My biography of Paul Desmond includes Desmond solos that Bill Mays, Bud Shank, Brent Jensen, Gary Foster and Paul Cohen transcribed for the book. They analyze or comment on the solos and John Handy analyzes Cohen’s transcription of “Take Five.” In the text I suggest that playing the recordings and following along with Desmond would help readers appreciate his creative process in improvising. Even if their music-reading skills were slight or nonexistent, a general impression of the flow of notes could be enlightening.
A few readers let me know that they tried, but the transcriptions were Greek to them. Many more who accepted the challenge reported that they enjoyed the exercise and learned from it. In the unlikely event that Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond ever becomes an e-book, maybe digital technology will have advanced enough that we can find a way to marry the recordings with the transcriptions.
How might that work? Let’s watch and listen to a video of the Los Angeles trombonist Bob McChesney. He is noted for his playing in film, television and recording studios with everyone from Kenny G to Ray Charles, and for his jazz solos with Bill Holman, Woody Herman, Frank Capp and Jack Sheldon, among dozens of others. McChesney is a splendid soloist and a fearsome technician. Here, he harmonizes and overdubs four trombone parts in his arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” Kevin Axt and Dick Weller, the only other musicians involved, accompany him on bass and drums. The transcription unfolds in synchronization with the music. Whether you can read the notes or are merely going with the flow, keep your eyes on the screen because this goes by fast. It’s easier if you watch in the full screen mode.
Have a nice weekend.