Fischer's Fender Rhodes
It seems that throughout the
pages of this Website, I have been singing the praises of Clare Fischer
because he has influenced my playing and writing so greatly. It
is simply that his sense of harmony, as revealed in his wonderful compositions,
his tremendous piano playing, and of course, his brilliant arrangements,
are so uniquely wonderful. But this is my first real opportunity to
focus in on one of my favorite piano solos of his which appears on Poncho
Sanchez' CD titled, "GAVIOTA"(Discovery) and was recorded
in early 1980.
The composition itself contains two 20-bar sections
which, for the purpose of analyzing the solo, we will label as [A] and [A2], and the first 12 bars of each of these sections
remains the same, leading to an 8-bar 1st-ending and an 8-bar 2nd-ending.
Our soundclip picks up the tune at [A2]so that you can get a
little bit of the flavor of this Clare Fischer bolero. How he harmonically
'colors' his melody is a constant thing of beauty to these ears. If
you are interested in exploring his music further, don't hesitate to
visit his website, clarefischer.com
where you can order his beautifully done lead sheets to virtually all
his compositions. Each is a wonderful music lesson, keyboard harmony
lesson, in and of itself. Of special interest in "Once Again"
is how Clare has used so many simple minor triads to adorn various passages
of the melody. Specifically, you might want to take note of how he treats
the melody in bar 2 over the B°7 chord, utilizing three of the minor
triads which appear in the harmonized whole-tone/half-tone diminished
scale from 'B'(B, C#/Db, D, E, F, G, G#, A#/Bb). Those being Em; Bbm;
and C#m while the left-hand plays a simple tritone of G#-D.
Amongst the things I love so much about this particular
solo is the sparseness of the texture: Fender Rhodes(w/ the tremolo
on); bass; timbales; congas; and bongos, and how well the, mostly, single
line notes speak in this open setting. During most of [A] he
adds only one note, here and there, just lightly pecking at the Rhodes
with his left-hand. One must never be 'afraid' of allowing their line
to do the work and let the rhythm section take care of the rest.
Even the pick-up to the solo is interesting as on
beats 3-4, Clare outlines an A-augmented triad. Remember that A7 would,
of course, be the b5 substitute for the 'real' V chord which is Eb7.
But here, against only a bass note, the configuration of pitches sounds
One of Clare's linear devices which helps to define
and outline just where the chord change is, is to highlight it by using
chord tone arpeggios. You can see this during [A] at bars: 1;
4; 7; 9; 12; 13; 15; 18; and during [A2] at bars: 3 and 17.
Then there is his unique usage of chordal color tones
and neighboring tones. This can be seen during [A] in bars: 2-4;
5-6; 9-10; 12; 13-14; 18-20. And during [A2] in bars: 4; 5; 8-9;
The anticipation of the scale/mode of the upcoming chord change
is another effective device used by most of the great jazz soloists.
Clare is no different in that regard and employs this technique beautifully.
You can observe it during [A] in bars: 3-4; 4-5; 5-6; 8-9; 10-11. And
in [A2] during bars: 5-6; 7-8; 12-13; and 15-16.
Clare also plays with tremendous rhythmic self-confidence
and uses some very interesting rhythmic subdivisions. Take a look at
[A] during bars: 5-7; 8-9; 10-14; 15-16; and 20. During [A2],
Clare devotes that 1/2 chorus to more simple 8th-note subdivisions and
creating gorgeous harmonic colors which offers a glorious contrast to
the preceding 1/2 chorus.
I suppose it is of some importance to say something
about just how Clare uses his left-hand during this solo. Again, from
the perspective of a listener, I would choose to believe that his intent
was to just 'tell a story' with his single-note lines. But, when I listened
more deeply 'into' the solo I could clearly hear that he was 'pecking' away,
very lightly with his left-hand and the notes he chose were usually
part of the harmonic 'guide tones' for each chord. For example, in bar
2 of [A], he plays 'D' for the B°7 chord and the other 'guide
tone' would have been an Ab/G#. In bar 3, he hits a Db for the Bbm7
chord where the other 'guide tone' would have been an Ab. If you examine
the rest of the bars, you will find that he is almost always playing
the 7th or 3rd of most of these chords. In [A2], where the activity
of the single lines decreases, his left-hand voicings become a little
more dense. Bars 8 through 17 show wonderful touches of sophisticated
harmony, often times juxtaposed to very simple harmony, as in bars 9-10.
Over the C#7(alt.) chord, at the end of bar 8, Clare employs a series
of inversions of Bb/A# triads which lead him to a simple resolution
on a very consonant F# minor triad, the root of the that very chord.
If we analyze the pitches relative to the root of C#(7) we get: A#(13th);
Cx(D)(b9); E#(F)(3rd). Often times, when going to a minor chord resolution,
one would not expect the 13th to sound so good, but again, here Clare
is in control of the harmony and does have to worry about how this might
'clash' with the keyboard accompaniment of another! As the resolution
changes to F#m7/E in bar 10, Clare passes by a simple Bmaj triad before
returning to F#m. Within the simplicity lies its great sonic beauty!!!
Earlier in our analysis, I mentioned Clare's usage
of the diminished scale in a chordal passage, but during the actual
solo he alludes to this scale again in bars 15-16 of [A]. It
is during a ii-V to Abmaj7 and it has always been my opinion that the
diminished scale works best on a V7(alt.) when it's headed towards a
major chord and not a minor chord! In this case, we have an Eb7(alt.)
chord and we would want to use the Eb half-tone/whole-tone diminished
scale(Eb, Fb/E, Gb, G, A, Bb, C, Db). Clare employs a portion of this
scale as he descends, using a very pianistic figure, the first of two
such flurries, with the important notes accented: G-Gb-E-Eb-Db and finally
B-natural is used as an upper-neighbor to Bb, our note of resolution
as we arrive at the Abmaj7 chord in bar 17.
In bar 20 of [A], in the second very pianistic
passage, Clare alludes to the whole-tone scale, over the Eb7(alt.) chord,
as the accented notes in this flurry descend from C#-B-A-G-F and eventually
landing on the very consonant note of 'C' which is, of course, the 3rd
of Abmaj7. To even accentuate this further he surrounds the note with
it chromatic lower neighbor of B-natural before the final resolution
at the first bar of [A2].
I often receive e-mails which tend to overrate my
transcribing abilities, and here I have to give thanks to my good friend,
Zev Katz(a tremendous bassist and neighbor of mine), who helped
me out, via 'technology'("Science!"), with the aforementioned very pianistic passages during letter [A] at bars: 15-16 and 20. Without his assistance, this transcription
might not have been completed for quite some time. So, don't be so quick
to applaud me on this piece of work. What is, and was, important to
me was to share with you another facet of just what makes Clare Fischer
one of my favorite musicians of all time. His consistent creation of
harmonic beauty within the context of Latin music is an inspiration
to all of us who have, at one time or another, fallen in love with the
Recently I wrote a dear friend, who was endeavoring
to complete his own self-produced and self-financed recording, and l
was trying to lend my friendship as a source of support and, perhaps,
some business advice thrown in on the side. At the conclusion of the
e-mail, I wished him this:
"When the last mixes are done
and the recording is sequenced, and family, friends, and colleagues
are gathered together to listen to the entire piece of work(the CD)
as a whole.....LOUD!!! IF THEN, you can sit, with one
huge smile, proudly reflecting the knowledge of work well-done,
then, at the very least, you are, for now and always, a very rich
man!!!! And the words of any record executive, or music critic,
can never take this away from you. ¡Nunca! The reward is
truly never the money, nor the applause, nor the fame(relatively
speaking, of course), for it is knowing, deep within yourself
that, for that moment in time, THIS was the best work you were
capable of!!! It is my most sincere hope that, in the end, you will
be sitting there and feeling those feelings."
I have shared the above passage
with you because, in many ways, Clare Fischer, for lo these many years,
has toiled in a certain kind of select obscurity, that of the "musician's
musician." His singular talents, beloved and adored by many, and
yet totally missed by the great masses. In some ways, it's a shame,
but I would love to imagine that deep inside Clare is always smiling,
because he has to know that he has contributed works of tremendous and
lasting beauty. And those works exist for all to see and hear. Please
take the time to investigate the music of this wonderful man. It's
a brand new year and there is everything to hope for and dream of, don't
let the time slip away from you, use it well, and treasure it.