Rob Strait has been generous in sharing some excellent transcriptions with AllThingsEmily recently, enough so that we feel he has earned a space of his own. Rob will be a featured transcriber for us once or twice a year in order to offer Emily students and fans rare pieces that are not available anywhere else. You will find his work accurate, authentic and easy to comprehend. It is an incredible tribute to Emily's legacy and a wonderful addition to AllThingsEmily we know you will enjoy. As a bonus, Rob is also sharing jazz transcriptions from some of his other favorite players, knowing they too have a place in every players repertoire. We are truly blessed to have Rob's talents here and available to you. If you enjoy his efforts, feel free to leave him a thanks in the comments area.

Emily Compositions and Arrangements

Ballad For A Music Box

Ballad for Music Box introStrait-BFMB-fullBallad For Music Box lead
"Ballad for a Music Box" is a beautiful composition by the late, great Emily Remler which was recorded on her fantastic "East To Wes" album. I have transcribed the head and the guitar solo with every detail and nuance that I could decipher from the recording...every grace note, accent, and articulation. The fingerings are specific too, as well as the chord names above each measure (they reflect the tonalities of the moment which vary slightly during the tune). I did this because I wanted to get inside all of the phrasing idiosyncrasies that make Emily sound so fantastic, and to really represent this recorded work. However, it does make it difficult to read (don't worry, there is TAB included!), and for that reason I have included a greatly simplified lead sheet of the head. As a bonus, I've also arranged the piano intro for guitar.

Some notes and highlights from Rob:
"B for a MB" is a slightly unique form. Instead of following the standard 32-bar song form of AABA, where each section is 8 bars, it has a 44-bar form. It's still comprised of 8-bar sections, but she plays AABAA and on the last A she employs a form of a "tag", which is generally only used when ending a tune. Here, Emily makes it part of the form. In this song, Emily truly gives a clinic about taste, restraint, tone, phrasing, and articulation. Every note of the melody and the guitar solo are played with purpose and beauty. The ensemble is tremendous, and they subtly alter the harmony and tempo at times. This guitar solo just may be Emily's most beautiful (but of course, it's impossible to choose). It ebbs and flows and really shows how to develop a solo so it has a shape or contour...the energy of the solo builds and wanes to perfection. Emily was an incredibly melodic player, and harmonically very smart. She was a big fan of "superimposing" (so am I) which is simply playing a scale/triad/arpeggio starting in different places relative to a chord . The advantage of this is that it allows you to simplify your thinking while generating complex sounds. Many times throughout this solo she employs a technique for playing over dominant chords that is incredibly useful for generating hip sounds. She treats Dom7 chords as one of two types: a dom7 that either resolves in the typical up a fourth/down a fifth manner (i.e. G7 to CMaj7), or one that does not (i.e. Db7 to CMaj7). When it's a standard resolving dom7, she plays the melodic minor scale a 1/2 step above the root of the dom7 chord (i.e. Db melodic minor over a C7 which is going to FMaj7). This generates an "altered" sound with lots of tension. When it's the non-standard type, she plays a melodic minor scale up a 5th from the root of the dom7 (i.e. A melodic minor over a static D7). This usage generates what is often referred to as a "Lydian b7" sound. It's a brilliant concept that I use often, and it will work 99% of the time in any tune. The reason for this is that very rarely in music will you encounter a dom7#11 chord that resolves up a fourth/down a 5th. I've made notes in the transcription at some of the spots where she is using this technique. I encourage folks to give it a's a killin' idea!
I hope you enjoy these transcriptions.
I've learned a ton from listening to Emily so closely...she's a genius.

Blues For Herb


"The tune "Blues for Herb" has everything that makes a song special; rhythm, phrasing and timing and those other things that we can hear but find impossible to describe. The first time I heard it, my jaw hit the floor. The head is so classic AND inventive. Her solo is incredible. It has soul, feeling, tone, and unbelievable phrasing and timing. It's harmonically simple AND incredibly complex. Emily also executes melodic tension and release in this solo with a master's touch. She uses chromaticism, chord substitution, and other devices to take the solo really outside at times but she NEVER loses her connection to the melody.

Transcribing it was challenging because her rhythmic phrasing is often impossible to get on the page. It's definitely up there with my favorite jazz blues solos of all time. There is a lifetime of study to be had from this one solo. Enjoy, Rob."

Waltz For My Grandfather

"Waltz is another beautiful Emily composition. I've transcribed the main theme here which is played chord-melody style. This one is deceptively difficult with lots of challenging chord voicings (and tough to transcribe too!). I've included the left hand fingerings which are critical because Emily utilizes her thumb, as well as many full and partial finger barres. She often uses the first finger, but she also barres the second and third finger at times. It takes some practice to learn to collapse the left hand finger joints to execute these barres, but slow and patient practice will yield great benefits as there are some really hip voicings to learn.

The key to making this transcription sound good is to try and let all the notes ring as much as possible (listening to Emily's performance will help immensely). The chord symbols indicated are related to their function in the harmony of the tune (dictated by the bass), but many of the chord forms will be recognized as substitutions, inversions, or misspellings. I've noted a couple of these in the music. For example, in measure 25 the chord form is clearly a Gmaj7, but it "functions" in the harmony as an Em9. That's actually a common chord substitution and soloing device, whenever you want a min9 sound, you simply play a Maj7 chord/arpeggio up a minor third from the root of the minor chord (i.e. Gmaj7 for an Em9 sound). Hip! - Rob Strait"

Robert's left arm, featuring the circle of 5ths with a crescent moon and star to symbolize New Orleans and the many pilgrimages there.     On his wrist is a simple "Del Segno" symbol, courtesy of NYC. Striat Circle of 5ths

Select Jazz Standards

Stella By Starlight and Big J

"George Benson is one of my favorite players, and his version of the popular jazz standard "Stella by Starlight" is tremendous. It can be found on his wonderful record with McCoy Tyner entitled "Tenderly". George plays the tune in the key of G, and his solo is unbelievably burnin'! It's really worth studying...there is so much to learn from this solo with lots of jazz vocabulary and harmonic soloing devices (i.e. superimposing the melodic minor scale over various chords). I've notated the tab to reflect how I might finger it, not necessarily how George would!

"Big J" is a tune from another of my favorite players, John Scofield. It can be found on his record "Works for Me" which features and unbelievable line up including Christian McBride (bass), Kenny Garrett (sax), Brad Mehldau (piano), and Billy Higgins (drums). It's a very challenging but harmonically interesting tune with a beautiful melody. Sco's solo is very melodic and restrained, but still genius!"   - Rob Strait
Rob's faithful Telly and dog, Osito, Osi for short.

Holiday Selections

Ave Maria and Christmas Time Is Here