Jazz Crimes – Joshua Redman solo

This very interesting song comes from Redman’s electric trio album, Elastic. Though the album on the whole is compositionally an incredible record, without “Jazz Crimes” it wouldn’t have near the same impact. This song instantly grabs your attention as soon as the rhythmic hits begin and carries it until the drum solo and final melody of this powerhouse tune. Redman’s crafts his solo with orchestrated perfection each phrase logically following the prior. Not only is this a difficult key to play in, but Redman easily incorporates his tremendous range into this solo.

The transcription begins as the band leaves the groove section and transitions into the hits of the melody. Redman plays four times through the hit form of 8 bars each then going into the chords of the chorus. He takes the chorus two times making another 32 bars. The harmonic structure of the hit section essentially stays in F#7 the entire time with a ii V in bar 8 of the progression. The changing chords act more as a rhythmic device than harmonic. Redman takes this cue and structures this half of the solo around the rhythmic hits. Harmonically he builds the solo using mostly an F# blues scale and chromaticism. In bar 9, Redman plays an F# triad and follows it in bar 10 with a blues lick straight from the minor pentatonic scale. In bar 17 he begins a 4 bar chromatic lick around an F# tonality. It starts with a F# second inversion triad (c#, f#, a#, c#), then chromatically walks up to the seventh, e. It continues it chromatic ascension repeating several sections with the triplets. After a long purely chromatic run ending in bar 20, Redman plays a lick only from the blues scale incorporating the flat five scale degree (c natural). Bars 25 though 32 use the blues scale almost exclusively with some outlining of a G natural chord in both triad and minor pentatonic form, and a few uses of the major third (a#).

The bridge chords are a series of ii V’s moved around like a melodic line. The first phrase of 8 bars ends on a ii V altered (F#m7 B7alt) that leads back to the Em7 that begins the next phrase. The second 8 bar phrase ends with a ii V (G#m7 C#7) that leads back to the tonic of F#. Redman handles these ii V’s in various ways. The first (Em7 A7) in bar 33 he simply stays on the ninth (f natural) of the Em7. This note becomes the minor third of the D#m7 chord that follows. On the chords in bars 35 and 36, Redman plays an extended F#maj7 arpeggio and uses several leading tones. This arpeggio acts as a substitution in the key for the D#m7 and hits its minor third, fifth, flat seventh, ninth, and eleventh, and then begins to repeat in the next octave topping out at the e# and then descending the scale. On the F7b9 he plays a descending F diminished scale ending in a chromatic line and lower neighbor note of the third of the Bb7 (d natural). He then continues up the Bb diminished scale then outlines the F#m7 in bar 39 and ends on a chromatic line down to the flat sixth of the B7alt chord in bar 40. In bars 41 and 42, Redman plays a Em9 arpeggio (g, b, e, f#) over the Em7 and A7, then takes this same melodic shape and adjusts it up basically playing a G#7 arpeggio (g#, c, g#, f#) over the D#m7 G#7. After playing purely chromatic over the ii V’s in bars 45-48, he takes the next two in bars 49-52 entirely in their respective keys with only one chromatic passing tone (e natural) in the triplet in bar 52. In bar 53, he again treats the F7b9 as a diminished chord and plays a diminished arpeggio over it resolving to the third of the Bb7. For the remainder of the solo Redman plays a variation of the bridge melody ending on the F# minor pentatonic riff over its V chord, C#7.

Though very challenging and harmonically complex, Redman’s improvisational ideas remain reasonably straightforward. It’s his execution and for lack of a better word, soul, that really make his solo come alive. It’s also a great study in playing over a vamp and offers a different approach than usual for taking ii V’s as they are not in a “normal” jazz context. And if anyone in interested in learning the head for this song, I recommend transcribing it yourself. Though they at first seem difficult, the rhythms are actually pretty traditional and there are some great chromatic and diminished scale ideas in there.

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