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?
This is another Najee soprano solo from the “One Night Alone – Live” box set that I almost didn’t transcribe. But I listened to it a few more times and it grew on me.
This track opens the box set, and is a full-on free-jazz electric odyssey for the first full minute. It settles in to a funky jazz groove (kind of like ‘Superfly’ with a swing feel) and Najee kicks it off with a soprano solo.
There’s some crazy hard stuff to play in this solo. It’s only a minute long, but it’s dense. In bar eleven he starts a 7-1-4 hemiola that you just have to feel. I had a hard time reading the triplet figures starting in bar eighteen. After notating it, I pretty much stopped looking at the page and just listened to it a bunch until I had internalized the patterns as well as I could.
The run in bar 32 sounds like a blur, but when you slow it down, it’s amazing how cleanly he executes it!
I’m almost done with this Prince box set! I put off this transcription because I wasn’t a big fan of it, but as usual, once I started working on it, it really started to grow on me.
This is another solo from Najee, this time on soprano sax, so I get to dust those chops off again! This is a straight-ahead jazz feel, kind of a 16-bar blues.
There are some cool runs in this one. I especially like the 11-12th bars of the first chorus. At first I thought he was doing some kind of altered substitution, but it turns out it’s a straight-forward 1-2-3-5-6-b7 run, but it starts on the 2, which puts the extensions on the strong beats and gives it a very cool sound.
Even though I’m a saxophonist, I’ve always been drawn to Jaco Pastorius’ music, especially his solo bass work. Fortunately, there are many recordings of this work, but this track is perhaps the most famous (and rightly so). And it’s certainly my favorite.
Many of his solo performances involved looping and other effects, but not this track. It’s just beautifully written, with intricate harmonies and rhythms. It occurred to me one day as I was listening to it that Jaco made all of this amazing music with just four strings. Four voices. What would it sound like to perform this piece on four different instruments?
So I set out to arrange it for SATB saxophone quartet. The arrangement process was pretty straightforward. I didn’t add or remove anything from Jaco’s performance. I just de-constructed it into four distinct parts. I slowed parts of it down considerably to let the harmonies breathe more, and make it more playable. I also made the creative choice to dictate the length of the many fermattas through the use of held notes and time signature changes where needed. This reduces the need for conducting.
It also allowed me to put together a click track so I could perform all four parts myself. This was no small feat. I’ve played the piece with a live quartet, and it’s very difficult to play (especially the alto and bari parts). The rhythms have to be perfect, and you have to work hard to both pay attention to, and ignore the other players at the same time!
The result is the video below. Although I don’t normally like to do this, I did make some edits to fix some of the bigger mistakes that I made. My goal was to represent the arrangement in the best light that I could.
The piece is so beautiful and it truly defies classification – is it Jazz? Classical? Other? I think that it would be a great choice for a recital piece, or for any small ensemble performance.
The PDF contains the score with the four transposed parts. Feel free to contact me if you want copies of the parts themselves, or if you’d like it re-arranged for different instruments.
If you end up performing it, send me a video, I’d love to hear it!
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.
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.