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Anthony Jackson - "Heed The Warning"

As featured on "What Cha' Gonna Do For Me" by Chaka Khan
Warner B7599-25867-2 (1981)

Chaka Khan - What Cha' Gonna Do For Me

"Heed The Warning" is a powerful riff-driven number in which Anthony Jackson works in conjunction with the guitarists to drive the song forward. This sense of impetus is underlined in the verse section, where the main chord of each bar is not sounded until the fourth beat, creating a strong syncopation effect.

Although the bass and guitars play pretty much the same riff, typically, AJ introduces small deviations that serve to heighten interest by conjuring up fleeting sparks of unexpected pizzazz. For example, on the first beat of bar 3, the sixteenth-note guitar riff plays C, C, Bb, C (underlining the Cmin7 harmony), whereas AJ eschews the final C in favour of an - this momentarily undermines the Cmin7 flavour and adds an almost subliminal splash of harmonic colour.

Other nanoscale deviations are evident in the rhythmic pattern of the main riff, with AJ inserting a sixteenth rest into the first group of four sixteenths in each bar, stubbornly refusing to match the four sixteenth-notes played by the guitar.

AJ's playing style teems with this kind of subtle digression from the norm, and these two simple cases serve as an example of the playful inventiveness that sets him apart from many of his peers. The fact he was compelled to take the drastic step of detuning his 4-string Fender bass and learn a whole new set of fingerings in pursuit of his ideas while working on Chaka's albums is testament to his artistic vision and no-compromise approach to making the best music possible.

"Heed The Warning" also again demonstrates that AJ is happy to embrace simplicity if required. The restrained root-dominant (F-Bb) motion that underpins much of the sections that alternate between Bb9sus and Bb9 is testament to this approach.

The climax of the track occurs in bar 57 during the (slightly-later-than-the-middle) middle-eight section. Rising to the challenge of injecting interest into this key part of the song, AJ soars up a major arpeggio over the band's Bb groove and mischievously introduces a strong Ab during his descending run,hinting at a possible resolution to Eb major that never actually materializes. This audacious run (using passing tones to ensure the key notes fall exactly on the strong beats) is the highlight of the whole album as far as I'm concerned!

As an aside, this track is a study in 9th chords: Almost every chord in the piece contains a 9th, apart from two Bb chords in the middle-eight.

Also, check out AJ's scintillating fills during the outro: Bars 78-79 are typical Jackson, as he conjures up a rhythmic whirlwind by firing off a volley of sixteenths that manage to incorporate both the major 7th and minor 7ths in the key of Bb, (A natural and A flat, respectively) as well as digging into a Db - the bluesy minor third - near the end of the run. A similar hail of sounds occurs during bars 86-87. In terms of impact, these trademark runs are akin to fireworks going off in the midst of the music, and are probably powerful enough to stop a runaway bull in its tracks.

Transcription © Stevie Glasgow 2008