See Steve's Hand-Written Solo transcription


Clare Fischer's Fender Rhodes Intro on:
"Where is Love?"(Lionel Bart)

    Since Khan's Korner was launched about 10 years ago, in the various analyses written here, I have constantly mention "mood" and "attitude" as two of the most important elements to me in the never-ending search for making great music. It should be obvious that these elements would not suddenly appear in the middle of any piece of music. They have to be present from the outset. In general, I have always tried to make a case for the essence of "the group" being far more important than any one individual within it.Here and There But, that doesn't mean that a single player might well be the one who sets the mood. For me, the great keyboard artist Clare Fischer is just such a musician. Anyone who had previously visited these pages knows that I must be counted amongst his most ardent admirers. But even someone like me can be unaware of everything recorded in a particular artist's body of work. Here we are, and it is now 2009, and I had never been aware of the Cal Tjader recording, "HERE AND THERE"(Fantasy) which featured Clare on Fender Rhodes and had been recorded 'live' at San Francisco's "Great American Music Hall" in June, 1977. How could I have missed this one?
    It is also well-known that I am no fan of the Broadway Musical, certainly not since Andrew Lloyd Webber became the custodian of the genre, but, the history of Jazz is filled with wondrous songs that all emanated from such musicals. One of the most touching ballads, at least for me, has always been Lionel Bart's "Where is Love?" which appears in the musical treatment of "Oliver" which is based on Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist." I believe that I stumbled upon the Cal Tjader/Clare Fischer version when I was looking around the Web for versions of that tune. My favorite version had always been the one by Paul Desmond which we have already featured here at Korner 1. I've search high and low for a vocal version that I could embrace and only recently came to love the version by Tony Bennett. If you can get past the chorale, which serves as the Intro, you will find that Tony sings it beautifully. The truth is that it is not an easy song to sing. Just the opening phrase where one must sing the word "Where," which ascends in a scale from the root of the major 7th chord, is enough to steer anyone away from the song. Instrumentally? It poses less of challenge in that way, although the root, on top of a major 7th chord, is never one's favorite choice of notes. But, back to the task at hand.
    After discovering the Cal Tjader version and running out to buy it - there were still CD stores then - Tower Records was still a vibrant force in music, I came home and immediately told my CD player to play Track [2]. Suddenly, from the first notes, I was transported to another place by Clare Fischer's absolutely gorgeous Intro performed alone at the Fender Rhodes. I must have played 1:55 of the tune over and over again, countless times. I still gravitate back to this track for harmonic inspiration. As it always seems to be, I am terrified to begin a transcription of anything involving the keyboard. Though I studied the piano as a child, and had to return to it during my college years at U.C.L.A.('65-'69) in order to attain my B.A. in Music(Composition & Theory), I dread writing something out that might be filled with errors. So, as much as I loved Clare's solo Intro, I just couldn't deal with facing a failure of that magnitude. However, just recently, I was inspired enough to just say "Aw shucks!"(I've cleaned this up greatly for publication here!!!) "Let's just give it a try!" And so, I began, I am not at all afraid to confess that I enlisted the aid of Andy Robinson's brilliant program called "Transcribe!" Without this technological aid, I know that I would have missed many little details. No doubt, a keyboard player would have heard them. So now, you are getting to see the results of one weekend's work.
    The work of "one weekend" has now spanned several weeks. Weeks spent away from the transcription, then re-listening and making some corrections and adjustments here and there. Finally, frustrated by questions and self-doubt, as to whether or not I had distributed the left-hand and right-hand responsibilities correctly, I decided to go directly to the most dependable source for keyboard knowledge, musicianship, and artistry. That would, of course, be none other than my dear friend, Rob Mounsey. I sent him over my labors on large music paper, plus a CD-R of the track. As he is a most busy musician, it took him some time to get around to it, but once he did, we had a phone consultation about the transcription. First, he posed two very simple questions to me: [1] Why didn't you just write it out in 4/4? And [2], Why didn't you use the key signature for Eb major? I explained, with regards to [1] that I felt that writing it out this way, and spreading out the phrases, it might give the player a greater sense of utilizing space, and maintaining a tone of romanticism throughout. Other than the notes, I think that it's important to 'interpret' a transcription, like this one, and be even more loose with the phrasing. In other words, try to personalize it! As for question [2], though it might be musically incorrect, I have come to write-out most music within the Jazz and Pop worlds without key signatures, because I always feel that the tune or the song is, at times, moving through so many different key areas that I would rather just place in the accidentals myself. So, acceptable or not, those were my reasons. As Rob went on to detail the corrections he felt that I should make, I was very pleased to learn that I really hadn't made that many terrible errors. Between the two of us, there remained a few places where neither or us were completely certain that a particular note was in the voicing or not. With a Rhodes and one's touch, sometimes a note just doesn't speak in balance with the others. Rob also suggested that I change the spelling of a few notes here and there, and I did that. So, what you now see is product of my hard work, stubbornness and Rob's great wisdom and knowledge.
    Clare's Rhodes Intro is used to set the tone, the mood, for the group's "bolero" interpretation of this very moving ballad. When the actual tempo comes in, Clare and Cal are joined by bandmates: Rob Fisher: Ac. Bass; Carmelo Garcia: Timbal; and Poncho Sánchez: Conga. After the Intro, they only play through the melody once. But, to me, I never felt that I missed any of the potential soloing, perhaps because Clare Fischer's Intro on the Rhodes just said everything? The form of "Where is Love?" is a most interesting one. In my view, it is possible that it could be labeled as an [A]-[A2]-[A3] form as all three sections begin in the same fashion. But, to keep the unique sense of form clear, I decided to label it as: [A]-[B]-[C]. Both [A]-[B] contain 16 bars, which could hardly be seen as unusual when played in cut-time. However [C] contains an extra 2 or 4 bars, depending upon how one chooses to treat one of the last passages.
Clare Fischer     As the Intro is played in rubato "tempo" which has come to mean a "flexible" tempo with no commitment to a particular pulse, I decided to write out the transcription in a way so that, if you just follow along with the melody in the upper right-hand of the treble clef, everything should make sense. I tried to place the longer pauses at the end of the systems, of course, this didn't always work. I also tried to indicate where a phrase might actually begin by placing a vertical hash-marked line in front of the first notes. Often times, when a player, even a mature player, is presented with the assignment of playing a solo introduction to a tune, especially a ballad, there is the tendency to allow one's natural adrenaline to take over the better sense of judgment, and the player forgets to breath, to take breaths while playing. Another great lesson, in the study of Clare's Intro here, is his sense of space, of allowing the beauty of the melody, and yes, the lyrics, to soar out into space and invite those listening to come in - because they are welcome.
    As I previously stated, any melody that contains the root over a major 7th chord can present problems. When you have a melody such as this one, which begins from the root and ascends the scale's first four notes, it really does pose some limits. The most simple and understated aspects to this solo introduction are contained within those passages. But, as Clare moves through the song, there are some moments of great sophistication. For those of you who are not familiar with the song and its lyrics, the opening phrase poses the question from the title. From the opening Eb through the 1/2-note F-natural, those notes are all dedicated to the single word, "where." The two G-naturals that follow receive the words that complete the question: "is" and "love." Throughout the introduction, Clare allows the melody to, in a sense, stand alone, while he colors it from beneath with moving harmonies and colors. Clare's voicing style, with wide intervals at times, and small clusters in the middle of the voicings, seems to be born for the way these harmonic colors blend together on a Fender Rhodes, aided by the liberal usage of the sustain pedal. Sometimes, one who favors the acoustic piano will find that aspects of this voicing style do not translate well to the acoustic instrument, which has fathered everything that is now electric. On a separate sonic note, during the performance of this bolero, Clare chose not to employ the tremolo effect on the Rhodes. I mention this because, on the two other transcriptions offered here: "Once Again" and "Gaviota" - both recorded with Poncho Sánchez - he uses the tremolo with wondrous results.
    In the great tradition of the treatment of standards, it is always important that the artist, or the arranger, makes to personalize the changes to the composition. As I've never really looked at the stock "sheet music" version of "Where is Love?" I can't really comment on the original Lionel Bart changes. But, the Don Sebesky arrangement, which appears on the aforementioned Paul Desmond recording, contains some beautiful changes during the [C] section. However, this is precisely where Clare Fischer chooses to go down a different harmonic path. So, below I have presented bars 5-12 of that section, with the Sebesky changes noted in red for quick comparison. A little thought and effort in this regard can go a long way towards giving your treatment of a standard a very personal touch.

                    | Abmaj7 / / /  | D7(alt.)[Bb/Ab] / / / | Gm7 / / / | C7(9)[Bbm7-Eb7] / / / |

                    | Fm7[Abmaj7] / / / | F#°7[Bb/Ab] / / / | Gm7 / / / | Ebm7 / Ab7 / ||

    To continue the discussion of chord changes, sometimes 'addition by subtraction' is a most effective device as well. By this I mean that sometimes, if one removes a chord, you might accomplish more than by having it appear. A perfect example of this is what Clare does in both the [A] and [B] sections where there's a sequence of chords which move like this: Abmaj7-Ebm7-Ab7-Dbmaj7-Dbm7-Gb7-Bmaj7. During his Intro, Clare removes the Dbm7 chord both times, so that the movement becomes more basic, but more pronounced: Dbmaj7-Gb7. Each time it appears, he presents different color tones within the Gb7 chord. It is interesting to note that, when tempo begins, Clare does play the full ii-V each time. On another note, Clare adds a very nice touch in bar 3 of both [A] and [B] by playing Ebmaj7#5[G/Eb] which adds some degree of tension amidst the beauty. This is a great substitution, made even better because the melody note is G-natural. Often times, when a major 7 chord is going to remain the same for a bar or two, you will see the #5(in this case B-natural) move up a 1/2-step to C-natural, which is the 6th of Eb major. When the 9th and maj7th are also added in, it becomes a beautiful color and gives a sense of resolution, even though the chord has not changed. In the context of "Where is Love?" that same B-natural is again moving up a 1/2-step to C-natural, but the latter note is now part of an Fm7(9) over Eb or Bb.
    Throughout [A] and [B], over both the Eb major and Ab major ascending melodic scale passages, they have been, for the most part, harmonized in 3rds. However, in letter [C] in the 3rd system, on the Fm7 chord, you will observe some small clusters which might remind some of you of Bill Evans. Finally, on Pg. 3, in the three ascending 8th-note phrases, Clare's voicings become more dense and more creative. The first of these passages which is headed towards Dbmaj7 features more voicings in 4ths. As he approaches a Bb7(sus) chord via Fm7, the right-hand offers the most basic of triads: Fm-Gm-Abmaj-Bbmaj, which the left-hand ascends in 5ths. The end result is something that is hauntingly romantic. Before we move along, I must point out that the high whole-note voicing for the Cmaj7(9) chord remains a source of discord between Rob and me. Rob hears it as a voicing stacked in 4th, spelling up from the B-natural just below middle 'C' you would have: B-E-A-D-G. The top 3 notes are played by the right-hand. I tried this approach several times, isolating that chord via "Transcribe" and I still heard other notes in there. So, I just decided to stay with what I had. If anyone cares to voice a dissenting opinion, feel free to write me. Finally, on the 2nd System of Pg. 3, there is one last ascending scale passage over C7(alt.) which features one Evans-esque cluster and a simple Ab triad over the basic guide tones(E-Bb), the guts of any C7 chord. Again, this is very much in the style of Clare Fischer, and goes right to the essence of introducing the sense of romance in the music.
    One might not easily see any connection between the acoustic piano style of Thelonious Monk and Clare Fischer's approach to the Fender Rhodes but, and it is only my sense, I clearly hear some Monk in several spots. And, for the sake of trying to be thorough, I would like to point them out. The first of these moments occurs in the last system of [A] where you find a Bb7(b9b5) voicing with Bb on top and then a low, rumbling descending chromatic bass line from an E-natural to Bb. As that final Bb appears, we have a classic Monk 7b5 voicing. As [B] comes to an end, Fischer again arrives at the same Bb7b5 voicing, but this time it is preceded by an a counterline beneath the melody note which highlights the b5 and #5 as chromatic neighbors to more consonant tones. Lastly, at the end of the first system of letter [C], he plays a lush Bbm7(sus) voicing and follows it with a most dissonant Eb(b9b5) chord with a minor 2nd(Fb & Eb) in the middle. To these ears, this is also highly reminiscent of Thelonious Monk.
    The art of accompaniment is often overlooked by the young. I wish this was not so, but based upon my experiences, this is what I see. However, if one is searching for just how one could craft an accompaniment, one which stands all on its own as a work of consummate beauty and intelligence, you have to look no further than what Clare Fischer plays behind Cal Tjader as Cal interprets the melody to "Where is Love?" It's fascinating how the very full-bodied style of Clare's Intro pares down once the acoustic bass is present. As part of my transcription, I decided to write out Clare's 4-bar Intro as the bolero rhythm, marked by the distinctive cáscara pattern on the timbal, enters. You will notice that suddenly Clare is playing his typically beautiful sonorites in the upper register, so much so that I had to write out his part for both hands totally in the treble clef. It is so important that, as you listen to the 1:56 that remains of the tune, you should focus in on just how Clare Fischer seems to be playing at the Rhodes as if he was supplying a complete orchestration to Cal's melody. Not only is the melody supported by the most lush harmonies one could imagine, but the sense of counterlines, weighty on their own, abounds everywhere. Please don't miss the opportunity to listen and to learn from this. In my opinion, what Clare has done here is a work of art and nothing less! For those of you who might be young, aspiring keyboard artists, I would implore you to study and learn everything that Clare does on this performance. It will serve you well in all that you play from that moment forward. And, those whom you might be accompanying will thank you forever and always!
    Though we already wished everyone a joyous Holiday Season a couple of months ago, in spite of the gloomy economic times we are all facing, we certainly hope that each of you had a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Y por supuesto, un muy ¡FELIZ AÑO NUEVO! As we begin this new era, I, for one, welcome Barack Obama's presidency, because I am filled with great hope, and a cautious optimism. If we can all pull together, the future could hold great things for the USA, and for our partners all over the world. Let us hope so!!!

Addendum: On or about August 29th of 2015, I was thinking about Clare Fischer and searching for some new harmonic inspiration, and I went to revisit this particular transcription, and, to my horror, I found a couple of errors on Pg. 3, in what I have labeled as the [I] section where the piece goes into tempo. As I listened to the recorded version, and bar 2 of this section went by, I looked closely at it and said to myself, "This doesn't sound right to me now!" So, with my trust Yamaha DX-7 sitting next to me, I played along with Clare and found that my present perception was correct and that what I had written initially was incorrect. The errors that I found were in bars 2 and 4, and they were both in the left hand. In truth, I had obviously thought that the voicings had to be more complex and so I had added notes that, on re-inspection in the present day, were not actually ever there. I listened much more carefully and what you can now view I am confident that it is much more accurate. The sentiments for Clare and his harmonies remain steadfast. I love listening to him play and hearing his unique harmonies at work.

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