Ear-Tickler: “To Begin”

Here’s an early entry for you guys.

One of my favourite musical discoveries as of late is British bassist Janek Gwizdala (now residing in NY). His tone and feel reminds me a lot of Rich Brown’s, he plays with some great modern guys (including Mark Guiliana and Jojo Mayer), he has a ton of great interviews and instructional videos on youtube and a great business sense to boot.

The opening track to his 2010 album The Space in Between, “To Begin”, features a really cool, laid-back bass solo. Check out my transcription here.

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While the harmony is fairly straight forward (2 bars of Cm7, 2 bars of Gm7), he keeps things interesting with some really lyrical melodies, some interesting rhythmic ideas and the occasional 16th-note burst of playing out. The first example of this happens at measure 24:

To Begin1

This is all over Gm7 and he starts off playing straight G aeolian, then steps out with some side-stepping pentatonics (in this case fo F#m) before coming back to Gm on 3 of 25. This approach comes back again at bar 45 for a super hip run over Cm7 (46/47):

To Begin3

We start the side-stepping in G#m pentatonic, then moving further out to a line that mostly stems from the E Major bop scale, then back into Gm in 48. Super cool.

Lastly, I just need to point out the crazy run at 31 which involves a lot of string skipping (entirely in 17th and 19th position) and a whole lot of chops in general.

To Begin2

If you’re into what you hear, I would recommend checking out the full album (as well as his others) which can be found here. For bonus incentive, all of his records are currently PWYC on Bandcamp, so you can effectively get all of them for free if you so choose.

Happy listening.

Ear-Tickler: “Eleven Wives”

For this entry, I wanted to talk about Avishai Cohen and his tune “Eleven Wives” from his 2008 album Gently Disturbed (which also features Mark Guiliana on drums and Shai Maestro on piano).

First of all, I really enjoy Avishai Cohen’s music. He’s a fantastic composer, an equally talented bass player (both on upright and electric) and has led some pretty heavy bands, including (especially?) the trio from this time. In some ways, Avishai was one of the artists who helped me get into jazz by showing one of the different things that jazz could be. The album prior to this one, Continuo, is one of my favourite contemporary jazz records, and I’ve posted a transcription of the title track here.

One of the standouts of Avishai’s sound, along with his unique blend of jazz and a sort of middle eastern melodic sense, is the use of “odd” meter and interesting rhythms, and “Eleven Wives” certainly demonstrates the rhythmic side.

For starters, it’s in 11/8 (divided 3/3/3/2), opening with a piano figure stating the groove:

ElevenWives1To make this even more interesting, the faster tempo (dotted quarter at around 140) creates the illusion of the figure actually being in 7/8 (2,2,2,1) with a slightly stilted last eighth. It’s not until the drums enter that the 11 is made explicit (although the title makes this a dead giveaway).

The harmony is pretty straight ahead but the rhythmic nature of the “A” melody is one of the cooler things about the piece and makes it stand out:


Rhythmically, it’s entirely independent of the groove and the accenting of the BCBCA figure does not match the accents of the accompaniment, implying a brief 4-feel. This idea is taken further in the B melody:


Although Mark keeps the same 3/3/3/2 rhythm going in the drums, I’ve outlined the way that the B melody (piano/bass) is divided into 2-beat patterns, crossing both the pulse and the barlines as if it were really one long bar of 11/2. Also note the key change and active nature of the melody to contrast the A section, which really makes it pop.

Also worth noting here that the piece is through-composed with no soloist, instead building in intensity over the duration of the tune and acting as a vehicle for Mark Guiliana to really take it to the next level by the end. If you’re reading this and aren’t familiar with the song, check out this live performance on Youtube, and check out the album!