord and playing the Major 3rd cycle over it. The actual changes I am imply here are as follows:
C-, Eb Maj., Ab Maj., B Maj., E Maj., G Maj.,
Those of you that are familiar with Coltrane’s harmony will instantly recognize these chords. Also, you may notice that the cycle breaks in bar 15. Here, I use a very primitive pentatonic line to conclude the overall idea. From there, you should notice that I use the beginning of a C Bebop scale in the 2nd half of bar 16 and land on an F# on the pick-up note. Actually, I was simply trying to “side-slip” out to a F# Maj. Between the C7 and F Maj. Chord in bar 17.
In measure 18, I use a double chromatic on the 4th beat to lead into a F minor pentatonic scale in measure 19. That particular pentatonic passage makes use of 5th’s. This passage seems to work well over the chord because every strong beat in the measure relates to the F min.7 chord= F (Root), Bb (11), Eb (b7), Ab (b3.) The line then leads nicely into measure 19 where 2 triads (Ab Maj. and B dim.) are utilized over the Bb Alt. chord. If you analyze the two triads, you can clearly see how they relate to the parent chord.
Ab Maj.=Ab (b7), C (9), Eb (11)
B Diminished=B (b9), D (3rd), F (5th)
I probably stole this idea from Coltrane at some point…
The end is fairly straight ahead. In the final turnaround, I do sort of reduce the entire minor ii-7b5-V7b9 to G7b9. I think in my head it sounds like the strongest resolution. Of course, I allow the C to float over the bar line to bring it to a close.
Thanx again go out to Benrd Moser for doing an excellent transcription!