Real Book Rant: Transcribe some changes from a classic recording!

Usually when one thinks about transcribing, you mostly think about transcribing an improvised solo. Solos are important to transcribe for all the obvious reasons. However, it is also a good idea to get into transcribing other aspects of playing such as: melody, harmony, rhythm, voicings, intros, endings, etc. When learning new tunes I encourage students to find a good lead sheet to have as a reference to start with in learning the melody and the changes to a tune but to also take the extra effort to research several recordings to determine if the melody and changes on the sheet are good or not. I recently started learning the tune “Poor Butterfly” after listening to one of my all time favorite recordings “Glad to Be Unhappy” by Paul Desmond featuring Jim Hall.


So I got out my Real Book out and found a chart on the tune to see if the melody was close to what Paul Desmond was playing. Indeed, it was very close and seemed accurate. The tune is usually considered a ballad but on this recording they play it as a medium swing. Right away the recording was offering some insight into the tune that the lead sheet could never be able to offer me. The melody, as written on the chart is good but the changes seemed a little “suspect” and I felt like the way they played it on the record was so much hipper so I thought I’d better dig in a little deeper.

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Disclaimer #1  These may be the real original changes above and although mostly good, I wanted to learn what Paul and Jim were playing! The next step would be to check out some other classic versions of this tune and do a compare and contrast.

So……….. here is what I heard on the Paul Desmond recording:

Poor Butterfly

As you can see, there are some similarities between the two versions, but there are also some subtle things happening that really make a difference in my mind… i.e. Bars #3-4 (I – IV – iii – VI), Bars #5-6 (half step ii V > VI7) Bars #9-12 (II7 – ii – V – I w a quick V to vi) Bars #13-16 (ii – V/V –  ii –  V). The second half of the tune is mostly the same with the exception of Bars #25-28 (ii – BD ii V – I – IV – iii – VI).

Disclaimer #2  I don’t want to seem like a tune snob from this post or that I am offering up any new “news” that many teachers haven’t said a million times before me. I know a lot of folks who know way more tunes, hip changes and re-harms than I…. but……. I am seeing too many folks reaching for their iPhones at Jam Sessions and it just seems a little weird. “Yeah… I can play that tune….let me grab my phone real quick….”  I am not against reading tunes out of Real Books when needed in playing situations…..but……My main goal for this post is to encourage students to take the next steps and research other options and dig into the repertoire a little deeper.

This track is a masterpiece in every way! and don’t sleep on Gene Cherico on bass… Holy moly that’s a feel.

In doing some research for this post I also happened upon the great Steve Khan’s transcription and analysis of Jim Hall’s magical solo. Check it out! Steve’s site has a treasure trove of amazing transcriptions. His playing is super great as well.


Matt Ulery – Bassist and Composer

Chicago bassist and composer Matt Ulery has been putting out a lot of great music and I wanted to feature his work on the blog so that more people can discover it!



“Expanding upon the artistic and critical success of his 2012 double album By a Little Light, Chicago bassist-composer Matt Ulery returns with In the Ivory on Dave Douglas’ acclaimed independent label Greenleaf Music – eighty minutes of resplendent, lyrical, transportive, and impeccably performed chamber-jazz music. Inspired and motivated by the musical and personal relationships developed while recording and performing By a Little Light–Ulery’s most ambitious project to date–In the Ivory explores the idea of consciousness through patient, lyrical composition.

At a time when classical musicians perform in clubs almost as frequently as jazz musicians appear in concert halls, Ulery has forged a unique signature sound that combines a jazz core with luminous ensemble writing and song craft. Built around a band of select, unique voices, In the Ivory draws upon Ulery’s positive experience performing Light with this particular thirteen-piece aggregation.

Ulery’s sixth album as a leader blends jazz, American minimalism, Eastern European folk music (as a longtime writing member of Chicago band Eastern Blok), and romanticism into a constantly evolving emotional kaleidoscope.”

The third track on Matt’s new record is entitled “Mary Shelley” and is a great example of using a simple thematic idea to set up an entire piece. The piece makes use of simple melodic ideas juxtaposed on top of interesting harmony and mixed meters. The orchestration is rich and offers such a breath of fresh air to the standard group sound. The piano solos after the melody statement which breaks up the orchestrated texture and lets the rhythm section open things up. The strings offer up sparse backgrounds as the solo develops. After the piano solo there is a return to the B section which serves as a transition to the closing section. You can download a Lead Sheet for Mary Shelley – Lead (by- Matt Ulery). The lead sheet here is slightly reduced so that any group can perform it using any instrumentation.

Listen to “Mary Shelley” here.

To purchase “In the Ivory” click here.

Please visit Matt Ulery’s site to learn more about all of his work.

Visit Greenleaf Music 


Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #13: Stan Getz on “Tour’s End”


Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #13: Stan Getz on “Tour’s End”

This was the first Stan Getz solo I did of the series. My friend Caroline Davis had done one, and we were shedding it at an informal practice session. I was blown away by the album “Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio.” The whole album is clearly thrown together, but the level of playing is really high. Notably, the volume of this album is low. This has nothing to do with the musical intensity…

“Tour’s End” is a jam based on “Sweet Georgia Brown,” but there’s not really a melody. Despite no formal melody, Stan Getz’s improvising is incredibly melodic. It’s also very smooth. There are a few homages to Lester Young, other than that, this is mainstream bebop central.

The very first phrase is a simple pentatonic. The next phrase goes into some bebop clichés, such as the C7 arpeggio with the #9 grace note leading to 3. There is also enclosure. Measures 13-14 have a recurring melodic phrase; mixing the Bb blues scale with Bb major sounds. 29-33 is a phrase that is mimicked in the same spot here: 61-64,161-164,192-194. You’ll also notice several stop-time sections, where the rhythm section plays something other than jazzy time.

Stan Getz Tour’s End, Bb

Stan Getz Tour’s End, C

on stan getz


Transcriptions #13-20: Some of my favorite Stan Getz solos…

I know much has been written on Stan Getz, so my transcriptions might not even be the highest quality out there. Nor have I read any of the books. Whatever.

Also, in the series that I’m publishing, you’ll notice that I’m jumping around styles quite a bit. This is on purpose. Instead of going chronologically, I just decided to mush everything together. I’ve gone from a few cutting edge living performers (Wendel and Smith) to some of the most revered classics (Coltrane, Getz, blue note icon Clifford Jordan). There’s much, much more to come.

Stan Getz was a giant of the saxophone. He is best known for his very smooth “California Cool” tone. I am most drawn to his early period. By the 60’s, the tone quality becomes unpleasant and the technique sloppy. But in the 50’s, the tone was crisp and the bebop playing top-notch.

When I listen to myself, I’m envious of Getz’s precision and clarity. He is able to control his volume to avoid distortion. The rhythmic feel is smooth and impeccable. My critique of my own improvising includes harsh tone and poor rhythm. Yes, I am my own worst critic. Additionally, Getz has a ton of useful material to learn in all 12 keys.

The list of Getz solos I’ve done includes:
• I Only Have Eyes for You
• Woody N’ You
• Gone with the Wind
• Indian Summer
• Move
• On the Alamo
• Hershey Bar
• Tour’s End

Doug Rosenberg’s Transcriptions #12: Walter Smith III solo on “Himorme”


This solo represents a low point in my transcribing project [haha, but musically, it is one of my favorite saxophone solos]. Walter sent me the changes and I can’t even figure out where they go. You can see my best efforts on the first page, up to measure 40. There are also sections of fast notes that would take an extra 100 hours to write down, a project which I decline. Despite my shortcomings, this is still an incredible solo. It is different from some of the others because the style is more “free-bop” than bebop. What does that mean? Even the changes suggest that this song form aims to maximize chromaticism. What does music sound like when it changes keys every four beats? This song! Another speculative opinion: this solo is reminiscent of the style of saxophone great Branford Marsalis. He has many recordings in this medium-uptempo rhythmic displaced solo. Smith’s tone is also subtly similar to Branford as well. …And now actual musical analysis. The solo begins with a series of fourths and fifths, giving early notice that the harmony will be unusual. The two previous solos were very original and did not follow bebop conventions at all. Logan Richardson’s solo is very mysterious, and unwilling to bow to “burnout jazz” stylings. Jason Moran’s solo is also stridently modern. Make sure to listen to the piano accompaniment during this solo, it’s really interesting. There’s also a ton of chromatic “sidestepping,” and you’ll notice the amount of accidentals is staggering. Bars 8-9 are the same phrase up a half step. A reoccurring melodic phrase is an ascending “scalish” phrase using chromatic neighbors. You may find this in measures: 14,15,21,22,49-53(in reverse),100-102, in addition to many smaller examples. Check out the extreme rhythmic displacement from measures 98-112.

Downlaod: Walter Smith solo on Himorme from III, Bb

Download: Walter Smith solo on Himorme from III, C