BRANFORD AND WYNTON MARSALIS- “CAIN & ABLE” SOLO TRANSCRIPTION

 

Doing transcriptions for PRACTICE PORTAL has been a blast. when i was younger, i used to transcribe a lot; for ear training, to cop ideas, to gather material for creating exercises, etc. as i matured and started working more, i left transcribing behind for several years. my rationalization was that i needed to spend more time finding my own voice. i continued listening but i didn’t bother to take down solos. although it is good to try to soak things in by osmosis, i am again realizing how useful it is to have transcribed solos on hand, whether it’s for use as practice fodder or as a reference to compare and contrast different styles, players, compositions, etc. though i still feel strongly that musicians- any musician, but especially improvising musicians- are better served by learning music aurally, through memorization and repetition, having written material still is of great use. setting two or more solos side by side for analysis is much easier when done aurally and visually… i’ve been kicking around the idea of doing more posts that compare soloists as they improvise over the same song. my recent post of “Grand Central” featuring Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane is a good example of what i mean. i’d like to take that concept and apply it to soloists on different recordings and perhaps even from different stylistic eras. as soon as i find some good material, i’ll get to work… which brings me to…

“Cain & Able” is a song from Branford Marsalis’ record, THE BEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN. a great album featuring Marsalis in a trio setting with Robert Hurst, Jeff Watts and the occassional guest artist. the tunes are generally mid to uptempo in the post bop vein with some hard swinging workouts and a couple of ballads by Marsalis and cohorts. many of the melodies are just brief sketches. Wynton Marsalis shares the front line with Branford for “Cain & Able”. although the title suggests fraternal intrigue, backstabbing and betrayal of biblical proportions, i’m guessing that it’s just a tongue in cheek response to the hype that surrounded the two brothers after Branford parted company and set off on a different path than Wynton. funny, for all the divergences, they both landed on their feet at the top of the jazz world…

Branford and Wynton harmonize with each other during the melody, which starts out as a conventional blues progression before moving through a couple of deceptive time changes and an unusual turnaround. the first section, which is twelve measures, is then repeated but there is another time change at the eleventh measure that abruptly introduces a twelve measure coda. the last section has a different energy and stylistic feel. there’re lots of really nice, super close voicings between the horns, and rhythmic bobbing and weaving throughout the song. after the melody, the band settles into a nice blues and the brothers Marsalis play with, against, over, under, off and around each other in a bit of improvisational telepathy that is a pleasure to listen to. the most difficult part of transcribing this music was that the horn lines sometimes work so closely together that they sound like a single polyphonic instrument. at times the timbre of the two horns match each other perfectly. i had to listen to certain sections of the recording repeatedly to figure out which horn was playing what notes. they are both masters of their respective instruments but what is more fascinating to me is the obvious empathy and respect they have for each other. whenever i hear Wynton and Branford, i can’t help but to imagine the course that contemporary acoustic jazz would have taken had Wynton’s very influential band (circa “Black Codes From The Underground”) remained together and continued to develop. .. i haven’t featured many players who came to prominence in the 80′s and 90′s. perhaps it’s just a bias of mine (why mess with the branches when you can dig up the roots?) with that attitude there’s a danger of ending up like an ostrich with my head in the dirt… i’m coming around. anyway, i want to try and feature more younger performers, guys who are currently active and evolving.

I took down the melody “Cain & Able” along with eleven choruses of blowing. check it out…

“CAIN & ABLE”

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I was on the Youtube today and came across a live version of “Cain And Abel” featuring Wynton and Branford. very swinging… this version is better in terms of pacing. there were moments on the CD where i thought the intensity took a dip but here, perhaps because of being in a live situation, the focus and energy never lets up. there are a couple times when they hit on some really beautiful counterpoint… you can’t front…

26. December 2009 by james
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