Photo by Dave Hodgkinson

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Life of Brian: Song Study - Brian Blade

Artist: Joshua Redman
Track: Jazz Crimes
Album: Elastic

Below is my transcription of the much celebrated 'Jazz Crimes' solo by Brian Blade. Listen to the track here.

The aim here is to get to know the material inside-out so I'll normally transcribe first, learn and memorise the part, then finally film a performance of the solo without the sheet music. It seemed to me there was also a great untapped well of inspiration earlier in the song while Brian was playing the head and backing the solos. Transcribing 'accompaniment' playing is an excellent and much overlooked method for extending your vocabulary. Here are the first 3:38 mins of the song: 

Blade's playing here is a masterclass in intricate, fluent execution. His interactions with Hammond player Sam Yahel and Redman on Tenor prove his credentials as one of the great musical communicators. 

  • Blade is basing his groove around the syncopated keyboard pattern. (Notice the increased density of ghost notes and embellishments as the song progresses)
  • His judicious use of the snare early in the song punctuates the arrival of new sections
  • When working through this material be aware of the fluctuating dynamics (try and keep the volume ceiling below mezzo forte and drop to mezzo piano at the 'mid section' - bar 49)
  • The sound and tuning of the drums should also be a consideration when performing this piece. The kit is tuned very high with an open kick sound. The high tuning will enable you to get a good response from the drums at a very soft volume