Promises is another tune from Doctorfunk’s album “Second Opinion”. This one was written by Jack Halsey, our lead trumpet player, horn arranger, and musical director. It’s a slow funk groove with a great feel to it.
Alexey Nikolaev turns in another great solo on this one, with both fills around the verses as well as a feature solo as well. I love the intervallic work he does during the solo, both up in the altissimo range, but also down to the bottom end of the horn. It really gives the solo some nice contrast and feels unexpected.
When we recorded “What’s Up Doc?”, we had a fairly long ride out at the end. The band was vamping over the groove and the background vocals.
We decided to have Bob blow a tenor solo over the ride out. Alexey had the feature solo during the tune, but rather than have him play a second solo, it felt like a good opportunity to give Bob some time.
Bob and Alexey are both killer players, and I’ve learned a ton standing next to them night after night. But they are also diametrically opposed. While Alexey’s strength comes from his technical prowess, Bob is all style and delivery. Although he’s a tenor player, he reminds me a lot of Maceo Parker in that regard.
It turns out, this is exactly what the tune needed to fill the void at the end. Not pyrotechnics, but soul. And Bob delivers. He starts off very reserved. Finding the gaps and filling them in tastefully. The phrasing is beautiful, and he builds some nice lines as the song vamps and fades.
Bob left Doctorfunk a year or so ago when he had to undergo the same jaw surgery that I’m now recovering from. He comes and sits in with us occasionally, so it’s great to know that recovery is possible, and that I should be able to play again. Bob’s my hero!
What’s Up Doc? is a song I wrote as a tribute to Doc Kupka, of Tower of Power fame. As a baritone sax player, he’s obviously been a huge influence on me, and he’s also provided tremendous support to Doctorfunk over the years.
We worked with Jeff Tamalier (former TOP guitarist) to produce this album, and he continued to work with Doc through Strokeland records. Jeff had Doc record a bunch of his witty sayings to pepper in throughout the recording which make it even more fun.
This is Alexey Nikolaev’s tenor solo from the album. When I wrote the tune, I knew I wanted a tenor solo reminiscent of classic Tower of Power and Lenny Pickett. I didn’t even have to tell Alexey this, the first time he played the solo (and every time since then), he’s nailed it every time, and this recording is no exception.
I was in the studio when he recorded it. He did a few takes just to give us a few options to choose from at mix time, but they were all perfect. He’s a real pro, and a monster player, as you can tell from the solo!
The solo comes roaring out of the gates at the break over the bari walk up (hey, that’s me!) I like how Alexey builds tight four-bar phrases. The second four really knock me out with his use of chromatic bebop-flavored lines and precise rhythmic delivery. The ending is off the charts!
If you’ve never heard this live Rufus and Chaka Khan record, stop what you’re doing right now and go get it! It’s one of my all-time favorites!
Both Chaka and the band are in top form here, and it’s great to hear what the horn section adds to these tunes. I believe Jerry Hey did the horn writing, so it’s no surprise there.
This tune is a beautiful duet, and Ernie Watts turns in a masterful 16-bar solo. I love the phrasing, how he sets up and executes these perfect four-bar ideas that build to a logical conclusion that ties right back in to the tune.
Obviously, the ‘black ink’ through bars 9-10 are the most difficult. But as with many passages, the faster it is, the better it lays on the horn. The tricky part here is how Ernie changes it up in the second bar. I don’t know exactly what he’s doing on the horn, but he’s overblowing the line to hit a higher harmonic. My suspicion is that he’s essentially playing the same line, but adding the front ‘fork’ key in the left hand to facilitate the overtone. When done quickly, it’s a cool effect and very tasteful.
In a way, this is the solo that started it all for me (again). While I had done a lot of transcribing in high school and college, I had gotten away from it for several years after college for one reason or another.
But then I heard this solo one day and felt compelled to transcribe it (and play it too!)
So I set about transcribing it, and managed to get through the whole thing. I have no idea how long it took, probably two weeks with a few hours here and there devoted to it.
When I first transcribed the solo, I was just going for notes and rhythms, not paying much attention to form or chord progressions. With no rhythm section reference, it can be hard to follow at times, or even find where ‘one’ is (intentionally!)
I made heavy use of off time signatures to reconcile this. But I realize in hindsight that this was a mistake. I recently went back to try and add in chorus markers and chord changes for reference. But often I found that phrases might be notated a few beats away from where they ‘should’ land to line up with chorus start/end points. I spent some time editing and quickly realized that it was going to be a huge amount of work to clean up. So instead I present it as-is, mistakes and all. There are better transcriptions of this solo out there for sure, but this one is mine 🙂
I’ve learned to play passages from the transcription, but it’s obviously verydifficult to play certain sections, so don’t expect to see a video of me playing the whole solo any time in my lifetime. I have tremendous respect for those who can!
The recording was the first of many bootleg recordings of Chris Potter playing a capella at a master class. There are now many of these floating around with varying audio quality. I don’t think Chris sees any money from these unfortunately, so please support his albums and performances.
We’re lucky to have such a legendary saxophone player active in our lifetime who is so incredibly gifted both musically and technically!
P. S. For those of you who are interested in how my recovery from double-jaw surgery is going, I’m about eight weeks post-surgery and still a long way from playing the saxophone. I can now eat soft food gently, but my lower lip is still totally numb and very stiff. I predict another 6-8 weeks before I’m playing again.