Art Pepper – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To

Funny story – I was walking around the mall recently (don’t get me started on who thought it was a good idea to put an outdoors mall in Seattle), and I heard this song coming over the PA system. I never really paid much attention to the music at the mall, but I certainly dug this tune.

It hit me that I haven’t posted any Art Pepper on this blog yet! I’m not sure why. He’s a killer player – kind of a cross between Paul Desmond and Sonny Stitt for me. I love his warm, dry tone, and the voice-leading in his lines is always so beautiful.

This is an old standard with some beautiful changes. I hardly ever hear anyone play it, so it feels fresh. It’s a moderate tempo, so most of the solo feels very relaxed and laid back, but then he breaks in to a double-time lick in the middle of the first chorus and you realize how fast the tempo is! It’s amazing how cleanly he plays it.

After the melody, he plays two solo choruses, then turns things over the piano and bass players for solos. He comes back in to trade 4’s with the drummer for a chorus and a half, and then plays an abbreviated melody with a tag to close it out.

Art Pepper - You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To

 

  • Artist: Art Pepper
  • Album: Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (1957)
  • Track:  You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
  • Instrument: Alto Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Tom Politzer – Stop

Here’s another Tommy P. solo from the latest TOP album. This is one of my favorite songs on the album to listen to, the groove is so funky. I love the background vocals, and I’m pretty sure that’s Chuck Hansen dropping the low notes on Bass sax as well!

This solo is super tough for me to play. I had a really hard time with the pitch on this track. I had to adjust the tuning about 20 cents to get it to lock in, which then made it harder to play. The break on the first bar is a good example. I’m pretty sure that he’s going for the tri-tone, but the pitch on the top note is between the F and F# to my ear. I doubt he’s playing F#, so I’m guessing the F is just high.

Aside from the pitch, there’s a lot of altissimo across the break, which is always tough for me. And then he really goes for it at the end up to the double F#!

Page tow of the transcription is more of a solo over the ride out as the track fades. It’s a long fade so I didn’t bother to record that part.

Tom Politzer - Stop

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Clarence Clemons – Freeway of Love

Double tribute this week – Clarence Clemons and Aretha Franklin together! This is from her 1985 hit ‘Freeway of Love’. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of this song in particular, but the performances by both Aretha and the Big Man are memorable. Aretha was trying to go mainstream with this pop/rock number, and she had some commercial success with it. But it doesn’t have the substance that her early work did.

Clarence is in his element here, belting out a throaty growl that commands attention. I can’t pull off the growl like he can, so I just went for an edgy tone. When I try to growl, I have a tendency to sing the pitches that I’m playing, which doesn’t give the right effect. it gives me cognitive dissonance to try and vocalize a different pitch for some reason, but I should work on it. I suspect Clarence is just vocalizing a steady low pedal tone to compliment his already edgy sound.

This solo doesn’t get too high (altissimo Bb), but once again, it spends a lot of time crossing the break, which is my Achilles heel. My high G is not as stable and strong as it needs to be, and has a tendency to crack, which you hear in the ride out.

But it’s a good workout – be sure to use lots of air! You need it for the sound, and to sustain those long phrases, especially the last phrase that closes the intro.

Some of the bent notes are so pronounced that I wrote them out. I can’t quite pull them off the same way he does though with nothing but lip. He’s got killer control of the horn!

Clarence Clemons - Freeway of Love

 

  • Artist: Clarence Clemons
  • Album:  Aretha Franklin – Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (1985)
  • Track: Freeway of Love
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

King Curtis – Respect

Sadly, we lost the Queen of Soul recently. As is my tradition here, I honor them in the best way that I can, by highlighting the parts of their catalog that resonate the most with me as a saxophone player.

I found myself on a cross-country airline flight shortly after Aretha’s passing, and I fired up one of her ‘greatest hits’ collections on my phone. Listening back to songs I had heard and played dozens of times, I was struck by how well they have stood the test of time. Dozens of masterpieces, each one more powerful than the next. Not just her singing, but the compositions, the arrangements, the background vocals, the horn parts, the rhythm section – it was all genius of the like we will never see again.

Saxophone solos don’t figure prominently in many of her works, but there are a few. I decided to work up the King Curtis solo from “Respect”. Fun fact – the chords are from one of my favorite Sam and Dave songs: “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”.

The key is a killer for saxophone: Ab/G#! I battled with Finale to try and make the accidentals and key signature readable, and finally gave up. I ended up re-spelling everything as sharps because it insisted on writing triple flats instead of naturals when there were accidentals. So it’s a mess, but the notes are correct.

The rhythm was super challenging to notate, and really, you just have to listen to it and feel it as well as you can. I got it as close as I could while still being readable.

After the rhythm, the hardest part for me to play was the high Ab/G#s. That’s always been my worst altissimo note on any horn. I used the ‘long’ fingering of 1+3 (LH), 1 + side C (RH). If you have a better fingering on Tenor, please share. He does wide jumps each time, so it was hard to get the note to speak.

I think I’ll tackle Blue Lou Marini’s Alto solo from “Think” next (from the Blues Brothers Soundtrack). It’s low in the mix in spots, and of course filled with killer altissimo throughout, so wish me luck!

King Curtis - Respect

 

  • Artist: King Curtis
  • Album: Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)
  • Track: Respect
  • Instrument: Tenor

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Recording project

A few weeks back I did a studio session that was a lot of fun, and I thought I’d share my experience here.

My friend Sean is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and all-around wizard. I have collaborated with him in the past on a few projects, so when he reached out to me recently about a new song, I was more than happy to jump in.

It was a busy time for me, so we started our collaboration over email. He sent me a track and described some ideas that he had for it. I listened to it for awhile, and then spent some time in my home studio laying down a bunch of different ideas on both Alto and Tenor so we could pick a direction to focus on. I tried a few with effects too, since I felt that the song lent itself to that direction.

Sean sent me some notes about what he liked and didn’t like, and ultimately we decided that Tenor was the best fit for this track. We set a date to do the recording at his new studio.

When I got to his new studio, I was surprised to learn that he’s gone 100% analog. He’s recording to tape. No Pro-Tools! No plug-ins! No auto-tune!! He already had a horn section lay down the background parts, and if he didn’t punch the solo in and out precisely, I’d overwrite their parts!

This was going to be new for me. I don’t do a lot of studio work, but for the past 10+ years, it’s been mostly digital. So when it comes to soloing, the approach has always been as follows: Do a ton of takes, record everything, throw everything at the wall, and see what sticks. Then, the producer/engineer takes what they like and they piece together something coherent. You may get a whole solo in one take, but really all you need are solid phrases and sections that work together.

This wasn’t going to work that way. We did do a few whole takes. We’d talk about each, and which ideas we both liked. Once we had a bunch of ideas floating out there, Sean got out his guitar and we just sat down and worked out the solo one section at a time together. Tape wasn’t rolling, we were just refining the ideas that we wanted to use.

We worked backwards, from the end of the solo to the front. Once we had something that worked that I could repeat consistently, we laid it down, just one phrase at a time (4 bars or so). Then we’d go back to collaborating on the ideas that could lead in to that phrase and repeat. We did that about four times (I think it was a sixteen-bar solo).

It was very challenging for me musically, because it’s hard for me to improvise the same way twice. There’s this ‘butterfly effect’ in my playing where the slightest difference in performance will take me in a completely different direction. Sometimes that’s cool, but it does make it hard to refine a single idea for the tape.

In the end I was pretty happy with the solo. There are always things that I would change, but I definitely arrived at a very different performance than if we had used more ‘modern’ recording techniques. I have a new level of respect for people that do a ton of studio work, and even MORE for the people who did it back in the day before Pro Tools!

Tom Politzer – Do You Like That? (Flute)

I think this is the first flute transcription that I’ve posted (and actually played), so hooray! My flute playing needs a lot of work I know, but this solo is just about the level of difficulty I can handle.

Tommy P plays two solos back-to-back on this track, both tenor and flute. I’ll post the tenor one next.

Tom Politzer - Do You Like That (flute)

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

From Russia with chops!

I got a nice note from Svetlana Ivanova pointing me at her versions of the Grace Kelly / Leo P duets. Check them out! They definitely one-up’d me by shooting on location and nailing the dance moves as well – well done!

@sirenessax #sirenessax @lanasaksofon @irishkabokiy

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Tom Politzer – East bay! Oakland Style!

Here’s the sister track to the previous post – the last track of the album. It’s the same song, another take, with the sax solo in the middle this time. They changed the name of the track for some reason.

It’s an eight-bar section, all over the F# pentatonic minor blues scale. It’s really just four licks. I love the F#-C lick (tonic to flat five – using the tritone). I also like how percussive the articulation is, you really need to spit it out!

Tom Politzer - East Bay Oakland Style

 

  • Artist: Tom Politzer
  • Album: Tower of Power – The Soul Side of Town (2018)
  • Track: East Bay! Oakland Style!
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Tom Politzer – East bay! All Day!

I’ve been really getting in to the new Tower of Power album – The Soul Side of Town. Tommy P takes a million solos on it, and this is the first one, right out of the gate.

It’s only four bars, but it’s a killer! The altissimo isn’t too high, but he gets around pretty fast. The way he crossed the break in the first bar is amazingly clean. He sticks to the blues scale, and does a trill on the last note, which was unexpected but cool.

This track is very much in the style of ‘Oakland Stroke’, opening and closing the album with a (mostly) instrumental jam. Burning solos by my pal Roger Smith on the organ as well! I’ll work on the closing track next, it’s got a longer solo.

Tom Politzer - East Bay All Day

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax