See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription
Herbie Hancock's Piano Solo on:
Like most fans of the great Miles Davis Quintet from the mid-'60s, one holds these recordings in such high esteem that, even years later, it is difficult to make complete and total sense out of some of the performances. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have worked with, in various settings, both Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock, but there has never been enough leisure time to sit and question them about my own curiosities regarding the great recordings, and the circumstances surrounding them. I have, at times, tried to read some of the historical and biographical accounts of those sessions but, I have never really uncovered the answers to my questions. I know that Ron has stated, and many times, that during his tenure with the band, they only rehearsed once or twice. Well, I am about to conjecture about something, and I would imagine that some of you might find it interesting, and others might dismiss it out of hand as lunacy.
When one studies the performances on Miles' recording from 1967, "NEFERTITI"(Columbia), one can't help but notice that there are some irregularities. The most obvious example would be the title track itself, Miles and Wayne Shorter simply state and re-state, and re-state again the melody as if they were familiarizing themselves with it. On each successive go-round, the rhythm section of Herbie, Ron, and Tony Williams becomes looser and looser, exploring all that is possible in the art of accompaniment. As mystical and spectacular as this version is, it seems possible that it was just a long 'run-through' that happened to be recorded. It was as if Miles was 'auditioning' tunes for future live work or recordings. But, under these circumstances, because Columbia is paying for the musicians, Miles doesn't have to pay for a rehearsal. And, he might get a recording out of it.
However, after briefly skimming through Wayne Shorter's biography while in Barnes & Noble recently, it seems that Miles actually had the brilliant and revolutionary idea to just play the melody, over and over again. And this is what we've been hearing all these years. Other possible examples of this are the performance of "Riot" which is strange at best, and has many errors. And then, we can point to Wayne Shorter's "Pinocchio" as another example of what sounds more like a practice performance, because the solos are so short, and it is almost as if Miles cues the melody as an 'interlude' based upon where he 'feels' it should go, rather than after a true completion of the 18-bar form. Perhaps the best example of this comes right at the end of Herbie Hancock's 2-chorus solo, because it appears that Herbie might be about to begin a 3rd chorus, and is, in fact, two bars into it, when Miles and Wayne return with the head. It is also interesting to note that, at that top of the tune, they play the head four times(4x) instead of the traditional two times. Why is that? Were they also just treating it as a run-through? Of course, I am only openly speculating here, but I do believe that it's interesting to think about, especially if you are a huge fan of the music as am I.
As much as any of Wayne Shorter's tunes from this period, "Pinocchio" has a most enigmatic set of changes. After spending a great deal of time listening to and studying how Herbie colors the melody, I have a pretty good sense of how he is relating to the changes. But, because of Ron Carter's walking bass lines, in certain bars, it remains difficult to determine just what was written as the 'real' chord change. I recall reading an interview with Herbie Hancock many years ago, where he said that Miles had told him a couple of things that he wanted. One of them was to lay out and to not 'comp' behind the horn solos. This is perhaps why there is such an atmospheric and free sense when Miles or Wayne are soloing, and, on a tune such as this, it is possible that only Ron Carter is truly following the changes. But, because of the complex harmony, and the nature of his walking bass style, it is not easy to pick them up, even if one knows the tune and its form a bit. Herbie also stated that, at times, Miles had also told him to just use his right-hand when soloing, and to not add in the harmony from his left-hand. As we will see here, Herbie's solo on "Pinocchio" is not an example of Herbie following that particular edict. It is for this reason that Herbie's solo, for the traditionalist, makes the most sense, relative to the composition and its changes.
After purchasing and really studying the fascinating 'alternate take' version of "Pinocchio" I finally feel as though I understand what the 'real' written chord changes must have been. Of course, I didn't even know that this performance existed, but it appears on the "NEFERTITI" re-issue CD, and also within the Box Set of all the recorded work of this historic quintet. If you are going to buy into my theories, this 'performance' which, to me, is more like a run-through that simply got recorded, you get to hear the group practicing the 'new' piece at a tempo well below what I would describe as a 'medium bounce.' As a matter of fact, Tony Williams even plays the first time through the head on brushes, with Ron Carter playing in 1/2-time. Given the slow tempo, there is simply more time to determine just where Ron Carter is placing the harmonic emphasis of each harmonic area. And, certain 'mystery' notes in the melody also become totally clear. A perfect example of this occurs in bar 5 where the melody, over Bm9(maj7), descends from an A# down to F# and to C# and not D-natural as it is often written. Another example of this is the melody in bar 10 where the melody now clearly seems to be A-C-E-G and not A-D-E-G as it has often been written.
When students have raised questions about this tune, there have been harmonic aspects which have really challenged my capacity to hear certain things. The best examples of this are what happens during bars 2-4 and bars 9-11. During the statement of the melody, the key voicing in bar 1 is, spelling up: Gb-Bb-C-F. This voicing could be a part of any number of chords, depending upon what note is placed in the bass. Again, after listening carefully to the 'alternate take' version, I am certain that, based upon what Ron Carter is playing that the chord is, in fact, an Ebm9(6), even though the melodic notes seem to outline F minor pentatonic(F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb). The pivotal note in the melody which dictates everything is the presence of that 'C'-natural. But, in bar 2, when the melody passes over a B-natural, as opposed to the Bb in bar 1, Herbie colors this one note with a voicing which is something like this, spelling up: (F)-A-E-G-B, what that could be depends upon the bass note. And, this where, on the 1st chorus of the 'alternate take' you clearly hear Ron play his open 'A'-string each time. In most of the lead sheets I've seen, this chord is labeled as G7(9/13), and though there would certainly be a 'B'-natural in that harmony, I now hear Herbie playing voicings which sound more like varying forms of Am7(9). Right after Herbie has played that voicing, he almost immediately goes to a voicing with Db/C# on top which is, spelling up: E-Bb-D#-G#-C#. But, after repeated listenings, I hear Ron playing C# or Db too many times on or near the downbeat of each bar 3 to make me believe that this could really be Emaj7(#4) as I had first suspected based upon what Herbie is playing. It is highly possible, even likely, that the actual chord is C#m6(9) or Dbm6(9)[Gb7(13)/Db]. Yet, when I listen to Herbie's piano solo, based upon what he is playing, I still wonder if the chord is not, in fact, Emaj7#4? Still, Ron Carter makes each 'E' seem more like a 'chord tone' rather than the root.
For me, it is a bit strange to begin the tune with lots of flats being played, and then, suddenly, there are sharps being played. But, such is the nature of Jazz and the ever-changing harmonies. In bar 4 of the head, when the melody briefly returns to notes in an F minor pentatonic area(F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb), Herbie leaves that 2nd beat open, no specific voicing is played. Because of the presence of that F-natural, that would make it extremely hard for that chord to be a Gb7(13)/Db or F#7(13)/C#! F-natural is obviously the major 7th! This space occurs just before passing to the Bm9(maj7) in bar 5. But again, in that space you hear Ron Carter using his open 'A'-string, which leads us to conjecture about the Am7(9) again!
In bar 9, I clearly hear Herbie playing a voicing which, spelling up is: Bb-D-E-A. It colors the melody, which has elements of A minor pentatonic in it(A, C, D, E, G), and most often, I have seen this chord labeled as Gm9(6). There are times when I think that Ron Carter is relating to this harmony with a C-natural in the bass. Again, after studying the 'alternate take' version, there is no question to me that the chord in bar 9 should be labeled as C7(9/13). During the melody statement in bar 10, I hear Herbie and Ron playing Ebmaj7#4 in the first 1/2 of the bar, and then Dmaj9#4 in the second 1/2 of the bar. The harmony seems relatively clear, even when I hear Ron playing a 'D' on or around beat 3, and then passing down to a 'B' with some emphasis as he moves to the Ebm6(9) chord in bar 11. As Shorter's ingenious melody does in bar 2, the melodic movement is the same in bar 10, just a whole-step above, as a Db/C# appears in the second 1/2 of the bar, while the melody chromatically passes down to C-natural. And, once again, now in bar 11, there is an Eb in the bass, which now makes the chord Ebm6(9) chord. On my transcription, I have reversed the 6 and 9 because so many people confuse my hand-written '6' with a flat(b)-sign. Sorry about that! It should be noted that Herbie Hancock does not allude to these two changes when soloing.
What always made it difficult for me to determine just what was the 'real' chord that Wayne Shorter had written is the fact that Ron Carter is walking through these bars, and he lands on different notes in different spots of significance. If one uses Wayne Shorter's "authorized" lead sheet, as it appears in Chuck Sher's "THE WORLD'S GREATEST FAKE BOOK" as the "bible" for the tune, the chord in bar 9 would be Gm9(6). I know that I am repeating myself, but after studying the 'alternate take', there is no question that the chord should have been labeled as C7(9/13). During Herbie's solo, if you look at his left-hand, in Chorus , in bar 9 he is still playing A-Bb-D, which could be a small Bill Evans-style cluster for Gm7(9). When C7 is the essence of the 'real' chord, many sophisticated players apply Gm7 sounds to it to give the sonority a much more rich feeling. And I am certain that this is exactly what Herbie is doing. In bar 10, the open voicing of Gb(F#)-C-F appears, and this is often considered to be the guts of an Ab7(13) or D7(#9). It is interesting to note in bar 10 that Herbie darts over this open voicing alluding to either of the aforementioned chords, but resolves it to a Gm(maj7) voicing. This also seems to be a most logical superimposition to me. Herbie continues with that Ab7(13) voicing in his left-hand under bars 11-12. Again, this is a great voicing to use when you want to capture the sound of having the 6th or 13th as part of a minor chord. And this is why the chord is now correctly labeled as Ebm6(9). In Chorus , in bar 9, he again uses the small Gm9 cluster(A-Bb-D), and, as the chord changes into bar 11, you hear a portion of what could part of an Ab9(13) voicing, spelling up in full, it would be: Gb-Bb-C-(F). Just remember, it is functioning as part of an Ebm6(9) sound.
As we just stated, Wayne Shorter's melody is beautifully constructed, and offers 1/2-step relationships during bars 1-4 and 9-12 of which an experienced and skilled soloist can take advantage. Obviously, Herbie Hancock is just such a player. And even in the context of a very short 2-chorus solo, he makes the most of this device and you see it employed during Chorus  in bars 2 and 4 when he juts away from the principal chord of Ebm6(9) by touching upon an Am7 area. Notice that the left-hand voicing has shifted to a small Am9 cluster(B-C-E) and the right-hand slip-slides up a 1/2-step with A and G-natural. In bar 4, the same left-hand voicing appears and right-hand alludes to four notes from the A minor pentatonic(A, C, D, E, G). As he did before, he leaves out the C-natural. Perhaps this is because the 'C' is contained in his left-hand voicing! As the melody is colored briefly with an Am7(9) sound, it is now not so difficult to justify what Herbie does relative to that sonority. After having referred to the 'alternate take' perhaps Herbie, upon hearing all of Ron's open 'A'-strings in that spot, he decided to color that bass note in this way? This makes far more sense to me now.
On a tune like "Pinocchio" the melodic minor scale becomes a most important linear device. The Bm9(maj7) in bars 5-6 would indicate that you should use: B melodic minor(B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A#). On the lead sheet, which appears in the aforementioned Chuck Sher book, the chord symbol for bars 5-6 is labeled as Ebm(maj7). However, based upon what I see, and what I hear, I must strenuously disagree with this. In Herbie's solo, there are too many Db's(C#)[the b7 of Ebm] to allow this chord symbol make sense. Also, in his left-hand, each time this chord appears, he plays a small 2-note cluster with C# and D-natural. This is a perfect little voicing to indicate Bm9(maj7). It also should be noted that the Gm9(maj7) in bars 7-8 wants to see you use: G melodic minor(G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F#). And now, the great 'mystery' bar, bar 9. In my opinion, the chord symbol should simply be C7(9/13). Spelling up, Herbie's voicing is still Bb-D-E-A, and with a C-natural in the bass, this chord symbol would make perfect sense.
When I spoke briefly with Chuck Sher about this specific lead sheet, he told me that he had never actually received an 'official lead sheet' from Wayne Shorter, and that the tune had been transcribed by his staff expert on these things. In a couple of bars, I don't know that I agree with their determinations based upon what I hear. I also know that, when a brilliant harmonic 'colorist' like Herbie Hancock is present he can do magical things, and make something better than what any lead sheet might indicate, even the lead sheet of the composer. So, keep that in mind. Also, any voicing, depending upon the bass note, could serve multiple functions, and I've tried to discuss some of those possibilities during my analysis here.
Herbie approaches each chord, each harmonic area of bars 13 through 18 on an individual basis. In bar 13, over the C#m7(9)/F# chord, you see him fundamentally relying on the C# minor pentatonic(C#, E, F#, G#, B). In bar 14, though the voicing of D/E goes best when coloring the melody, it is my sense that the actual chord is Em7(sus). D/E would tend to indicate to me that the proper mode to employ would be B Dorian(B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A). However, each time that bar appears, I see no G#'s in the right-hand lines. And, in Chorus , I do see a G-natural in the line. In contrast, Herbie does use a left-hand voicing which I would associate with B minor going into bar 14 of Chorus . Spelling up, you see the little Bill Evans-ish cluster: C#-D-F#. Of course, all those notes appear in E Dorian too! Over the F7(9b5), you see Herbie clearly employing notes from C melodic minor(C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B). In the following bar 16, which I have now chosen to label as F#7(13), the voicing offered[spelled: E-A#-D#-G#] is the guts of the F#7(13) chord.
From a linear perspective, I see Herbie relying on the D# minor pentatonic(D#, F#, G#, A#, C#) which gives the soloist all the color tones(9th, 6th, and #4) relative to Emaj7(#4). But, relative to F#7(13), you would still produce these colors: 13th(D#) and the 9th(G#). I think that it is also worth mentioning that during the 1st Chorus, in Herbie's left-hand, I only hear him playing a two-note voicing, A#-D#, which is a bit unusual. However, in the course of improvising over a new tune, perhaps he just didn't strike the 'E' below, which would have made it E-A#-D#. This type of voicing is more traditionally used as the 'guts' of an F#7(13). It is something to think about and consider. In the final two bars 17-18, over the F#m7(9)/B, you would expect to see that the F# Dorian mode(F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E) is used. And, without question, those are the notes you find. A small side-note about this last chord in bars 17-18, Herbie chose to play a very specific voicing to color the G# in the melody. He could have done this in any number of ways, but, spelling up, he chose: (C#)-A-B-E-G# and this could be played over either F# or B-natural in the bass. For my taste, the B-natural gives the sonority a much richer and majestic feeling.
Another simple, yet most effective device is his usage of simple major triads which often reveal the upper structures of the harmony. Examples of this can be found in Chorus : bar 10[D major over C7(9/13)]. In Chorus : bar 12[Db major and Eb minor over Ebm6(9)]; bar 13[B major over C#m7(9)]; and, bar 15[G major over F7(9b5)]. There are also simple and effective arpeggiated passages, note in Chorus : bar 6 and 15. In Chorus : bar 7 and 11.
It is of course most interesting to examine Herbie's left-hand style during this performance, and again, please keep in mind that I am suggesting that this performance was really a 'practice run-through' that just got recorded. In other words, Herbie was really just familiarizing himself with the tune, its changes, and its harmonic peculiarities and challenges. From a rhythmic perspective, most of Herbie's punctuations, while comping for himself, appear on 8th-note off-beats. Examples of this would be in Chorus : bars 4-5; 8-9; 11-12; 14; and 16. In Chorus : bars 1-4; 5-7; 9-10; 13-18. It is also worth noting just how many times, he places an emphasis on the and-of-4 going into the next bar. Examples of this can be found in Chorus : into bar 1 & 6 into 7. In Chorus : into bar 1; into bar 2; into bar 13; into bars 14; 15; 16; 17. And finally into, what would have been, the first bar of Chorus . Herbie also employs various left-hand voicing styles which include the usage of 2nds(both major and minor). Examples of this appear in Chorus : bars 5 and 14, and in Chorus : bars 5-6. You can also hear and see that Herbie uses the small 'closed voicing' style which some people might associate with the great Bill Evans. Examples of this appear in Chorus : bars 6-7 and 17. In Chorus 2: bar 2; 4; 7; 9-11; and 13-14. Finally, you also will see the 'open voicing' style which one would primarily associate with McCoy Tyner. Examples of this can be found in Chorus : bars 10-12. And, in Chorus : bars 12-13; and 15-18.
For me, it is really a great pleasure to present another Herbie Hancock solo here at Korner 1. I have tried to be as diligent and as accurate as I could be, especially where notating Herbie's left-hand work was concerned. But, for all you pianists out there, please forgive me if there are, in fact, some minor inaccuracies as my ears are by no means perfect where this great instrument is concerned. Once again, it is a pleasure to salute the brilliance of this great pianist.
[Photo of Ron Carter by: Jan Perrson
Photo of Herbie Hancock by Jack Robinson]