This one is pretty short, with no improvisation. Just 24 bars. But it’s a fun syncopated melody a four bar AABBAA form. Grace has a lot more fun bending the notes in the B sections than I did, I should have played that up more.
I’ve seen a few other transcriptions online, but different people have different ideas about what they are playing. I hope mine is accurate, but if not, please call me out so I can fix it!
I really should spend more time notating the articulations, but my tendency is just to listen for that and feel it. In this case, the A sections are all very short and punchy with the B sections more lyrical and connected.
I’ve been binge-watching videos by these two on YouTube lately. They are so much fun! I’ve enjoyed watching both of these artists separately, and I love the collaborations they’ve been putting out, so I figured it would make good material for the blog.
I first became aware of Grace a few years ago. She was somewhat of a ‘child prodigy’ and I heard her on the radio talking with Phil Woods, who seemed to be somewhat of a mentor to her. She has established credibility as a straight-ahead jazz saxophonist, but isn’t defined or limited by that label – she’s branched out in to all kinds of musical endeavors.
Leo became famous for his crazy dancing while busking around NYC. Videos of his performances quickly went viral. Many people we wrote him off as a joke, but if listen, yoully quickly hear that he can really play! As a bari player, I have a real appreciation of what he can do – even when standing still! I can’t imagine playing some of that stuff while pulling off those crazy dance moves at the same time. People used to say similar things about Lenny Pickett back in the day. If YouTube had existed then, imagine the things we’d see…
In most of these videos (there are many, and I’m working as fast as I can), Leo lays down a bass/ostinato part while Grace solos. But he also gets some licks in as well.
The performances are short and sweet. They are surprisingly tight (even when they are dancing through traffic in times square!) but they also manage to feel loose and spontaneous somehow. I’d love to see the background behind these – how much prep is done, what is planned vs. spontaneous, etc.
Most of all, these videos are a ton of fun. Jazz musicians are often considered dull and stuffy. Or, they are looked at as sellouts. I don’t appreciate either label. These two are the rising generation of musicians who are taking the music in to the modern age and embracing the social channels as outlets to connect with their audience. And I’m loving it!
Charles Neville passed away this week, and has become my custom, I’m honoring him this week with a transcription of one of his most famous solos from the Neville Brothers hit Yellow Moon.
I love the Neville Brothers, and have been lucky enough to see them live a few times over the years. What an amazing feel, great songs, and of course, Aaron Neville’s voice is one of a kind.
I’ll be honest, I’ve not been a huge fan of Charles Neville as a saxophonist. Specifically, I always feel like he’s trying to play ‘outside’, but never quite pulling it off. Some players, like Maceo, never play outside. They don’t need to. Others, like David Sanborn, do it rarely, but when they do, it has a huge impact. And then there are players like Chris Potter for whom it is a higher art form, woven seamlessly in to the fabric of everything that they do. For me, playing outside the changes can add beautiful color, contrast, texture, and tension. But you have to do it with intention. The real payoff comes with the resolution, when you bring it all together. But it’s a fine line, and if it doesn’t feel intentional, or doesn’t resolve properly, it can cross that line and just feel like wrong notes.
In this solo, Charles is playing chromatically almost the entire time. That can also be used to great effect to build tension, which he does in this solo. I think he pulls it off well in this solo, although there are a few note choices that are questionable to me.
This track starts with a four bar solo before the vocal, and eight bar solo over the verse changes in the middle, and then another longer solo over the fade at the end – the same verse changes. I’ve included all three sections. You’ll need A LOT of air to get through the first solo. It’s basically two four bar phrases, and I could barely make it through each in one breath. There’s an interesting delay effect applied to parts of the solo, which makes the chromatic lines sound particularly dissonant. I chose not to emulate that in my performance because it can make it hard to hear what’s going on.
I’ve been listening to a handful of Neville Brothers recordings this week, and the one thing that strikes me most about Charles’ playing is his tone. He has such a bright, pure tone on Alto that I almost mistake it for soprano sometimes. That’s hard to pull off without sounding shrill on Alto. I guess that’s one of the things that makes the Neville Brothers sound so interesting – Aaron Neville’s has such a tender, lilting quality to it, Charles’ sax playing is clear and bright, yet the rhythm section is funky and dirty. Contrast works.
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.