Elena Pinderhughes’ Solo on Letter to the Free – From Common Tiny Desk at the White House

Transcription: Eb, Bb, Bb with Octave Adjustments, C, Bass Clef

Recording: Letter to the Free – Elena Pinderhughes Solo


So…it’s been a while. I’ve transcribed and learned many solos since my last post, but I’ve also started teaching at McNally Smith College of Music in St Paul and have toured with several bands all over the world since then too, so it’s been a little crazy. Naturally, the solo that would make me want to post here again would be a….flute solo? Yes. A flute solo.

SKM, meet Elena Pinderhughes. I’ve been checking out Elena’s stuff since I starting learning one of her solos on a Christian Scott album. The thing that stands out the most about her playing is her feel. Her feel is ridiculous. I learned this solo by ear first and played along trying to match her feel throughout the solo. That’s recommendation #1 from me as you start to learn this solo. That’s not to say her note choice isn’t – how did Ferris Bueller say it? “choice” – because it is.

Not unlike a trombone shorty solo I transcribed a while ago and posted here, Elena primarily uses the pentatonic scale throughout her solo, with a few major/natural minor scale uses and a couple spots where she’s playing borrowed pentatonic scales. For instance, she slips outside the key and plays in C major (over a tune that I hear as being in Eb major) for a measure, which actually corresponds with a passing chord Robert Glasper is playing that includes that E natural (Cadd9/E) — It should be said that I copied and pasted the progression over the solo (thanks to my dudes Reid Kennedy and Kevin Gastonguay for taking a listen and giving me their harmonic opinions), and it’s possible Glasper is playing something different in the Cadd9/E spot when it comes around each time. You often hear him slip in and out of keys a 1/2 step away, so it’s hard to put a definitive finger on the progression.

Later in the solo, Elena plays the Bb major pentatonic scale (second half of measure 10) temporarily before moving back to the Eb major pentatonic. I love the sound of two closely related pentatonics being used. When you’re messing with this idea on your own, try playing over a Ima7 chord using the major pentatonic scale starting on the second scale degree (which will give you the 9, 3rd, #11, 13 and ma7). Then try the same idea starting on the 3rd a scale degree for a more dissonant sound. Continue up the scale and see what sounds cool!

Enjoy this super killing solo (and band!) – the entire concert can be seen and heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AChGszRGwI

Guest Post by Italo Sales: Wes Montgomery, Four on Six

Download the transcription: C

Listen! Four on Six

Watch Italo’s Transcription Video! http://youtu.be/iHlo0dDFQb0

This solo is a masterpiece by Wes. There’s everything you’re used to hearing in his improvisations: Double stops, quartal structures, tritones, pentatonic ideas, dorian phrases, fast and wide arpeggios and his famous octaves all along his last choruses. That’s probably because it was recorded in 1965 (only three years before his death, in June 15th 1968 – 45 years ago) with the wonderful Wynton Kelly Trio. It’s really a solo to remember by all guitar students and improvisational musicians.

Guest Post by Derek Dreier: Herlin Riley, Evidence

Download the Transcription: Drums

Listen to the Solo

Watch a video of the solo being performed by Derek! — http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OAEaf_qHunU

The transcription features Herlin Riley’s playing on “Evidence” from Wynton Marsalis Septet’s 1999 multi-disc release Live at the Village Vanguard. Monk’s writing, exemplified in “Evidence” is rhythmically unique, often jagged and deceptive, a quality which gives drummers many possibilities. Herlin’s choices are tasteful, organic and exploit the rhythmic opportunities Monk provides. Herlin plays with triplet vs. sixteenth and straight vs. swing ideas, and moves in and out of downbeat and offbeat oriented phrasing. All of which reflect the similar off-kilter effect the tune’s melody has. Also, notice the two busiest portions of the solo, (m.49-56 and m.73-76). The first example phrases triplets, with the latter phrasing sixteenths, demonstrating smart soloistic flow and development. With its phrasing, and creative rhythmic ideas, this transcription stands out as a fun and excellent example of musical drumming.

Guest Post by Dario LaPoma: Brad Mehldau, August Ending

Download the Transcription: Piano Score + Bass

Audio Link: August Ending

“August Ending” Brad Mehldau

For nearly two decades, composer-improvisor Brad Mehldau has left a prophetic mark on the music of our generation. One supporting reason is that his music strikes an emotional, spontaneous core while maintaining a structural quality evident through analysis. House on Hill was released by the Brad Mehldau trio (Rossy on drums) in 2006, and the opening track, “August Ending,” illustrates Mehldau’s search for “successful integration of composed and improvised material.”1 Feel free to decide for yourself, but I’m pretty convinced he’s on the right track.

The composition is bound together by a string of 8th notes (A-Bb), which while fitting colorfully into the harmony serve several foundational purposes throughout the tune. Continue reading

Guest Post from Jason Fabus: Kenny Garrett, There Will Never Be Another You

Download the Transcription: CBbEb

Audio Clip

This is a transcription of Kenny Garrett’s (the REAL Kenny G!!!) solo on “There will never be another you” from Woody Shaw’s album, Solid (2009).  Garrett does a great rendition of this often heard standard.  Listen to his style and the way he shapes notes and phrases.  There are a great deal of scoops, accents, and slurred passages that will be thrown at you, which is always fun.  Also, listen to how Garrett uses rather simple, yet effective forms of chromaticism and “going out” to give this tune a nice remastering.

Dexter Gordon, Love For Sale


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Download the Transcription: Bb, C, Bb_8vb, Eb

I’ve always loved this solo and when I had to pick a tune to memorize and perform in my improvisation class back in 2006, I jumped on the opportunity to learn this one. Dexter has this uber hip, uber cool way of playing that is so attractive to me. In one line he can play something totally inside the groove and in the next he’s laying his lines so far back the band finishes the tunes before he does. Continue reading

Guest Post By Reid Kennedy: Benny Jones, When My Dreamboat Comes Home

Download the PDF: Snare (behind Vocals), Snare (behind Trumpet)

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Benny Jones is the snare drummer and bandleader of the storied Treme Brass Band.  Born and raised in New Orleans, Jones has been around brass band music his entire life.  His feel and concept for traditional jazz and second line rhythm has influenced a legion of drummers including Herlin Riley and Stanton Moore, among others.

Jones’ snare work on Treme’s recording of ‘When My Dreamboat Comes Home’ illustrates the phrasing and concepts that have become the standard for snare drummers playing this music.  The following analysis is derived from two 32-bar sections, the first being the vocal melody on the in head and the second being the opening trumpet chorus that follows.  Studying two choruses will allow for comparison and the development of any trends or patterns in Jones’ playing. Continue reading

Cuong Vu, All The Things You Are

Download the PDF: Bb, Concert, Eb, Bass Clef

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I just bought this record and when I heard this track, I immediately thought of transcribing some of this stuff for SoKillingMan. Vu picks a few of the most standard standards and plays them as the first few tracks of his record Leaps of Faith (2011). What’s great about it is that Cuong Vu does his Cuong Vu thing over these tunes. These old, overdone, dried-out standards sound like they could be just another original on his new album. Listen closely though, and the form, melody, and harmony become obvious in the tunes we know. Continue reading

Guest Post by Ryan Seward: Jorge Rossy, Monk’s Dream

Download the PDF: Drums

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Brad Mehldau Trio – Brad Mehldau, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass; Jorge
Rossy, drums

The Art of the Trio, Vol. 2: Live at the Village Vanguard

This transcription of the Brad Mehldau Trio’s reworking of the Monk
classic, “Monk’s Dream”, features the highly idiosyncratic,
interactive and linear time-keeping/soloing concept of Spanish
drummer, Jorge Rossy.  Pay close attention to such devices as rhythmic
density/sparsity, unorthodox phrasing, eighth-note quantization (swung
vs. straight), repetition, dynamic contour, use of polyrhythms, and
orchestration.  The transcription begins after Mehldau’s solo where
Mehldau and Rossy begin trading 8s for three choruses before the head
out.  The extended improvisation after the head out is not included.

Chet Baker, My Little Suede Shoes

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Download the PDF: Bb, Concert, Eb, Bass Clef


If there is one thing no one can deny about Chet Baker, it is that he was a master of melody (and that he was a massive drug addict). These early 1954 live recordings show too that Chet was well-versed in the bebop language and had been listening to and even playing with Charlie Parker. It’s this early playing that I think is Chet’s most potent as an improvisor. Continue reading