Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kenny Garrett Transcription & Analysis on "I'll Remember April"

Note: transcription is available for download in pdf format at the bottom of this page.

This Kenny Garrett solo on "I'll Remember April" was made popular by this YouTube video featuring the Freddie Hubbard Quintet (+ guests) in Berlin, 1985.

Listen to or download Kenny Garrett's solo excerpt below:

The construction of this improvisation is a masterclass in balancing melodic and dissonant playing, using repetition to create momentum, stretching the chord changes and using classic jazz vocabulary and simple ideas without sounding stale.

I'd like to thank my friend and extremely talented saxophonist Ben Britton for his generous feedback and his astute comment about the piece: "That's a fun solo, and is a great starting point for improvisers who are looking for an easy way to understand outside playing."

Note: all discussions below assume the point of view of an altoist.

UPDATE: it should be easier to read through with the updated formatting.

  • KG sets the tone with a straightforward use of repeated motive starting in measure 2 that lands on the b7 of Em7 on measure 5. Motivic improvisation is a very effective way to outline the harmony and engage the listener. Notice how he delays the b7 until beat 3 by staying on the 6th, creating tension.

  • Classic bebop line on measures 6 through 7.

  • KG uses a classic 1235 pattern on the first two beats of measure 13, however he starts on the b3 of F#m7 which makes it a 3457 pattern. Starting on the 3rd beat of measure 13, KG plays a tritone substitution which he will use quite a lot on the same chord through his solo. Here he anticipates the chord by two beats and plays the 5th mode of melodic minor outlining an F7b13 sound. Anticipation is an improvisation device KG likes to use and for a good reason: it creates an element of surprise as well as allows him to stretch the melodic tension.
    Finally he makes melodic sense of it all by mirroring the shape he used for the tritone substitution on the E major chord of measure 15.

  • You don't need to play dissonant lines and crazy substitutions to make a statement. Look at this line on measures 19 & 20. Classic jazz vocabulary with some obvious voice leading targeting the root and 6th of a major chord, yet it sounds like a logical continuation of his solo.

  • A classic bebop line again on measures 27 & 28. KG has obviously done his homework.

  • How simple is this? Although the syncopation allows these simple note choices to remain exciting, there's nothing wild about this line, yet it sounds like another logical step of KG's solo.

  • Next, another of Kenny's favorite device: the pentatonic scale. He plays here, on measure 35, an F# major pentatonic scale outlining an E maj7#11 sound. Again, he uses a simple device but by playing the F# version of it instead of the E, makes it sound really hip.

  • We find the F tritone substitution again on the B7 of measure 42 & it doesn't get any simpler than this: a simple F triad. Another example of how KG uses simple devices (pentatonics, scale fragments, triads) in a way that makes them sound unusually interesting.

  • Guess what KG plays on the B7 of measure 46? That's right, F7 again. Here he outlines the tritone substitution by using the classic 53169 jazz line in F7. This is something Coltrane played quite a lot at a certain point in his career. And Kenny uses mirroring again to resolve and make sense of the substitution.

  • Measures 48 through 52 outline a lydian augmented sound again as it's made obvious with the C natural KG sits on for an entire beat.

  • iim7 - V7 in E major? Well, why not play another tritone substitution!! Kenny anticipates the chord again, by one beat on measure 57, then plays one of his favorite scales, the major pentatonic in F over measure 58. Starting to see a pattern here (pun not intended)?

  • Measures 64 through 67 are very intense . First, note the quintuplets and the "cramming" feeling they convey. KG is throwing punches at the you, trying to unsettle you. Then if you look at measures 65 through 67, a iim7 - V7 - Imaj7 in G, you'll notice a device that should be familiar to you by now. Anticipating the D7 chord, KG plays a tritone substitution in Ab7 on the second quintuplet of measure 65 resolving on the 9th of Ab on measure 66. He follows by a basic Eb minor triad which can be thought of as the continuation of the tritone substitution. He then approaches F with a double enclosure (upper & lower chromatic neighbor tones) to continue on with what can be thought of as more of the Ab7 / Ebm7 sound.

  • Note the use of the lydian augmented scale (4th mode of melodic minor) on measures 71 & 72.

  • Measures 76 through 79 are a great example of rhythmic and melodic motivic development. Super simple, yet very effective.

  • Kenny uses once again an uneven grouping of note to destabilize the listener, and create rhythmic tension, this time septuplets. He starts his line on E major then repeats the motive in F# major on measure 82, then in B major which create a lydian major sound. He again uses the same motive on the Em7 of measure 85, transformed to fit the chord nature and anticipating the chord on the upbeat of beat 3 on measure 84.

  • Another classic bebop line starting on the upbeat of 4 on measure 86.

  • You must have realized by now that one of the main components of Kenny Garrett's solo is the use of rather simple melodic devices. Measures 88 through 103 are a great example of this. This rather deceptively simple part pushes his solo to the next level of intensity and could be called a turning point.

  • How many musicians have you heard play this line on measure 108?

  • Next we find KG playing a rather simplistic line, on measures 109 through 111, resolving on the root! It works because of the melodic relief it brings and strong resolution. Same concept applies from measure 112 through 116. Simple, almost naive sounding lines.

  • THE classic Kenny Garrett lick, voice-leading 9 of Am to b13 of D7. Here instead of anticipation, KG uses delayed resolution (beat 2 of measure 118) then follows by a descending altered dominant scale fragment. He then plays G harmonic major on the G major chord, another favorite color of his.

  • Measures 137 through 144 are again a textbook example of how to use repeated transformative rhythmic motives to spice up simple voice leading. This part also allows KG to conclude his solo in a predictable, logical way.

  • Finally Kenny Garrett concludes his amazing improvisation on the #11 of Emaj7.

Download PDF transcription for C instruments

Download PDF transcription for Bb instruments

Download PDF transcription for Eb instruments

Download annotated PDF transcription for Eb instruments

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