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 ūüėČ

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




Alexey Nikolaev – Step Up to the Plate

Tenor Sax! I’ve done a ton of killer Tenor transcriptions, but the problem is,¬†99% are filled with altissimo passages that I can’t pull off. Tenor is the horn that I have the fewest number of hours on (by a huge margin), and my altissimo chops just aren’t there.¬†But this solo doesn’t have any (which is actually surprising for Alexey since he has monster high chops).

Alexey is a local Seattle guy, but he’s a world-class sax player. I’ve played alongside him in Doctorfunk for over ten years and it’s a real treat hearing him solo night after night. This solo is a typical example of his playing – very technical, but clean and fluid. Great harmonic ideas – nothing too outside, but nice use of chord extensions and intervals to provide¬†color.

Since this CD is hard to find, I’m providing a YouTube link as well.

Alexey Nikolaev - Step Up To the Plate




Paul Desmond – Take Five

Paul Desmond РSo 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




Wayne Shorter – Walkin’

Wayne Shorter was in Seattle last week for the Earshot Jazz Festival, and I missed it! I was so bummed, and he was on my mind, so I went through my archives and dug up this gem of a performance.

It’s a duet from a live performance with Bobby McFerrin and¬†I love it. They play off of each other beautifully, taking turns walking bass lines for each other while the other player solos. That’s right – you not only get to hear Wayne Shorter blow a great solo, you get to hear him walk a bass line. How often does that happen?

The solo uses the full range of the horn to great effect. How often do you go from low Bb to high F# (and every note in between) in one solo?

The solo is definitely tough to play. I only dust off my soprano once a year, and it shows. The recording itself is off by about 25 cents, so I had to shove my mouthpiece way in, making my normal intonation struggles on soprano even worse. Overall I rate myself about a D on this one, but it was a good challenge for me.

Wayne Shorter - Walkin'


Here’s¬†a video of the performance, recorded for the VHS release (which I had!) The description indicates that Bobby didn’t know that¬†this duet was going to happen, which is ridiculous. Of course it was planned, arranged, rehearsed, and executed beautifully. The video cuts out a section, so be sure to check out the full track.



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




Maceo Parker – Youth of the World

I’ll admit, this post is a bit of filler…but it’s because I’ve got a really meaty post coming up next!

This track isn’t really a solo,¬†it’s more solo fills and¬†backgrounds around the vocals. But there’s still some cool stuff in it. The ending really shows the power of simple repetition. If you commit to it, it really works. Most players don’t have the discipline to play the same line more than once or twice. They feel that they have to get creative with it. And they end up overdoing it and distracting from¬†what the rest of the band is laying down.

But for me the best part of this track comes around 0:30 seconds in (on my YouTube video). Maceo is in the middle of an 8-bar break, and he fills in with a single note. Again it shows the power of understatement and confidence.

It reminds me of a story of the artist Giotto, who demonstrated his mastery through simplicity and minimalism, rather than elaborate technique:

“…when the Pope sent a messenger to Giotto, asking him to send a drawing to demonstrate his skill, Giotto drew, in red paint, a circle so perfect that it seemed as though it was drawn using a compass and instructed the messenger to give that to the Pope.

Maceo Parker - Youth of the World