29 October 2008

Pinocchio Changes


It has been my opinion for some time that of all the boneheaded errors contained in the original (read: illegal) Real Books, Wayne Shorter seems to suffer more than any other single composer represented. The changes for Speak No Evil, for example, which is an eminent jazz classic and gets called at jam sessions with some regularity, are not even close. The same goes for "Pinocchio," a rarely-heard yet no less brilliant Shorter composition that has undoubtedly suffered from the somewhat mysterious and even haphazard treatments it first received on the Miles Davis Quintet's album "Nefertiti."

Several months ago, I encountered an excellent recording of "Pinocchio" by the Ernie Watts Quartet, which inspired me to attempt to learn the tune myself. As all lead sheets I had hitherto seen had obvious and egregious mistakes in them, I decided to start from scratch with the original recordings. While I can't be certain that I've necessarily figured out what Shorter actually wrote, the chart I've posted below has what I feel are eminently usable changes for this tune, or at least vast improvements on the Real Book changes.

If mine is not entirely accurate as far as what the original lead sheets used by Miles et al actually said on them, I'm reasonably certain that the chordscales (yes, it's officially one word now) represent the correct collections of pitches, and that the "real" changes would simply be other modes of these same scales. I've also constructed "simplified" solo changes which omit some of the faster moving passing harmonies and use more familiar chord symbols than the ones I got attached to initially. To my ears, this is the approach that Watts et al take in their burning rendition, although I can't be sure without asking them.

It should also be noted that pianist Steve Khan has put together a great discussion of this tune and Herbie Hancock's solo over it from the original up tempo version on "Nefertiti." He even offers up a handwritten transcription of the solo (take that notation software mavens). Though I resisted looking at his chart until I'd done a good deal of playing along and listening myself, there are very few disagreements to be mentioned.

As for the alternate take, which affords us the opportunity to hear things at a bit slower tempo, I think it's interesting that in the first chorus, Ron Carter remains on an F# throughout both the 13th and 14th measures, whereas most of the rest of the time, the chord in the 14th bar seems to be built on root E. It's not unusual for pianists and horn players to worry more about diatonic collections than which mode of them they are actually implying, but the bass player is usually very concerned with this. Nonetheless, this is a wonderful variation on what appear to be the "correct" changes; Dmaj7/F# implies Phrygian, a sound that was becoming more common in jazz around the time these recordings were made, and to this day is still quite evocative of this particular time in jazz history.

In playing along with the tune myself, I eventually fell into the habit of playing a descending bass line (only one pitch per bar) in this part of the form: F# in bar 13 (the root), E in bar 14 (also the root), D# in bar 15 (the major 3rd of what I came to hear as B7alt.; others say F13(#11); both are modes of C melodic minor), C# in bar 16 (the 5th of F#7), and B in bars 17 and 18 (back to the root). It works nicely, especially considering that it is actually rather awkward for the bass player to imply forward momentum in this part of the form over virtually any of the possible combinations of changes, for in all such possible variations, there is at least one awkward moment in the root movement, with F# and B predominating while the qualities of the chords they support are changing more drastically. One would be tempted to turn to an F# pedal in bars 13-16, but unfortunately, this clashes terribly with the C melodic minor harmony in bar 15.

As is generally the case with this tune, this passage represents a challenge for the imagination, but one which yields great rewards when well met. With any luck, we'll be hearing it played (and playing it ourselves) more often in the years to come.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe Steve Khan is a guitar player!

Stefan Kac said...

...not to be confused with the pianist Steve KUHN. Sorry for the mix up, and thanks for the hint. (At least it's not another Steve DAVIS; then there could be some serious confusion)