For this month's presentation, we are offering our first tune from the "PUBLIC ACCESS" recording which, in a sense, was the last of the Eyewitness recordings, and brought the group together with the very special drumming talents of Dave Weckl. He added a unique perspective to the new music because of his own style, and also because he had been a fan of all the prior recordings Anthony Jackson, Manolo Badrena and I had done with Steve Jordan. It was an absolute pleasure to have him with us for this adventure, and his performances speak volumes with memorable solos on both "Mama Chóla" and "Kamarica." So, let's get to the music at hand.
I guess one could say that "Blue Zone 41" really exists as a rather "oddball
blues," replete with an off-handed reference to John Coltrane's "One Down, One Up," which appears on the classic recording: "NEW THING AT NEWPORT" (Impulse). As in the Coltrane composition, "Blue Zone 41" was created around a very simple rhythmic idea, coupled with the usage of an augmented triad, which can be viewed in bars 1-4 of [I]. A secondary melodic piece first appears in bars 5-6, and this theme will reappear throughout the tune as well as serving as important thematic material to be explored during the improvisation.
This piece was written knowing that it would be performed by the brilliant Anthony Jackson and it allowed him to explore many of the possibilities of his 6-string contrabass guitar as we double some of the important lines in the tune. For example, the lines which appear at [I] and later during [A], at bar 17; and finally during the [Tag].
As we arrive at the melody section, [A], the piece takes an elongated path to work its way from an F7, the I7 in this piece, to its arrival at the IV7 chord, Bb7, at bar 15, instead of the more traditional bar 5. This main melodic section utilizes our primary theme in bars: 1-4; 9-10; 19-22; and 25-26. The secondary theme reappears in bars: 5-6 and 15-16. There's also quite an extended harmonic 'journey' to travel from the F7 to Bb7, which happens between bars 11-14 and actually passes over Bb twice! In bars 11-12, I offer my own little twist on "Giant Steps" changes. Perhaps more reminiscent for the running 8th notes in the melody and the half-notes in the bass than for the specific harmonic movement(the chord changes), which is not exactly the same as 'Trane's.
As we arrive at the IV7 chord, Bb7, the secondary theme reappears, and after a brief break, and unison line, we pass through a B°7 which often appears in bar 6 of a 'traditional' jazz-oriented blues structure. From this point forward, we continue to work our way around various dominant 7th areas which are all, in essence, part of the F whole-tone scale(F, G, A, B, Db, Eb). Finally, at bars 11-15 of [B], we land on Ab7(13) for the beginning of the improvised section. This small little 4-bar section is intended to serve as a 'rocket'(a harmonic send-off) into the solo.
The solo section, [C], and its format are worth exploring because it alternates between a section which is open-ended, with an Ab7 tonal center, and then, a 2nd section which takes us back to F7. My cues to transit these two areas were given to bits and pieces of imperfection, but Anthony and Dave Weckl were tremendously flexible in interpreting my wishes. As a cue out of the final F7 section, I simply begin to play [I] and then expect, or should I say hope that Anthony and Dave are going to hear that and 'catch-up' to me as soon as is possible. During the recorded solo, you hear a 'mini guitar orchestra' come in on occasion and these sounds were provided by my KORG DVP-1, which is essentially a harmonizer. The idea for this sound came from working with Joe Zawinul as part of Weather Update in '86. Joe used to do something very similar with his "Prophet 5" keyboard and he was kind enough to explain the 'unison lock' feature which seems to 'capture' a just-played voicing, and then, once it has been pressed in, everything you play is that voicing in parallel. To accomplish something similar, I set-up all my voicings in the DVP-1 so that the note I played on my guitar was always the top voice. For this tune, as it is supposed to have a 'bluesy' flavor to it, I chose to use all parallel dominant 7th chord voicings. I used this device while playing bits and pieces of thematic material from the tune, to answer phrases I was playing in single notes. It's as if a "big band" is responding to what I've played. One program I used had the 5th on top, and you could program this yourself by setting your harmonizer voices to: [-3] [-7] [-9] with those degrees referring to the half-steps down from the note I'm playing. The other voicing I like has the 3rd on top and is: [-4] [-6] [-9]. If you have a harmonizer in your rack, give these a try.
It would be hard to continue here without 'singing the praises' of the incredible musicianship of Dave Weckl. The "PUBLIC ACCESS" project was one of the very few, in my recording career, where we took the time to rehearse intensely for the recording. We rehearsed for five straight days with each day's rehearsal being 3+ hours in length. But we all really attacked the time, and used it well as there were nine new tunes to learn. Often times, when everyone is reading from the same mini-score, such as the one you are now viewing, the means of communicating specifically with the drummer is done by the accents and staccato markings. Dave is one of a handful of players who can be sightreading parts such as this and already interpreting the music in his own way as we go. This just means that, as a group, we are always closer to our goal. During bars 5-6 of [I] he places the accents on the second 8th-note with his bass drum, and this is really the part of the beat which should be accented. It's also easy to see how Dave fills the empty spaces with miraculous feats of drumming. One accent of which I made special note is the accent going into bar 5 of [B]. Here Dave catches the double-stop of the guitar on both his snare and a crash cymbal. For me, an occasional detail like this is very important and gives a loose piece of music like this a sense that it is arranged.
The "PUBLIC ACCESS " CD was really a blend of music we all enjoyed. Pieces like: "Blue Zone 41;" "Butane Elvin;" "Silent Screen;" and "Dedicated to You" occupied the jazz-oriented side of things. And, group compositions like: "Sisé;" "Kamarica;" "Botero People;" "Mama Chóla;" and my tune, "Mambosa" all bordered on something reminiscent of Latin jazz which was also an important part of what we did. Here at Jazzitalia, it is our hope that in the coming years, we'll be able to share some of those lead sheets as well. Now the question remains, could there be a "Blue Zone 55" in the works? For it has been just that!
Recently, during a May '03 European Tour with Terri Lyne Carrington, Greg Osby and Jimmy Haslip, "Blue Zone 41" was selected to be our opening tune. And so, after that experience, when I was playing in Venezuela with Roberto Koch (Ac. Bass) and Andrés Briceño (Drums), we also opened each performance with "Blue Zone 41."