Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Transcription - Kenny Washington, "Where or When"

I love playing in 3.  But lately I've found myself struggling for vocabulary, falling into that rut that we’ve all experienced of feeling as though you’re playing the same ideas over and over and over.  So I thought it high time for me to transcribe something in 3.

This recording of the Rodgers and Hart number Where or When comes from an album that re-piqued my interest in straight ahead jazz, Bill Charlap’s Written in the Stars.  At a time when I was digging hard on players like Jeff Ballard, and Horacio Hernandez, and also listening to a lot of ECM music I came across this album - given to me by a great friend and piano player in Malaysia, Tay Cher Siang - and instantaneously fell back in love with the classic piano trio sound.

The album features bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington who is easily one of the finest straight ahead jazz drummer alive today.  Conjuring up audible images of players like Philly Joe Jones and Billy Higgins, Washington could have stepped out of a time machine from 1958.  But in no way do I mean to say that he sounds dated; simply that he clearly has a vast knowledge of the history of jazz drumming which informs his playing, all the while creating a sound that is distinctly his own.

Bill Charlap is another modern gem of straight ahead jazz.  Charlap is a living and breathing encyclopedia of the Great American Songbook with an affinity for unearthing great standards that many of us may have forgotten.  Admittedly, Where or When is not exactly an obscure standard.  A quick jump to Wikipedia shows us just how many times and by how many great artists this tune has been recorded, but still Charlap breathes new life into it without sounding the least bit trite.  As a strong advocate for learning lyrics even when playing instrumentally, his classy and sophisticated arrangements stay true to the meaning and heart of each song while still creating something unique and exciting without a hint of pretension.

On this recording Kenny could’ve played a stock 3/4 pattern, or very easily picked up the brushes, but instead he brings us a great 3/4 variation on the “Strollin’” groove.

This is the groove in it's simplest form.  Notes in parenthesis are played in some bars and not in others.

And below is a full transcription of the opening head.  Here notes in parenthesis are ghosted.

If you would like a PDF of this, or any transcription, please send me an e-mail.

As a side note, be sure to check out Peggy Lee singing Where or When with the Benny Goodman Orchestra.  Quite possibly my favorite arrangement of the tune.

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