Arranged by Duke Pearson, Transcribed and Prepared by Dylan Canterbury
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Cat #: JLP-7334DL


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Edition: Jazz Nonet Arrangement

Description: Swing - Medium

Publisher: Jazz Lines Publications


Due to the surprise success of Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, it became almost a given that any album released on the Blue Note label in the mid- to late 1960s would have at least one song attempting to recreate the commercial magic of the label’s two best selling hits. These efforts could be hit-or-miss at times; thankfully, Duke Pearson’s Sweet Honey Bee falls into the former category. In fact, the song was eventually covered by Lee Morgan himself on his Charisma album.
On this particular version, the original Pearson recording from 1965, the melody on the A sections is stated by James Spaulding’s flute. Pearson’s piano accompaniment is the same throughout each statement of the melody, so it has been transcribed in full, as has the bass line. Mickey Roker’s drum groove is also fairly consistent throughout, and has been transcribed accordingly. The melody is simplistic, but undeniably catchy, with some well-timed riffs from the trumpet of Freddie Hubbard and the tenor saxophone of Joe Henderson.
The interlude following the first melody statement provides the only real contrast in volume over the course of the tune’s melody, so dynamics should be carefully observed. Pearson’s piano fills are not complicated, but fit the mood of the performance perfectly. This is not the time for your piano soloist to whip out their hottest new licks; keeping things simple is of undeniable musical value here.
After the interlude, the original recording featured one solo piano chorus from Pearson before a restatement of the melody, followed by a vamp and fade to serve as an ending. We have chosen to include chord changes for all instruments in order for the musicians to open things up as they see fit. Chord changes in the flute part are written in Eb for the convenience of your alto saxophone/flute doubler.
In addition to providing a transcription of the original recording, included are alternate trombone and guitar parts to allow for ensemble flexibility. We sincerely hope you enjoy playing this tune as much as we enjoyed preparing it for you!


Among Duke Pearson's many compostions, "Is That So?" is perhaps one of the best known and most frequently covered. In fact, the song was initially recorded several months earlier in a quintet format by trumpeter Lee Morgan. The unique instrumentation of this recording, with Les Spann's flute being used throughout the ensemble portions, creates a delightfully light feel to the larger ensemble's overall sound.

The piece, a 24-bar form, begins with a simple rhythmic and harmonic introduction that pops up again a few more times before things wrap up. The main melody is about as simple as it gets, revolving around a single note, but a disarming harmonic structure produces an unmistakeable warmth and vulnerability, coaxed to the maximum by Johnny Coles' trumpet. The second eight-bar section is the same single note melody up a minor third, but the introduction is recycled down a whole step to vary things up a little bit. The third eight bar section is the single note melody down a whole step from its initial key, ending with an ascending line to return the melody to its home key for the second melody statement.

This second statement has a subdued shout chorus quality to it. The volume never gets too loud, but the colorful horn writing (pay particular attention to the color tones in the trombone part) adds an undeniable depth. In addition to these new fleshed out harmonies, the introduction riff is "sped up" by shifting briefly to 3/4 time, which serves as a very clever rhythmic variation that can catch one's ears off guard on first listen. Pearson's piano accompaniment is based largely off of the ensemble figures, and has been transcribed accordingly.

The original recording features solos from Pearson on piano and George Coleman on tenor saxophone, but chord changes have been included for each instrument to allow for solos to be added or opened up. After the final solo, the band returns to the melody once more. The piece ends with the same introductory sequence, this time played down a fourth from the original key. The volume level tapers off to barely above a whisper, eventually settling on a hushed Fmaj7(#11) chord that brings the piece to an appropriately lovely end.

The transcription has been done for the band's original instrumentation of trumpet, flute, alto (which doubles briefly on flute), tenor, baritone, trombone, piano, bass and drums. An optional guitar part has also been included. We sincerely hope you enjoy playing this tune as much as we enjoyed preparing it for you!

Full Score
Alto Saxophone/Flute
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone
Guitar (Optional)
Trumpet: Bb5