by Russ Nolan
(note: if the manuscript is not clear in full-screen mode, you may try to rewind or you can download the .pdf file here: A La Interperie-Joel Frahm Solo Transcription
A Complete Conversation in Jazz by Joel Frahm
Again, with his permission, I would like to share one of many great solos performed by my friend and former mentor, NYC Jazz Saxophonist Joel Frahm. As previously stated, Joel, in my opinion, is one of the greatest living jazz saxophonists and this time he wields the Soprano Saxophone like a Katana slicing and dicing through the changes provided in Latin Jazz Pianist/Bandleader Manuel Valera‘s ‘A La Interperie’ from the fantastic ‘Vientos’ CD. If you haven’t heard, Manuel is up for a Grammy this week! We wish him the best!
A few highlights in this fantastic solo:
1) Thematic introduction: Joel takes one phrase in measure 2 and uses it as a theme for the next 5 measures, each time modulating it up a half-step according to the changes. Notice the ‘landing note’ also voice-leads by half-steps/whole steps ie. measure 4 on ‘Eb’–m.5 on ‘E’–m.7 on ‘F’ and ‘G’. Measure 8 provides an ‘answer’ and a finality to the idea before the next set of chord changes.
2) Seamless ‘Over the Barline’ Playing: Notice throughout the solo that Joel can carry on his idea through the changes (ie. mm. 11-12, 13-15) without hesitation. He doesn’t restart his ideas just because the harmony changes.
3) Time Feel Flexibility: After 20 measures of ‘floating’ over the time in a very ethereal, Wayne Shorter-ian way, Joel switches gears and Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhwings hard on 8th notes in mm. 21-24 before returning to his previous mood. A great shift to keep the Listener engaged.
4) Note: For my own study purposes, I did not notate the monster, out-of-time line in m. 27. For you retentive types–knock yourselves out…
5) More examples of ‘Over the Barline’ playing in mm39-40. This time using Pentatonics between B- and D-. Also mm. 57-58. See my related Pentatonics article here.
6) Page 4/Interlude: Notice Joel’s next reaction to what is happening around him. After shredding through Altered Dominant changes, he switches to a more lyrical/singing/soaring mode once the woodwinds enter. Obviously he knows that he has to wrap this one up, and does so by slowing down rhythmically and sequencing his syncopated quarter note line upwards between C7sus and Db7sus as well as descending over the A+7#9. It’s topped off with a common, yet beautifully-shaped diminished pattern leading into the next full-band section.
This solo takes the Listener ‘Around the World’. My favorite kind.