See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription
Steve Khan's solo on:
"Bird Food"(Ornette Coleman)
The journey from conception to finally completing "SUBTEXT" was, for me, long and grueling, but along the way, there were some most unexpected benefits. A couple of years ago, I had bartered guitar lessons for Pro-Tools lessons. My goal at that time was to simply be able to edit soundclips for my website. Not a particularly ambitious goal, but certainly one that I felt that I could accomplish. Not too long before I decided to record again, one last time, I learned that I could actually use my very old Yamaha DX-7 as my midi-controller and, if I knew how to do it, I could actually sequence my own demos. Sounds stupid, but, that's where I was at the time, and I never, ever expected that I would end-up being able to actually do that. Originally, I arrived at a particular concept of how I would go about recording everything, but as time was passing, I felt that the process was getting way behind schedule, too far behind. So, one day, in a fit of abject boredom, I said to myself, let me see if I can sequence a tune myself. And, believe it or not with the help of only YouTube Pro-Tools Tutorials, I made my first of the demos for the album. In the end, of the 9 tunes represented, I actually did the demos for 7 of them!!! It was, for me, a minor miracle!
To make good demos, in a realistic Latin style, I used Marc Quiñones' brilliant Latin Percussion Samples CD for LP recorded in 1996 because at the front of the CD, he plays 15 fundamental Latin feels with all the parts. Then each part is isolated. So, with the technology, you can cut them up to suit your own purposes. Most of the feels are in 2:3 clave, and that could be a problem for me if I had a tune that was in 3:2 clave!!! Ouch!!! When it came time to do the demo for Ornette Coleman's "Bird Food" I thought that I could use Marc's Son Montuno #2 groove, and that's what I did. Initially, the tune was arranged for one 3-chorus guitar solo, a soli for guitar & bass, and some percussion and drums trading. I had worked very hard on this great tune to make certain that it, at the vey least, fit into phrases that would end-up being an even number of bars. Once, I had it in reasonably good shape, I sent down my demo via the internet to my dear friend, saxophonist/composer, Rafael Greco in Caracas, Venezuela, hoping that he would tell that I had done a pretty good job. But, there was to be no such luck for me! He kindly pointed out that the melody to "Bird Food," as it appeared, was really in 3:2, and not in the 2:3 rhythm of my programmed demo!!! Disaster!!! Now, what do I do? For me, the solution was to slightly adjust certain phrases within the melody, especially the first 2 bars and the last 2 bars of Letter [A]. I did that, and went even further with some of the phrases in between, and then sent it down to Rafa for his approval. He responded by telling me that, perhaps, I had gone a bit too far with the bars in the middle of the section, and that having changed the beginning and the ending of [A] would be sufficient to put the melody in 2:3 clave. So, feeling greatly relieved by his consent, I went ahead with what I had, and that is, in part, what you now hear. But, there's more to the story.
Randy Brecker and I have actually known one another since the late '60s, when we first met at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, CA. Randy was playing with Horace Silver at the time. By a sheer twist of fate, Randy and I would reconnect when I first moved to New York in 1970, and have been bandmates at various times, and friends ever since. We keep in touch no matter what. In that spirit, as I was preparing the music for this recording, Randy and I exchanged some e-mails, and he wanted to hear what I was going to be doing. So, I sent him one of the tunes, and he kept asking to hear more. Eventually, he made me send him everything. I was so flattered when he told me that he had to be a part of the recording! How could I refuse that kind of an offer? So, I had to think about all the various pieces, melodically, and for solo space, and it wasn't long before I realized that "Bird Food" would be the perfect vehicle. Of course, as you now know, the arrangement was originally written for one solo having 3 choruses for the guitar within an invented format, and some trading at the end between Marc Quiñones(timbal), Bobby Allende(conga), and Dennis Chambers(drums). Now, I would have to open-up another solo spot for Randy, and that would mean that we would each now play 2 choruses. The first letter [A] of Randy's solo, where mine used to be, was comprised of a little soli that I had written to serve as 'rocket' into the actual solo. Now, Randy and I would play this together. When I bring in these pieces, and present them to a brilliant rhythm section of Marc, Bobby, and Rubén Rodríguez(el. bass & baby bass), I might have an idea of which Latin rhythm I think will serve the tune best, but usually, things go in another direction. This time, at the rehearsals, Marc and Bobby seemed to feel that playing variations on the Caballo feel would be the best way to go. This became the rhythmic foundation of "Bird Food."
When one brings a particular concept about improvising, soloing to any gathering of musicians, whether it's a club gig or a recording, you are always hopeful that your bandmates are going to view things in a similar light. Of course, that's not always the case, and one must compromise and adjust. When I have had the good fortune to have played in some of the Latin bands around the New York City area, when there is soloing, it usually follows one of a few approaches. Let's say that a normal tune might have either a trumpet or trombone solo, and that would be followed by a keyboard solo. From the perspective of the timbalero, the horn soloist gets two levels:  the mambo/salsa bell; and then the highest level,  the crash/ride cymbal. That's it!!! The keyboard player usually only gets cáscara, and that's it, as the band comes way down. For me, that's not a very broad dynamic spectrum. But, out of great respect, and knowing that on "SUBTEXT," we are all playing Latin music, Latin Jazz, it's important to respect the traditions. For me, once the timbal, or the drummer for that matter, has gone to the cymbal, there's not going to be another dynamic level to go to. So, on an A-A-B-A solo format, what makes the most sense to me is that the drums, in this case, Dennis Chambers, goes to his cymbal for each [B] section, joined by the campana, the bongo bell. But Marc did not like that idea, so we compromised and, during Randy's solo, Dennis went to his cymbal during the first [B] and then for the entire 2nd chorus. For the guitar solo, Marc agreed to approach it the way I suggested, and that was that Dennis would only go to his cymbal during the [B] sections. In general, this kind of dynamic layout for the format is not ideal for me, because it's not elastic enough in terms of the rhythm section having a wide range of options for responding to the soloist. But, in the end, I'm pleased with how things turned out.
"Bird Food" is, in its wonderful way, a strange little tune. It occupies a melodic world that exists somewhere between a blues and rhythm changes, and yet, it's really neither of the two. It's not even a blues with a bridge. But, it is without question in an A-A-B-A song form. Ornette Coleman's [A] melody section is brilliant in every way, and, of all things, it's only 10 bars long! That's strange in and of itself, but at least it's an even number of bars. As the tune is fundamentally in Bb, one would expect that, if it was rhythm changes, the bridge, letter [B], would begin with a D7 and cycle around for the 8 bars, eventually landing on an F7 to turn you around to Bb major. Not so here!!! The bridge for "Bird Food" begins on the VI7 chord, G7. That's a fourth away from the expected starting point. On the original recording, Ornette just improvises through the section, and I had to transcribe both what he played, and what Charlie Haden played on bass. In the end, the chordal melody that you hear is loosely based upon what Ornette improvised over those bass notes. For the solo format, I wanted to use Ornette's chordal starting point, but find my way back to Bb major within the normal 8 bar length. Below, you can view what I chose as the solution for letter [B]:
| F7[C7] / / / | / / / / | Gbm7[F7] / / / | F#m7 / B7 / ||
Of course, the problem is that you arrive at F7 2 bars too soon. So, I had to extend the last two bars by putting to use a ii-V of the b5 substitute, B7, and that's what you see and hear. In all, it was a most interesting challenge to try to solve.
For the 3 [A] sections within the solo format, I felt that I had to invent another set of changes, and a number of bars other than 10. For me, in studying the tune and its melodic content, I felt that two elements were essential for each [A] section, and those would be the I-VI-ii-V at the top, and somehow arriving at the IV7 chord, the element that makes this tune sound like a blues at times. Within the framework of Latin rhythms, what ended-up feeling best for me was a 16-bar form. During each [A] section, the 1st 12 bars are the same, but in each of these sections, the last 4 bars are slightly different each time, and that adds points of interest for the soloist. So, please keep these things in mind as we now explore the 2 chorus guitar solo.
As Randy Brecker's flügelhorn solo concludes over a sustained Emaj7(9#4) chord, and then some unison accents over the F7(13b9) voicings, Chorus 1 of the guitar solo begins with two traditional Latin accents on the and-of-2[B7(#9#5)], and on beat 4[Bbmaj7(9)]. As Marc and Bobby settle into the caballo rhythms, you can hear that Dennis is playing super solid open hi-hat accents every 2 bars. It's interesting how that element, suggested by Marc, affects the rhythmic approach from the guitar. As I often do, in order to settle into the tune and the rhythmic groove, I like to play something that reflects an element of the melody, and that's what you hear between bars 1-3 of [A]. In essence, we have now dropped down to a guitar trio setting with Latin percussion, and the openness of this texture is where I feel most comfortable, especially with the linear/harmonic and chordal freedom that this affords me. In bar 4, the approach is completely sideways, and reflects the usage of the b5 substitute B7 over the F7. Notice how nicely the line resolves itself to an Fb, the m3rd of Dbm7, the next chord. Bars 7-8 over Bm7-E7 feature a very chromatic line, born out of B Dorian[B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A], that resolves to the pivotal moment in each [A] section, the Eb7 chord. I landed on the root(Eb) but, prior to that, it had been surrounded by its chromatic upper(E-natural) and lower(D-natural) neighbors, which makes the resolution all the more effective. Bars 9-13 feature the first appearance of chords, and as I always will say, the top voice of each chord is purely melodic to me, and each of these voicings is played in a style that reflects McCoy Tyner, and all those whom he influenced. In bar 13, when we land on a very consonant sounding C7(9/13) chord, you'll hear that I orchestrated this moment by overdubbing my ESP Strat with the volume pedal and the tremolo arm. It's just for color. In bars 13-14, the line over C7 reflects Eb minor pentatonic[Eb(#9), Gb(b5), Ab(#5), Bb, Db(b9)], which gives you all the alterations. Bar 15, over F7, though the line has an angular quality to it because it's answering what was just played, it really reflects 7(9sus4) sounds more than alterations. Bar 16 offers a nice ii-V over the b5 substitute of B7 and we get Gbm7-B7, though I spelled the notes as if it was F#m7, so it looks more like F# Dorian[F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E]. If it had been a F7(alt.) chord there, the #9(G#)-b9(F#/Gb) traditional Jazz resolution to F-natural for the Bbmaj7 chord would have made perfect sense, and that's why this line should sound good.
The line in bar 1 of [A2] accentuates the clave with solid notes on beats 1, 2 and 3. The line over G7 features the #5(D#), and both the #9 and b9. Again, the resolution to G-natural over the Cm7 chord in bar 3 is via the chromatic upper and lower neighbors. Bar 4, over the F7, features another jagged line, which outlines the 13b9 sounds, but concludes in the 2nd-half of the bar by spelling out the b5 sub of a B major triad. Over the Dbm7-Gb7 in bars, 5 & 6, the line begins with a characteristic Jazz phrasing ornament on the guitar executed by pull-off within the framework of Db Dorian[Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb] descending, and then ascending via Ab minor pentatonic[Ab, Cb, Db, Eb, Gb]. The phrasing mannerism that begins bars 7-8 is, for me, best executed when one plays it a bit behind the beat. I associate this kind of slurring with an attempt to approximate both trumpet and saxophone phrasing. The line itself is more reflective of the application of C# minor pentatonic[C#, E, F#, G#, B]. Over the Eb7, I am using notes from the Eb blues scale. Coming out of it, and again returning to Bbmaj7, as the changes dictate, the resolution to D-natural(3rd) is again approached from both the upper and lower chromatic neighbors. Bar 11, to me, outlines a sense of D minor pentatonic[D, F, G, A, C], even though only 3 notes were played. Over the Abm7-Db7 in bar 12, a simple Cb triad is outlined, but landing on a high Bb. The phrase that answers this draws upon the sonic notion of playing in a bluesy manner over the principle harmonic area, Bb major, even though you are on the ii chord(Cm7). Again, over the F7(alt.) chord in bar 14, the approach displayed comes from the B dominant 7th pentatonic[B, C#, D#, F#, A], even though the line begins on the 13th(G#). The cadence to Bbmaj7 is a reflection, yet again, of material contained within Ornette Coleman's brilliant melody. The change to negotiate in bar 16 as we transit to the bridge is, yet again, a ii-V of the b5 substitute Ebm7-Ab7 for D7, or what would be a normal V7 chord to get us to G7. The line is right out of Eb Dorian[Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db] and, as it descends, it seamlessly glides from Ab-Gb and slides, with your pinky, into a G-natural on the downbeat.
As the [B] section arrives, you must remember that, as the soloist, I know that there's going to be huge lift from the rhythm section as Dennis is goes to his ride cymbal, and the campana enters as Mark switches to his mambo/salsa bell from his cha-cha bell. It becomes the perfect moment for the first appearance on "SUBTEXT" of my own personal Psychedelic Big Band, courtesy of my Korg DVP-1 Harmonizer. Joe Zawinul's former keyboard tech, Ralph Skelton, helped me out greatly by rigging-up an on/off switch that enables me to use the DVP-1 whenever the moment seems right. The reason that I needed Ralph's help so badly was that, for some reason, the DVP-1 designers did not give the user, the player, the option of being able to cue the effect in & out, or have your sound go through the chain clean. Not having a bypass switch is certainly an annoying omission. So Ralph, with his immense electronic problem-solving skills, designed a way to route my signal so that I could finally have the kind of control that I needed. I'm so grateful for his help. On the device itself, I can store up to 5 banks of sonorities, each with 8 programmed options. This gives me a wide harmonic palette from which to choose. I have these banks programmed in groupings so that each bank represents one of the principal chord families. To have these options, and to be able to employ them spontaneously, has been a great luxury for me. Normally, I position the DVP-1 to my immediate right, sitting in its black rack bag, and on top of my blue road case, so that I can take a breath, and reach out with my right hand, and then change the sonority within the bank that I've chosen. For the first [B] section of "Bird Food" I used, what I have labeled as Sound #42. The key element to how I use the harmonizer is that the note that I am playing is the top voice, and that note is harmonized below. In this case, the top voice was harmonized below by a minor 3rd [-3], a perfect 4th [-5], a minor 6th [-8], and finally, the b7th [-10]. If there is a secret, you now have it in your possession. In concept, I wanted the "big band" to play a phrase in bars 1-2 and 5-6, and those phrases would be answered by my normal guitar sound. The first phrase is answered by what is basically a line over C7 that reflects G Dorian[G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F] with a touch of chromaticism as it begins. In bar 4, over the Dbm7-Gb7, the line is right out Db minor pentatonic[Db, Fb, Gb, Ab, Cb], again with a touch of chromaticism which gives the line a bluesier feel to it. The brief line over the Gbm7 chord has the sense of breaking-up parts of a B7(13) chord. Finally, and in clave, there is a chordal punctuation in bar 8 using a B7(13b9) voicing with B-natural on top, and this resolves up a 1/2-step to C-natural(9th) over the Bbmaj7 for our resolution into the next section.
I remember the first time that I heard a harmonizer effect applied to an instrument in this way. In this case, it was Randy Brecker's trumpet solo during "The Purple Lagoon" from the Frank Zappa album, "ZAPPA IN NEW YORK," recorded in 1978. Here's what Zappa wrote in his own liner notes about this particular moment in the performance:
As the final [A3] section for Chorus 1 arrives, after the chordal punctuation on beat 1 to coincide with Dennis return to the open hi-hat on beat 1 every two bars. Then, there's a nice breath, and the next line begins, anticipated by an 8th-note, with a sequence of two triads: C major[C(9th)-E(#4)-G(6th) and D major[D(3rd)-F#(#5)-A(maj7th)] and, as you can see, in doing this, one creates a lot beautiful colors tones, if that's the way that you hear things. Bar 3-4 are quite different for this [A] section, as we have Abm7-Db7, and a line that is right out of Ab Dorian[Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F, Gb], and it concludes with a simple Ab minor triad[Eb-Ab-Cb] over the Db7 area, and this gives you some lush colorings. In bars 5-6, we have the expected changes, for this arrangement, Dbm7-Gb7. Over the Dbm7, you find a line derived from Ab minor pentatonic[Ab, Cb, Db, Eb, Gb], and this phrase is answered over the Gb7 by a line from Db minor pentatonic[Db, Fb Gb, Ab, Cb]. Both of these lines, as you can see, begin on a Cb, and this helps to give them a nice flow. But, throughout this solo, what makes the lines all hang together is the rhythmic continuity. There's a consistent sense of call and response. Bars 7-8 offers new changes within this structure, as we now have a "normal" ii-V to lead us to our IV7 chord, Eb7. Over the Fm7-Bb7, with some chromaticism, the ascending line, played on the upbeats, is right out of F Dorian[F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb]. As it reaches its peak a C#/Db becomes the pivot tone, and the harmonic focus slides up a 1/2-step for the line in bar 9, over Eb7, which is actually in E Dorian[E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D]. If this sounds good to you, there is an intellectual reason why that might be, Em7 is the ii chord for A7, which is the b5 substitute for Eb7. In bar 9, the line turns around as simple Eb7 chord tones appear. The answer to this point of linear interest is a passage in chords, again all in voicings in bars 11-12 that are completely Tyner-influenced. But, because I loved Chick Corea's playing so much on Cal Tjader's Latin Jazz classic, "SOUL BURST," I owe a lot to him, and all that I gleaned from listening to that album so many times during the mid-'60s and beyond. Over the C7 chord in bar 13, the sonority changes with a voicing, spelling up: Bb-D-F#-A-D, which gives you a very lush 13(9b5) sound. In bar 14, over the Cm7-F7, again the harmonically suspended feeling is delivered by simple triads Eb and F, but played briefly in a montuno style. Finally, Chorus 1 ends with a held Bmaj7(9), again, orchestrated by my ESP Strat and volume pedal, and followed by a short flurry of 8th-note triplets derived directly from the D# minor pentatonic[D#-F#-G#(6th)-A#-C#(9th)], which gives you some nice color tones.
As [A] of Chorus 2 begins, the first phrase in bar 1 offers a common Jazz phrasing ornament for me on beat 2, and that same ornament will appear later in bar 5. These are the kinds of elements, often felt more than heard, that give an improvisation flavor and character, and, without them, something would be missing! In bar 2 over the G7 chord, I am playing the Db dominant 7th pentatonic[Db, Eb, F, Ab, Cb]. The phrase begins on an Ab, which was preceded by both of its chromatic upper(A-natural) and lower(G-natural) neighbors. Over bars 3-4, Cm7-F7, one of the pivotal intervals from Ornette's melody appears, an Eb that goes down to a Gb(b9). As the changes from Dbm7-Gb7 arrive in bars 5-6, I am employing the Ab minor pentatonic[Ab, Cb, Db, Eb, Gb]. The forceful chordal passage in bars 7-9 are very much clave-related, with accents on beats 2 & 3 in bar 7, and the and-of-2 in bar 8. As we land strongly on the IV chord, Eb7, on beat one of bar 9, the voicing for Eb7(#9), is a particular voicing that I grafted to the guitar from listening to Chick Corea's playing, on "SOUL BURST." Often times, spelling-up guitarists will play: G-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb because it's easy to play it by simply flattening your 3rd finger across your top 4 strings. But, what I learned from Chick is that the voicing is actually more effective if you leave out the Bb! So, I play: G(1)-Db(2)-Gb(3)-Eb(4). Parenthetically, I've added in the fingerings. The phrase that responds to the 7#9 voicing offers alterations born of inserting an A triad into the line. Bar 10 highlights both the #9(Gb) at the top of the phrase, and the 3rd(G) at the bottom via some chromaticism. The chordal passage that finishes off this section begins with open voicings over Bbmaj7, spelling up: C-F-G-C, and concludes with a series of simple major triads played, montuno style, over Abm7-Db7[Cb to Db] to C7[D to C], over Cm7[Eb-F] and F7(alt.)[Db to Cb]. The target of all this activity is to land on the same voicing configuration, spelling up: F-Bb-C-F, heard in bar 11 on beat 1 of the next section.
As [A2] begins with the chordal hit on beat 1, the answer is a paraphrase from Ornette's melody that slides into the usage of Bb minor pentatonic[Bb(#9), Db(b5), Eb(#5), F, Ab(b9)] over the G7 chord. The line structure that leads down to an Eb for the Cm7 bar is something that I used to hear Michael Brecker do a lot, and without that input, I guess I would not have heard things this way, passing to Eb via G-F-E natural. It is the placement of that E-natural that probably would have rubbed me the wrong way before having heard Mike do this so many times going to a minor chord. The jagged phrase in bar 4 over the F7 chord is reminiscent of what I played in bar 4 of [A2] of Chorus 1, except that it now appears a minor 3rd below, beginning on a D-natural instead of an F, and the triad that answers is a descending Ab triad instead of a B triad. Over the Dbm7-Gb7, though all the notes could be attributed to Db Dorian with some chromaticism, in bar 6, I am really playing the Gb dominant 7th pentatonic[Gb, Ab, Bb, Db, Fb]. The presence of the Bb gives the line character and shape. Over the Bm7-E7, again with a touch of chromaticism, the line is purely B minor pentatonic[B, D, E, F#, A]. The transition to bar 9 and the Eb7 chord echoes Ornette's melody again, especially approaching the Bb via 1/2-step above, a B-natural. The outline of the Eb7 chord in bar 10 has appeared before in the solo at the same spot in [A3] of Chorus 1. In bar 11, over the Bbmaj7 chord, the line comes from D minor pentatonic[D, F, G, A, C], and in bar 12 over the Abm7-Db7 chords, I'm playing Eb minor pentatonic[Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb, Db]. Then, just as it was in the last 4 bars of [A] of this chorus, bars 13-16 conclude with a great chordal passage that is, as you might expect, right out of the voicing style of McCoy Tyner, or the way Chick Corea was playing Latin music in the mid-'60s. The landing point is a very traditional G7(9) voicing for the guitar on beat 1 of our bridge section.
There's a story behind the DVP-1 sound that I used for [B] of Chorus 2, and if you will allow me, I want to share it here. Whenever I am fortunate enough to do something with Randy Brecker, it's difficult not to have brother Michael in my thoughts. And so, as I prepared to record, practicing, playing along with the demos that I had created, I thought to myself that it might be really great if, in an unspoken tribute to Michael Brecker, I could somehow extract one of his unique EWI sonorities, and program it into my own DVP-1. But HOW was I going to do that when all those voicings seem to fly by so fast? As I have mentioned before, I am never shy, when needing some help to hear something more clearly, about turning to Andy Robinson's brilliant program called "Transcribe!" which, years ago, Michael recommended to me. So now, armed with this super-duper tool, I decided to explore the incredible EWI passages from "Itsbynne Reel," which appeared on his "DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME"(¡Impulse!). During this scientific exploration, I discovered that many of the sonorities were sounds I had already programmed, but, there was one particular voicing, which appears only briefly, that I had never thought of until I was able to isolate it. I loved it so much that it has become Sound #48, which puts it in the same bank of sounds, and makes it possible to play live while soloing. In this case, the top voice is harmonized below by a minor 3rd [-3], a perfect 4th [-5], a perfect 5th [-7] and finally, the lower octave [-12]. So what you hear in bars 1-2 and 5-6 of this [B] section is, in its way, quietly dedicated to Mike. Of course, to really be able to use the harmonizer effectively, you have to play in your upper register, usually not going any lower than a note on your G-string, and that can be too low. But again, the key to making this work well is that the note I am playing is the principal note that you hear, and the harmonization is all below that note. Over the C7 chord, the single-note lines return, and with chromaticism that comes from G Dorian. But, in bar 4, over the Dbm7-Gb7, this line is derived from Gb dominant 7th pentatonic[Gb, Ab, Bb, Db, Fb]. After the DVP-1 lines in bars 5-6, over the Gbm7(F#m7), the line is from F# minor pentatonic[F#, A, B, C#, E], and it then moves to F# Dorian over the B7 chord. The linear resolution into bar 1 of the last section resolves from the high C# down to C-natural(9th), a nice color tone over Bbmaj7.
As the final [A3] section of the solo begins, bar 2, as Bbmaj7 transits to Abm7, offers an interesting strategy depending upon how you look at it. If you think of the notes in A minor pentatonic[A, C(9th), D, E(#4), G(6th)] relative to Bbmaj7, you see that, when using it, you produce all the color tones, including the #4. But, one of the great Jazz linear devices is to approach the chord to which you are headed via the same mode or scale fragment one 1/2-step above. So, anything in A minor is going to be one 1/2-step above Abm7! In bar 4, over the Db7, the first half of the bar could be viewed as being in Ab Dorian, but the 2nd-half is right out of Ab altered dominant[Ab, A, B, C, D, E, Gb], which resolves perfectly to Dbm7. The rhythms in bar 5 are answered by the same rhythm in bar 6, with characteristic voicings from the left-hand of McCoy Tyner. Over the Fm7, the notes reflect F Dorian, but in bar 8, over the Bb7 chord, as we are headed towards a normal V-I resolution to Eb7, the line configuration speaks of the Bb 1/2-tone/whole-tone diminished scale[Bb, Cb, Db, D, E, F, G, Ab]. Bars 9-10 reflect the bluesy nature of the IV7 chord. The closing line fragments, even though other notes are played, there is an intuitive sense of direction from the top notes that guides us: bar 11(C), bar 12(Bb-Ab), bar 13(A-natural), and bar 14(G-natural), which goes back to a C-natural. And then, the point of resolution is with Bb as the top note of the Emaj7(9#4) chord in bar 15.
Though the Soli that follows the guitar solo is not presented here, it is an important part of the overall arrangement, and serves as a special extra tribute to the brilliant musical mind of Ornette Coleman. Just as I did with the Soli that appears in "Blues Connotation" from "PARTING SHOT," I transcribed portions of Ornette's solo from the original version of "Bird Food," and then I re-organized Ornette's musical thoughts into a 24-bar section, that is performed in unison by Randy, Rubén, and me. It has become one of my favorite moments in the piece. The Soli is then followed by the guitar montuno that opened the piece, and now serves as the underpinning for trading between Marc, Bobby, and Dennis, and this eventually leads us back to the final melody statement.
One of the most fascinating aspects in the lives of contemporary musicians is that we can go into a recording having actually heard reasonable facsimiles of our song selections in demo form. And sometimes, those demos can be excellent. So, believe it or not, with months to go before "SUBTEXT" was recorded in January of 2014, I actually knew the sequence of the album. Imagine that, as a group, we had not played a single note of this music together. Each artist has his or her own way of arriving at a sequence, and, as comical as it might be to some, most men want to come out of the gate hitting it hard. So, the first tune is often at a brisk tempo, and then other shadings and colors follow with the subsequent tunes. Of course, one must always consider the various tempos, the keys or tonal areas, the moods of the pieces, etc., but for me, I always want the opening tune to serve as a good representation of what the whole project is about. This is obviously a Latin Jazz album, with its roots in the guitar trio format, and even though Randy Brecker's flügelhorn is one of the main voices here, I felt that "Bird Food" was a great reflection of what this collection of music is about. People have commented to me, "Steve, how can you begin an album when you are not the first solo voice heard?" For me, this was never ever a thought in my mind. I'm happy with what we did, and happy that Randy played first on the tune. It all makes total sense to me. If anyone has actually followed the album from the 1st tune to the last, I hope that you can hear the care that went into each song selection in the sequence. Nothing is ever perfect, but a great deal of thought and care went into it. And that includes that, during the mixes, James Farber questioned aspects of the sequence, and I even tried, on paper, to envision another way to do it. But, I couldn't come-up with one that worked as well for me.
As we have now arrived at November, 2014, 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 2015.
[Photo of Randy Brecker from Keystone Korner, Tokyo, Japan
Photos: Marc Quiñones & Bobby Allende - and Steve Khan by Richard Laird @ Avatar Studios, January, 2014
Photo of Rubén Rodríguez - Aguilar Electronics]