See Steve's Hand-Written Solo transcription
Chord Melody Statement of:
Wes Montgomery's beautiful solo and his chordal melody statement of "Midnight Mood" have both appeared in my "WES MONTGOMERY Guitar Folio" since its first publication in 1978. I would imagine that I did both transcriptions during 1966-67, needless to say, during the days of the LP. Since the initial publication of the book, there have now been 3 new additions with corrections made to each one, and finally some additional transcriptions as well. Between my own errors within my original and/or corrected manuscripts, there can always be errors on the printer side as well. One can never have enough proof-readers involved, and sadly, in my case, I have been left as the only one. So, in the end, the buck stops with me - I could have always read through the transcriptions at least one last extra time. But, after awhile, all of those printed notes become one huge blur - and saddest of all, errors will and do occur. This brings me to the point of sharing with you exactly why we are here now.
It was just at the end of March, 2020 when I received an e-mail from my friend and great guitarist Paul Meyers and, of all things, he was writing me about "Midnight Mood," because it had been in his thoughts. And so, as he had an earlier edition of my Wes Montgomery book to refer to, he investigated Wes' performance and found some errors in the transcription, in fact, quite a few of them. He sent me a nice pdf with all the errors notated because, fortunately, or not-so-fortunately for me, there were 2-staves and room to notate the corrections. And so, this caused me to investigate just what I could have written incorrectly. It was pretty horrifying and humbling to hear and see all of these errors. It was amazing to me that I had never really looked over this particular transcription since the beginning - and, at that point in time, over all of these years, no one had written me and pointed me in the direction of these errors as Paul did.
This was one of those early transcriptions of mine, where I was trying to encapsulate the rhythm arrangement into the transcription as if to say, "What if Wes had to play Ron Carter's part too?" In this just revised transcription, I now have the bass part, at least in the Intro, occupying its own staff. That alone serves to eliminate some of the confusion. On the other side of the process, I often assumed that Wes was going to use the most sophisticated possible guitar voicings, and as my errors began to appear over the years, I realized that there were aspects to his playing and approach, where chords were concerned, that were remarkably simple. So, in many cases, as you will see here, I just outsmarted myself by thinking that he played something more 'modern' than he had actually played. The other crucial element that confounded my efforts was my capacity to hear through the texture of the strings. I could have easily thought that I heard Wes playing a particular 'note' but in reality that note might have been contained within the string arrangement. Even using modern tools like Andy Robinson's brilliant program Transcribe! there are sonorities that can still confuse me as I sought to achieve ultimate clarification. The end result here is that I remain a bit uncertain about a couple of spots. But, I'm going to bravely go with my best guess.
If we just look at what I have now labeled as [I], the Intro, I realize what I was trying to do when I first did this part of the transcription. I was trying to make a composite of what Wes played in the actual Intro to the song, and combine that with the Intro that he plays while finding his way back from his fantastic solo into the out head, which is our Chordal Melody Statement. At the top of the tune, when he plays the melody, he performs it entirely in his signature octaves. However, when he comes out of his solo, as he takes a breath, he left the first two bars open, and they were then played by George Devens on vibes. Wes rejoins everyone at bar 3 of the Intro reprise. At the top of the tune, in the melodic top voice, it goes like this: F (Dbmaj7) to Eb (Cb/Db), and then F (Dbmaj7) to Gb (Gbm6/Db). He simply repeats that same melodic movement in the 2 bars that follow. In my original transcription, any way you look at it, I had that last bar incorrect! At least, it looks a little better now. If you look at the transcription as it currently appears in the book, you will see some 15 errors with red arrows pointing to each one - all spots that were pointed-out by Paul Meyers. Looking at the new transcription, I'm going to discuss all of the corrections system by system, as I believe that this will be the easiest way to point you in the direction of my numerous errors that, hopefully, have now been corrected.
But before I begin, I want to make one thing very, very clear, and that is this. Let it never be misunderstood that I feel that "Midnight Mood" will always stand for me as one of the most beautiful performances in Wes Montgomery's entire catalog. His love of music, of melody and harmony just shine through in every moment, not only from Wes, but from Ron Carter, Grady Tate, and Claus Ogerman's gorgeous strings. And, as I already noted, Montgomery's solo is a thing of beauty, a work of art. He had but one chorus, and without overdoing anything, he made the absolute melodic most of it.
Letter [A] is really the whole piece, it all makes perfect musical sense, and yet, it is an odd 22-bar form. My first transcribing error happened in System2/Bar 2 where originally I had labeled the chord as Ebø7, but when Paul Meyers pointed-out that he only heard the Gbm triad with a Db in the bass, and no Eb at all, I almost didn't believe it at first. But, when I began to double-check everything, he was 100% correct. Harmonically speaking, as it is the iv chord of Db major, even if it was Ebm7b5 or Gbm6, it would still be better to be thinking of it as a iv chord than making it look overly complex. In System 3/Bar 2, Wes plays the same voicing again. But, in the 4th bar of this same system, I really made an incredible error, because I had somehow heard the chord with Db on top as Db7b5. Yes, F-Cb-Db are still there, but the pivotal Bb is missing. That the true chord, G7(#9b5), is a b5 substitute for Db7, makes perfect harmonic sense as the chord pulls to resolution on Gbmaj7.
As we hit System 4/Bar 1, another one of my transcribing errors appears. One of the rules of basic harmony that I was taught when studying Classical music in college was that you should never double the 3rd in any chord. It is miraculous that, because of the way the guitar lays out across the fingerboard, this kind of harmonic crime happens more often than we realize. Normally, in traditional Jazz guitar playing, having the inner-voice movement from the maj7th down to the maj6th is wonderful, and we hear this motion all the time in string, wind and/or brass parts. On the guitar, in this particular register where your lowest note is going to be on the A-string, you would normally play Gbmaj7, spelling up: Gb-Db-F-Bb, and when going to Gbmaj6 you would play: Gb-Bb-Eb-Bb. Yes, right there we are already breaking the golden rule, but the ear hears the inner voice moving and not the doubled 3rd. However, for "Midnight Mood" Wes chose to play his Gbmaj7 as: Gb-Bb-F-Bb. So, the 3rd was doubled in both chords. Does it sound good? Yes! Perhaps it's just the overtone series of our instrument, the guitar? In bar 2, I realized that I had made a grave error in chord labeling, as I had always referred to this chord as G°7, but just now, after listening carefully to what bassist Ron Carter was playing, he was clearly playing C-naturals and G-naturals! But, it is the presence of the 'C' that changes everything and really makes this chord, C7b9 which obviously becomes a V7(alt.) chord heading to Fm7. I can't believe that I made this kind of error as well. In bar 3 of this same system, Paul pointed-out another error. This one, in a sense, I spoke about earlier when I described that Wes often played a lot of very basic chord forms, and because I loved him so much, loved his playing so much, I was often looking to find the more sophisticated option, when something more simple was being used. Years ago, I thought that the Fm7(sus) voicing somehow had both the m3rd and 4th in it. I was wrong. Though it sounds very minor, the voicing Wes used contains no m3rd at all, and spelling up we have: F-C-Eb-Bb. In bar 4, my original transcribing errors just kept coming! What I had heard as Wes' very traditional 4-note m7th chord guitar voicing with the m3rd on top was again not the case at all. Wes actually played a big block barre chord for Bbm7, spelling up: Bb-F-Ab-Db-F-Db. Look at that one! The m3rd is doubled as is the 5th!!! Ouch!!! But, it sounds great.
At System 5/Bar 1, I made the same error for the Ebm7(sus) chord as I did for the Fm7(sus) chord. Wes used the same simple chord form, spelling up: Eb-Bb-Db-Ab - no m3rd in the chord at all. When we arrive at Bar 3 of this system, for me this is really a most confounding and difficult moment in Zawinul's tune, at least as interpreted here by Wes Montgomery and Claus Ogerman. In the Wes Folio version, I mistakenly labeled this chordal sonority as Eb°7, originally spelled: Eb-A(Bbb)-C-Gb. But when Paul Myers pointed out this spot, this became a reason for some serious listening, study, and thought. I wanted to hear and know what Joe Zawinul wrote for this particular bar in his own Jazz waltz arrangement. That specific bar occurs @ 34-seconds, and in that bar, bassist Sam Jones clearly plays a Db and an Ab. The melody notes of Gb to F are harmonized by the 3 horns in close-voiced clusters, spelling up you have: Db-Eb-Gb to C-Db-F. The 2nd clustered voicing you can clearly view as Dbmaj7, very Bill Evans-ish. The 1st voicing could be seen as Db9sus or perhaps Cb9/Db? So this is what was played on the composer's version of "Midnight Mood." But here, in this bar, Ron Carter also plays a Db and an Ab, but what Paul and I seem to clearly hear is that, at the very least, Wes is playing 3 notes: A(Bbb)-C-Gb. I don't hear Wes playing a Db below those 3 notes. The presence of that C-natural really makes it difficult for me to assign a chord symbol with any confidence to that bar as a whole. Yes, it still could be Eb°7 without the Eb, but as it is coming from Amaj7, perhaps it's best to label the chord as A°7? Wes did not play a chord under the F-natural, but because of Ron's bass notes, it is surely going to sound like Db major. If you see and hear the resolution of the 6ths: Bbb-Gb down to Ab-F - that certainly sounds like Gb minor to Db major - a iv to I if ever I heard one. But, that still wouldn't explain the clear presence of that C-natural. For the moment, this is just going to have remain as a fascinating point-of-interest. I have now come to believe that what is really going on here is that the chord symbol for that bar should be Dbmaj7 even though Wes chose not to harmonize the pivotal F-natural. What he played was perfectly musical and beautiful by coloring the note(Gb) that resolves itself to that same F.
In System 6/Bar 1 I have to again acknowledge my same chord labeling error which occurred in System 4, and I have corrected it here to read as C7(b9). As the chordal melody statement continues, and much to my embarrassment retraces errors that I have already pointed out, and now corrected. In the last 2 bars of the 5th System, there were a couple of chords that I missed on the version that appears in the book. In bar 4, the first chord, I had the right idea about the inner voice movement, clearly hearing the maj7th(D-Natural) moving down to the b7(Db) of Ebm7, but, I had missed a note, and I spelled the chord incorrectly. I had it as: Eb-Bb-D-F. It should have been Gb-Bb-Db-F, clearly making it Ebm9(maj7). It is highly likely that at my young age back then, I just didn't know that particular voicing, and when transcribing the piece, I just couldn't hear it. In the last bar, Paul Myers and I had quite a series of e-mail exchanges about that last chord. Originally, all I heard was Wes playing a very simple 3-note Ab7 chord with C on top, because it was going to melodically resolve to Db. But after Paul pointed out that he felt certain that he heard an A-natural(Bbb)(b9) in there, I still couldn't be certain that that note wasn't coming from Claus Ogerman's strings, and perhaps that was masking what Wes had played? Now, after listening so many times to that sonority, over and over, and over again, I decided to write it out as Ab7(b9) with that same C-natural on top, but spelled up: Ab-Gb-A(Bbb)-C. Thank goodness we have arrived at the conclusion of dissecting all of my errors in transcribing Wes' beautiful chordal melody statement.
Rewriting my transcription involved my desire to notate and share the 4-bar [Tag] that takes us to the ending. This also required a 2nd page. The main reason for doing this is the very last chord, this time Wes brings the piece to an end by playing what I believe is a full B7(9) chord down at the 2nd fret. It was a great choice of sonorities to bring Zawinul's now stately ballad to its conclusion. Sometimes, I still wonder if the low B is in there, because Ron Carter's bass strikes his B-natural at that moment as well. Wes could have played, up at the 5th fret, just 4 notes: D-Ab-C-F.
In the end, no matter at what end of the age spectrum we might find ourselves, we are all perpetual, eternal students, and in every sense of that word. The process of learning never ends, the process of discovering how little we really know is right there slapping us in the face each and every day! When one is younger, and perhaps more deeply involved with transcribing the work of their heroes, I have always maintained that it can speed up the process of internalizing what you seek to learn from a masterful player by learning to sing the solo, or in this case, the melody, before you actually begin to attempt to write it out and play it. Wes Montgomery's statement of "Midnight Mood" is perfect for this, because you have to hear the top voice of each chord as melodic, as a part of a greater melody. When you do that, it is going to give any chord voicing you choose to play, within the context of your own music, more weight, or depth. Wes' chords always had a melodic sense to me, and the solos were easy to sing. I don't have a great voice at all, but one can't allow that deficiency to prevent them from doing this as an exercise. The truth is that you will probably sing better than you think. And, no one else has to hear it! So, please give this a try while you listen to this solo.
When one listens to the playing of Wes Montgomery, I believe that you are always struck by how very relaxed he sounds. Some of that is just the fact that he was such a musical person, he just heard things. But some of it is the fact that he had played all of these things a million times before, and they were now just coming in newer variations. His style of chordal soloing is really not as difficult, nor mysterious as it might sound upon first listening. Because my goal here is try my best to encourage everyone, and to demystify what he did, I decided that I would also post a page of the Chord Grids for this melody. You can also access this page directly from the transcription page. Perhaps the most sensible idea would be to have two(2) windows opened so that you can view the transcription and the grids at the same time? Just a thought. You might find yourself saying that, "Geez, I know all these chords!" And, the truth is that you probably do!
Between 1965-69, when I was a student at U.C.L.A. and had started playing the guitar seriously at age 19, during my sophomore year, I began the long process of trying to transcribe everything that I found attractive in Jazz: the tunes and the solos. Of course, inspired so deeply by Wes Montgomery, I was transcribing everything that I could figure out then - especially because I was ruining my LPs by going over certain passages again, and again, and again. After I had arrived in New York in January of 1970, over the course of time, and gradually developing a student population, I realized that so many of them were fascinated by my Wes transcriptions. My father, Sammy Cahn, knew that I had done them and happened to tell a music publisher, more in the music book business, Bernie Fischer of Plymouth Music about my transcriptions, and a meeting with Bernie was arranged. I presented Bernie with everything that I had and he was very impressed, and best of all, he wanted to do the book. From there, there was only more hard work ahead for me, because, as presented at that time, the "book" had no text at all. And so, I had to get busy with that, and concentrate on the overall presentation of the materials. During the pre-production stages, I learned so much about book publishing, and a most important detail that I had never even considered, and that was about the page count! Everything, at least with music books is done in increments of 8 pages. So, the materials have to conform to that. There's no such thing as an author wanting an extra page and getting it. You are either going to have 8 more pages, or something has to be sacrificed somewhere. The 1st Edition of "The WES MONTGOMERY Guitar Folio" was published in 1978. I know just refer to that edition as 'the one with the black/orange cover.' But, my learning from this experience was only just beginning. I should also make note of the fact that, during this long process, I was introduced to the great Laurie Goldstein, who had been Wes' publisher, as well as countless other great Jazz artists, and she protected and fought for their rights like no one you could imagine. Laurie and I have remained friends and colleagues right to the present.
When I got that first real book in my hands, of course I was filled with a sense of great pride and satisfaction after all of the years of hard work. Then I plopped the book down on the music stand and just opened it to some random page, and where should my eyes, but right to seeing an error!!! Oh no!!! HOW could that have happened? HOW could I have missed THAT? After all of the proof-reading of my originals, and of the copies of the plates, I still missed things. Were these errors on my originals, or were they just a printing error? Well, there were some of both. Of course, I wanted to fix them all the next day, but that is not possible - things just aren't done that way. You have to wait until the printed books nearly sell through and then, when there is going to be a 2nd Edition, you can fix the errors that you are aware of. That 2nd Edition did not happen until 1995, some 17 years later. We changed the cover slightly so that fans of the book would realize that there was a new edition. This one I would call the black on white edition. Once again, I got that new book home, and the same thing happened. I opened it up to a random page and BOOM!!! There was another error!!! It just gets so disappointing!!! Then, in 2000, we went after fixing those errors while prepared the 3rd Edition. Once again, we slightly altered the cover, and now, it had teal colored type, but still on a black on white drawing. Believe it or not, I got home with that edition, and the same thing happened again. HOW is that possible?!?! How many times can one go through this after thinking that they had poured over every detail and still, something was missed.
In 2009, with a 4th Edition on the horizon, Laurie Goldstein had to make a big decision as to where the book would now be housed, as dear Bernie Fischer had long since passed away. And so, this new 4th Edition of my "WES MONTGOMERY GUITAR FOLIO" would be published by Jamey Aebersold's fantastic Jazz Education services. Additional transcriptions were added to the book, and I was able to get us a real 1st-class cover, this time designed by my favorite graphic designer, Janet Perr, and we were trying to create an approximation of Gibson-like sunburst finish for the cover with Erika Price's wonderful pen & ink drawing of Wes' hands remaining, I have come to refer to this cover as the red sunburst cover. When I finally had a book in hand, the same old thing happened. I saw an error or two. In order to make those corrections, I had to wait until 2019 and a new printing, and we fixed them, though we don't refer to this reprint as the 5th Edition - nothing so official, but we continue to make improvements. As always, I have been most heartened by all the wonderful e-mails that I have received regarding the book, and if it has aided anyone in their quest to better understand the magic of Wes Montgomery's playing, then I am really happy about that!!!
One final note, PLEASE don't take this piece as a license to send me e-mails or messages that you have found an error in the 4th Edition of the "WES MONTGOMERY Guitar Folio." The reason should be obvious by now, you will have opened a Pandora's Box of problems that might never be able to get resolved, or at best, they would take years to actually get resolved and go to print. Fixing even the smallest error, a missing accidental, or an accidental that should be removed, becomes a difficult process. So, for the time being, just make a note of it and keep it to yourself. To everyone who somehow reads these pages, know that I am hoping that you can STAY SAFE & HEALTHY during the coming weeks and months.
[Photos: Wes Montgomery and his Gibson L-5
Photos by: Chuck Stewart]