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Monday, August 29, 2011

Cannonball Transcription

I've been toiling over a transcription recently. Which is to say, I've been working on a transcription intermittently between work, a wedding and various other things that have been keeping me busy this summer. I thought I'd post it up here and see what people thought.

You can find the recording on Grooveshark. Search for Cannonball Adderley, A Foggy Day.

The arrangement is by Bill Russo, and the original track is from Cannonball's album entitled Julian Cannonball Adderley with Strings from 1955. Only 52 bars long, I still found the transcription a challenge. Cannonball has a certain sense of time that really defines his sound as a soloist and it's most evident on these slower pieces. He loved to bend and play with the time, dragging eighth note rhythms as far back in the pocket as is possible before leaping back to the front of the beat, as if to catch up. This is most evident in measure 13 and measure 25, both of which were a challenge to figure out rhythmically.

Cannonball's time is lazy, relaxed, almost bored, and fits perfectly with the spirit of the piece. As Louis Armstrong sang, "I had that feeling of self pity, what to do, what to do, what to do?" Adderley's swing carries that sense of boredom through the head where the strings take over for eight bars. Heading out of the piece Cannonball returns with the blues, but in his typically joyful manner. His sound is bolder through the last 12 bars of the piece, brighter as the sun shines "through foggy London town."

More difficult than the timing was his fondness for grace notes. Every time I do a Cannonball Adderley transcription, I'm amazed at by how often he replicates a brass player. I love his bends, his scoops, and especially the way he attacks his falls with his air and sweeps down the keys in measure 45 as if he were cascading down the harmonic series on a trumpet or trombone. These sorts of flourishes are really hard to replicate with notations, so I found simplifying was best for many of them, though one or two I found easy enough to notate.

The transcription still needs to be touched up. It went from staff paper to Finale, never a clean transition, and I found I needed to custom create all the different scoops and falls. Even then, Finale screws them up when extracting parts. We'll see what I can do in the next week or so to touch it up, but I'd like to start on a new one this week. We'll call this one a work in progress.

Let me hear it if you find any issues! I'm sure there are a few.