Michael Brecker – Ease on Down the Road #1

Here’s another Brecker solo from the Wiz. It’s from the first “Ease on Down” rendition, when Michael Jackson and Diana Ross first find the yellow brick road and start dancing across the bridge. For some reason, the solo is heard in the movie, but not on the soundtrack! On the soundtrack recording you just hear the rhythm track with no solo. I don’t know why they did it that way, since the other soundtrack recordings seem to be identical to what is used in the film.

Once again I’m using the EHX Riddle: Q-Balls¬†to replicate the auto-wah effect that he used. I’m using mostly the same settings as the previous post, although I turned the ‘Q’ knob down a bit to about the 3 o’clock position. I also realized after the fact that I had some reverb on in the effect chain. Next time I’ll kill that – it’s too much!

He plays an eight-bar solo, and then doubles the horn line for two bars before the vocals come back in. He sticks pretty closely to the minor pentatonic blues scale, but also juxtaposes the major and minor third (or sharp nine) against each other a lot.

Just like the other solo, he does a killer altissimo run at the peak of the solo. I confess I had to punch that one in, I’m sure you can hear the edit on the recording ūüėČ

Michael Brecker - Ease on Down the Road #1

 

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Michael Brecker – Poppy Girls (complete)

I’ve been traveling for work, so no video this week. I wanted to finish up the Poppy Girls solo, and I knew that the back half was going to be too technical for me to play anyhow. So I’m posting the remainder of the solo this week (both parts in one PDF for your convenience)

My business trip was extra long, and I wanted to keep making progress, so I worked up a little hotel room rig that would allow me to keep transcribing on the road. These days I pretty do about 90% of my transcribing on the piano instead of the saxophone anyways, so I’m used to not having my horn handy. It’s quicker for me, and quieter for my family ūüôā This also lets me transcribe straight in to Finale and I generally work in concert key as a result.

For this week I went old school and did my transcribing by hand. I picked up a little pocket-sized book of staff paper at a fancy paper store in San Francisco. I put Transcribe! on my laptop, and a little virtual piano app on my tablet. Transcribe! has a built-in piano but it sounds awful and since I don’t have a touch-screen laptop, it’s not very convenient.

All of this worked pretty well, with the only real problem being that I had two sound sources and no way to mix them. The tablet speakers are good enough, but the laptop speakers are terrible, and you really need good quality sound to pick out the pitches. At one point I had one earphone from each in each ear. I’m not quite sure how to solve this without making it complicated, but it worked well enough.

So here’s the full Poppy Girls solo. The second part is pretty involved (it’s three pages and the first part is only one page). Lots of hard altissimo and technical runs. I did some spot-checking after transferring from my notebook to Finale, but there may be some typos along the way, please forgive me!

Michael Brecker - Poppy Girls #2

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Michael Brecker – Poppy Girls #1

Here’s another Michael Brecker solo from The Wiz. This one is an extended solo in two parts. I’m still working on the second part (which is much longer and harder), but I want to queue this up before I leave the country for a few weeks!

This is basically The O’Jays “For the Love of Money”. An extended solo over the groove with no melody.¬† Super funky!

Once again, I’ve done my best to replicate the effect with the EHX Riddle: Q-Balls. This time I dialed back the ‘stop’ knob just a bit because I felt like I was getting too many high partials in the tone.

I barely had time to work this one up, and I totally botched the high part (what else is new)! The opening develops an idea sliding down from the 7th to the 3rd, playing with the time. There’s the usual pentatonic runs throughout, but he also plays around with the b5. Right before the big run up he does a cool rhythmic pattern between the 7 and the root.

It’s nice to hear a funk solo where Brecker can really stretch out. He develops the ideas rhythmically really well.

I’ll probably just post the full transcription when I’m done with no video. I can already tell that it’s out of my league! Michael Brecker man…

Michael Brecker - Poppy Girls #1

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Michael Brecker – Ease on Down the Road #2

The Wiz is probably my favorite musical of all time. The music is just amazing. Or course Diana Ross and Michael Jackson stand out, but the backing music is also worth a listen. In case you didn’t notice, that’s Michael Brecker blowing on all of those tracks!

He’s using some kind of auto-wah effect. The technology was probably a lot different in the 70s, but I’ve done my best to replicate the effect with the EHX Riddle: Q-Balls.

I set it on the high-pass filter mode, and pretty much turned every knob to its most sensitive settings, but with the start/stop knobs set around ’10 and 2′ respectively (clock face settings).

The solo itself is pretty short and sweet, but very funky. He sticks to the blues scale almost exclusively. He makes great use of repetition. Bar three calls back to bar one. Bar six calls back to bar five. The peak of the solo is a run that doubles (perfectly) up the octave leading up to the altissimo b5. That run is still super tough for me. I can nail it at 80% speed, but didn’t have time to work it all the way to 100% this week. I spent too much time futzing with the new pedal!

Michael Brecker - Ease on Down the Road #2

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Surgery Update

I know that it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I planned on continuing to post transcriptions throughout my surgery recovery, just with no play-along videos. That plan didn’t work out.

It’s been almost nine months since my double jaw surgery in December of 2016. Recovery has been slow and unpleasant. I am back playing again, but as little as possible since I still have a lot of healing to do. I didn’t play at all for about six months, but I just couldn’t stand to be away from the horn (and my band) for that long, so I eased back in to gigging over the summer. But I avoid all non-essential playing, and pretty much only play at gigs to allow my jaw to continue to heal.

Recovery-wise, I’m probably 80% there. I still have mild pain and weakness in both jaws, mostly the front. Eating hard foods, or things that require a lot of work in the front (like a sandwich) are still very hard and uncomfortable. My lower lip and chin are still significantly numb, maybe as much as 50%, which is a very unpleasant feeling.

The numbness makes playing difficult. Flute is impossible because I don’t get any tactile feedback about where and how to position my embouchure. Alto and Tenor are coming back slowly, but my control is gone. So no altissimo, and tuning is even more hit or miss than it ever was.

90% of my gigs are on bari, which thankfully I’m able to play. I play in a Tower of Power-style funk band, so it’s all about volume, tone, and attack. Precision, but not nuance. With the right amount of air, it works just fine. The numbness is partially a blessing because I can’t feel how out of shape my chops are after a three-set gig. I do start to lose strength, but there isn’t much pain.

It’s been a difficult nine months, both physically and emotionally. I’m still not sure if I’ll ever be 100% again, which is scary. And that has made me lose motivation to keep transcribing. It just makes me want to PLAY, which I know I shouldn’t be doing much of.

But I’m getting back on the horse slowly, and will start posting new transcriptions (and videos) again soon! But you will definitely notice that my playing is a few (big) steps behind where it was, and that will make me choose different material.

@SDartSax

Lenny Pickett – Bumped Up to First Class

I fly for work a fair amount, and this week I luckily found myself upgraded to first class! I posted on Facebook that I had been ‘bumped up to first class’ and a¬†musician friend of mine replied with the album cover to this CD. He got the reference!

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Doc Kupka (founding member and baritone sax player for Tower of Power) started his own record label a few years back called ‘Strokeland Records‘. Doctorfunk was fortunate enough to be one of the early bands distributed by the label.¬†Doc’s own ‘Strokeland Superband‘ also records for the label of course.

One of the things that I admire about Doc is the fact that despite all of the success he’s had with Tower of Power, he still has more to give. He writes A LOT, and if stuck to TOP 100%, he wouldn’t be able to get his own music out there as much as he wanted. So he started Strokeland. Doctorfunk even recorded a few of his¬†songs on our first CD. He wants to get his stuff out there.¬†Strokeland is a vehicle for that. So if you haven’t checked it out – go do it!

The Superband recordings are great. He uses different vocalists for every tune – whoever fits the music best. It’s amazing to hear Huey Lewis on this stuff, he was made for it! Fred Ross sings on this track. And Lenny Pickett takes a sax solo. If you’re putting together a funk/soul super band,¬†who else are you going to get to take the sax solos?

This one is pretty short, an eight bar bridge over the four chord. Some pretty high stuff in the last few bars but otherwise fairly approachable. This is on my list to work up when I’ve recovered from my jaw surgery. I’m coming up on five months now and playing is still nearly impossible. But I’ve still got my transcriptions…

Lenny Pickett - Bumped Up to First Class

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Lenny Pickett – You Got to Funkifize

Years ago, I got a copy of a rare bootleg of TOP playing live in-studio at a radio station. The sound quality wasn’t great, but the playing was. It was early 70s, with the¬†classic lineup, including Lenny Pickett.

Then a few years ago, they officially released those recordings as ‘The East Bay Archives’, a re-mastered 2-CD set. The sound quality still isn’t great, but I still recommend picking it up. There’s only so much they can do given the quality of the source material. The audio cuts out entirely in two spots during the solo. Some sound engineer must have been messing with something and hit a button that he shouldn’t have (twice).

This solo give us the chance to check out Lenny’s approach to Funkifize. I transcribed the original Skip Mesquite solo here a while back.

It’s a 24-bar solo, and the first 12 bars are pretty approachable from a technical standpoint. He¬†uses that false-fingering on middle E that he likes so much for about two bars. It drives me crazy that I can’t figure out exactly what he’s doing there.

The next 12 bars get a little more interesting, jumping up to the upper register, with a climb at the end that slides up to a double-A. Crazy!

Lenny Pickett - You Got to Funkifize

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Larry Williams – The Glamorous Life

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.

Larry Williams - Glamorous Life

Update: Adding a version transposed for Bb clarinet by request!

Larry Williams - Glamorous Life (Bb)

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Michael Brecker – Candy

Since I’m still unable to play due to my jaw surgery recovery, I might as well break out the Brecker transcriptions!

Actually, this may be the only one I’ve done. I’m certainly no Carl Coan! Brecker’s stuff is impossibly hard to transcribe and play, and this solo is no exception. So I’m sure that it’s full of mistakes, but it’s the best that I can do.

I can play the first half reasonably well, but things get crazy in the second half (in typical Brecker fashion).

I recommend learning the first part if you can. It’s quite approachable, and has some great ideas. The first eight bars are a master class in developing an idea.

The next four bars play with rhythm and space, and then the next four bars add some interesting harmony and layer in some intervals to provide some contrast.

Brecker does an amazing job on this harmonically simple song. He brings in such rich ideas. He had such breadth and depth in his playing, it’s a tragedy that we lost him so prematurely.

Michael Brecker - Candy

 

  • Artist:¬†Michael Brecker
  • Album:¬†Cameo Word Up!
  • Track:¬†Candy
  • Instrument:¬†Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SdartSax

Alexey Nikolaev – Back in Black

Second Opinion was all original material, with the exception of this song. Yes, it’s that¬†“Back in Black”, by AC/DC.

We thought it would be fun to throw in one cover song, but to do something really different, that we could put our own stamp on. We had done that on the first album with “I’m a Man” by Spencer Davis, and it went over really well.

There’s some debate about where the idea came from. My wife is a huge AC/DC fan, and we had seen them live around the time we were¬†gearing up for the album. I think she might have suggested it to me, and I brought it to the band. We were already working with Jeff on the material at that point, so we were getting pretty close to going in to the studio.

The rhythm section guys recorded their tracks before we had any horn parts, which was pretty unusual for us. So they did a rough arrangement, and then when the horns went to do their parts, Jack wrote stuff to fit. So we never played this one live until after the album was done. But it goes over very well live – we usually close a set with it.

It starts off slow, just drums, and it’s pretty down-tempo. Most people don’t recognize the song until the lyrics come in, and some people still don’t until the chorus hits. By that time, everyone is on-board and singing along!

Alexey plays a very cool solo here. He pushes the harmony a bit to create tension. The fast runs at the end are tough to transcribe, but I think they are pretty close. And then of course he takes it way up high to end the solo!

Alexey Nikolaev - Back in Black

 

Enjoy!

@SdartSax