Transcription: April In Paris

by Albert Romani

This July 26, 1955, recording of "April in Paris" contains three codas:

A) The first coda of 11 bars
B) Then Basie says "one more time.."
C) The second coda of 11 bars. This coda was chosen by Michael Pettersen for his transcription.
D) Then Basie says "one more once..."
E) The third and final coda of 11 bars.

I have transcribed the same 11 bars as Michael, but I have also studied all three codas.

I absolutely agree with Michael’s transcription posted on the Freddie Green website. He correctly notated the pitches clearly sounded by Freddie. My transcription takes a different approach as it contains the "lead line" as transcribed by Michael (black dot notes), but it also contains "X" notes and "white dot" notes.

I have written "X" for the notes that form a probable chord shape Freddie Green may have used. These "X" notes are normally below the lead line, but can be above the lead line as well. Freddie’s use of chord shapes and shape-to-shape movement are already discussed on the Freddie Green website. The video footage of Freddie playing also support this chord shape technique.

My approach does agree with the "One Note Chords" as described by Michael Pettersen; there are many recorded examples where this technique is perfectly obvious. However, I strongly believe there is much recorded evidence that illustrates that other "sounds" occur in addition to Freddie’s lead line. By seeking to transcribe those subtle sounds, I have become keenly aware that other muted and ghosted notes do exist, and these notes imply the possible chord shapes.

Exactly how loud the "X" notes are sounded, if they are actually sounded or not, and if some of them are actually a pitched note, are subjects for future research and discussion. For now, listen and decide for yourself.

Above the Freddie Green lead line note, we often encounter beautiful, but softer, notes. This is very common in Freddie’s style. Now I’m not talking about muted notes; I mean pitched notes that are quite audible, but are noticeably softer than the lead line. In my transcription work, I notate them as a "white dot". Be aware of the difference between the upper, softer notes and the muted notes transcribed as "X".

Among the many muted notes, make a distinction between notes that have no pitch (muted notes combined with percussive string sounds to provide rhythmic accents), and muted notes that have some pitch. There might even be unwanted notes on the first string! All these subtle notes and sounds provide important information about the chord shape used.

For "April in Paris", Michael transcribed just the lead line because other notes are uncertain in pitch or just rhythmic sounds. I have attempted to write a complete "transcription" based on my years of studying Freddie Green. But I state that my "April in Paris" cannot be considered a transcription; it is a hypothesis of what Freddie likely played. This recording of "April in Paris" is not useful for investigating the sounds surrounding Freddie’s lead line; only for the lead line is it a good take. My work on this tune is reinforced by listening to the three codas of 11 bars, and using the chord shapes that are more audible in the other codas. Many aspects of Freddie’s playing are not a "maybe" to me because I have been playing this style of guitar for many years. Often when listening to Freddie Green I will observe a common technique or chord movement that I have already deciphered from other recordings where the technique can clearly be heard or seen.

Please note that I am not saying "only play three note chords". Try to play the lead line while moving from chord shape to chord shape. I believe strongly that more sounds are happening below, and sometimes above, the lead line. And in places, I believe these sounds are more than muted notes; they are like half-muted notes, ghosted notes. But these ghosted notes must be played in such a way that the lead line is the predominant melodic line. This is made possible by using a muting technique with the left hand and using a particular wrist action with the right hand.

I may do another transcription for the Freddie Green website where the muted and half-muted sounds are more evident. My work on "April in Paris" was done because I was asked by Michael Pettersen so that we could compare our different approaches. However, I must insist that "April In Paris" it is not a good recording for my analysis of Freddie’s chord shapes. To understand more about my approach to playing like Freddie Green, please read my article: [ Coming Soon ] A New Hypothesis about Freddie Green. The article contains my "Tenor Banjo Hypothesis" and "Listening to the Unidentified Flying Sounds (UFS)".

Comments on "April in Paris":

  • Play the lead line on the 4th string. See my article "A New Hypothesis about Freddie Green’s Technique".

  • I have studied the three different endings. This helped me to infer possible chord shapes. Comparing one ending to another let me distinguish new sounds, and this aided my understanding of how Freddie’s left hand may have been positioned.

  • The upper notes (written as X on 3rd string) in bars 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 may be muted or half-muted. These notes are certainly felt, though not clearly sounded. Listen carefully on beats 2 and 4 of each bar, and decide for yourself if those notes are there. Try the chord shape and strum in such a way that you "aim" for the 4th string. Sometime the chord shape in on strings 6-5-4-3, other times it is 6-5-4, other times 6-x-4, etc. Experiment with different ways of muting or half-muting strings.

  • Seek muted notes on strings 6 and 5, below the lead line. You will likely recognize these sounds after arduous listening. The muted notes may be on strings 6, or 5, or both. After careful listening, you will become aware of the difference between the powerful and beautiful "one note" chords, and the other chords that consist of a 4th string leading note surrounded by unidentified muted notes.

  • In bar 4/beat 4, note the C#. It is an example of a typical Freddie Green technique that places a secondary note on top of the lead line note, but the secondary note is not as loud as the lead note. I notated this C# using a "white" dot. These upper secondary notes are meant to be heard, but are quite different from the muted notes that we can sense are there because of the chord shape. Often these upper secondary notes may be heard more clearly in a particular chorus.

  • Bar 6/beats 1 and 2...I am not sure what Freddie is doing. There are two common moves and beautiful voicings that may have been used. As a Dm7, the notes could be b7-b3-5; as a G9, the notes could be 3-b7-9. I have transcribed these two beats as a G9. One could say that this G9 shape makes little sense as a 6-5-4 voicing and would be easier (with less fretboard hand movement) using a (6)-5-4-3 voicing, but in video footage of Freddie that G9 voicing is heard and seen! I do not mean that G9 (3-b7-9) is always played as a 6-5-4 voicing. Please don’t make a rule of it. I hope to make you aware of listening (or looking on video footage) for the possible jump between both shapes.

  • Bar 6/beats 3 and 4 is also a typical Freddie Green move. Using a dominant 7th chord with the 7th as the lead tone, Freddie moves from the seventh to root, one tone above. I have listen to this move in many recordings and it can be played in two different ways using 6-5-4 voicings. One way is from Root-3-b7 to Root-3-Root. The other is from Root-3-b7 to 3-5-Root, though this requires more fretboard movement.

  • Bar 8...again I am not completely certain, but my long term study of Freddie leads me to either an Em7b5 (b5-b7-b3) voiced on 6-5-4, or A7b9 (b9-3-b7). In other transcriptions it is easier to figure out the shape below the lead tone by recognizing half-muted notes on top. For example, on a dominant 7th chord type, many times the shape 5-b7-3 alternates with 5-b9-3. If there is an audible "flying" note above on the 3rd string , it is easier to ascertain the chord shape on the lower strings.

  • Final bar...I cannot hear this clearly. At times I feel the presence of the 6th and the 9th, in a possible shape Root-3-6-9. At other times, I hear the simple shape Root-3-5 that fits the G lead note. Be aware of the difference between hearing a 6-5-4 voicing and hearing a 6-5-4 voicing shape, which is half listening and half deduction. Take care with these shapes. Don’t forget you can play and sound as many notes as you wish, and each can have a different volume. Try sounding only one single note within the whole 6-5-4 shape. The 6-5-4 shape concepts do not apply at all times. You will find recordings where Freddie plays 6-5-4-3 or 6-X-4-3 or 6-4-3 voicings with the lead voice on the 3rd string, instead of the common 4th string lead voice.

  • Be aware that when comparing Michael Pettersen’s transcription to my "transcription", all types of chord shapes and voicings are feasible. Freddie may have used: the chord shape moves I have described; the one note chords with or without a chord shape; the one note chords where a single string is struck; the one note chords where additional muted strings are struck; the one note chords with "half-muted" notes below the lead tone; the one note chords with upper notes that are almost inaudible or only audible on a particular beat. All of these variations may have been created by Freddie’s left hand, or by his unique wrist/hand/pick movement, or a combination of the two.

Written by Albert Romani
Edited by Michael Pettersen
October 2003

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