Steve Khan's "BUDDY SYSTEM" Lead Sheet
As I knew that the repertoire for "LET'S CALL THIS" was going
to be fundamentally drawn from my own quirky book of 'oddball' standards,
I wanted to at least write one piece for the recording. And so, I chose
to compose a tune using the basic harmony and form indicated by 'rhythm
changes,' which would always refer to George Gershwin's "I've
Got Rhythm." Essentially, "Buddy System" was composed by
hearing a melody which, for the most part, conformed to this harmonic
movement. The only great variance occurs in bar 2 of each [A] section.
I think that the formation of the lines receives
a little 'kick,' a lift, from the appearance of the triplet figures
in bar 4 of each [A] section and in bar 8 of the first letter [A]. The figures in bar 4 were intended to be doubled by my guitar
and Ron Carter's acoustic bass. However, at the rehearsals it
seemed to sound good to us to have [A] and [A2] stated
by the guitar and Al Foster's drums alone, with Ron then joining
us at [B].
I suppose that, on some level, the entire tune has
a "Monk" feeling about it, but perhaps most of all at [B] where the melody somehow touches upon most of the color tones(9,
13) and harmonic alterations(b5, #5, b9, #9) of the cycle of dominant
Looking back at the studio performance of the tune,
I don't know that it was our best, but mostly I recall that we recorded
this CD just as the Gulf War had commenced, and Ron, Al and I
were extremely saddened by these events, not to mention fearful of what
was to come. In that regard, it was remarkable how the tempo of almost
every single track was slower than where we had rehearsed them days
before. It proved to me how very much outside events can affect your
performances in ways you just can't see or feel at the time. How sadly
ironic it is that I was sitting here putting the final touches to these
notes as the U.S. was preparing to go to war with Iraq. And now, it
The format for the solos was simple and straightahead,
just use the 32-bar, A-A-B-A form. For the recording, we chose to have
Ron Carter solo first, followed by my guitar. I don't remember if we
did a take which featured some 8's and 4's between the guitar and drums,
but perhaps not, or it certainly would have ended-up on the recording!
As I've stated many times elsewhere, I loved playing along with the
sound and bounce of Al Foster's beautiful collection of Paiste
cymbals, especially the ones with rivets in them. They give the music
a sense of floating on air and, after a time, begin to actually sound
like violins to me! Crazy as that might seem to some of you.
Sometime later, I was greatly honored when "Buddy
System" was recorded by the Yellowjackets on their "GREENHOUSE"(GRP)
CD, but because they were hoping to have tunes which all had "ecological"
references in their titles, I allowed them to change the title to "Brown
Zone," which referred to the air pollution problems in Los Angeles.
I, of course, argued that "Buddy System" could be viewed as an ecological
title because, in my view, it refers to the 'sharing of air' underwater
by scuba divers. What could be more 'save the planet' than that?
Oh well, another very minor disagreement lost! I guess I should have
taken that debating class in high school!
For their performance, Russell Ferrante made
his own alterations to various parts of the melody which I enjoyed very
much. For example, at bar 3, he chose to leave out the 'F' on beat one.
Then, at the end of bar 5, he moved the 'G' on beat 4 to the last 8th
note of the bar. Then, [B] gets the full "Monk" treatment, complete
with Hall Overton-like orchestral touches, and pianistic dissonances
all over the place. In addition to those touches, the phrasing of the
melody became very elastic, and that personal touch added a great
deal as well. Finally, in bar 7 of the last [A], the last 8th
note of beat 3 was changed from an 'F' to an 'E' adding a further small
touch to the very jagged sense of melody. For me, it was especially
great to hear Bob Mintzer's bass clarinet playing the melody.
It all complies with my philosophy that if you're going to play the
music of someone else, "make it your own!" And, they did just
that, and I'm very proud to have written something which appeared on
any Yellowjackets recording because they have, in my opinion, one of
the greatest 'books' of contemporary music to be found anywhere!
Though I believe that I have mentioned this once
before, perhaps in the "Got My Mental" notes, I think that a
young musician, one about to dedicate his/her life to the pursuit of
this wonderful music, would benefit greatly from trying to write, over
a period of time, one blues per week, and one "rhythm changes" tune
per week. I would imagine that after some time had passed, you would
have a couple of each which you would feel pretty good about. Stay disciplined,
give it a try, and see how you do. You might even find it helpful to
stick to the 'classic' keys of Bb, F, or Eb. I know that's not going
to make some of you guitar players too happy, but what can I say? You
are going to have to play and perform in settings which will include
trumpets and saxophones and this can only help you in being prepared.
Please know how very, very much I appreciate all
your visits to the website, and especially those of you who repeatedly
visit both sectors of KHAN'S KORNER. We continue to try our best to
keep things interesting, to answer your questions, and share music with
you in the most positive manner. Hoping that you are all having a beautiful
"Spring" wherever you might be. Here, in New York City, we are
most relieved to have said, "Good-bye!" to the Winter of 2003,
because "Old Man Winter" was really mean this year!!! At the
time the preceding was written, the world seemed like a slightly different
place. Now, to speak about "the weather" seems rather trivial and frivolous.
From this most humble of perspectives, I am going to simply wish all
of you, PEACE and safety in your homes, neighborhoods, cities,
and countries, for these are truly sad, sad times for all of humanity!
[Photo: Steve Khan-Al Foster-Ron Carter @ Skyline Studios, January, 1991
Photo by: David Tan]