Anthony Jackson's bass playing on "What Cha' Gonna Do For Me," (the title track of Chaka Khan's third solo album), is doubled throughout by a Moog synth, imbuing the song with a deep, wall-tremblin' sonic intensity.
In light of the readily identifiable style of the bass part, it's crystal clear that Jackson was in charge of all bass-related matters. As such, he would have conceived and recorded his part first, which then would have been transcribed and copied verbatim by the Moog player. (This bass-doubling technique differs from Moog-only approach used on "We Can Work It Out," the Beatles cover that opens the album.
As he does on many other Chaka tracks, AJ employs a combination of pick-playing and palm-muting to deliver his trademark tight and punchy phrases, while simultaneously redefining and exploding the parameters of "groove."
Like all musicians, AJ is not a robot. Consequently, he varies - ever so slightly and probably subconsciously - the length of notes in similar phrases in different sections of a particular song. From a transcription point of view, this kind of thing can potentially give rise to extremely fiddly transcriptions.
Normally, I'm prepared to fight to the death over the accuracy of transcribed notation, but in very rare cases, even Virgo-perfectionists like me (I hate the fact I conform to all known Virgoan traits, despite thoroughly despising astrology) are forced into making concessions.
In the case of "What Cha' Gonna Do For Me," a rigorously strict notation would have lacked any sensible kind of consistency and been very heavy on the eye. As such, I've slightly skirted the problem by adopting a quasi-compromise approach. (Having said that, fussiness is not something I'm averse to if the situation calls for it!) For example, in the main verse sections, AJ plays most of the F notes on the first and third beats of the bar as sixteenths, contrasting with the two eighth-note Ebs on the offbeats of the two and four. However, there are times when one of these Fs will occasionally be held for as long as an eighth, causing much gnashing of teeth and rending of hair - and not necessarily my own. Despite this, I reckon it's a relatively safe assumption that AJ was aiming for some kind of consistency with this main groove, and as such, I've notated all instances of these Fs as sixteenths when they occur in this position, even though occasionally, one or two are held for as long as an eighth.
May my worthless soul rot in Virgo hell.
On the other hand, in the chorus sections, it's maddeningly apparent that AJ is slightly elongating the majority of the Fs that fall on the first beat when compared with those of the verse, and as such, I've notated all these notes as eighths. This is one of those situations where you're damned if you do; damned if you don't...
May my children's children speak my name with ear-reddening shame.
Thus, much as it pains my inherent perfectionism, in cases similar to this, I'm not averse to adopting this kind of sensible approach.
Guitarist extraordinaire-cum-transcribing whiz Steve Khan states he always writes what he thinks musicians intended to play, whenever there's room for doubt. But Khan is talking about transcribing solos, specifically jazz solos, where speculating on possible intent is made much easier if the transcriber has a solid grounding in jazz theory. Generally, in a non-solo context, I prefer to notate what was actually played, as opposed to speculating on how someone's mind was operating at a particular time.
But, having said that, in terms of a groove that repeats multiple times, I think Khan"s approach is the bee's knees. Thus, I feel slightly less queasy with regard to making certain assumptions about AJ's thinking on this track. To put it simply, I reckon it's permissible in certain instances (though not all) for a sense of consistency to override infinitesimal differences that can actually hamper smooth communication in terms of cluttering up the page needlessly. Now I've go that off my chest...
This is another track on which AJ tuned his 4-string Fender bass down by at least a tone, perhaps more. The lowest note is a low D tone below the normally open E-string (thus sounding as D1).
I've chosen to note the C7 chords that occur at the ends of chorus sections as C7alt, rather than spelling each one out individually, e.g. C7#5b9 etc. The reason for this is that different notes are used/emerge from the mix with each appearance of this cadence. For example, at the end of the intro section, (bar 4 if you disregard the repeats), the keyboards utilize both the #5 and b5, while the guitar can be heard hitting the b9. However, in similar sections later on, the b5 is omitted from the keyboard phrase, but the guitar tosses off the #9. The bottom line is that they're all altered dominant chords: As such, why not add in your own extensions and enjoy the fun! ;-)
By the way, in bar 60 the notes of the chord on the second beat of the bar are D, A, C, Eb, F, Bb, which I've called Fsus13/D. However, if you've got a better name for this chord I'd be glad to hear it!
Interestingly, in bar 61 the bass (and the synth bass) play a passing major 3rd (F) over the Dbsus13 chord, adding in an extra dimension of harmonic playfulness. However, when this same chord comes round again four bars later, the bass sounds only the root and fifth. Too much of a good thing is bad for you I guess. ;-)
AJ's occasional muted and tightly packed sixteenth-note runs are a study in bass fills. As well as boosting rhythmic interest by showering the ear with a fountain of notes, he usually takes care to outline the basic harmony. Examples of this can be seen in bars 77 and 85, in which he employs repeated notes to emphasize key chord tones, including the 9th (G) as in bar 85.
Incidentally, if you're wondering why the chord symbols are smaller in this piece than in my other transcriptions, it was to make way for the chord names in certain sections. It seems Finale 2008 has no way to rotate chords diagonally on their axes, ala the Real Book, thus allowing you squeeze more chord names into a tighter space...sob!
Transcription © Stevie Glasgow 2008