Archive for the ‘ Transcriptions ’ Category

Bass & Drums: Muscle Shoals on The Staple Singers’ “Name The Missing Word”

David Hood and Roger Hawkins, bassist and drummer of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section lay down some of the tightest funk there is on the “more than 75 gold and platinum hits” recorded at their former studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I’ve been glued to their playing on several records, including Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude, Etta James’ Tell Mama and The Staple SingersBe Altitude: Respect Yourself.

Muscle Shoals Sound - "The Swampers"

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section: (from left) Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson

Here’s a nugget from the latter, the album cut “Name The Missing Word”. These guys give and take, pulsing and let the groove breath. Check out how in the verse, they link up on the kick pattern and on the “push” on beat 2+; but then Hood cuts off his sustained note right on beat 4+, leaving a gap for Hawkins’ tom fill.

They’re incredibly restrained and unshakingly consistent, even down to the drum fill that Hawkins plays at the end of each 4-bar phrase in the verses. His consistency allows Hood to double him leading up the V chord in mm.14.

David Hood & Roger Hawkins/Staple Singers - "Name The Missing Word"

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Some other goodies to look out for:

Check out the rhythm guitar in the right channel. Not even notes, just muted chunks in the verses, and a buried rhythmic counterpoint to the drums in the intro.

When Hawkins finally starts to open up on the drums in the outro at 3:32, he wastes no notes. He creatively begins to combine the verse groove of mm.6 with the [B] groove of mm.14 with the snare on all 4 beats, still catching the motif he previously established on the toms that has now been taken up by horn stabs.

Note: The download link to the left will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free.

Watch them at work in the studio in this great video:

And check them out in this interview talking about Duane Allman’s disdain for studio work.

You can hear Duane dish it right back in this video.

By request: Oud Transcription– Marko Melkon’s “The Little Refugee”

Thanks to Mark Marshall from Toronto, who wrote in asking for a transcription of this gem of an old rembetika recording: Markos Melkon‘s “Το Πρόσφυγακι” (To Prosfygáki, “The Little Refugee“).

The following bio is freely adapted from an excellent article in Greek by Constantine Kopanitsános and Giannis Zarías published this month.

Melkon was born Marko Alemsherian in 1895, an Armenian in Ottoman Smyrna (now Izmir, in Turkey). To avoid being drafted into the Ottoman army, he fled to Athens in 1912 before making his way to New York in 1921. His popularity as an oud player and singer, particularly among the Armenian-American community, grew in the 40’s and 50’s as he toured throughout Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and the Catskills, and through his entire life worked steadily in the “oriental” music scene centered on New York’s 8th Avenue, in clubs like Port Said, Britania, Egyptian Gardens and Grecian Palace Cafe, places that luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, Melvin Douglas, Ann Sheridan and Dave Brubeck would frequent.

Melkon was a crowd pleaser, remembering the names of all the regular audience members as well as their favorite songs, adapting his selections to his setting. In reference to Turkish oud virtuoso Udi Hrant from Istanbul, who played for Melkon in his home one time, Melkon commented, “I don’t play that kind of music. I make the people dance.”

Marko Melkon

Melkon spoke and sang in Greek, Armenian and Turkish, and appeared on recordings from numerous Mediterranean musical including Arabic and Sephardic music, and possibly Bulgarian and Albanian as well. He left 56 recordings as a singer and around 200 as an instrumentalist, including 10 solo taxims, all in different eastern modes. His 1937 interpretation of the well known Turkish song “Oğlan Oğlan” was a hit nationwide.

Here you can find an excellent discography in Greek, and some interesting covers of To Prosfygaki on YouTube including one by Soúla Vazoúra and this one by a large Ottoman-style ensemble.

Markos Melkon "To Prosfygaki" Sheet Music

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At one of his last recording sessions, he cut “Asia Minor“– a Latin-flavored track for oud with Roger K. Mozian’s orchestra, unreleased until the 1996 compilation Marko Melkon. Another compilation worth checking out is Armenians On 8th Avenue (both records from Traditional Crossroads, 1996) featuring 8 of Marko’s tracks alongside his contemporaries.

Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

More music transcriptions

Bass transcription from Meshell Ndegeocello’s new record, “Weather”

Meshell Ndegeocello has a new record coming tomorrow, and we get a tantalizing preview with a free track she’s leaked on her website, “Dirty World”. I couldn’t help but transcribe the hairy broken drum and bass groove played by her and Deantoni Parks. Check out the track and sheet music below, and for good measure, I cleaned up and threw in her excellent bass grooves from Comfort Woman and The World Has Made Me The Man of My Dreams that I posted here some time ago.

Note the broken drum feel, and which notes Meshell plays short versus which she slides into. The two make a monster rhythm section and give a simple two-bar loop an instantly recognizable flavor.

Bass transcription of Meshell Ndegeocello's "Dirty World"

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Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

We get a preview of the entire record on NPR’s review of Weather. You can grab the CD tomorrow, and she’s also soon to be on tour.

Arabic fusion: Shusmo’s “Pieces”

The only thing that rivals the feeling I get from the classics of Arabic or Balkan music– Umm Kulthum, Petro-Loukas Chalkias, Vassilis Tsitsanis– is to hear new, inventive works drawing on such rich traditions. Waterlily Acoustics has been a treasury of acoustic world fusion, with some standout titles such as Tabula Rasa with Indian slide guitarist V.M. Bhatt, Chinese er-hu (2 string fiddle) player Jie-Bing Chen and Bela Fleck on banjo, and the Grammy-winning A Meeting By The River with the aforementioned Bhatt and Ry Cooder.

Another record that struck me on its release a few years ago was One by New York-based group Shusmo (“شو إسمه”, Levantine Arabic for “What’s it called?”).  Led by Palestinian buzuq player Tareq Abboushi and featuring Peruvian, Greek and American musicians, the group has a strong melodic thread supported by an irresistible lattice of Latin and Arabic rhythms– congas and riqq cover a spectrum of both frequency and rhythmic space.

Below is a transcription of the lead-off track, “Pieces”. You can stream the tune here.

This Thursday June 23, Shusmo celebrates the release of their new record at Joe’s Pub in New York.

Banjo transcription: Béla Fleck’s “Half Moon Bay”

This year, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones are reuniting for a tour with harmonica and keyboard virtuoso Howard Levy, a former band member for their first several albums in the early 90’s.  In honor of the gathering of so much talent, I’ve dug out and updated a transcription I did years ago of a gem from the Flecktones first (self-titled) album: “Half Moon Bay“.

Back in the early 90’s, the group featuring more striking jazz edge, both in sound and composition– Béla had set out to prove that the banjo was a legitimate instrument to use in modern jazz. Years later, when he had undeniably achieved this, the group evolved to take on the sounds of numerous different musical cultures, but on their debut record, many of the tunes fit into standard 32 bar forms with melodies that could occasionally be called be-bop (“Hurricane Camille”).

“Half Moon Bay” is one of those– an AABA form with simple be-bop harmony that one might find in a Charlie Parker tune.  However, the composition makes brilliant use of the capabilities of the banjo, both of its open strings and of the 3-finger picking style native to bluegrass music.  Fleck weaves together counterpoint reminiscent of J.S. Bach’s unaccompanied violin and cello works (some of which he would later reinterpret for banjo on his 2001 record Perpetual Motion).

I’ve included 2 charts for this transcription: the banjo part, in both notation and tablature, and a lead sheet, with notation of both the banjo part and Howard Levy’s harmonica part.  Levy plays diatonic, not chromatic harp, and yet he has managed to develop a technique in which he bends the harmonica reeds in order to seamlessly reach chromatic notes.  This incredible feat is something like playing a piano with only white keys, but “bending” the piano strings to reach the “black” notes. Listening to him improvise fluidly on “Half Moon Bay” and the rest of the album is mind boggling.

So here’s to the reuniting original lineup of The Flecktones– and the strides that they’ve all continued to make in music in the twenty years since the release of that album.

You can stream Half Moon Bay here, and download transcriptions at the link above.

Note: The download link below will take you to a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

Bela Fleck Banjo Tab "Half Moon Bay"

Bela Fleck Banjo Sheet Music "Half Moon Bay"

Greek Blues: Rembetika

It’s long past time that I share some of the Greek music I’ve found so inspiring the last several years. “Rembetika” (ρεμπέτικα, also spelled “rembetika” or “rebetika“, pronounced as the latter is written), or “Greek blues”, developed among Greek Christian refugees that migrated from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Greece as a result of  the 1923 population exchange between Greece and nascent Turkey, relocating Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims to recently founded nation-states.  Greek refugees brought with them hundreds of years of Ottoman Turkish culture, a cosmopolitan tapestry of various eastern ethnicities, musics and traditions.  The music that resulted was music of a poor urban subculture, rich nonetheless in eastern timbres and scales as well as lyrically descriptive of the impoverished lifestyle, and ultimately became a critical seed in the development of Greek popular music throughout the 20th century, very similarly to the way in which the thread of blues runs through American and Western popular music.

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Vasillis Tsitsanis was an early and hugely successful composer of rembetika songs, both before an after World War II.  From a collection of his pre-war music comes the gem “Πικρός είναι ο πόνος μου” (“Pikrós eínai o pónos mou“, “Bitter Is My Pain“).  Like perhaps a plurality of rembetika songs, “Pikrós” is a zeïbékiko or zeybek (Turkish equivalent), a slow 9/4 dance.

The original recording from 1936 can be heard in the video below, as well as on this wonderful compilation from Rounder records. Follow along with the transcription and lyric below:

Rembetika Sheet Music - "Pikros einai o ponos mou" - Tsitsannis

The bouzouki, a long-necked plucked string instrument that Tsitsanis plays on the above recording was developed from the Turkish bağlama saz, influenced by Italian mandolin design and is today an indispensable element of Greek popular music.

In 2008, I was joined by Jordan Perlson and Brad Shepik to record an instrumental (and non-traditional) version of the tune for my Una Passeggiata (Live) record.

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Another gem of a tune from not quite 20 years later is Το Βουνό, (pronounced “To vounó“, “The Mountain“) by Loukas Daralas. Evangelos Prekas’ lyric is brilliant and succinct in reframing what is otherwise an archetypical expression of loneliness:

Θ’ ανέβω και θα τραγουδήσω       I will climb up and I will sing,
στο πιο ψηλότερο βουνό              on the most highest mountain,
ν’ ακούγεται στην ερηµιά               I will make my pain heard in the wilderness
ο πόνος µου µε την πενιά             with the beat of the music.

Με το βουνό θα γίνω φίλος          With the mountain I’ll become friend,
και µε τα πεύκα συντροφιά           and with the pines, companions
κι όταν θα κλαίω και πονώ           When I cry and suffer pain,
θ’ αναστενάζει το βουνό               it is the mountain that will sigh.

Απάνω στο βουνό θα µείνω          On top the mountain I will remain,
κι από τον κόσµο µακριά              and far away from the world.
θα κλαίω µόνος θα πονώ              Alone will I cry, will I suffer pain,
και θα µ’ ακούει το βουνό             and the mountain will listen to me.

Numerous recordings exist, but Kaiti Grey’s below is stirring, and the presence of the kanun, alternating with the bouzouki reveals both the Ottoman influence on the music and how much it had developed during several decades in the Greek mainland.

Rembetika Sheet Music - "To vouno"

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More on the history and music of rembetika can be seen in this excellent documentary, Music of The Outsiders

The music runs deep. If it catches your fancy, another website worth visiting is Ellinika.org, an entirely free course of Greek lessons developed by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation some 50 years ago.  One of the best, bar none, courses I’ve come across for any language, it has helped me to get inside rembetika and some incredible music of the last century. There is also a detailed survey of rembetika history, recordings and places to find it at Matt Barrett’s Travel Guides

Special thanks on this post to George Gouzounis, for helping translate from the Greek, and to www.Stixoi.info, an incredible repository of Greek lyrics.

More free sheet music and transcriptions available here!

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Bass Transcription: “Frutero Moderno” (Panagiotis Andreou/La Clave Secreta)

Panagiotis Andreou - "Frutero Moderno" (La Clave Secreta)

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After witnessing a stunning set by Cuban-American bassist Danny Rojo and his band Pornoson at SOB’s last Wednesday, and having the honor to join such burning musicians onstage, I decided to delve back into some of the Afro-Cuban music I’ve most enjoyed over the years.  Beyond some obvious classics (para un gringo como yo) such as Irakere, Gonzalo Grau & La Clave Secreta‘s record Frutero Moderno blows me away with its very progressive-yet-danceable sound.  Panagiotis Andreou weaves traditional tumbao with contrapuntal melodic bass lines in this, the title track:

Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

Arrangement: The Beatles’ “Because”

Thanks to Pierre from Canada, who requested my arrangement of The Beatles’ classic “Because” after seeing this video:

You can now view (and download) the arrangement here:

If you’d like to see more, subscribe here at Subdiversity.com! (Upper-right corner, near my pic.) I’ll be adding more and more sheet music in the coming days and months. Transcribing and arranging tunes has been an exercise that for years has helped me develop my ear and better comprehend the inner-workings of an ensemble. In the meantime, you can check out the transcriptions I already posted of Meshell Ndegeocello’s bass lines from songs off of Comfort Woman and The World Has Made Me The Man of My Dreams.