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Anthony Jackson - "We Got Each Other"

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

Chaka Khan's "We Got Each Other" is, for a number of reasons, a somewhat unusual affair. Firstly, the song is pitched exactly one quarter-tone above concert pitch wherein A=440 Hz. Secondly, for most of the song, bassist Anthony Jackson and the rest of the band seem to be treating the harmonic centre of the song slightly differently .

As for the tuning issue, maybe you're thinking to yourself, "Hmmm...okay, so if the track deviates from standard pitch by 50 cents (a semitone is equal to 100 cents), why did you transcribe it in Eb minor? Why not conceive it as being in the easier-to-read key of E minor, given that the recording falls exactly between these two notes?"

Well, yes, that's all fine and dandy; if E minor was subject to a 50-cent drop, it would sound as we hear it on the recording. However, in light of the fact this track heavily features a horn section, it's more likely that the piece was arranged using a flat-side key to avoid raising the players' collective hackles. ;-) This points to the likelihood of the key being raised 50 cents from Eb minor, rather than dropped 50 cents from E minor.

Confused? Well, there's more...

To complicate matters further, it seems AJ's low Eb could be an open string, despite the tight way it's controlled: If AJ did tune down a semitone to Eb, the fingering for the main groove would be very easy...Also, given that the guitars likely didn't tune down, and the fact they don't seem to be using any open strings, which they likely would have done had the piece originally been in E minor, I reckon my theory is capable of standing up to at least some scrutiny. ;-)

As to why the track's tuning is out, I can only posit tentative possibilities. As the keyboards of the 1970s and early 80s didn't have today's vast array of technical capabilities, such as being able to transpose to a new key, or alter the tuning by a few cents at the twiddle of a knob, I think the best guess is that the tape machine used during the recording or mastering procedures processed the tape at a nonregular speed - either by accident or design - ultimately resulting in the slight rise in pitch.

Obviously, none of this is set-in-stone fact, and I'd be more than happy to entertain alternative explanations!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, if you want to play along with this track using this transcription (and avoid the misery of playing "outside," in the non-jazz application of the term), you'll have to tune your 5- or 6-string bass up by 50 cents i.e. one quarter-tone. That way you'll effectively be playing in the transcribed key of Eb raised by a quarter-tone to match the song's pitch.

I know Korg tuners allow you to tune 50 cents sharp or flat (I've used a battered but prized Korg DT-3 for the last century or two), but beyond that you'll have to dig out the manual for your own particular tuner. Failing that you'll have to - gasp! - use your ears. It's not too difficult to do; just tune up slightly sharp. You'll know you're in the right zone when all the neighbourhood dogs start barking. ;-)

If, however, you're intent on using a 4-string, you'll have to tune down as AJ did, and learn to play in a new tuning! Good luck!

If you're interested in the intricacies of tuning and cents, this link will help clear things up.

As with all the tracks on this album, the calibre of the personnel ensures that the song shimmers and shines with quality. One example of this is the way Larry Williams voices the keyboard chords in bars 46-52, holding a long A throughout these bars and giving rise to the 5th in Dmaj7 and D13sus, as well as the 9th in Gmaj9 and the 13th in C13sus. (This same sequence also occurs in bars 66-72.)

Another example of this kind of subtle excellence can be heard in the voicing used for the staccato horn chords in bar 53 (and later bar 72). Here, the seemingly unrelated chords of C9sus, Fmaj9, E9sus, C#min7, Bmaj9 and Bb9sus are tied together beautifully by a rising whole-tone scale that starts on an F natural with the C9sus chord, and climbs to an Eb in the last chord of the sequence, Bb9sus. The arrangements on Chaka's solo albums are full of little gems such like this. (On this occasion, it was multi-instrumentalist Larry Williams who arranged the horn section, rather than Arif Mardin.)

AJ employs a lot of palm muting on this track, which means many of the notated quarter notes die away fairly quickly. However, if you listen carefully the notes continue to ring, albeit in an understandably muted fashion.

Keen ears may also discern a somewhat unusual chordal tension in the main groove. After 4-bar drum intro,the first guitar enters in bar5 and outlines a Bb minor tonlity. Then, in bar 7 the second guitar kicks in and sketches out a contrasting Eb minor tonality. This small section with its two juxtaposed tonlities is a kind of microcosm of the whole piece:As the band kicks in - and for the rest of the track - Anthony Jackson remains the sole proponent of this Eb minor-based tonality, as Chaka, the band, and the entire arrangement fall into what seems like a straight Bb minor groove, as presaged in the intro.

Though Bb minor can simply be seen as the 5th, 7th and 9th of Eb minor, it's unnerving that the band members - with the sole exception of AJ - never fully commit to this Eb minor tonality (apart from a brief recurrence of the guitar intro after the middle-eight) and the instrumentalists painstakingly avoid using a Gb (the minor third in Eb minor) in their chordal work. However, that's not to say that Gb is not present per se, as the vocal and horn parts often use it as a passing tone, but not as part of an Ebmin chord.

As such, the Ebmin9 chord name used here is a kind of compromise, which, though conveying the correct information as to the notes being played, fails to pinpoint the subtle interplay going on between AJ - as he confidently lays down the key tones of Eb minor (Eb, Gb, and Bb) - and the rest of the musicians, who seem to be thinking/playing in an ostensibly Bb minor mood.

In this particular transcription, the chord symbols have been sized downward to accommodate sections in which chords tumble after each other in quick succession (as in bar 53). Even so, I've had to stack chord symbols on top of each other in a few places.

I've made the same plea elsewhere, but if there are any Finale gurus out there who know to rotate chord symbols on their axes (ala the Real Book), for pity's sake, please me know how it's done!

Transcription © Stevie Glasgow 2008