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This is an old "blog" post that I wrote many years ago. It's in need of an update, but for now I present this analysis as it was origianlly published.
"Waiting on a Friend" was first recorded for The Rolling Stones' 1981 album Tattoo You and featured a legendary Sonny Rollins solo. However, for this 1997 live performance in St. Louis, MO, The Rolling Stones invited Joshua Redman on stage to play the saxophone solo. This particular performance can be heard on The Rolling Stones' 1998 album No Security.
Redman's solo masterfully walks the line between jazz and pop by blending grace notes and bends with traditional bebop-esque jazz vocabulary. Redman also slyly pays homage to the original soloist, Sonny Rollins, with an ingenious quote about half-way through.
I have detailed a few of my favorite moments below.
This solo is a showcase of articulation brilliance. Articulation, along with time-feel, can be thought of as akin to a musical finger-print: no two people articulate exactly the same way. For this reason, articulation may be one of the toughest musical actions to notate with clarity. While I've added some articulations, I encourage readers to study the recording to hear Redman's particularly approach to articulation rather than rely on the relatively few articulation symbols at the music engravers disposal.
This simple yet, relatively rhythmically complex phrase, owes its catchiness and memorability to Redman's articulation. Redman creates interest and motific continuity by alternating between long and short note-lenghts.
Another very catchy three-note phrase. Redman is great at building entire solos from basic musical elements (as is Sonny Rollins). This particular phrase makes use of: 1) varied articulation, 2) tension and release, and 3) grace notes.
This line features a number a great articulation techniques as well as varied note lengths and motivic development.
I could have added some articulation markings to these eighth notes, but because it's fairly subtle, I decided to keep them blank. My favoriate aspect of this excerpt is how Redman pushes and pulls on the time. Redman stretches the time on the two eighth notes on beat-one of the third measure in this example. This "laid back"-feel is further highlighted and contrasted with the staccato 8th notes that immediately follow.
I admit that this could be a stretch, but given Redman's musicality, I'm betting this is not just a coincidence. While reading and listening to the line below, notice how a backup singer bends into to a note and then follows it with a descending line. Guess does Redman plays just two beats later? This may be more clear with listening to it in context, and not just from the clip below.
Another technique to note here is Redman's use of descending 7th chord-like figures. He doesn't over do this, but it happens enough times to make the case that this is part of his vocabulary. As you'll see below, he plays a descending E minor 7th chord most often. Usually the E minor 7 is followed by some variation of an A7 chord -- helping him create some harmonic motion (which also leads him to the home key, D major) in an otherwise harmonically static song.
Redman also plays a few other four-note descending arpeggio-like 16th lines. These are the "(ish)" parts, referenced in the sub-heading above. These are often inversions
of triads, 7th chords, or pentatonic scales.
For me, these descending 7th-like chord sequences are a defining aspect of the solo. Below are a few examples:
Here, Redman plays this motif in three consecutive beats. The first two beats are examples of the 7th chord"ish" variety. Beat one is a G triad and beat two is an E minor triad starting with the 9. Beat three, however, is an E minor 7 chord descending from the 7th, and beat four is an implied A7. Combining the E minor 7 on beat three with the A7 on beat four creates a ii-V to the next chord, D major.
This example also features a plethora of Redman-esque techniques.
Beat three of the first measure is an enclosure of the G major chord found on beat 4. This kind of
harmonic anticipation is very effective at creating forward motion.
The next three beats demonstrate the descending 7th chords, each of which he played earlier in the solo, as seen in the previous
example. Beat 4 is a first-inversion of an E minor triad, or a variation of E
minor pentatonic, beat one of G major is a descending G maj 7 chord, and the
next beat is a permutation of an E minor 7 chord.
This phrase also highlights Redman's effective grace note technique.
The last time this descending E minor 7th chord appears is in the very end of the song, just before Redman's short cadenza on the final chord.
In an ingenious move during his second solo, Redman acknowledges Sonny Rollins, the original soloist on this song. About half-way through we hear Redman quote Sonny Rollins' most well-known composition, "St. Thomas." What makes this moment even more remarkable is the musicality with which it is accomplished: it fits seamlessly within the surrounding context -- something that's hard to pull-off with any quote, even if 100% spontanous. Rollins is renowned for quoting melodies and tunes in his improvisations, which makes this a fitting tribute to the master. Interestingly, the songs are in the same key, C major.
Redman applied a motific development technique known as diminution when quoting "St. Thomas." Diminution is defined by Hal Crook as:
"... a form of motific development using rhythmic embellishment where all (or most) of the note values of a motific are contracted or decreased by a noticeable amount in a subsequent motif. The melody notes and melodic curve usually stay the same, but may change."