Michael Brecker’s impressive discography encompasses an eclectic mix of jazz, pop, rock, funk, latin and world music. As one of the most recorded saxophonists of the past few decades, Brecker enthusiasts have no shortage of classic “Mike” to listen, enjoy or transcribe.
While I have done quite a bit of transcribing over the years, much of it on SaxShed.com has been done for others. Many of us transcribe solos in high school or college, yet later in life it is a very time-consuming effort to be balanced with life’s demands. As a result, I have not transcribed much for my own use in recent years – until this version of “Cherokee.”
This picture of Michael Brecker was posted recently on a Facebook page named In Honor of Michael Brecker which is tirelessly run by Louis Gerrits. Gerrits also hosts the Michael Brecker Live Recordings Page. Both resources cater to Breckerheads worldwide seeking more info, pictures and recordings of the tenor titan who left us too soon. The picture of everyday Mike driving his “Cherokee” prompted some witty replies but most interestingly Louis Gerrits’ own post of a little known recording.
The recording of “Cherokee” is presumed to be a spontaneous unplanned moment in the studio. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Chick Corea / Michael Brecker impromptu duo on Confirmation during the Three Quartets session of the same time. Joachim Kuhn’s Survivor was made in 1981 and reissued in 2005.
The recording is FAST. This is what prompted me to take on the transcription. I needed to understand it and learn from it and ultimately share it here. You can see my attempts to sync the transcription to the recording. The tempo does fluctuate from about 368 bpm to 380 from beginning to end, but these are humans, not machines.
After many hours of listening at full speed, 1/2 and 1/4 speed using Transcribe software, my “interpretation” of Michael Brecker’s solo was done. Accuracy is always critical in transcription however I had to make choices in what to write out. At several points during Mike’s three choruses it made more sense to notate his intention rather than exactly what I heard at 1/4 speed at 380 BPM. Therefore, If I allowed myself to continue editing this transcription I could debate how/what to write indefinitely. Sometimes you need to know when to sign the painting!