Sunday, March 30, 2014

Another Star

"Another Star" is a song written and performed by Stevie Wonder from his 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life. Released as a single in 1977, it reached number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 18 on the Black Singles chart, and number 2 on the Dance/Disco chart.   Still and all,  it is not one of Stevie's better known songs.   Jazz players  love this song because it seems to have the feel and structure of a standard that can be massaged into modern jazz forms.

One great example of this is by drummer Yoron Israel and his pianist Laszlo Gardony on their Visions CD.
I had the pleasure to see them perform in Natick, MA.  USA  this year.  It was an intimate setting,  and they played several of the songs from their Visions CD,  which was a tribute to the works of Stevie Wonder.

The song that was just so memorable for me was Stevie's "Another Star".  The overall arrangement,  and what Laszlo did with the piano comp and solo just blew me away.   It immediately went on the learn-it list!

What they essentially did was to change the song to a modern swing walking bass number where they have a tenor sax lead  doing the head in the form of AABC.  Then the sax does improv on just BC and returns to AA one octave up.  The piano comes in for improv on the next BCBC,  then the sax comes for the head (AABC) and comps out on AA then AA up an octave, etc.  It is a pretty cool arrangement.

In my take on Another Star I use the same arrangement,  but substitute myself on jazz guitar for the tenor sax.   I ...really... wish that I knew how to record a drum set,  because this is my favorite song for letting loose on a drum kit.  The drummer that I use here from Band-in-a-Box is incredible,  but I would have so much fun recording this on drums.

(Special thanks to Cliff for added background vocals :-))    

Laszlo Gardony

Yoron Israel's Visions CD

The One and Only Stevie Wonder

Geek Alert
This is my next adventure in playing outside the changes.  The last time, on But Beautiful I gave it a whirl at ballad tempo.  This time,  you'll here me trying to go outside at 130 bpm.  You'll hear me trying just two note patterns going up a minor third  on the Eb chord.  You'll also hear me play alternate scales and chords that are "out" on the V chord of the ii-V going into Eb.

Sometimes rather than going completely "out",  I changed the harmony  to a substitution and played over the substitution  which is interesting also.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out some of the tasty comping tricks that Laszlo was doing.  He made the song have such a sense of motion with what he was doing.  I may have gotten one or two, but I wish that I had a transcription, that's for sure.

I doubled the guitar on the melody in certain spots with piano octaves.  I like the way that sounds.  How about you?   

1 comment:

  1. Ken,
    Keep up the excellent work.
    Guitar work is so appropriate as the feature, and the mix is just right.
    Piano solo is terrific too. Nice work!