Transcription Tuesday: Joe Zawinul on Unit 7

I first heard Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley several years ago while searching for great arrangements for a jazz quintet plus vocalist. At the time, I was focused on the first half of the album that features Nancy Wilson and didn’t pay much attention to the final five instrumental tracks.

I’m happy to say that I’m in the process of rectifying this oversight and the first tune I am focusing on is Sam Jones’ “Unit 7.”

I particularly like the way Joe Zawinul incorporates bebop and blues vocabulary in his solo. The form of the tune is “blues with a bridge” in the key of C. The sections marked A, B, and D are each 12-bars in length while C functions as an 8-bar bridge. The blues progression is slightly non-standard, with an Abmaj7 chord in bar 9 (and, by extension, 21 & 41) that leads to G7alt in bar 10 (and its companions). This harmonic motion is common in a minor blues progression, but less so in a major blues like this one. Also listen for the “Lady Bird” turnaround that happens at the end of many of the phrases (C – Eb- Ab- Db). Zawinul outlines this turnaround clearly at the end of the bridge in bars 31 and 32.