Clarence Clemons – Freeway of Love

Double tribute this week – Clarence Clemons and Aretha Franklin together! This is from her 1985 hit ‘Freeway of Love’. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of this song in particular, but the performances by both Aretha and the Big Man are memorable. Aretha was trying to go mainstream with this pop/rock number, and she had some commercial success with it. But it doesn’t have the substance that her early work did.

Clarence is in his element here, belting out a throaty growl that commands attention. I can’t pull off the growl like he can, so I just went for an edgy tone. When I try to growl, I have a tendency to sing the pitches that I’m playing, which doesn’t give the right effect. it gives me cognitive dissonance to try and vocalize a different pitch for some reason, but I should work on it. I suspect Clarence is just vocalizing a steady low pedal tone to compliment his already edgy sound.

This solo doesn’t get too high (altissimo Bb), but once again, it spends a lot of time crossing the break, which is my Achilles heel. My high G is not as stable and strong as it needs to be, and has a tendency to crack, which you hear in the ride out.

But it’s a good workout – be sure to use lots of air! You need it for the sound, and to sustain those long phrases, especially the last phrase that closes the intro.

Some of the bent notes are so pronounced that I wrote them out. I can’t quite pull them off the same way he does though with nothing but lip. He’s got killer control of the horn!

Clarence Clemons - Freeway of Love

 

  • Artist: Clarence Clemons
  • Album:  Aretha Franklin – Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (1985)
  • Track: Freeway of Love
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

King Curtis – Respect

Sadly, we lost the Queen of Soul recently. As is my tradition here, I honor them in the best way that I can, by highlighting the parts of their catalog that resonate the most with me as a saxophone player.

I found myself on a cross-country airline flight shortly after Aretha’s passing, and I fired up one of her ‘greatest hits’ collections on my phone. Listening back to songs I had heard and played dozens of times, I was struck by how well they have stood the test of time. Dozens of masterpieces, each one more powerful than the next. Not just her singing, but the compositions, the arrangements, the background vocals, the horn parts, the rhythm section – it was all genius of the like we will never see again.

Saxophone solos don’t figure prominently in many of her works, but there are a few. I decided to work up the King Curtis solo from “Respect”. Fun fact – the chords are from one of my favorite Sam and Dave songs: “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”.

The key is a killer for saxophone: Ab/G#! I battled with Finale to try and make the accidentals and key signature readable, and finally gave up. I ended up re-spelling everything as sharps because it insisted on writing triple flats instead of naturals when there were accidentals. So it’s a mess, but the notes are correct.

The rhythm was super challenging to notate, and really, you just have to listen to it and feel it as well as you can. I got it as close as I could while still being readable.

After the rhythm, the hardest part for me to play was the high Ab/G#s. That’s always been my worst altissimo note on any horn. I used the ‘long’ fingering of 1+3 (LH), 1 + side C (RH). If you have a better fingering on Tenor, please share. He does wide jumps each time, so it was hard to get the note to speak.

I think I’ll tackle Blue Lou Marini’s Alto solo from “Think” next (from the Blues Brothers Soundtrack). It’s low in the mix in spots, and of course filled with killer altissimo throughout, so wish me luck!

King Curtis - Respect

 

  • Artist: King Curtis
  • Album: Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)
  • Track: Respect
  • Instrument: Tenor

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Tom Politzer – East bay! Oakland Style!

Here’s the sister track to the previous post – the last track of the album. It’s the same song, another take, with the sax solo in the middle this time. They changed the name of the track for some reason.

It’s an eight-bar section, all over the F# pentatonic minor blues scale. It’s really just four licks. I love the F#-C lick (tonic to flat five – using the tritone). I also like how percussive the articulation is, you really need to spit it out!

Tom Politzer - East Bay Oakland Style

 

  • Artist: Tom Politzer
  • Album: Tower of Power – The Soul Side of Town (2018)
  • Track: East Bay! Oakland Style!
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Tom Politzer – East bay! All Day!

I’ve been really getting in to the new Tower of Power album – The Soul Side of Town. Tommy P takes a million solos on it, and this is the first one, right out of the gate.

It’s only four bars, but it’s a killer! The altissimo isn’t too high, but he gets around pretty fast. The way he crossed the break in the first bar is amazingly clean. He sticks to the blues scale, and does a trill on the last note, which was unexpected but cool.

This track is very much in the style of ‘Oakland Stroke’, opening and closing the album with a (mostly) instrumental jam. Burning solos by my pal Roger Smith on the organ as well! I’ll work on the closing track next, it’s got a longer solo.

Tom Politzer - East Bay All Day

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Don Felder and Joe Walsh – Hotel California

And now for something totally different! By request, here is the guitar duel from the Eagle’s Hotel California. This is probably their biggest hit, if not one of the biggest hits of all time from any band!

This is the first time I’ve attempted a guitar transcription here. It’s super-tough to match the phrasing and technique. Saxophone and guitar are both very expressive instruments, but in very different ways, which makes for a challenge.

The range also makes it tough. The Joe Walsh solo spans almost three octaves. I’d like another shot at that high Ab that I missed 🙂

I did my best to notate the articulation. I’m not a guitar player, but it sounds to me like not every note is picked, some are played by sliding the left hand from one fret to another. The more I could match the articulation, the closer I got to the feel of the guitar part.

In this song, Don Felder plays first. He takes an eight-bar solo and then Joe Walsh takes eight bars. Then they trade two bars each, and then they duet the rest of the way out.

I understand that Don Felder recorded an instrumental demo to pitch to the band, which included both solos and the duet. Don Henley made them stick to those solos for the final recording, although the key changed.

I spent so much time shedding the solo parts that I totally neglected the arpeggios at the end. I figured I’d just read them, but the key threw me in a few spots – oops!

Hotel California

 

  • Artists: Don Felder and Joe Walsh
  • Album: The Eagles: Hotel California (1976)
  • Track: Hotel California
  • Instruments: Guitar duet (originally), transcribed for Alto Sax duet

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

P. S. First post with my Conn 6M post-overhaul!

David Bowie – Sorrow

Quick transcription this week – by request, here is David Bowie’s Alto solo from ‘Sorrow’. Nice and short, only eight bars. He establishes a simple theme in the first two bars, repeats it in the second, varies it up a fourth on the key change, and then re-states to end the solo.

David Bowie was an amazing vocalist, performer, and writer. He’s not known as an influential saxophonist, but I commend him for playing the parts himself to fulfill his musical vision.

This is actually a cover of a song originally recorded by The McCoys in 1965, and again by the Merseys in 1966. Neither have this instrumental part. The McCoys version uses harmonica instead. Bowie covered this in 1973 on the album Pin Ups, which is all cover music. I found a live recording on YouTube from the Serious Moonlight tour in 1984 where there is a much longer saxophone solo played no by Bowie but by Steve Elson (I think)

David Bowie - Sorrow

 

  • Artists: David Bowie
  • Album:  David Bowie – Pin Ups
  • Track: Sorrow
  • Instrument: Alto Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Grace Kelly and Leo P – NYC Popup #31

Another Grace/Leo duet. It’s a short one this week. Leo plays the bass part. Grace accompanies him in the beginning, then drops out until her solo. It’s only four bars, and for some reason my fingers kept getting tangled up in the first phrase. She comes back in with the accompaniment, and they finish it off with an altissimo ‘freak out’ before the big last note.

Big thanks to Derek Brown of the BeatBoXSAX channel. He posted a great video tutorial on the ‘overtone gliss’ technique, which is what Leo uses a lot, including the end of this video.

I’ve got to work on it a lot more, but it helped me get the basic concept and tongue position worked out, which had me a bit stumped before.

I’m off to New York for a few days, maybe I’ll get lucky and catch Leo in the subway (although I think he’s too big for that now)! I should get back to Seattle just in time to catch Grace at the Jazz Alley. I’ve never seen her live, so I’m not sure what to expect. I’m guessing it will be a bit more reserved than this video is! I don’t know how the two of them play what they do while dancing in the streets of New York and jumping up and down. I have a hard enough time playing standing still! More power to them…

Grace Kelly + Leo P - Popup #31 (Grace)
Grace Kelly + Leo P - Popup #31 (Leo)

 

  • Artists: Grace Kelly and Leo P
  • Source video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K294MP3xxsY
  • Instruments: Alto and Baritone Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Grace Kelly and Leo P – Facebook Live Session #4

It’s a long holiday weekend in the US, so I thought I’d slip in a bonus post.

More Grace/Leo duets. This time a short one. I’m pretty sure that this one is 100% composed, with no improvisation. It’s not terrible hard to play, although it moves quickly, and the alto gets up to a high Bb at the end. Other than that, it’s pretty straight forward.

I’ve got a few more in the series that I’m going to try working up. They only get harder (and longer) from this point onward, so it might take a while. I’m pretty excited to see Grace Kelly at Jazz Alley in Seattle in a few weeks also!

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 4 (Grace)
Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 4 (Leo)

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Grace Kelly and Leo P – Facebook Live Session #1

Another Grace/Leo duet from the same YouTube series. This time Grace plays soprano, which gave me a real workout. My soprano chops are not where they need to be. I just don’t play enough of it. Some day when I’m rich I’d like to buy a nice soprano – any suggestions? My Mark VI just isn’t cutting it for me. I got suckered in by the Mark VI mystique! As I get older, I’m particularly over playing a straight soprano with no neck strap. My body can’t take it!

This has been the toughest transcription of the series by far. In bar 13-14 Grace plays a crazy double time figure that I can’t really wrap my head around. I broke it down as well as I could but it just doesn’t capture what she’s doing. It sounds like she’s double-tonguing and using some alternate fingerings. What I came up with is close, but not nearly the same.

Leo plays the bass role in this one again, but he gets some solo licks in as well. He’s got some amazingly dexterous altissimo for a bari player! I play a LOT of bari, but it’s all horn section work in the lowest octave. So I like to think that I do pretty on the bass parts, but my upper register isn’t as solid. And I’ve never invested the time in altissimo on bari. My setup certainly isn’t optimized for it. These videos have inspired me to give it a shot, but I’m going to have to experiment with some different reed options I think.

The timing on these videos is super tough. They’re playing on the street while dancing around, so the time flexes quite a bit. My solution is to just listen and play along a ton until I feel where to push and where to lay back to stay in sync. Still, I ended up fixing a few timing issues in the video where I got off.

For some reason, my camera had some auto-focus issues at the beginning – sorry about that! I also think I figured out why the audio for the last two videos was panned hard left. Hopefully that’s fixed now, and I’ll try to fix the existing videos if I can.

I’m posting the two parts separately this time, instead in score form. Let me know if you have a preference for these duets?

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 1 (soprano)

 

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 1 (bari)

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax