Like so many of my tunes, "What I'm Said" was composed solely around a 'groove,' an 'attitude,' and that attitude comes from Dennis Chambers' interpretation of the famous "Purdie Shuffle." This drum groove was, of course, made famous by drummer, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, and I was lucky enough to have played with him when he played that particular groove on Steely Dan's famous "Babylon Sisters" which appeared on their "GAUCHO" recording. However, as my recording "CROSSINGS"(Verve) was going to have a decidedly Latin flavor to it, I knew that we would to have to blend that drum beat with a percussive invention from Manolo Badrena. As the shuffle groove is rooted in triplets, this can lead to playing some kind of a Latin 6/8 feel against it and this is exactly what Manolo supplied with his brilliant chekeré part, and it added the exact flavor that I was hoping for.
The Intro, the [I] section, is obviously meant to set the 'mood' and to reveal part of the harmonic intent of the tune. I employed two lush guitar voicings and the simple use of lots of space. The movement of the harmony is simply up a m3rd from Fm7(9)/Bb for 4 bars to Abm7(9)/Bb for 4 bars, with single-note lines from Anthony Jackson's contrabass guitar in the open spaces. From a harmonic perspective, the usage of the low, open E-string at the end of bars 4, 8, and 12 is especially effective in blurring the sense of harmony.
It was my original intention that "What I'm Said" was to be yet another twist on a "blues" and so, as we arrive at [A], you will see examples of this in how the harmony moves and how the piece was structured. The simple dotted quarter to 8th-note rhythm continues in the 1st bar of each two bar phrase, and the lines which respond employ bits of dissonance mixed with rhythmic accents playing off of the triplet rhythms. You can hear examples of this in bars 4; 7; and 12. At bar 8, I employ the sense of harmony you might expect to hear in a conventional blues at bar 4. But here I use both the alteration of Bb7, adding the #9 and #5 mid-bar and then, on beat 4, we play D/E(w/ the guitar's natural harmonics) as it serves as the b5 substitute which moves us to our IV7(Eb7) in bar 9.
Because Dennis' drum groove is so relentless, it gives one the feeling that "something" is about to happen, and so the melody at [A] is always building, just very quietly and with subtlety. The sense of drama is added to when Anthony and I play unison lines again in bars 12 and 16. Looking at the harmony, in bars 15-16, I've used a V7 of V7 device with a C7(alt.) chord, and the last of the two unison lines brings us to the [B] section. Again, from the harmonic perspective, [B] is really intended to serve as the area of the V7 chord in this very strange take on a blues. And you'll see that we've landed on an area closest to F7, which is the V7 of Bb. However, for this section, there really are no lines per se as the dotted quarter to 8th note rhythm played by the guitar and bass continues, but here Dennis is allowed to open-up and solo over the attitude of this section. When we take the 2nd ending, and we finally land on an F#m7(9)/B this serves as another b5 substitute to bring us back to Bb7 our center for this tune. You will also notice that the number of bars loses its symmetry because we added an extra bar for the hold simply because, it just 'felt right.' At this point, both [A] and [B] are repeated.
The solo format attempts to take advantage of both the [I] and [A] sections with the great difference being that Anthony and I have been freed-up to engage in an ongoing 'dialogue' throughout what would be the guitar solo. So, a solo 'chorus' on this tune really consists of the following structure: [C] [C] [D], and on the recorded version, we played two choruses. The [C] section mirrors the harmonic motion of [I], and the [D] section, though like [A], has now become a 20-bar blues form. Of special note is Anthony's incredible use of space, his choice of notes, and the placement of dissonances at just the right moment. Again, he is truly a one-of-a-kind musician!
When [D] is played for the last time, we go back to [I] and play it one time, then [A] is played once before we 'loop' letter [B] and Dennis simply solos until the tune was faded. I suppose it should be noted that we stick to the rather odd little 9-bar form of [B] for Dennis' soloing exploits. To heighten the sense of drama, not that Dennis needed my help, I overdubbed my Stratocaster doing volume pedals 'swells' of the long areas of harmony. Usually, these are recorded direct into the board, and using a TC Chorus so that the sonic color differs from my normal sound which employs the Ibanez DCF-10, using its chorus sound, but with great subtlety which is why I love it so much!
It would be impossible to discuss this piece without saying something, yet again, about the very special engineering talents of James Farber. "CROSSINGS" probably represents, when all is said and done, the recording with the greatest sonic beauty of all my CDs. And this is, without question, due to the brilliance of James Farber. Students of contemporary jazz recordings should be very familiar with his name and his work as he has engineered 100s of titles over the past several decades. For most of us, our choice in engineers is just like choosing another musician, for that person is really that important. James' sense of perspective and subtle usage of reverbs is very special to him. I probably have to nudge him a little to add more reverb as he tends to gravitate towards a vision of less, but we always work well together and compromise along the way.
So, where does this title, born of exceptionally fractured English come from? Well, my dear friend, keyboard player, Clifford Carter said this once when we were somewhere together, and it really made me laugh, so I wrote it down. I don't know why I have this fascination for such things, but I do, and English is such a great language to make fun of! At this time, with the world in the state that it's in, I would like to take advantage of this forum and wish everyone, who reads this, a greater sense of peace, calm and security in their own neighborhoods and cities first; and then that this would radiate and expand to their countries as a whole, out to their regions, on to their continents, and then, perhaps, we can all come to a better and greater understanding of one another. I know that it can seem hopeless and impossible on any given day, but if we could each start from within and just do one kind thing each day for someone, perhaps even a stranger, then maybe, someday, this could be a better world. Like so many of you, I would love to see an end to all the bitterness and violence that now exists, and too, too close to us all. And that's "What I'm Said!!!" And, what's more, Happy 30th Birthday Heath!!! Love, Dad