Kenny Kirkland Funk Piano Solo Techniques

Brief Analysis and Transcription of Kenny Kirkland’s piano solo on Sting’s “Bring On The Night”, with video samples

Ask any jazz pianist about funk piano solo improvisation, and one of the first thing that comes to mind would be Kenny Kirkland‘s piano solo on Sting’s “Bring On The Night”

Here’s a video clip of a youtube guy emulating Kenny’s solo note for note.

I transcribed a few bars of the solo, starting from about 0m48s of the video. Here it is in PDF.

kenny-kirkland-funk-piano-solo-on-bring-on-the-night

The harmony for the solo part is a recurring four bars, as shown in the first four bars of the transcription.

| C13     | D7     | Em7     | Em7     |

Superimposition

One technique used quite often by Kenny or any funk pianist is a Superimposition of a major 7th or major 9th chord a tone below.

Here are two examples of Kenny superimposing a Dmaj9 over the Em7 chord.

Bar 4

bar-4

Bar 8

bar-8

The harmony for the two bars shown above is the Em7. But observe the notes applied in the solo, they are ALL from the Dmaj9 chord superimposed, thus adding some flavor into the solo giving it a brighter sound.

This technique is also applicable over a dominant 7th chord.

ie. the Dmaj9 chord can be superimposed over an Em7 or E7 chord.

 

Case of Ambiguity

It’s hard to tell whether an Em7 or E7 is intended for the third and fourth bars, since the player has the liberty to use the G note instead of G# over the E7.

- The G note could be the #9 of the E7 chord, altering it into an E7#9

or

- The G note comes from the E minor pentatonic scale applied over an E7 chord

Either way, I consider this a case of ambiguity, where both chords are possible.

Here’s another video of Sting’s “Bring On The Night” with Kenny Kirkland himself doing another killer piano solo.

Enjoy and Have Fun …… :D

 

For more on Funk Piano Solo Improvisation Techniques and Superimposition, read these posts:

Jason Rebello Solo on Why Not

Jay Oliver Funk Piano Solo Analysis

Jason Rebello Funk Piano Solo on Never Coming Home

8 Comments

  • Oreste

    Reply Reply April 25, 2011

    Thank you for such a great work. Kirkland was one of the greatest players of all times. I’d like to find transcriptions of the famous “Shadows in the rain ” solo, and of “la belle dame sans regrets” from sting’s “Mercury falling”.
    Jason Rebello is a master, as well.
    Thanks again. Oreste from Italy.

  • Busstra

    Reply Reply October 6, 2011

    as a teacher on a Dutch music high school, this is one of the most mentioned
    piano solo’s. of course, it’s a masterpiece.
    the focus is always on the harmonic, melodic genius of Kenny Kirkland, but
    in my opinion the most extraordinair thing about this solo is his TIME.
    you can try to ‘understand’ his lines, harmonicly/melodicly, but it will never
    sound like it because of the un-human groove this player had.
    i find the versions of people that transcribed it(one is a student of mine) amazing
    and as a pianist you can learn everything from this, but try to do something with it in your own way, don t think it s possible to sound like K.K. it s a dead end road…

  • Sudeep

    Reply Reply October 25, 2011

    Hey thanks for that. Your analysis of the solo helped me alot. I would really love to see a transcription of that funky chordal riff Kenny plays before the solo. which starts around 2:15 and he keeps repeating till about 4:24. I find it really hard to pick it ouit especially the LH

  • Stan

    Reply Reply February 20, 2012

    This is awesome! Would looooooove to see more of the solo transcribed. Thanks for the great work on this….very appreciated.

  • Mouha

    Reply Reply November 5, 2012

    Hi,
    I’m pleased to find your transcription but none of the links are working, pdf and jpg are leading to a 404 error, could you email me them then please?

  • Arthur

    Reply Reply January 3, 2013

    Thanks.Arthur from Kiev

  • Pim

    Reply Reply August 25, 2013

    a solo that played a BIG role in my life as well… if you have the PDF and the jpgs that are not accessible on this page, I would every much welcome receiving them by email…

  • Brad

    Reply Reply October 25, 2013

    I was so happy to find this this morning, but none of the links or pdf’s work. Can you email them to me?

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