Sam Jones's Bass Line on "Autumn Leaves" Transcribed. 219-odd measures of Awesome.


Here it is, served hot on a platter by Basso Ridiculoso, all of it - the famous Dorian intro vamp, the head played by Mr. Miles Dewey Davis, then two choruses of your basic Cannonball Adderley alto-saxophonic melodious rhythmical genius, Miles soloing for two choruses, Hank Jones for only one chorus, Miles playing the head again, a rubato piano break down, and finally Hank Jones gets even and plays what is basically his second chorus on the way out for about 40 something bars over the same intro bass vamp.

The PDF below has what (I hope) are all the notes that Mr. Sam Jones played during that entire thing on his upright bass.

This tune is taken from a very famous album named "Somethin' Else" recorded by Cannonball Adderley for Blue Note Records in March of 1958 using all the guys mentioned above, plus Art Blakey on drums. If a person has any kind of jazz album collection, they own two jazz albums, "Kind of Blue" and this album. It is early Cannonball at some of his best. This version of Autumn Leaves is probably the most famous recorded version out there. If you accidently stand next to a piano for too long someone is going to ask you to play "Autumn Leaves", so this is a tune you gotta know. Why not see what went down bass-wise on what many people think is the definitive version then, huh? This version of the song might also deserve to be famous as possibly the quietest Art Blakey has ever played sitting behind a drum set. The man did address those drums directly, didn't he. Boy howdy. But man, does he sound sweet and he and Sam Jones lock up and glide. This is how ya do a slowish, almost-but-not-really-ballad-tempo swing version of a tune.

And I gotta say, after doing this, my respect for Sam Jones has gone up significantly. I am embarrassed to admit I kinda thought of him as the guy they got when they couldn't get Paul Chambers...but not anymore. Boy, was I epic-ly just wrong. The fact he played with Bill Evans should have been a bit of tip off. Mr. Jones has been promoted to a certified 4-Star Generallisimo Ridiculoso with oak leaf clusters and a little ribbon thing on it. His bass line is a thesis in harmonic and melodic bad-assery. Well played, sir!


This is one worth picking apart, examining and really looking at each measure. When you look at the bass line as a whole there is no doubt he was treating it as a melodic line and a spontaneous mini-composition.

Come then, let us probe the magnosity of this grandissimo basso ridiculoso!

Noteable Notes

I think part of what makes it feels so composed is because of his use of repetition. What, you say? He repeats himself? What's wrong, did he run out of ideas? You are supposed to never repeat yourself, right that's bad, right? No. I am gonna go with, no, he did it on purpose. Think about it, when you sing a song, is the melody completely different every time through? No. The melody has a cohesiveness and it gets that from repetition. It is how those songs get stuck in our head, because they have a hook, or a riff, or some melodic fragment that gets repeated over and over and over and over...

How Mr. Jones uses this effect is by playing the same phrase or recognizable arpeggio on a chord every time that specific chord comes around. The effect is that you really know where you are in the tune. Instead of having an endless stream of walking notes which are different in every bar every time through the tune, by returning to repeated phrases it really keeps the tune sounding like, well a tune, like one cohesive thing. Just like the melody of a tune, it repeats! Its subtle, but it really works. Check out a few examples:

Almost every time the Eb Major comes around he plays this phrase:

Picture 12.jpg

on that specific chord, Eb major, and almost exclusively on that particular chord every time it comes around...pretty much. Now this is a pivotal chord because all the chords before this one have been moving in fourths and right after the Eb the tune jumps a TRITONE away to A min. A really big root motion change, so maybe he is offsetting that by giving your ears the same familiar line every time right before to set it up. Either way it totally works.

But BY FAR, his favorite phrase of the tune is this one on G Min:

Picture 1.jpg

He plays that one a TON. It got so I started playing a game where I would just write that line in before the G Min came around, and then play those measures and see if I had to change any notes. Most of the time, I didn't have to, he plays it that often. But he keeps it for just the G min chords as their own exclusive little unique VIP treatment. And pretty soon, it becomes its own predictable melody because it shows up at the same place every time, which is at the end of 8 measure phrases usually, so that familiarity and identifiable part really becomes a landmark and designates a part of the tune as just that, a part, not an endless stream of walking notes like I talked about up there. Its like punctuation, having a period at the end of sentence. Tricky, huh? That sneaky swinging maniac. And look at that - Both his favorite phrases use almost exactly the same chord tones, just in a different inversion.

Another unifying thematic thing he does is start both of the trumpet choruses with almost exactly the same phrase, but he doesn't do that anywhere else, only to start those two choruses.

Picture 6.jpg

Picture 5.jpg

Range-wise, he doesn't go to any note higher than the "D" on his G string until about halfway through the first trumpet chorus. In all the 100-something measures before that you could play almost the entire bass line in the first position (the first 4 or 5 frets) there is just one or two C#'s or D's. And it still sounds awesome. And there are maybe 20-25 notes total above that "C" in the entire bass line.

Some other things to notice:

Hardly any scale-wise movement in the bass line, he barely does any, only a couple of times. Stuff like this is pretty rare:

Picture 7.jpg

Picture 8.jpg

The bulk of the things he uses instead are:

Arpeggios/Chord Tones - playing combinations of just the chord tones of that measure. He does that a lot.

Passing tones/leading tones - a.k.a notes a half-step away from the next chord. He uses half-step approaches like crazy all over the place, down from the fifth, leading into the next chord, he does that one a lot.

Mr. Super Hip

He plays an E natural on the C minor chord a lot. During Cannonballs Solo chorus and the piano solo. That's kinda weird. He doesn't use it when he is leading into the F either, (although he does do that too) but as an arpeggio.

Picture 4.jpg

Also check out how sometimes he plays an E natural when he is walking up on a D chord, and sometimes he plays an Eb. b9's baby, the last dissonant frontier!

It depends on which part of the tune he is on, if that D is part of the key of G Maj (and so needs an E natural) or if it is part of Gmin, and needs it flatted. He picks the notes that give it away and uses it to play off the difference. Crafty.

But those particular parts were the most tricky and the ones that might get corrected by some wise guy, some of the notes were like an Eb-and-a-half, so maybe some I wrote as Eb's might be E naturals. Some are absolutely Eb's though.

Why this tune?

A couple of reasons, first, as I mentioned above it is pretty much the definitive version of this tune and a classic. Ya can't go wrong with that line up. And I couldn't find a complete (or free) version of this floating around on the net. Maybe it is out there, I am sure many have transcribed this before I. Before me. Whatever. I couldn't find one.

Second, the mix. On most Blue Note/Van Gelder recordings everyone was literally playing into two mics (for stereo, but some were even mono) but it wasn't like there were different tracks for each instrument, it was just two mics in a room, everyone was on the stereo track all smushed together. You needed less bass? He had to play softer. More piano, he had to play louder. No Pro Tools nonsense, just guys playing to tape.

But, on this recording, the bass is panned all the way to one side, so you can hear it a lot better than some recordings. I just panned to that side and was able to hear the bass as pretty much a 200-something measure solo. They gave the soloists their own mic, and the rhythm section must have got the other one completely to themselves.

I would suggest to play along with the tune that way, drop the track into Itunes, or Transcribe! (which is what I used for this. Hands down the best transcription software around) and play with the stero/balance settings and listen to the bass and drums isolated. Then just read or play along. It will sound like the trumpet and alto are facing away from the mic and behind some baffles. Cannonball is still loud though, but the trumpet pretty much disappears.

Kill the Clams

Now, I checked this over and played along to it several times of course, but some mystery notes or clams may have snuck through. If you find one, let me know and you will get props here for taking me down a notch for writing down the wrong note. I don't have anything like a t-shirt or a gym bottle or goodies like that, but I will post your name for the world to see. Also, if you notice any interesting motifs or phrases post those for people to see also. There are a lot more gems in this thing, there are rhythmic things he does during the head that set the stage for the notes he uses on those same chords throughout the entire tune. He really knew what he was doing.

When I went looking for a copy of this bass line on the internets (and didn't find one) I did find that Rob Gourlay has this tune in one of his transcription books, so if anyone has that, it would be interesting to check this version against his and see what is different. I, uh, trust Mr. Gourlay's ears.


But really the process in and of itself is incredibly beneficial, even if a few clams made it through. I mean, it needs to be right and I will correct anything that is wrong, but the learning that you get during transcription is like taking musical steroids. So, what are you transcribing right now? Not "are you transcribing" but "what are you transcribing" because you need to start.

I gotta few others transcription ideas in the pipe, I may do the trumpet solo from this tune and put it in bass clef. If there is interest, I am happy to do a post on the transcribing process I use and maybe even a screen cast about it.

So there you have it. Please comment and let me know what you think. Also, this is for educational purposes, so don't repost it anywhere as your own or anything lame like that and of course the performance is all Mr. Sam Jones's. Please attribute and link back here to Basso Ridiculoso if you want to mention it online. Or I will come to your house and pee on your lawn.

Also, Basso Ridiculoso is on Facebook now as well, so feel free to add/like/friend me or whatever one does.

Edit 10/1 6 PM PST: TalkBass user StickPlayer rightly pointed out some low E's that were not marked as E naturals. So those have been fixed now. Any low "E" is a natural, not flat.

Edit 12/12/12 It looks like the place that hosted the PDF died, so here is a new link to it.
Autumn Leaves Transcription


Anonymous said...

"Generallisimo" Ridiculoso. Is that a Jack Donagee reference?
Great site, I appreciate the analysis. I have way more respect for Sam now. Thanks dude. Keep 'em coming.

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Hey there,

Don't know who Jack Donagee is, just trying to be snarky and humorous. Mr. Jones is a bass playing 4 star general is what I mean by that.

Glad it helped! It is motivating and keeps me practicing too We all have benefited I am sure from the resources on the internet, I know I have, so I am just trying to put some back in the pool for others to use.

And the rest of you, would it kill you to leave a comment? You don't even have to leave your name. Geez.

Mike said...

Hey - great transcription! Thanks. Working through it now.

From my perspective, I prefer to have the chords in transcriptions as well so when I'm analysing I can immediately refer to it and see the relationship rather than trying to figure it out - what are your thoughts on this?


Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Agreed, I will put the changes on the entire thing next time. I only put it on the melody chorus, but it makes it a lot easier when the chords are there to see what notes are being played.

Steve said...

Thanks for posting this! I've been wanting to work through this song for awhile - this helps with the process and motivation too :P Keep up the great work!


Anonymous said...

Great song, possibly the best version ever, superb bass line. I'll take your transcription home and check it out this evening. Thanks for your work.


steve9000gi said...

Hey, this is Steve again (steve9000gi on Talkbass). Looked over your transcription last night. Excellent work. As always, there were some notes I wasn't sure of (yeah, some of those Eb's could have been E's, as you noted) but I didn't find any obviously wrong notes. With great respect, some observations:

0) Possibly a trivial detail, but your work is so beautiful it would be nice for everything to be as nearly perfect as possible: The opening lick happens 23 times. You say "repeat 24x" which could be interpreted as meaning either 24 or 25 times total, so I'd suggest saying "play 23x." I’d also count out the end (I didn't, myself).

1) I assume it's an artifact of your transcription/scoring software, and I can see how it happened, but what you call bar 6 is actually bar 28. I'll use your numbering scheme with quotes here, but it would be nice to have the correct bar count.

2) Is the chord at the beginning of the bridge really Am7b5? I've always wondered about that with this recording anyway, and studying the bass makes it even more questionable. In almost every case (bars "19", "51", "83", "115", "147", "179") the bass plays it as a D chord, I think D7, and the one time he starts the bridge with an A (bar "211"), the second half of the bar is a D, strongly implying that he's treating it as a D chord starting on the 5th (which he does on other chords elsewhere in the song). As an addendum, I’m tempted to think that’s an F# on beat 3 of bar “51”, treating it as some kind of D Major as he does elsewhere.

3) It seems strange to me that he never smooths that tritone root progression from EbM7 to Am7b5 (e.g, bars "14" - "15") by playing a line on EbM7 that ends up on the 5 of the chord on beat 4, i.e., Bb, and then, on beat 1 of the next bar, drops down a half step onto the root of the Am7b5, and the Bb is a chord tone to boot. No criticism -- it's a superb bass line -- but it seems to me like it would be an unavoidable choice, at least sometimes. Wonder what I’m not getting.

4) Yeah, it is interesting how he plays the E natural on beat 2 of the Cm. It makes me think about theoretical discussions where it's said you're more free in your note choices on the "weak" beats, i.e., 2 and 4, but, as you say, he's not necessarily using it as a half step approach note into the F7 (although he does in bar "23").

5) Final picky point: You've done everything else so well, why not put in the final note?

Thanks again for your fine transcription. More, please. How about “One for Daddy-o” off the same record?


Neon Scribe said...

Just another vote for chord symbols throughout. It makes it much easier to understand why he's doing what he's doing when you can glance up at the names of the chords. Regarding bar numbering, it would actually be more useful to number within sections or choruses, i.e. assign letters A, B, C, etc. to Intro, FIrst Head, Alto Chorus 1, etc. then use measure numbers A-1, A-2, ..., B-1, ... B-32, C-1, etc. Again, it just makes it easier to follow, e.g. the bridge always shows up at 16-24.

Also, another vote of thanks for this excellent transcription. I'm looking forward to many more!

Anonymous said...

nice work! thnx for your time! going to buy track on amazon and play along... this version doesn't really slay me but maybe i need to hear it more..i am currently trying to 'transcribe' -pick apart the oscar peterson version w- Ray of course which is unbelievable..i have no where near the range&or fluency but it's cool none the less..keep up the good work and wow! your site is a wealth of info! cheers -JP

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Thanks for the props! The cool thing about standards is there are so many versions to choose from. :)

Post the Ray Brown version when you get it done, would love to see the differences and see how another Grande Ridiculoso Supremo plays on the tune.

Anonymous said...

this is truly a subtle masterpiece! thnx again! i probably won't get the Oscar version done in my life time lol just too good for me right now...must say the intro of this version really grew on me!Ray brown is my fav mos def but i've been listening to Mraz on 'St.Louis Blues' w- Flanagan as for the low action modern sound...pretty cool as well,cheers

Anonymous said...

thanks alot for transcibing..have to write a bassline over this for a class and it's great to see what jones did on it

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

No cheating now! :)

But that is how its done, see what the masters have done and take what works for you and add to it with your own flair and Ridiculoso!

Anonymous said...

walking bass lines are an art form. Certainly this is an example of this. I think (and I am an electric bass player) we get get caught up in the must be different every chorus syndrome. When you are walking it is essentially a four note per beat solo that can resolve over any number of bars. You have your strong beats etc. But essentially you are playing a continual counterpoint solo to to the harmonic foundation of any tune. That is fact. That is why these transcriptions are so fascinating. I tend to use extended scalar lines as a means of resolution over a number of bars as is a more Chambers way. But it always depends on context. When playing behind a vocalist I find myself spelling out the chord changes and then sometimes not. I would approach AL in a very similar way as this bltc but with a nuanced touch to any situation.

Anonymous said...

Great tune and a I'm sure a great transcription, but I'm not able to find the PDF link. Is it in there and I just missed it?

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Well, it looks like the place I hosted the PDF is no longer in existence, so here is a new place to get the PDF:

Autumn Leaves Transcription

Anonymous said...

Great, Thank You!

Buckthorn said...

First, thanks so much for doing this. I've already found several really new things in this bass line for me to try. As you note, he uses half-step approach notes a lot -- more than I would ever allow myself to do --but he makes it sound so cool. I love his use of octaves combined with chromatics during the alto chorus. The same goes for how he uses chromatic "wrapping" (I'm not sure what else to call it), as in C-G-G-flat-E-F in going from C minor to F7. It has such a cool sound to it (and I mean quintessential mid-50s jazz cool) . Finally, I want to take small issue with your comment about little scale-wise movement. He uses it to great effect in several spots, while going, for example, from G minor to C, A minor 7 to D7, and F7 to B-flat 7. But no matter. I consider this bass line a treasure trove, and thanks again for transcribing it!

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to transscript it myself, but gave up. Many thanks for taking up this lavoro ridiculoso - and I really appreciate your analysis.
- Bass1959 -

Anonymous said...

Great job but might want to double check the mr super hip section, those first couple E naturals over the C min chords sound in fact like Eb, especially after slowed down, maybe a little out of tune but Eb

Brad R-M said...

Link to transcription is dead. :(

Marty said...

Any of getting an updated link to the transcription? Please...... please pretty please :)

Post a Comment