Breakdown & Analysis of Stochelo Rosenberg’s solo on “Bossa Dorado”

By Barry Wahrhaftig

Bossa Dorado is a ‘must know,’ song for Gypsy Jazz players of all levels. It’s a staple of Jam Sessions and a favorite of players everywhere, and it goes over well at concerts and gigs. Just as we all need to know some of Django’s solos on the HCOF sides, as they are basically now parts of the song. Any player worth their salt should be familiar with Stochelo’s iconic solo on ‘Bossa Dorado.’ The piece was penned by Dorado Schmitt, who also wrote classics like ‘Tchavolo Swing,’ and the beautiful ‘Kali Sara.’[1]

The rhythm of the piece is actually a Rhumba, not a Bossa Nova, and the groove is a staple of Gypsy Jazz at this time. Needless to say, you should make sure that you have mastered the rhythm guitar part before you learn the solo [!] The Rhumba is Afro-Cuban in origin. It’s very similar to the grooves played by the ‘Gypsy Kings.’ [There’s a bit of Flamenco flavor in the groove and melody. Gypsy Jazz is truly ‘World Music’].   I would suggest taking some time to ingrain the rhythm guitar part, as it’s the heart and soul of the piece. Pick up Denis Chang’s Art of Accompaniment DVD[2], or get with a teacher if possible, [or both]. In my travels, I sometimes hear players struggling with the rhythm. The rhythm should have a soulful push to it. My friend Niglo Grünholz, [David Emerald], had to read the riot act to a bunch of jammers at Samoreau campground last June. He pointed out that the players were dragging the rhythm. They were slightly shocked, but he was right. You can’t play funk like a white-boy, and you shouldn’t play Gypsy Jazz like a Gadjo[!]   Oh, and while I’m at it, for God’s sake memorize the piece, melody and changes, and intro and outro. It’s OK to bring music to jam sessions when you have only been playing for a little while, but you should wean yourself off of music, [including ipads], ASAP. If you are soloing over a piece and reading the changes, it will sound like it. If you want to step up your game, toss the charts ASAP. Same goes for gigs, try to memorize all your pieces. This shows respect for the music and your audience and fellow players. [OK, I’ll step off my soap box now]!

The well-known intro starts the piece out. It’s based on a moving line that starts on the 5th of the D minor chord, which is ‘A’ natural. It moves up a half step to Bb, then to B natural, back down to Bb and A. The intro is basically a Montuno[3] , and it uses a harmonic device called CESH[4]. I sometimes tell the audience that we are playing the James Bond Theme, since it uses the same harmonic device [!][5]

On the live recording, it sounds like Stochelo is just playing the moving line, and Nous’che, the rhythm guitarist, is playing the written figure. I combined both parts in my transcription. You might want to just play the written intro and have the 2nd guitar play the rhythm part, even though nobody is playing rhythm on the intro on the recording. The recording isn’t ‘A’ 440. I had to bring it down -31 cents. The form is AABA. The melody is built around a common device and harmonic progression found in Gypsy Jazz and also in G.J’s Musette roots;   Dmi-E7-Emi7b5-A7. [We can look at the Emi7b5 as a Passing chord]. The melody implies two parts; the lower one, that starts on ‘A’ natural, and descends by ½ steps to G#-G natural. The upper voice starts on ‘F’ natural, and goes to ‘E’. It basically resolves to an ‘F’ Nat the 3rd of the key of D Minor. The piece uses a b9 on the E7, [F nat.] It builds tension by repeating the F nat. over the E7 and Emi7b5. The bridge has a temporary shift to Gmi, by way of Ami7b5-D7, [ii7-V7 of Gmi]. E7 acts as a secondary dominant, leading to A7 by way of Emi7b5, which sets up a return of the theme. When Stochelo plays the last ‘A’ section of the song, he uses double-stops, based on the 5th and 7th of the A7 chord. And also the 3rd and 5th of the chord. [Bar 25 of my transcription].    Note to theory-wonks;   Powertab is a great program, but it does some strange things. I ended up calling the Emi7b5 a Gmi/E or Gmi6/E. Same for Ami7b5, which I called Cmi/A or Cmi6/A. The reason for that is that Powertab changes notes to double flats in the notation part if you use certain chords. It also doesn’t really show all accidentals or slides, etc. in the notation. I suggest that you print out the transcription and pencil in accidentals and slides etc., if you read music. Also, I didn’t write in the picking, but Gypsy Picking rules apply. I suggest that you work the piece out carefully, taking time to write in left hand fingerings and pickings. It’s worth taking the time to ingrain the material carefully. The tactile aspect of playing is important, and it will serve you well in performance, so the time spent is worth it. I tried my best to show where I thought Stochelo played the passages, but if you find a way that works better for you, feel free to use it.

We can learn a lot my dissecting Stochelo’s solo. When he ends the melodic statement [which uses parts of a D blues scale] he goes right into outlining a Dmi 6th chord, [bars 27 & 28], then plays a bit of a Dmi scale with ‘backtracking ‘ embellishments, ending with a high ‘A’ natural, leaping down to a C#, bar 2 of the ‘A’ section. The C# is the Major 7th of the Dmi chord, and is a bit dissonant, [or interesting]! The ‘B’ naturals which he played just before in the pickup to the solo are typical of Gypsy Jazz, outlining a minor 6th chord. The raised 6th and 7th is very common to all types of Jazz. It’s worth mentioning that holding a C# gives you a much different effect that playing it as a passing note. When you break this solo down, keep in mind that music is built of the principle of tension and release. Look for the parts that build tension, and the parts that release tension. Great soloist like Stochelo is an expert at exploiting that principle. Check out his use of repeated double stops in bars 31-33 of the transcript.

Top players like Stochelo are masters of phrasing, so it’s a good idea to look at where he begins and ends ideas. Check out the double-time passage in bars 34-36. He is using D harmonic Minor in bar 34. [See Ex. 8 for D Harmonic minor scale]. The Harmonic Minor scale has a flat 3rd, 6th and raised 7th. The raised 7th is the major 3rd of the Dominant chord of the key, [A7]. In Jazz, especially Gypsy Jazz, the most common scale used on the Dominant chord is the Harmonic minor scale, starting and ending on the 5th degree of the scale, A-A. [See Ex. 6]. The scale is called Gypsy Dominant, and is also used in Klezmer music, where it’s called ‘Ahava Raba.’  It’s also used in Flamenco music. It’s used in songs like ‘Dark Eyes,’ for the Dominant chord, and it fits the ii7, [Emi7b5], too. The most common mode or scale that fits the ii7b5 chord is the Lochrian mode, which is an F major scale played E-E. The only difference between the 2 scales is the C# in the Gypsy Dom scale. [I’m hoping that your head isn’t spinning at this point]! Basically, you want to learn your theory and then forget it. If you ingrain the sounds and scales and chord shapes in your hands and eras, you will be able to use them on the spur of the moment. The names don’t really matter, but being to know where and when to use them without having to really think about it is the goal, so however you get there is cool. At any rate, the double-time bit in bars 34-36 is quite effective, helping to keep the energy of the solo going at the end of the 1st ‘A’ section of the song. He is basically ‘change running, playing the scale or chord shape that fits the change. Note the Eb passing tone at the end of bar 34, so that the line lands on the D natural on the 1st beat of bar 35. The notes in bar 35 suggest D Dorian, and there is an enclosure bit at the end of the bar; the F natural-C# which resolves to D natural in bar 36. The idea continues on with a similar Dmi 7- Dmi6th chord shape. Here Stochelo is playing on the Tonic Dmi chord thru the iimi7b5-A7 turnaround. It works in part because of the speed of the song and the double-time feel of the line.

He takes a little breath at the last beat of bar 36, [at the A7 cadence which is end of the1st eight bar phrase. He rests until the upbeat of the 1st beat of Bar 37. Note what effect is created by not starting on the 1st beat of the bar. He slows the action down with a Dmi9 Arp idea in bar 37, embellished with a trill on the root D to the 9th, and uses basically the same shape in bars 35 and 36, ending on the F-E in bar 39. He uses Gypsy Dom for the E7 chord, played in 16ths for double-time effect. He continues the line in bar 40, playing F Nat – G natural, [b9, and #9]. The line ends with enclosure on a lower E. [F nat.-Eb to E]. The next part of the phrase starts on the upbeat of the 3rd beat in bar 41, acting as a pick-up to the dominant 7th change in 42. [The Gmi6 or Emi7b5 change is really just a passing change to the A7. You’ll find that you can play less, or leave more space on that part of the progression. In general, it’s the Dominant chords that are most interesting. And, because they are Dom 7th chords, they are dissonant, and the stand out more. Remember, we are thinking about tension and release. The E7 creates some tension, the Emi7b5 is less dissonant, and it leads to the most important Dom, which is the A7. Stochelo plays his signature double-stops at the end of Bar 43. It creates tension by holding and repeating the E and G double-stops for beats 2, 3 and 4, and the downbeat of bar 44. It’s a delayed resolution of the A7 in bar 42. [Holding the 9th and 11th, or 2nd and 4th creates a suspension, often found in classical and rock music. It resolves on the upbeat of the 2nd beat. Also, it’s worth pointing out that it’s more effective to emphasize or bring out the aspects of more dissonant chords. Leaning on the dissonant chords and backing off on the resolutions are key to being a great improviser. Examine the overall harmony and melody, and observe where it is active and static. The greats do this at an almost unconscious level. Again, many of the Gypsy Greats may not use theory; they don’t need it, because they do it by instinct with soul. That’s the goal.

Stochelo takes a short break at the end of the ‘A’ section, starting his solo on the Bridge on the upbeat of four in bar 44. He does an interesting bit in bar 45, using the ‘A’ Locrian mode starting on an F Nat., [connecting the Dmi sound from bar 44], he uses trills and passing tones [E Nat, and B Nat to delay the line, creating some tension leading to the D7 in bar 46. He employs suspensions and double-stops again, playing a G Nat on 1st beat, so that the line that he started on the last beat of bar 44, really doesn’t rest until beat 2 of bar 46. It doesn’t rest much because of the double-stops in bar 46 and 47. The suspension effect happens again in bar 47, by playing the A & C double-stops, so that the D7 of bar 46 isn’t resolved until the upbeat of 4 in bar 47. He plays a very cool lower neighbor syncopated double-stop classic Jazz bit in bars 48 and 49, a la Kenny Burrell. Check out the Bad-ass Gypsy dom-Double time idea in bars 50 & 51, leading into a classic Django cliché based on A7 Gypsy Dom, bars 52 and 53. [He’s basically using Django’s favorite Diminished chord shape device, used in Dark Eyes, and using it to set up the now-classic Sinti style suspension bit in bars 54-57. [It’s hard to play the song or hear anyone play it, without unconsciously expecting to hear that bit]! In the transcript I used a repeat on bar 56, so we can say there’s a bar 56-b, after bar 56. He uses the A7 Gypsy Dominant scale in bar 57, over the Gmi6, [Emi7b5], using an Eb passing tone. Stochelo uses double-stops again to close out the 1st chorus. [Nice ‘bookending’ effect, since he used the device in the beginning of the solo.

The piece isn’t very long, partly because of how fast it’s played, and Stochelo only plays another half chorus solo before returning to the melody. I transcribed just the melody and 1st chorus. Stochelo playing of the melody and solo[s] are similar to what he does on ‘Seresta,’ the Trio’s earlier studio CD.[6] You can learn a great deal from examining and learning Stochelo’s playing here. His sound and feel are as important as his formidable technique. [His left hand vibrato is quite strong, sometimes bending the pitch of the sting]. I know that I’ve said this before, but we can learn a lot by emulating the tone and feel of players like Stochelo, not just focusing on his amazing speed.[7] The most important thing is the soul, beauty and fire of his playing. He plays from the heart, and that’s what matters. The devices that he uses work at any tempo. The theory is important, especially for us unlucky ‘Gadje,’ [non-Gypsy]. Perhaps we have to learn how to be natural, and to express ourselves musically like our mentors like Stochelo and Dorado. They don’t need the theory and terms, they can hear and play it all naturally, and that’s our goal. [Reminds me of the line from the Film ‘Treasure of the ‘Sierra Madre,’ “Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”! By the way, Michael Horowitz has told me that the Stochelo Rosenberg will be at DjangoFest NW this Sept, so get out to see him if you can, by hook or by crook!

I included some basic scales and material at the end of the piece. They are only meant to be a used for quick reference. Ex 2 is a common device that uses just the 1ST, 2nd, 3RD & 5TH degrees of the minor scale. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions and comments. My email is [email protected] Also; I have some interviews and lesson material at my blog, including one with Stochelo. Check out, and say hi.

Barry Wahrhaftig performs with the Hot Club of Philadelphia. Their 2nd CD is due for Fall release. See for bookings and workshops.


[1] Both featured in the Tony Gatlif Film ‘Latcho Drom.’

[2] Available here: The Art of Accompaniment

[3] A Montuno is a repeating harmonic progression, used in Latin music. It has a rhythmic underpinning that is quite important. See ‘Clave,’ for more info. Pat Metheny uses the device a lot in his compositions. Check out ‘Phase Dance.’

[4] CESH is an acronym that stands for ‘Chromatic Elaboration of Static Harmony.’ Basically, just a fancy way of saying that notes in the chord change, while the chord stays the same. The intro to ‘For Wesley,’ by Jimmy Rosenberg, uses a descending minor device, which can also be called ‘CESH.’ Jimmy’s iconic soloing and writing were also hugely important influences on the modern Gypsy Jazz styles, especially his use of Latin Rhythms,

and chordal suspensions, used which are heard thru out Stochelo’s solo and melodic statement.

[5] BTW, I think that Dorado wrote the piece in the key of E minor.

[6] ‘Seresta’ Rosenberg Trio, 1989, Hot Club Records

[7] The amazing scat singer and Rhythm Guitarist Philippe ‘Doudou’ Cuillerier compared Stochelo’s amazingly accurate timing and technique to a Swiss watch. You can hear his accuracy even at ½ speed.


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