Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

For this second post about the great Marvin Sewell, I’ve choose an extract from an album where Sewell’s playing shines greatly : it’s from a tribute-album to Nina Simone by singer Kellylee Evans. With a great -french- rhythm section, this album in trio + voice, gives plenty of room to Sewell to showcase his wide range of approach in a strip-down context : e-bow, chords, single lines …

On classic Nina Simone tune, Sewell crafts a brilliant solo : both blues and harmonically challenging. On a classic chord progression Im bVII bVI V7, Sewell his waving in and out of the chords, using the freedom of not having a chordal instrument behind him.


Capture d’écran 2015-07-02 à 18.26.45

You can find the full transcription here.

He starts with a simple Cm triad, and for three bar only play with the rhythm, displacing accents and length. Then just before the dominant chord G7, he speeds things up with a Gm7 arpeggio that lead to a more dissonant phrase based on the diminished scale and finishes on the I with a Cm7 arpeggio. Note that the phrase starts one beat before the G7 and finished on the second beat of the next bar (6beats total).

Next phrase is around Cm7 arpeggio with a bit of Cm scale lending on the third of Bb. Over Ab, Sewell still thinks ‘in Cm’ and plays a Gm7 arpeggio, not outlining the Ab chord.

Over the dominant 7 chord following, with hear this very atonal phrase. All the notes can be seen as coming from E lydian b7 scale (it starts with a E arpeggio). Not sure where it comes from … It can be seen as an application of the concept that over any dominant chord you can substitute an other dominant chord : E7b5 instead of G7. Other interesting thing is that it’s not made of a classic dominant arpeggio, it’s a mix of triad, successive fourth… and it lands on a note a note that is common to all three keys : A#-Bb, #4 in E, #9 in G and m7 of C. And it makes the transition back to the Cm.

Next we have a C minor phrase with more space for 3 bars, that leads to a G diminished lick : over a dominant chord, play a minor6 chord a semi tone above, and there you go. Abmin6 over G7 is a cool diminish sound.

Bar 13 is a cool example of how in improvisation, there’s no wrong note : it’s what you make of them that matters. Here, Sewell stumble upon a C# (over Cm). But he turns it into a chromatic approach of the D, the thirds of Bb, and make a 5 beat long repetition of 16th note C#-D that builds up the tension to a fast phrase over Ab.

The phrases starts almost as a Am/C pentatonic sound, with a A natural over the Ab chord. Then using the Ab as a passing tone to a Cm triad that finishes the solo.

Again a very cool solo by Sewell, rhythmic variety, harmonic tension and release, clean articulation and expressive touch. It’s all there.

And that’s gonna be all for Marvin Sewell, I hope you want to check more of his playing now.

See you next time.


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