It’s 4th down, 15 yards to go, far outside of field goal range – time to punt! It’s been a crazy busy week for me between work and gigs. I had planned on serving up another Marc Russo solo this week. I found another old transcription in one of my high school notebooks and cleaned it up. It was missing a page so I re-transcribed half of it. I planned on practicing and recording it today. Then I had a three-hour chops-busting gig last night, with another one tonight.
I looked through the Marc Russo solo and realized that it went up to a double altissimo G, so I decided to save my lip for the gig tonight and pull something easier out of the archives.
So – back to Maceo! A slow 16-bar blues. It pops up to a high Ab briefly, but other than that it’s pretty easy to play once you figure out all of the ornaments and grace notes. Just take it slow.
I may return to the Marc Russo solo next week, we’ll see how my chops are feeling!
Back to Alto for a bit. My recent Bob Mintzer transcriptions led me back to the Yellowjackets, which led me to dig up some of my old Marc Russo transcriptions from high school. I found this in one of my hand-written notebooks from about 1988 or so, and cleaned it up and brought it in to Finale.
These transcriptions are where I really cut my teeth (or more accurately, my LIP) on altissimo. Even more than David Sanborn, he is my go-to guy for alto sax altissimo. He incorporates it so beautifully into his playing.
Overall, his sound is smoother than what I personally go after, but it’s a great exercise to try and emulate. It takes a fantastic amount of control and discipline. On this track, he’s got to sell a very simple melody, and he does it beautifully with a clear, bright, round tone that is very pure. I’d have to play this style for weeks to really get it in to my head, but it was a good challenge to dive in to this week.
Obviously the hard part is the altissimo on this solo – all the way up to high D right before the fade. I really have to visualize this note to hit it. Playing along with the track (LOUD in my ears) is a big help because Marc’s intonation is spot-on. The run up to the high D (E-G-B-D) was tough, I was focusing so hard on the D that I missed either the G or the B every time. I need to slow this one down and work it out some more, but my lip only lets me do it in small doses. It’s like doing heavy squats for your lip! Then you have to be strong enough to hold the high D without shaking, and bend it back down to the B and control the line all the way down to the octave below. Good luck!
More Bob Monster solos from Mint Jam! This track has a bluesy, almost gospel feel to it.
The tune itself is pretty intricate. It’s a little down-tempo, which is always makes it harder since there are so many subdivisions. The form took awhile to figure out. The solo is basically ABABABCDD. I was able to find a lead sheet online that helped make sense of it (also why the chord changes are so detailed!)
The transcription wasn’t too hard to do, but learning it turned out to be way harder than I expected. The solo itself only has a few really tough parts (I’m looking at you high notes), but it is long with a bunch of medium difficulty stuff, which makes it hard to get one continuous take with no mistakes.
I haven’t done many saxophone solos from big band recordings, so I let my current Bob Mintzer kick lead me into his big band work. If you haven’t heard his big band recordings, check them out, I highly recommend them. The big band seemed like a vehicle to showcase his writing (which is excellent) and served as cheap marketing for his charts, which every high school in my area played when I was growing up. Bob got all of the top New York players to record these, so the section playing and soloing are all top-notch.
I devoured these recordings when I was in high school. Our band played many of these charts over the years, and even commissioned Bob to write a chart for us and perform the world premier together with our band. I thought that was pretty cool then, but I don’t think I fully appreciated it until much later.
Bob was super nice and of course a great player. I met him after a Yellowjackets show years later and joked that we had played a gig together. He thought I was serious until I told him that I was in the high school band he performed with. He thought it was funny, and remembered the band and my director from back then. He’s a real good guy.
This solo is great. It’s a cut time quasi-latin feel, very up-tempo. Lots of changes, and some of the lines are very tough. There’s a funky pedal section at the end of each chorus to break up the feel as well. The bari solo by Roger Rosenberg on the track is also very good (but very hard). I may get around to transcribing it some day as well. I’m overdue for some bari transcriptions!
I had so much fun doing the last Bob Mintzer transcription I decided to do another. I’m a huge fan of his playing. And I also love the Yellowjackets! I was big into them in High School and have a bunch of Marc Russo Alto transcriptions in my notebooks somewhere. I need to find those.
This track is probably my favorite Yellowjackets recording. It was recorded live, so it doesn’t have that ‘over-produced’ feeling that many of their albums do (sorry, just my opinion).
This track has a really funky groove and Bob’s playing is just killing on it. I wish I had a few more hours to woodshed this and get it more solid. It’s a lot of fun to play.