Tom Politzer – Stop

Here’s another Tommy P. solo from the latest TOP album. This is one of my favorite songs on the album to listen to, the groove is so funky. I love the background vocals, and I’m pretty sure that’s Chuck Hansen dropping the low notes on Bass sax as well!

This solo is super tough for me to play. I had a really hard time with the pitch on this track. I had to adjust the tuning about 20 cents to get it to lock in, which then made it harder to play. The break on the first bar is a good example. I’m pretty sure that he’s going for the tri-tone, but the pitch on the top note is between the F and F# to my ear. I doubt he’s playing F#, so I’m guessing the F is just high.

Aside from the pitch, there’s a lot of altissimo across the break, which is always tough for me. And then he really goes for it at the end up to the double F#!

Page tow of the transcription is more of a solo over the ride out as the track fades. It’s a long fade so I didn’t bother to record that part.

Tom Politzer - Stop

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

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

Charles Neville – Voodoo

Here’s one more Charles Neville track, this time on Tenor. I have a soft spot for this tune because an old band of mine used to play it in college. It’s super funky.

It’s a super short solo, only eight bars. The interesting thing is that he plays the entire solo in the bottom octave of the horn, which you almost never see in pop music. It doesn’t usually cut through the mix, so guys are always trying to play higher and higher to stand out. It takes a fair amount of control to play down low with control and nuance. He’s almost subtoning in spots, but the sound never cracks.

I included some of the backing lines in the transcription, but not in the video. It’s basically a two-bar phrase played over and over, sometimes repeated, sometimes not. There’s a key change at the bridge, but that’s just chorded in a section, no individual parts stand out.

The key is C# minor on the verses and solos, and Charles sticks strictly to the minor pentatonic. Always a safe choice, and it works here.

Charles Neville - Voodoo

 

  • Artist: Charles Neville
  • Album:  Neville Brothers – Yellow Moon
  • Track: Voodoo
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Clarence Clemons – Edge of Glory

Shortly before his death in 2011, Lady Gaga invited Clarence Clemons to work with her on her Edge of Glory single. He recorded the video with her just days before he suffered a stroke. I understand that there was some controversy around the making of the video, but I kind of like it – it’s simple, and you get to see Clarence hanging out in the background doing his thing.

The song is a straight forward dance track, with a four-bar chord progression A-E-F#-D, but the solo is over a bridge that has a less-defined key center. It seems to float around, mostly A-ish.

The solo is 24 bars, and it pretty simple to play. Use lots of air on the high F#, he holds it for a while! The sax is pretty low in the mix, so it can be hard to hear at times. There’s another solo later in the track, but it’s even lower in the mix, so you can barely make out parts of it. I didn’t include it for that reason.

Clarence Clemons - Edge of Glory

 

  • Artist: Clarence Clemons
  • Album:  Lady Gaga – Born Yhis Way
  • Track: Edge of Glory
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Clarence Clemons – Dancing in the Dark

Continuing on the Clarence Clemons kick…This is a short solo from the end of “Dancing in the Dark”. It’s very laid back and mellow, pretty easy to play. As usual, beautiful tone and delivery by Clarence.

The whole solo is in the key of Db, and happens over the fade at the end of the track. Clarence sticks to a major pentatonic throughout, so everything fits beautifully as you’d expect.

Clarence Clemons - Dancing in the Dark

 

  • Artist: Clarence Clemons
  • Album:  Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
  • Track: Dancing in the Dark
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Clarence Clemons – Jungleland

More Clarence Clemons from Born to Run, this time – Jungleland. One of his most famous solos.

For me, the biggest challenge with this one is AIR and PITCH. These are long phrases, so being able to consistently support with an even tone and solid pitch requires lots of air. I clearly don’t do enough long tones at this end of the horn!

I like how restrained this solo is – it’s so melodic and simple. A lot of players would be tempted to fill the space with a ton of notes. The big man keeps it right down the middle. He soars on the high notes and doesn’t stray too far harmonically. It’s a bit repetitious, but it builds nicely.

Clarence Clemons - Jungleland

 

  • Artist: Clarence Clemons
  • Album:  Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
  • Track: Jungleland
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax