See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription
Stanley Turrentine's solo on:
"They Can't Take That Away From Me"(George & Ira Gershwin)
As we are now into another lovely fall or autumn in the northeast here in 2015, I happened to be listening to the Jazz Channel offered by MusicChoice® on my particular cable TV system, hoping to hear something new by a respected artist, or just something new, period - and all of a sudden, my ears perked-up, as I heard the familiar and wonderful sound and phrasing of saxophonist Stanley Turrentine playing George and Ira Gershwin's standard, "They Can't Take That Away From Me." As I did not recognize this performance, I went to look at the screen, and see for myself what album this track had appeared on, and I was shocked to see that it was from Stanley's 1963 album, "NEVER LET ME GO"(Blue Note). At that moment, I also realized that I actually had that CD in my collection, and could not believe that I had not imported that track into my iTunes library. As I perused the CD, beautifully put together for reissue by Michael Cuscuna, I saw that this particular tune had not been part of the original LP release, and that an alternate rhythm section, consisting of: Sam Jones(Ac. Bass); and Clarence Johnston(Drums) appearing alongside Shirley Scott(Organ) for this track, and the title track as well. The rest of the tunes featured: Major Holley(Ac. Bass); Al Harewood(Drums) and Ray Barretto(Conga). The more I listened to Stanley's solo as it was playing, the more I sat here shaking my head at just how great and unique his playing was - how very, very swingin' and soulful it was. And so, I knew that I had to present this solo here at KORNER 1.
I know that I am repeating myself from a prior analysis, but, if you have ever read any of the interviews with Michael Brecker, where he lists his influences, the name of one particular saxophonist is also always present, even if many would not have placed his name alongside John Coltrane; Sonny Rollins; Wayne Shorter; and Joe Henderson, to name a few. To many, the name, Stanley Turrentine, is often associated with the label of "Soul Tenor Sax" or "Soul Jazz." There is really nothing wrong with that, but, it hardly captures the scope of the man's body of work. I suppose that I first became aware of Stanley Turrentine when I bought the 1963 recording, "MIDNIGHT BLUE" by the great, Kenny Burrell. During those years of discovery, for me, each LP led me to the work of others. That one great recording caused me to investigate a trio of LPs from 1960-1963 by organist, Jimmy Smith which included: "BACK AT THE CHICKEN SHACK"; "MIDNIGHT SPECIAL"; and "PRAYER MEETIN'." All these recordings hold up really well to this day. Because I too had been such a huge fan of Stanley's playing, his sound, feeling, and phrasing, etc., it becomes my pleasure to offer this solo to those who might appreciate it, and, of course, might learn and benefit from studying it. It is so hard for me to imagine that I presented his solo on "Love Letters" around this same time of year in 2009, now some 6 yrs. ago. That is remarkable to me, I'm speaking of the passage of time.
Though "They Can't Take That Away From Me" is not one of my all-time personal favorites, where songs from this time period are concerned, I have always loved the vocal interpretations by singers like: Fred Astaire, who originally introduced the song in the 1937 film, "SHALL WE DANCE," and, of course, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. The lyric that has always resonated the most with me is the opening phrase from the [B] section, where it states:
On the bumpy road to love
Still I'll always, always keep the memory of
So, in the end, it is yet another song telling a story, in its way, of love lost. Who can't relate to that?
Before I begin, a word or two about the transcription itself. Even though the tune is performed as, what I would describe as, a medium bounce tempo, I still wrote it out in cut-time. Though written in concert key, it is written in the register of the guitar, and to those of you not familiar with that, the guitar is written one octave above where it actually sounds. For any tenor saxophonists visiting the page, this is in your register too, but obviously, a whole-step below where it would be written for you, and your Bb horn!!! Hopefully this clears up any questions that you might have had.
Relative to structure and form, "They Can't Take That Away From Me" is in a very traditional A-A-B-A form with a slight variation in that [A3] has an extra 4 bars added to the end to serve to turn the song around, and head back to the top. Given that, Stanley Turrentine plays 2 wonderful choruses. I remember hearing the tune on that TV Jazz station, and thinking to myself that he had played 3-4 choruses, and that's what it felt like to me while listening. When I sat down to make a my work sheets for the rough copy of the transcription, I was really surprised to learn that the solo was only 2 choruses long. This reminds me that perception is a remarkable thing, and our judgment, based upon that perception, can be off, way off!!!
One of the great traditions in Jazz is the solo break, usually 2 or 4 bars leading into the 1st chorus of a solo, and Stanley's solo begins in just that manner. Playing over 2 beats each of a I-VI7-ii-V7-I in Eb major, he outlines those changes perfectly and, in the 2nd bar, plays a series of triplets that propels him into [A] of Chorus 1. Of special note, in the art of making the changes, is the inclusion of the E-natural, that is essential to defining the C7 sonority. Within the high art of Stanley's style of playing, which broadly embraces elements of the blues and "Soul Jazz," is knowing how to use the simplicity of what is, in this key, Eb major, by using the notes from the C minor pentatonic [C, Eb,F, G, Bb]. If you listen to the 1st 4 bars, you can see that this is exactly what he's doing. Notice how he anticipates the coming Bbm7 chord change in bar 5 by already being in that chord at the end of bar 4. One of the most wonderful things about this particular solo that shows him to be a masterful Jazz player as well, is his usage of all the traditional Jazz phrasing mannerisms, or ornaments, that appear throughout. Notice the 2 traditional rhythmic groupings in bar 6. On beat 2, you have an 8th-note with 2 16th-notes grouping, and on beat 4, you have a 16th-note triplet plus an 8th note. You will hear these two mannerisms throughout the solo, and they lend a certain character and swing to everything, while announcing that this great player is completely conversant in the linear traditions of the idiom.
Another vital element in Stanley's very personal style is how he applies a little grease to certain key notes that he chooses to emphasize. Notating these elements can be tricky, especially for a non-saxophone player. You can use grace notes, little scoops into the note, but no matter what you do on the paper, it never truly captures the body and emotion of Stanley's sound and style. When you have a note like G-natural in this key, the 3rd, without that touch of grease, it can sound like the most vanilla note imaginable. So, please keep this in mind throughout. As [A2] begins with a very traditional bluesy motif, then, at the end of bar 3, the sound inflections on that high Eb are impossible to notate, you have to hear it and feel it to appreciate what he's saying - musically speaking. In bar 6, over the V7 chord of Eb7, heading to Abmaj7, he plays a most traditional line configuration, where he vaults up from a lower G-natural(3rd) to E-natural(b9). I love how that same E-natural and D-natural chromatically surround the target note of Eb on beat 1 of bar 7. As this section comes to a close and, in the 2nd half of bar 8, the D7(alt.) chord signals the transition to Gm7 and the arrival of [B]. Notice how, in bar 8, Stanley ignores the Ebmaj7 chord and, with his lines, plays right into the transition, first with an A-natural, which leads to an arpeggio of what is a D7b9 sonority: F#-A-C-Eb, with F-natural(#9) thrown-in to boot!!!
As [B] begins, "Mr. T." plays right up a G minor arpeggio landing on a high 'D' - and again, the inflection on that particular note says everything. But, you have to hear it to feel it, the paper cannot capture this. In bars 3-4, as the changes turn back around towards Gm7, notice the ornaments that appear, and that, on beats 3-4 of bar 4, the phrase is very similar to the same spot in bar 8 of [A2] - but, slightly different, and with a different ornament. Bars 5-8 represent a wonderfully swingin' series of 8th-notes, where it is just about being in the flow, and playing time. It's not about reinventing Jazz! Again, I love his inclusion of the E-natural on beat 1 of bar 6 over the C7 chord as he transitions to F7, here the V7 of V7(Bb7). Leading into [A3], you can hear how a little touch of grease on those G-naturals portrays the feeling that one is searching for.
As Chorus 1 closes with [A3], the playing is initially very diatonic, all scale tones in the key of Eb major, but I have to point out another key element that adds a greater sense of swing to one's playing. In bar 3, on beat 3, the two F-naturals are written with the long-short phrasing indication. It's remarkable how this small detail can dictate the sense of swing to the entire band, the rhythm section - this is a huge part of what everyone picks-up on. You will see these indications throughout the solo - so, pay attention to them! Bars 5-8 are filled with many of the aforementioned ornaments that not only add to the swing, but also help to define each of the chords as they pass by. Of special note is the beauty of the Db7 chord in bar 8. Notice how Stanley observes this change by beginning with a Cb(7th) on the downbeat, and essentially playing within the Ab Dorian mode[Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F, Gb] throughout the bar. As this chorus closes out, through a series of turnarounds in Eb major, notice how he observes all the dominant 7th chords: C7(bar 9 & 11); Bb7(bar 10 & 12). He propels himself into Chorus 2 with a classic blues phrase that begins on a very high G-natural, played with that very Stanley Turrentine sound and feel that is so appealing to every single fan that he's ever won over throughout his fantastic career!
As Chorus 2 begins with the trail-off to the bluesy phrase that began in the prior chorus, if you just listen to the sound that Stanley produces on that G-natural, on the and-of-2 in bar 1 - if I was a tenor sax player, I would be dying to know just how to make that sound!!! I would want that sound to be a part of my sonic and emotional, musically speaking, arsenal. In bar 2, as he references the passing of the C7(alt.) chord, the line configuration is classic, heading down to the major 3rd(E-natural), then vaulting up to the #9(Eb), and then back down via the b9(Db) to C, which lands on beat 1 of bar 3, and the arrival of the Fm7 chord. Again, pay attention to the sound inflection that he puts on that high Eb!!! The simple phrase that begins in bar 3, as he plays a very diatonic line in F Dorian(F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb) comes to a conclusion in bar 4 on a D-natural, the 3rd of Bb7. That arrival is preceded by a now familiar ornament on beat 2 - this is something that, if I was studying Jazz, and the proper phrasing involved in learning to speak the language well - I would practice this phrase over, and over, and over again!!! Bars 5-8 of this letter [A] presents the best double-time phrases of the entire solo. As Stanley is passing through a ii-V(Bbm7-Eb7) to Abmaj7, this becomes a wonderful passage for study, and to learn to execute well, because it too is filled with the classic language of the idiom. His usage of chromaticism, though sparse, is an aspect always worth noting. At the end of bar 5, he plays Eb-D-Db as the Eb7 chord arrives. The next chromatic device appears just before beat 3 in bar 6, as he surrounds the root(Eb) with its chromatic upper(E-natural) and lower neighbors(D-natural). Then, in straight 8th-notes, he outlines an Eb augmented triad(Eb-B-natural-G), before returning to double-time on beat 1 of bar 7 and the arrival of the Abmaj7 chord. The line is still very diatonic, right out of Ab major(Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G), with another brief chromatic passage descending G-Gb-F-E and landing on Eb on beat 1 of bar 8, and the Fm7 chord. As he concludes this long 4-bar phrase on beat 3 on a Bb, on beat 2 is another version of the classic ornament with 16th-note triplets. A brief comment about this kind of phrase, no matter what the tempo might be, there is a point when, if there were 4 notes in the grouping, it can be hard to tell whether it is actually 4 16th-notes, or it is, in fact, the 3 16th-note triplet with an 8th-note? I usually just end-up writing out what I believe it to be.
As [A2] arrives, Stanley returns to simple, swingin' 8th-notes. Notice how, as bar 2 goes into bar 3, the arpeggiated groupings are either simple triads or m7th chords: Ab(Eb-C-Ab); Gm7(F-D-Bb-G); and Fm7(Eb-C-Ab-F). The key with this phrase is that the top notes descend to the point of resolution: F-Eb-D-natural. I love the nice breath he takes in bar 4, allowing all that space to go by for the rhythm section to keep the sense of swing going. Bars 5-8 always include the ii-V to Abmaj7, and, over the iim7 chord(Bbm7), all the notes are right out of Bb Dorian(Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab), with no chromaticism at all. Bar 6, over the Eb7 chord, does offer a nice selection of the altered tones, with the b9(E-natural) on beat 2, the #5(B-natural) on beat 3, and the b9 again on beat 4, before resolving to C, the 3rd of Abmaj7 on the downbeat. I love the phrase over the D7(alt.) chord that transits to letter [B] and Gm7 in bar 8. In the triplet groupings that occupy beats 3-4, I especially love the honking sound on the low A-natural. This is a sound that is most idiosynchratic to the tenor sax - something else that I would want to emulate immediately if I played that instrument!!!
As he hits the downbeat of letter [B], he simply spells out a G minor triad(Bb-G-D). Then in bar 2, with a brief double-time flurry, on beats 3-4 Stanley outlines D7(#9-b9) to bring him right back to Gm7 again. Through bars 3-4 and a nice series of turnaround chords, Gm7-Eb7-A7(alt.)-D7(alt.), Stanley plays notes from the G blues scale(G, Bb, C, Db, D, F), putting a little 'extra' emphasis on the Db! In bar 6, on beat 2, I love his arpeggiated vault over the C7 chord, which spells out a Gm9(maj7) sonority: G-Bb-D-F# up to an A-natural. It sounds wonderful there, and really calls no particular attention to itself, and this is always a good thing. The section concludes through bars 7-8 with phrasing that swings really hard over the F7 chord is very diatonic using C Dorian(C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb) or F Mixolydian, but filled with several of the phrasing ornaments that should be most familiar to any Jazz listener. On beats 2-4 of bar 8, he vaults up via a triad portion of Fm7, and then using C minor pentatonic(C, Eb, F, G, Bb) to land on his high Eb on beat 1 of the next section.
The final [A3] section of Chorus 2 for this great solo begins with a very bluesy phrase that is still out of the C minor pentatonic language, but here it includes the blue note of Gb. Many would associate this note more as part of the Eb blues scale(Eb, Gb, [G], Ab, Bb, Db), but that is the beauty of how the minor pentatonic, built from the 6th degree, lends itself so well to these kinds of chord changes. In bar 4 of this final section, Stanley begins a long phrase that takes him through the ii-V to Abmaj7, and again, it is bar 6, over the Eb7 chord, that is filled with the phrasing ornaments and the altered notes. It's all beautifully done as he lands smoothly and perfectly on beat 1 on C-natural, the 3rd of Abmaj7. What makes this all so great is the emotion that he captures by vaulting his way up to Bb on the and-of-4, anticipating the arrival of the Db7(13) chord. The solo concludes in bars 9-12 with classic blues and R&B phrases from Stanley's never-ending lexicon of this special language. Pay special attention to the sound he elicits from his horn on those high Eb's, and especially the final high note of G-natural in the last bar. Again, throughout most of bars 9-12, he is playing notes from the C minor pentatonic with the inclusion of that Gb. However, on the very last phrase, as he shouts the blues and closes out this great solo, he is using the aforementioned Eb blues scale, landing on an Eb in what is bar 1 of the next chorus as Shirley Scott's organ solo arrives.
In case some of you are wondering just who might have been some of Stanley Turrentine's earliest influences, I have read that his major influences included: Don Byas, Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins. And there are those who hear a lot of Ben Webster in his playing too. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of Stanley's first big gigs was playing in bluesman Lowell Fulson's band in 1953, where he played alongside a most gifted young pianist/singer named, Ray Charles! He later went on to actually replace another musician of great destiny, an as yet unknown saxophonist named, John Coltrane in R&B saxophonist Earl Bostic's band. So now you have a bit of background information on this wonderful and most unique player.
To present at Korner 1 another great solo by Stanley Turrentine remains a great thrill for me. As I had stated originally, anytime one tries to write out the solo of a player deeply steeped in the traditions of the blues, it is going to be difficult, because of the loose and elastic nature of the phrases that are so tied to this rich genre. As this site is mostly frequented by guitarists, it is so important that those of you, who fall into that category, try to take advantage of all that this wonderful tenor sax player, and this great solo have to offer. The guitar can never sound like the tenor sax, but there is no reason why one could not place that 'sound' deep within, and have that kind of body appear in their own tone. The other aspect which could surely be emulated would be Stanley's incredibly swingin' phrasing, and his time feel. If it needs to be restated, don't ever forget that Michael Brecker always listed Stanley Turrentine amongst his most profound influences!! 'Nuff said!!! Enjoy this one to the fullest!
Here's hoping that everyone had a very happy and safe HALLOWEEN and, as we have now arrive at November, 2015, we certainly hope that everyone has a very warm, cozy, toasty, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! Beyond those sentiments, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Joyous Holiday Season, and the best of everything in the coming year of 2016. I also want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Autumn as the leaves turn to flame and the temperatures begin to hint at winter. Thanks again to everyone for their wonderful messages via the CONTACT STEVE page, as well as the supportive comments that appear in our GUESTBOOK.
[Photos of Stanley Turrentine
by: Francis Wolff]