Paul Desmond – Strange Meadow Lark

More Paul Desmond from the Time Out album. I’d like to finish all the transcriptions on this album someday soon, they are all so beautiful!

My usual caveat with the chord changes on this chart – it’s especially complex, and chords are not my strong suit, so fair warning on the accuracy! I cobbled together what I could from a lead sheet and my ear, neither of which I trust a great deal…

Paul Desmond - Strange Meadow Lark




Maceo Parker – Splashin’ (Part 2 of 2)

Continuing from part 1 last week, here is part 2…

The trickiest part of this solo is the rhythm. It’s very syncopated. The bank half of the track is a long blow: Two full choruses of the form followed by twenty four bars of a single chord ‘breakdown’, then three more choruses of the form to finish out the track.

One interesting thing that I noticed is that there are a bunch of places where Maceo plays two notes with one using an alternate fingering. This by itself is not unusual – lots of people use this technique (including Maceo). The thing that’s interesting to me about this is that in this solo, it sounds like he’s using the alternate fingering on the first note of the grouping, and not the second note, which is what he (and other players) would more commonly do. Maybe he was just in a certain mood when he recorded this.

For convenience, the PDF is for the entire track, but the video below is for the second solo in the track, starting at the top of page 3.

Maceo Parker - Splashin'



Maceo Parker – Splashin’ (Part 1 of 2)

I saw a request for this solo on one of the SOTW forums, so I gave it a listen. I don’t know why I had never transcribed it before – it’s such a fun song!

This was a bit of a rush job for me. It’s a long song, with two very distinct sections, so I’m posting them one at a time as I complete them. With any luck I’ll have part 2 done next week. On a good day, I get about an hour to practice after work is done and the kids are in bed. So I transcribed about two choruses a night on Monday-Tuesday, practiced and recorded it Wednesday, and edited the video and blog post for publication tonight. Whew!

In retrospect I would have liked to have practiced the solo for another hour before posting, but I believe the transcription is pretty accurate, even if my playing isn’t 😉

Maceo Parker - Splashin'



UPDATE: Part 2 is posted here, I’ve updated the PDF above to contain both parts.

Kenny Garrett – Big Time

Another great Kenny Garrett solo from Amandla. Actually, there are two solos in this track, so be sure to keep watching the video after the first fade. The solos are split across two pages in the PDF.

I think there’s only one or two more Kenny Garrett solos on this album, I’ll shoot to get the rest done before the end of the year.

Kenny Garrett - Big Time




Kenny Garrett – Jo-Jo

More Kenny Garrett! I love his playing on this album, even though the solos are so short. I’ll have to double-check the chords on this one. I pulled them from a lead sheet, but Kenny seems to be consistently playing major 3rds against the C minor. Even a major 7th and sharp 4. I wish I had a better ear for chords!

Kenny Garrett - Jo-Jo




Paul Desmond – Take Five

Paul Desmond – So smooth, so dry. So many metaphors have been used to compare his sound to various foods or alcoholic beverages. He is so unique and special, and this is one of his best known solos.

His playing is deceptively simple on this tune, which defies the level of complexity introduced by the 5/4 time signature. It lays so well you would think it’s in 4/4.

Funny story – As I was editing the solo for upload it dawned on me that the solos are just over the vamp. I’ve played this song so many times over the years and every rhythm section I’ve played it with plays the form over the solos – bridge and all!

Paul Desmond - Take Five




Kenny Garrett – Jilli

I love me some Kenny Garrett! He’s probably my favorite jazz Alto player on the scene today. It’s like Maceo Parker and John Coltrane had a musical baby.

Kenny has a beautiful, bright, clear sound with a very percussive attack, much like Maceo, but he generally plays music that is much more harmonically and technically complex (which you’d expect given their respective genres).

This is an especially interesting track because it shows Kenny playing over a one-chord funk/fusion groove. I love how he plays with the major seventh in the 4th and 5th bars. He really doesn’t stray too far from the blues scale, but when he does, the alterations really pop.

I think that I’ve got most of Kenny’s solos from this period with Miles transcribed, so I’ll be working them into the mix over the next couple months.

Kenny Garrett - Jilli




Sonny Stitt – Can’t We Be Friends?

Throwback Thursday!

This is the very first solo that I ever transcribed! I was probably 16? I don’t know how or why I chose this solo, but I’m glad that I did. It’s a killer track. A beautiful ballad with a bunch of super-clean bebop runs. For a recording that is over 60 years old, it sounds great (at least the Alto does).

I had this album on vinyl, and transferred it to cassette tape so I could transcribe it on my boom box (which had no pitch or speed controls). I listened to this solo for hours and hours before I even started the process. I listened to it in my sleep every night! I realize now that this is all a bit of overkill, but I didn’t know any better at the time.

Sonny Stitt - Can't We Be FriendsFor fun, I’m including a scan of my original handwritten transcription:

Unfortunately, this was page 1 of a notebook that is almost 30 years old. The cover and first page were torn off and lost years ago. So all that survived was the third page of the solo.

I had fun re-transcribing it, and it came back very quickly since I learned it pretty well back in the day. I was surprised to see how accurate my original transcription was. Given my inexperience and the primitive tools that I had to work with, I think I did a pretty good job!

The solo itself is a lot of fun to play. The bebop lines are hard, but not impossible. They generally lay pretty well on Alto, and I realize that I still find myself using some of the licks to this day on a regular basis. Nailing all of them 100% in one take proved to be a challenge, which only gives me that much more respect for the guy who improvised the solo in the first place. What a master!

Sonny Stitt - Can't We Be Friends




P.S. About the chords…I lifted them from a fake book, so they may not exactly match what the rhythm section was doing on this recording. Transcribing chord changes has always been my achilles heel. Unlike solos, where there is a single line that is very clearly right or wrong, chord changes are more subjective and open to harmonic interpretation (at least to me). I’m working at it. If anyone has any advice, I’d love to improve in this area!

Maceo Parker – Shake Everything You’ve Got

What a blow! This is a long track with a lot of playing. It’s one of those transcriptions that’s not that hard to write down, but it’s really hard to duplicate the performance since it’s so raw and full of energy. The sax+drum solo builds so well. The chromatic walk up during the saxophone solo is especially tough to replicate with all of the inflections, but I did my best.

I love this track though. This is probably my favorite track from my favorite Maceo album. I especially love the a capella horn section ending. I’ve played this arrangements in bands before and it’s a ton of fun to do live.

I started this project as a way to force myself to practice more. One of the side benefits that I’ve found is that listening to recordings of yourself practicing is very enlightening! This is one of those DUH things that every teacher tells you, but you never really internalize until you try it.

Listening to this track makes me realize how much I need to work on my pitch! Some (but not all) of this is due to the fact that I make the recordings with headphones in so I can hear the soloist well. But they also block out my own sound making it harder to match pitch. I think I’ll experiment with just one earphone in to see how that works.

Maceo Parker - Shake Everything You Got