"Pass The Peas" - Fred Wesley

"Pass The Peas" (PDF) from the J.B.'s album, Food for Thought, and compilation, Funky Good Time: The Anthology.
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"To me, happiness is Fred Wesley playing his horn." - James Brown

This is Fred Wesley doing what he does best, and "Pass the Peas" has become one of his signature tunes. Its trademark riff follows a typical blues structure, meanwhile Wesley is the featured soloist and gets to play in two keys. Whether this was intended or a "happy accident" during the recording is not important. Fred's playing on this recording is what trombone funk is all about. His style is a heavy swing with a feathery touch, and he syncopates like a funky metronome. And while you can argue about his use of repetition, he never leaves the beat's pocket and grooves like no other.

Fred Wesley's solo begins as the band hangs on an A7 chord. He mostly plays around a major pentatonic scale with the added flat seventh. Within the first four bars, he builds up a nice arch to the high B, the ninth, and uses a pretty hip way of resolving to the E, the fifth. Already, Wesley is using four-bar phrasing and colors it with a call-and-response approach. In bars 6-8, he uses the shifting third to the fifth, C-C#-E, to invoke the southern country-blues sound (Wesley is from Alabama). Lastly, when Wesley performs this tune live, he usually plays this first section similarly to how it appears on the recording. Therefore, this "mini-solo" must be institutionalized. Memorize it, sing it, and play it in all twelve keys.

The band returns back home to D minor and Fred is let loose to do his thing. The most important thing to take away from this solo is the use of rhythm and syncopation. An easy way to imitate his sense of swing is to accent the last sixteenth-note of a beat (one-ee-and-AH). Early in this section, he uses what I call the "Fred Wesley lick," a tease of the blues scale. But here, it's only a partial lick, so I'll go into more detail when the entire lick is played in a solo. Overall, Fred relies on the D minor pentatonic scale along with the dorian mode, but he eventually works outside the Dm chord by using a C major arpeggio, as well as a D dominant scale, which rubs the major third against the minor third. The great thing about this solo is that every single bar has a clear idea that can be studied and applied numerous ways, and with the proper rhythm, it sure can be funky.

SPECIAL THANKS to brian for offering his own transcription and analysis, and to Stephen for the comments!

While you can find an endless supply of crazy Fred Wesley videos online, he has his own Fred Wesley TV channel and here is a YouTube video of his current band playing a "Pass The Peas/Gimme Some More" medley.

Recommended Reading: Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman. Written by Fred Wesley Jr.. Published by Duke University Press.