Michael Brecker Tenor Sax Solo Transcription-Four Chords

Here’s another new transcription I have been working on.  This is Michael Brecker’s 5 chorus solo over the tune “Four Chords” from the album Paradox by Steps Ahead.  This is young Michael Brecker tearing it up with some high energy classic “Brecker” lines. The Paradox album is one of the many Steps Ahead albums that I purchased back in the 80’s when I first heard about Michael Brecker and Steps Ahead.

 Michael Brecker in the 70’s

I’ve been been working on this solo for the past few weeks. Figuring out the chord progressions on some of these tunes can be rough.  I always wished I was one of the guys that had perfect pitch and could hear every single note and what inversions the chords were in but alas………I was not born with that gift.  I remember taking lessons with Charlie Banacos and I was working hard trying to hear two notes at once and being able to name them by ear.  I was having a rough time and Charlie told me he has had some students that had such good ears that he could play 13 random notes on the piano at the same time and the students could name all of them by ear (He did tell me that those students were a rare exception though……which made me feel better)

I believe these chords are close to what is being played although I am not 100% certain.    I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out the exact chords and inversions on the piano and finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  This is as close as I could get……….If any of you can hear the chords easily I would love to hear from you if you hear something different than what I have.

There are a ton of great lines and licks in this solo and what actually spurred this on was that Rick Margitza shared two other bootleg transcriptions of “Four Chords” on Facebook which are awesome too.  I actually started putting all 3 transcriptions together on a 3 stave version of the solo to compare them and work through the lines.  I hope to share them when they are ready.

Addition:  I’m adding this a week after the original post.  I ended up buying the Don Grolnick Collection because a few of these chords were driving me insane.  This is what Don Grolnick’s original lead sheet states for the chords on the solo section:

E-7sus /E-7sus                  /CMaj7                       /B-sus E7#9/

A-7      /G-7b5      C7b5     /F#-7b5 Fm6 Abm6/B7#9           /

E-7      /D-7           G7         /Camj7                      /B-7sus Bb13/

A-7sus/EbMaj7   DbMaj7/GMaj7b5                /F13                /

The first chord is labeled as E-7sus which makes sense as at the 8 minute mark I hear Mike Mainieri comping a suspended sound on the vibes.  I take this to mean EGABD.   My Finale program wouldn’t let me  put in a minor suspended notation so I labeled that chord as a E-11 chord (which I think of as having the same notes).  Where ever there is a minor sus chord in the tune I call it a minor 11 chord in the transcription. 

The 2nd chord is still baffling me though.  The sheet music says it is still a E-7sus chord but in the piano part there is a D# as the left hand bass note.  I would usually think this is a chord with D# in the bass because of that but I still hear the bass playing lots of BC#D# on that chord.  I basically hear that chord as D#GABD concert key.  Brecker does seem to be gravitating to an F lydian sound on this 2nd measure so that would make sense.  

I had measure 3-5 mostly correct. Measure 6 is a minor ii-V which surprised me.  Brecker’s lines are definitely outlining a minor ii-V so that is what I first thought that measure was but when I play it on the piano it doesn’t sound right to me.  I think it’s a matter of finding the right voicing to fit with the other chords.

The rest of the chords are pretty straight forward.  I missed the b5 on measure 15 but I knew there was more tension on that chord than a normal GMaj9 chord………..I changed all the chords to reflect the Don Grolnick version of the lead sheet.  The only difference is that measure 2 which I kept as C#7#5#9 just because I’m pretty sure it is not a E-7sus chord there…………Enjoy!

Four Chords Brecker Solo-Paradox

*I’m not sure if this recording is available right now but you can listen to the solo online here for free.  If your resourceful there is probably a way to record it while it streams from that site………….

*It is also on Google Play to buy for .99 Four Chords

If you love these type of outside Brecker type lines, be sure to check out my PDF book “Devastating Minor Lines for Jazz and Funk Soloing” in which I take 100 classic minor “outside” lines in 16th notes and write them out in all 12 keys.  These lines are devastatingly awesome!! (that’s my opinion anyways……)


Devastating Minor Lines for Jazz & Funk

Share : Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on GooglePlusShare on LinkedinShare on Pinterest
Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.


  1. Avatar Dr. Roger Eckers says

    Hi Steve
    Love your transcriptions!! Any idea where to get a recording of Four Chords? Any chance you could put in on your site?

Speak Your Mind


Visit us on FacebookVisit us on TwitterVisit us on YouTubeVisit us on Linkedin