I can see where the track name came from – this solo is TOUGH! The melody is pretty straightforward (although there is a high G at the end of the A section), but the solo is anything but straightforward…
He plays a lot of figured that play off of the second and fourth sixteenths of the subdivision, giving some of lines almost a latin feel to them. Things start to get crazy in the ninth bar of the solo where everything is in the upper register. Fast syncopated, with large interval jumps all combine for some very tough passages (for me).
I realized after I posted the PDF that I didn’t really put down any chord changes once I got the key center figured out. For some reason these changes are very hard for me to hear, maybe it’s the timbre of the synths. I’ll keep working at it and post an update.
Continuing through the Close-Up album after my long detour into Prince’s catalog, this is track #6: Pyramid.
This track is an excellent workout for playing altissimo smoothly over the break. The opening line of the melody is a four-note motif starting on altissimo G and descending to F#, E, and down to B. There’s a variation which goes G-A-F#-E as well.
These figures happen no fewer than eight times in this track. I can play these figures reasonably well, but not well enough that I would write a tune built on them that I would have to record and play live hundreds of time! Although doing so would certainly be a forcing function for learning it better…
He plays an E minor pentatonic/blues scale pretty much exclusively throughout the track, but there are a couple of lines in this solo that really knock me out. I love. In the eight bar of his solo, he does a beautiful chromatic turnaround from the B7 to the E-7. Interestingly, he repeats the same pattern (not transposed) as a passing phrase over the D in the sixth bar of the second solo.
I also love the A-G-E-D 12 over 8 pattern that he uses to build into the climax of the first solo and again at the end of the fade. The rhythmic play works so well because he executes it perfectly!
FYI, this is the first transcription that I’ve done off of this album in over 25 years! The ones I posted previously were done when I was back in high school and only given a cursory once over as I transferred them from paper to Finale. That’s as far as I had transcribed into the album at the time. So from here on out these are all fresh! Hopefully you’ll notice an improvement in the quality of the transcriptions from old to new. If not, that either means I was perfect to begin with, or I haven’t learned anything in the past 25 years 🙂
When Prince left us three months ago, it hit me hard. We’ve lost so many greats in recent years, but this was different, and I don’t know why.
But I decided to channel my grief into something productive. Through this blog I’ve been “practicing in public” for almost a year now. There is an infinite universe of material to play, so why not focus my energy into something positive and cathartic?
So I’ve spent the past three months scouring Prince’s catalogs for saxophone solos to transcribe and learn. To be sure, I found some (more than I expected), but it was also an incredible journey of discovery for me.
I thought I knew Prince and his music, but I was wrong. There is so much more depth and breadth to discover. I’m glad I made the journey, but I wish I hadn’t waited until he was gone to do it.
Although I haven’t (and could never) exhaust Prince’s catalog of material, I feel as though the time has come to move on (for now). My goal moving forward is to celebrate and cherish the legends that are still with us.
But for now, enjoy the solos that I’ve spent the past three months with. Hopefully they are as fulfilling to you as they were for me to discover, transcribe, and learn.
Since Prince passed away three months ago, I’ve posted nothing but transcriptions from his catalog. As enjoyable and therapeutic as this has been for me, I think it’s time to move on. So this will be my last Prince “tribute” transcription…for a while anyway. I’ll start changing it up.
But what a track to end on! This one takes some explanation. This track was recorded by Prince with Sheryl Crow on Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. Maceo took these exact backing tracks and replaced the lead lines with his own playing. Presumably, he did this with Prince’s close collaboration. Maceo is credited as performing on the original track, but he doesn’t play a solo. This track is one long Maceo solo!
I can’t think of any other examples of artists collaborating this way, but who wouldn’t do this given the chance?? I think it’s a great idea for a mash-up/re-mix. The possibilities are endless.
The track itself is hidden – it’s not listed on the liner notes for Maceo’s album. You have to skip past seventeen seconds of silence at the end of the “Homeboy” track to the 6:05 mark when “Baby Knows” starts. I wonder if this is due to some copyright issue, or the fact that Prince and Maceo are on different record labels?
The track itself is super fun to play, and pretty easy both to play and transcribe. There are a ton of falls notated, but they are barely even lip falls. Maceo plays these very subtly, just letting the breath support fall away to give the fall effect.
I’m so glad that I found this album, and this track in particular. It’s my favorite by far. It’s a very beautiful ballad. The track opens with a bass pattern that repeats throughout the track. Candy comes in with some beautiful improvisation. Although there are drums and keys in the background, it feels more to me like a duet between the bass and alto. The bass and alto do play the melody line together at the end of the track, but it’s fairly short. I could listen to this for hours – I wish they had stretched it out more!
I’m hard pressed to categorize this as anything other than jazz. In a way it reminds of me of old ‘fusion’ tracks from bands like Steps Ahead or the Yellowjackets. Candy’s tone is so beautiful on this track – bright but soulful. And she doesn’t overplay anything, it’s very tastefully done throughout and builds gently to a beautiful conclusion.
Ballads are always the most challenging to transcribe. The time feels so loose and the subdivisions are so precise. I had to pull out all of my tricks to accurately capture what was happening rhythmically. And then I went back to simplify things a bit to make it actually readable.
Even so, it’s a challenge to play – not because of the technique but because of the rhythms. This is one of those cases where it would be much easier to memorize the track than it would be to read it, but both are valuable skills to have.
Note – the track I have skips a half a beat six bars from the end. I don’t know why, it sounds like a bad edit. I tried to fill in the blanks as best I could and then play around the edit.
This is the only saxophone solo on the 3121 album. It’s a medium tempo latin-funk feel. Maceo plays an eight bar solo in the middle of the track, and then a longer sixteen bar solo towards the end. I added the time indexes to each solo and split them across two pages for ease of reading.
These are very typical Maceo solos, although he uses altissimo more here than he usually does. It’s also a little unusual to see him jumping up and down so quickly, but he pulls it off nicely. This is something that has gotten a lot easier for me on the Conn 6M compared to my Mark VI. The altissimo notes just pop out, even some of the tougher notes over the break like G.
Continuing with the Xpectation album…There are a bunch of cool Candy Dulfer solos on this album. My biggest complaint is that they are too short!
The credits list her as playing ‘electric saxophone’ on a few tracks (not this one), which I interpret to mean EWI/WX. The funny thing is, have an EWI (and a WX11 before that), and was deeply into it for many years. I have WAY too much gear for it, along with all of the special patches, etc. that go along with it. I even spent time writing software for it, which led to my first job at Microsoft, but that’s a story for a different day…
But I’ve kind of gotten over the EWI. I rarely play it, and apart from some of Michael Brecker’s early work with it, listening to someone play it on a recording doesn’t do anything for me. That’s even more true on a Prince record because I don’t really know who is playing what. There are a ton of synth parts everywhere, so I can’t even tell that Candy’s playing it.
I’m too in love with the organic sound of the acoustic saxophone and its deep association with the player who created it. So I largely skipped over the ‘electronic saxophone’ tracks on this album and focused on the acoustic solos.
This tune is a latin-jazz feel, reminiscent of what you might hear on a Return to Forever album (albeit with more modern production values). The solo is only 16 bars, but I like it a lot. It’s easy to play and showcases Candy’s beautiful tone to great effect. I especially like the rhythmic play in bars 9-11.
This album took some digging to find, but I’m glad I did. It further demonstrates how diverse Prince’s catalog (and talent) was.
I have to say that this album is a little uneven, but it has moments of sheer brilliance as well. I could only describe it as ‘jazz’. Some of the tracks feel reminiscent of the later Miles Davis electric funk/jazz explorations. What a collaboration that would have been if Miles and Prince had gotten together.
This track is a pretty straight ahead medium-tempo hard swing feel. I really like Candy’s approach to the solo. She has some very nice lines including some incredibly clean double-time and altissimo runs that step the difficulty up a notch.
I really liked the melody so I included the short passage after the solo as well.
The Musicology tour was the only time I saw Prince live. It was easily among the best musical performances I have ever seen (and likely ever will see). Maceo and Candy were both with him that night. He also did an amazing mini-set in the middle of the show where he just cranked through a medley of his hits on solo guitar. Unbelievable!
I went to the show with a bunch of my bandmates from Doctorfunk. We all got copies of the Musicology CD with our tickets. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I understand now that by bundling the CD with the ticket sales, Prince was able to game the system into making the album top the charts. Genius!
Dear Mr. Man isn’t my favorite track on the album, that honor goes to the title track. But this has a great Maceo solo in it. Unfortunately it’s the only one on the whole album. It’s short (only eight bars), but fits in the pocket over the slow, funky groove.
I know I’ve been posting a bunch of short solos lately, but I’ll make it up to you next week 🙂