Sorry for the dry spell, looks like I got this one out just in time for the holidays! This Wynton Marsalis album is my go-to Christmas tradition. It’s a beautiful album, with very cool arrangements of the classic Christmas Carols. I’m pretty sure my family gets sick of me dragging it out every year, but I love it!
This is really the first time I heard Wessell Anderson. I’m really only familiar with his work in Wynton’s bands. He has such a beautiful sound, so round and full! He reminds me of a modern-day Cannonball Adderley. I really need to check out more of his catalog.
His playing on the melody is beautiful, pulling the time back just the right amount. His solo really swings, with a lot of very cool lines in it.
You may notice that I’m back to my Mark VI on this video. I haven’t played it singe I got my Conn, but I finally sent the Conn to the shop for a much-needed overhaul. I had a weird feeling that I might pick up the Mark VI and fall back in love with it instead of the Conn, but no. Although I much prefer the ergonomics of the Mark VI, the Conn outplays it by a mile! I’ve got to re-learn how to play the Mark VI I think since the Conn will be on the disabled list for awhile…
Continuing on the Bob Seger theme…this is one of his most famous songs, with an iconic Alto sax intro.
Alto Reed tells the story about how that intro came about here. Here’s a written account from Wikipedia:
Tom Weschler allegedly helped inspire Reed to create the opening melody. During recording, Weschler told Reed: “Alto, think about it like this: You’re in New York City, on the Bowery. It’s 3 a.m. You’re under a streetlamp. There’s a light mist coming down. You’re all by yourself. Show me what that sounds like.” With that, Reed played the opening melody to “Turn the Page”.
There’s no real improvised solo on this song. The parts he came up with are simple and clean. They’re not busy or flashy – very musical, and in service of the melody. Too many players try to draw attention to themselves, and they end up detracting from the song. Not here!
The saxophone is pretty low in the mix in spots, making it hard to hear at times. As I usually do, I transcribed on piano and then played on saxophone. Sometimes when I do that, I’ll make adjustments based on how it sounds when I play it on sax vs. piano. In this case, the concert A at the bottom of the triplet figure sounded like a concert B to me when I was on the piano. But on sax, the A definitely felt better. So that’s what I have here.
By request, here is the transcription of Candy Dulfer’s Alto solo from the 1990 Knebworth concert with Pink Floyd. Requests like this are a win-win: You get the content you’re looking for, and I discover new material that I wouldn’t have otherwise run across!
I was unfamiliar with this performance until one of my readers turned me on to it. I was unaware that Candy had worked with Pink Floyd, and this has clearly been out there for a while! The only source material I could find was a YouTube link. The quality isn’t great, but it’s good enough.
This one was really tough to transcribe and play. There aren’t any particularly hard technical passages – it’s all about the rhythms. I clearly don’t work in 6/8 enough! It’s also slow, which makes everything harder because more notes are getting squeezed in to a single beat, so you have to subdivide like crazy (in 6/8)! Halfway through, the time doubles up to a 12/8 feel. You can try to feel it in 4/4, just don’t lose that triplet.
Candy has lot of cool lines as usual, and plays back and forth between the flat five (sharp eleven) and the natural five, giving it a nice bluesy feel overall.
Continuing on my Blues Brothers kick with another “Blue” Lou Marini solo. This is short, but its a doozy! I transcribed this back in high school. It played an integral role in the development of my upper register, which I’m now learning all over again. I almost posted this with no video, but I decided to tough it out and work it up (as best as I can right now).
The first part of the solo is very cool. The timing is amazing to me, it’s way behind the beat, but somehow keeps it together without dragging. Lou relies on the 9th and 13ths a lot for harmonic color.
The last four bars are pretty tough for me right now. High Ab has always been the hardest altissimo note to hit consistently. The best fingering I can come up with is LH:1,3 + RH: 1, middle side key, and D# key. For B and C# I overblow D and E respectively.
The hardest part I have with my surgery recovery is control. Keeping the note from getting away from me and going too high is the challenge. The numbness makes it hard to get the feedback I need. But it’s a work in progress. A month or two ago I couldn’t get above high F at all.
More Blues Brothers! This time, a solo from the legendary “Blue” Lou Marini. Lou is such a distinctive player. His sound and his approach are instantly recognizable. For someone who is so highly regarded as a Blues/R&B player, his approach is much more ‘outside’ than you would expect (harmonically)
This solo is no exception. It opens with a minor third trill from the 5 to the flat 7. He bends up from the flat 5 to create tension. I chose to write it out, because it’s very even in time, and transitions so smoothly into the next line, I struggled find any other way to notate it. How many of us have started an idea with a trill like that only to get stuck with no way out of it? Lou shows how it’s done here, developing an idea and building it into a phrase that leads into the four chord.
The four chord of the first chorus is a good example of his harmonic approach, which is built on the extensions. He’s playing a line around the 5th and 7th, so it’s firmly rooted in the chord, but the other notes are the 9th and 11th.
The feel is also very different from Tom Malone’s solos, which are very on top of the beat. Lou plays with the time quite a bit and often sits on the back end of the beat.
This is another transcription that will have to wait for a video from me. My high chops are out of commission while I’m recovering from surgery, and Lou does a lot of very tricky altissimo work right across the break, which is hard for me to pull off accurately right now.
I was listening to some old Brand New Heavies this week, and heard this track. I was really in to this CD in college, and transcribed the alto solo. It’s short, but it really burns. It’s pretty straight-forward: blues/pentatonic over C with some chromatic runs. But I love the sound and the attack.
As I was getting ready to post this week, I realized I didn’t know who the alto player was! They aren’t credited on the liner notes. The sax credits I see are Tim Garland or Jim Wellman. I suspect Tim Garland takes the tenor solo on this track. The alto solo comes in right before the fade at the end.
I don’t think it’s the same player laying down both solos. The alto player is definitely on the leading edge of the beat, whereas the tenor player is more in the pocket. That said, I play pretty differently on Alto vs. Tenor, so maybe that’s irrelevant.
If you know who the soloists are on this track, help me out so I can give credit where credit is due!
This is a solo that I worked up during my binge of Prince music after his death. Prince produced this album, and pretty much discovered Sheila E.
I wasn’t familiar with Larry Williams or his music prior to this. I had to do some digging to find out who played the solo. But it’s clear from his web site that he’s a top-flight session player who has played with just about everyone!
There’s a lot going on in this track. It opens with just sax and rhythm. Larry plays very ‘out’ for a pop track, with lots of chromatic substitutions and overtones. There are some very cool chromatic runs in this section, which takes up the first page.
The second page is the solo that happens after the vocals. Great use of altissimo, and more overtone runs as well. But some really iconic licks in there around bar 12-16 of the main solo.
After the solo there is an extended four-minute drum break. It’s hard to believe that a pop single ran over 9 minutes long! There’s some amazing percussion work by Sheila E here. I didn’t transcribe all of the sax licks in this. For the most part, it’s just re-stating the melody lick. But there is a bit more towards the end. I was mostly in to the solos themselves.
My playing hiatus due to jaw surgery continues, so no video this week. Instead I’ll be posting transcriptions from the archive.
This is one I did way back in high school. I learned altissimo by playing along to transcriptions of Marc Russo and David Sanborn, and a little help from some books like Ted Nash’s
Top Tones” and David Liebman’s book “Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound” (for overtones, etc.)
I dusted this one off a few weeks ago to clean up the transcription and get ready to post it. I forgot how HIGH it went – double G! D is pretty much my limit these days, although I somehow managed to play this back in high school. I had a very different setup those days, and apparently much harder reeds and tolerance for pain.
I started to work this one up, and I was hoping to get a video posted before my jaw surgery. But once the braces went on, I could barely play anything taxing, they just shred my lips with anything that requires any pressure. So I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever get back above that high D again. For the kind if playing that I do, I don’t ever go that high, so although I appreciate the value of being able to do it, I realize that my practice time is better spent focusing on more immediate needs with tangible benefits.
That said, Silverlake is a beautiful track. Kind of a ballad that breaks into a funky latin/fusion feel for the solo. There are a few bars that sounds like he switches to soprano, so I indicated that in the transcription (while still notating for alto).
This is definitely the last video I will post before I go in for jaw surgery. I was on the road all week for work, so I didn’t have a chance to practice or transcribe something new. I pulled something out of the archive and spent about an hour working it up – not enough to do it justice. Tomorrow I get the wires put on my braces in preparation for surgery Wednesday, so I doubt I’ll even play sax again before I go offline for 3+ months.
But I didn’t pick an easy one to go out on. Quick Step is an up-tempo Maceo tune (as the title would suggest), and it’s in a flat key, which is pretty unusual. It’s basically a one-chord jam with e melody that is intercut with several short solos.
Transcribing the opening was tough, because when you first hear the tune, you don’t know where ‘one’ is. it becomes clear once the rhythm section comes in. But it can be a good exercise to try and figure it out without that context.
For me, transcribing is like a science experiment. You listen, and formulate a hyopthesis (guess). Then you listen again with that hyopethesis in mind to either validate or invalidate it. If you’re really good at it, you can guess about a whole line at a time. But if you’re like me, sometimes you’re guessing about a single pitch, or the rhythmic placement of a single note in a phrase. But if you follow that basic approach you can get through the hardest transcription there is. Just slow it down and focus on solving one problem at a time until it all comes together.
This may be the last video I post before I go in for jaw surgery. I’ll be traveling for a week, and then back for only a few days before I go under. I’ll also be getting wires on my braces when I get back, so playing will only get harder. I’ll keep posting and transcribing as much as I can, just no videos for a few months.
So hopefully this is a good one to go out on. Pass the Peas is one of my favorite Maceo tunes, and this is a great version of it. It’s from the Roots and Grooves CD set, recorded with a full big band.
The melody is a lot of fun to play, but it’s a bit repetitive, so I didn’t record it. I start with Maceo’s first solo, which is pretty straight forward. After a few more solos, Maceo comes back in to trade with the drummer – none other than the legendary Dennis Chambers! They trade twos, and they start pulling the tempo down almost to a crawl. It’s a lot of fun.
I’m still adjusting to my Conn 6M in some ways. The hardest adjustment is the left hand table. I don’t like that the B key is in the middle. I prefer the Mark VI layout which has only the C# and B keys on the second row and the Bb below. Towards the end of the sax/drum solo I missed the B key because I still can’t feel instinctively which is which.
After Mceo drops out, Dennis Chambers takes an amazing drum solo. I didn’t record the melody on the way out either, but it’s all in the written transcription. It’s worth playing along with if you don’t already know the tune.