Piano Transcriptions by Dave Ratcliffe
I began creating music transcriptions of piano recordings in 1977. Prior to this I had picked out songs by ear like The Beatles’ Lady Madonna and Martha My Dear, memorizing them as I went, and thus by-passing the process of attempting to notate what I was hearing. While studying at Berklee College of Music in 1976-1977 I took a class where we learned to sight-sing melodies, conducting 4/4 or 3/4 time while simultaneously singing the solfège syllable (e.g., do, re, mi) and duration of each note. This experience made it possible to finally read time accurately in music manuscript.
C O N T E N T S
|Song Title||Pianist/Composer||Album (CD) Title||Year||Notes|
|Freedie Freeloader solo||Wynton Kelly||Kind of Blue||1959||c|
|Dirge Blues||Mary Lou Williams||My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me||1977|
|Dirge Blues||Mary Lou Williams||Mary Lou Williams Presents (Black Christ of the Andes)||1964|
|No Title Blues||Mary Lou Williams||My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me||1977||c|
|J.B.’s Waltz||Mary Lou Williams||My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me||1977||c|
|Blues For Peter||Mary Lou Williams||My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me||1977|
|Baby Man||Mary Lou Williams||Free Spirits||1975|
|‘Round Midnight||Thelonious Monk||Thelonious Monk - The Composer||1968||c m|
|Special #1||Meade Lux Lewis||n/a||n/a|
|Six and Four||Oliver Nelson||Straight Ahead, Oliver Nelson with Eric Dolphy||1961||m|
|Syl-o-gism||Mary Lou Williams||Zoning||1974||m|
|Relaxin'||Willie "The Lion" Smith||Lucky & The Lion: Harlem Piano||1958||c m|
|Pannonica||Thelonious Monk||Thelonious Alone in San Francisco||1959||c|
|Prelude No. 4 Var||John Lewis||The Bridge Game, Vol II||1985||c|
|Prelude No. 5 Var||John Lewis||The Bridge Game, Vol II||1985||c m|
|Fugue No. 10 Var||John Lewis||The Bridge Game, Vol III||1988||c|
|Rosa Mae||Mary Lou Williams||Mary Lou Williams, Zoning||1974||c|
|Key: c - complete song or section; m - midi file|
|Key of B flat: PDF|
|Key of B:|
I left Berklee after one year and moved to New Haven, Connecticut. While in New Haven I began transcribing segments of piano recordings I wanted to learn and play. One of the first was Wynton Kelly’s four-chorus solo on “Freddie Freeloader” from Miles Davis’ quintessential album, Kind of Blue.
I have recently begun making electronic versions of some these transcriptions using Studio Vision and Finale. With “Freddie Freeloader” it turns out that while I transcribed the 1977 version in the key of B, the song is actually in B flat. In this score, I include image files for both pages of the original key of B transcription, as well as PDF for the transposed-to-B flat version.
April 2007 note:
While reading Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings by Peter Pettinger (Yale University Press, 1998), the liner notes from the 1992 MasterSound edition of Kind of Blue state:
Columbia’s recording policy at that time was to run two tape machines simultaneously, a master and a safety. At the March 2 sessions, the master machine was running slow, so that when the tapes were played back at the correct speed, the music was slightly faster — sharper — than the April 6 session. Over the years, many musicians have noticed that the first side of Kind of Blue — “So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” and “Blue in Green” — is about a quarter-tone sharp, and wondered what Miles could have had in mind. According to Teo Macero, the speed change was not intentional, and it is corrected here for the first time, using the safety tapes. (Amy Herot, liner note to Kind of Blue, MasterSound Edition, Columbia CK 64403, 1992)
Now I understand why I thought the recording was in the key of B in 1977. Since the record pitch was between B flat and B, I somehow concluded it must have originally been recorded in the raised key.
I had the extraordinary good fortune to study with Mary Lou Williams in 1979-1980. This is the opening of the 1978 recording from My Mama Pinned a Rose On Me. I notated it in 1979 according to Mary Lou Williams’ letter to me in 1979, responding to a letter I had written her asking how to write out the beginning of this song (her letter is included in its entirety in ratical.org/ratical/ratlife12.html).
This next version of “Dirge Blues” presents an alternative representation to the above based on the 1964 recording included on the album, Mary Lou Williams Presents — Black Christ of the Andes. Here the triplets are written as eighth notes (instead of quarters) and the time is straight 4/4 (instead of alternating between 6/4 and 4/4).
One of my favorite works from My Mamma Pinned a Rose on Me, I transcribed this while studying with Mary Lou. Her left-hand chord patterns taught me a great deal about substitution and comping that has significantly influenced and extended my own style. The first half is in F. Then after Buster Williams' bass solo, it modulates to B-flat. (February 21, 2010: corrected the hyperlink to now point to the October 2008 full transcription.)
Another work from My Mamma Pinned a Rose on Me, I love how the waltz feel combines the feel of both three and two with motif of dotted quarter notes predominating throughout the song in the left hand. And I am pleased to finally, as of August 2007, present the complete transcription of this work which I had originally done by hand in 1980.
The head of this song is also from My Mamma Pinned a Rose On Me. I love its swinging, funky waltz feel.
John Stubblefield wrote this song and Mary Lou included it on her 1975 Free Spirits album. Mary Lou’s pensive and expressive treatment of the melody in the opening bars is filled with beauty and grace.
|Thelonious Monk:||“‘Round Midnight” (with chords)|
|“‘Round Midnight” (without chords)|
This was one of the first jazz piano recordings I heard when I began listening to jazz piano in the mid seventies. I finally transcribed it in the late eighties. It is one of the most harmonically rich works I’ve ever put to paper. Two copies are included: one with chord names and one without. The chord-less copy is for students to analyze for their own study. I’d like to thank Adam Larrabee, who helped me with the chord analysis on pages one, two and four.
April 2007: I am pleased to at last begin to include a sound file here and there (see also “Stolen Moments” and “Cry Baby Cry” in Advanced Piano Scores and “You Can’t Do That” in Intermediate Piano Scores). This midi file for ‘Round Midnight is a two-track (right hand/left hand) rendition of the above transcription that provides a crude representation of the original. Please seek out Monk’s version to hear the real thing.
I especially love this 12-bar chorus of Meade Lux Lewis’ song with its funky triplets feel bassline and the rich arpeggiated 9th chords rolled out in the right hand.
I've always loved this 6/4 tune with its wonderful bass line and melodic figure that diverges into double note harmony per measure. A midi file is included to demonstrate a piano arrangement I made of the original duet of Oliver Nelon and Eric Dolphy.
Syl-o-gism (not included on the 1974 record) was first released on the 1995 CD. Its 16-bar idea is imbued with Mary Lou‘s unique sense of rhythmic, bluesy feel. A midi file presents a three-track representation (piano right/left hand and bass). As always, please seek out the CD recording to hear the real thing.
James P. Johnson and Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith were the two mentors of Thomas “Fats” Waller. Regarding this piece, The Lion said, “I wanted to show that you could get a blues feeling without hitting people on the head.”
I transcribed this song in 1980 when I came back from studying with
Mary Lou Williams. I love the way it sings and the way it moves
through its different parts. In Relaxin' eighth notes are
played as swing eighths where, instead of each being half a beat,
the eighth played on the beat is held longer and the eighth played
in the middle of the beat is shorter (the on-the-beat eighth can
be thought of as lasting two-thirds of the beat and the off-the-beat
eighth lasting the last one-third of the beat). The produces a
loong-short-loong-short feel. This
Relaxin' song file demonstrates the
loong-short swing feel of eighths, while this
song file segment demonstrates how
it would sound to play the eighth evenly as straight half-beat notes.
|Thelonious Monk:||“Pannonica” (with chords)|
|“Pannonica” (without chords)|
This progression is imbued with Monk's unique sense of bass and chord movement. The transcription is a rough approximation to what he expresses in the first chorus of the recording.
When I heard the first volume LP record of this in the late 1980s I finally gave in to buying my first CD player and my first Compact Disc. John Lewis trundled two of his grand pianos into churches in New York City for the acoustics to eventually record all of Book I of the WTC. These works are unique in joining Bach's sense of musical harmony and structure with that of what manifested during the 20th century.
In this interpretation of Prelude 4, John Lewis plays the score up through measure 34 and then goes off into his Two Clubs variation (the guy loved Bridge, thus these recordings are titled, The Bridge Game). Measures 33 and 34 are:
At the close of his variation, he comes back into the score at measure 25. Measures 25-26 are:
In this interpretation of Prelude 5, John Lewis plays the score up through measure 26 and then goes off into his One Spade variation. Here is a song file version ndash; with very crude, non-rubato time – of this variation. Measures 25 and 26 are:
At the close of his variation, he comes back into the score at measure 27. Measures 27-28 are:
In this interpretation of Fugue 10, John Lewis plays the score up through measure 14 and then goes off into his Elliot's Convention variation. Measures 13 and 14 are:
At the close of his variation, he comes back into the score at measure 11. Measures 11-12 are:
Today is May 8, 2010, the one-hundredth anniversary of Mary Lou Williams' birth. While studying with her, Mary Lou told me that with Larry Gales, she wrote Rosa Mae with a rock beat in the bass line to interest kids in jazz music. It's her bluesy jazz feeling that imbues this piece, as in all her music, with an inimitable sound that is uniquely hers.
I wrote the original transcription of Rosa Mae in New Haven, Connecticut in 1978 and sent a copy of it to Mary Lou in a letter I wrote after seeing her in the Garden Room Restaurant of Abraham & Strauss (a department store) in New York City in early 1979.
Earlier this year I began to convert the original by-hand transcription into the print-ready copy included here. During this process, I discovered some differences with the notation I wrote out in 1978 and what I hear in the recording in the present time. In my experience, transcribing is always only an approximation to the original recording. My desire has always been to learn to play a version of the recording that is as close to the original as possible.
In making these transcriptions available on the net, I am engaged in a process of sending a message to the future. When I was in my early twenties, there were no music transcriptions I was aware of like this that were available to study and learn from. At that time I remember wishing there were. Mary Lou wanted young people to be exposed to riches of the unique American art form known as jazz, or, as Duke Ellington explained, "we stopped using the word in 1943, and we much prefer to call it the American Idiom, or the Music of Freedom of Expression." In making these transcriptions available, it is my hope to assist in transmiting the messages of love and healing (Mary Lou's words) to future generations to study and learn from.