Joel Frahm, Grand Central

Photo by Tory Williams

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Download the Transcription: BbEbCBass Clef

Today’s transcription features Joel Frahm’s solo on the Coltrane tune ‘Grand Central.’ This track is from Matt Wilson’s 1999 album ‘Smile.’ I decided to transcribe this solo for several reasons:

  1. Joel’s time and feel are impecable at this incredibly fast tempo (about 300bpm!).  What better way to practice speed and feel than by playing along with a great example of fast playing.
  2. The changes are moderately challenging; this is a tune I could certainly use some work on.  Specifically I wanted to learn the first bridge the Joel plays as Db is not a key I’m very comfortable in.  Seeing how he deals with the fast ii V’s as well as the Db7b5 chord are quite instructive as well.

Read on for my full analysis…

Joel makes use of a couple different melodic constructions to form his phrases. Minor 7th arpeggios (specifically starting on 7 and descending to the root note) are found through out the solo such as in measures 4-6 and 69-73. Joel uses a variation of this decending arpeggio technique in his solo break at measures 37-41; here he starts on the 7th scale degree and then works through a couple different inversions as he gets lower down.

Another common melodic construction seen in the solo is what I call a melodic minor melody. There are several times in the A sections where it seems that Joel pretty much ignores the ii V’s and the half-diminished chord and instead plays as if it was just a straight G minor (see measures 64-68). He also treats the Db7(b5) chord more like a G7(b9) just based on his note choices over that chord. Measures 16 and 46 are excellent examples of this.

In the first bridge (mm19-26) he launches into a long and flowing bop style line. This was the specific line that I wanted to learn just because I love the way it sounds. Looking at it now I’m a little surprised that in those first 5 measures there is only one note that isn’t found in the Db dominant scale (the A natural in measure 19)! Measures 23-24 have a pentatonic style line (that he uses again in the 2nd bridge in mm59-60). The last two measures of the bridge he favors tetratonics mixed with arpeggios; it’s so fast that you pretty much have to do that.

I’d really like to hear Joel play a much slower version of Grand Central just to see how he might handle some of these changes in a different context. Floating a melodic minor sounding phrase over some of the changes works because it is such a fast tempo. That is not to imply at all that Joel couldn’t explicitly outline all those ii V’s or anything; clearly he is more than capable!



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