More Bob Monster solos from Mint Jam! This track has a bluesy, almost gospel feel to it.
The tune itself is pretty intricate. It’s a little down-tempo, which is always makes it harder since there are so many subdivisions. The form took awhile to figure out. The solo is basically ABABABCDD. I was able to find a lead sheet online that helped make sense of it (also why the chord changes are so detailed!)
The transcription wasn’t too hard to do, but learning it turned out to be way harder than I expected. The solo itself only has a few really tough parts (I’m looking at you high notes), but it is long with a bunch of medium difficulty stuff, which makes it hard to get one continuous take with no mistakes.
I haven’t done many saxophone solos from big band recordings, so I let my current Bob Mintzer kick lead me into his big band work. If you haven’t heard his big band recordings, check them out, I highly recommend them. The big band seemed like a vehicle to showcase his writing (which is excellent) and served as cheap marketing for his charts, which every high school in my area played when I was growing up. Bob got all of the top New York players to record these, so the section playing and soloing are all top-notch.
I devoured these recordings when I was in high school. Our band played many of these charts over the years, and even commissioned Bob to write a chart for us and perform the world premier together with our band. I thought that was pretty cool then, but I don’t think I fully appreciated it until much later.
Bob was super nice and of course a great player. I met him after a Yellowjackets show years later and joked that we had played a gig together. He thought I was serious until I told him that I was in the high school band he performed with. He thought it was funny, and remembered the band and my director from back then. He’s a real good guy.
This solo is great. It’s a cut time quasi-latin feel, very up-tempo. Lots of changes, and some of the lines are very tough. There’s a funky pedal section at the end of each chorus to break up the feel as well. The bari solo by Roger Rosenberg on the track is also very good (but very hard). I may get around to transcribing it some day as well. I’m overdue for some bari transcriptions!
I had so much fun doing the last Bob Mintzer transcription I decided to do another. I’m a huge fan of his playing. And I also love the Yellowjackets! I was big into them in High School and have a bunch of Marc Russo Alto transcriptions in my notebooks somewhere. I need to find those.
This track is probably my favorite Yellowjackets recording. It was recorded live, so it doesn’t have that ‘over-produced’ feeling that many of their albums do (sorry, just my opinion).
This track has a really funky groove and Bob’s playing is just killing on it. I wish I had a few more hours to woodshed this and get it more solid. It’s a lot of fun to play.
Wrapping up Tenor Month with part 2 of Barkan the Blues!
Part 1 ends where the piano solo comes in after rehearsal mark ‘Q’. Sonny picks up in bar 3 of section ‘R’ after the piano solo and blows for two choruses before jumping right into trading fours with the drummer for two more choruses (sections ‘T’ to ‘W’).
The drummer takes a chorus at ‘W’ and Sonny is back in with the head at ‘X’. At ‘Y’ it sounds like he’s going to play the head again, but really they go into a four-bar vamp/tag that carries them through the end of the tune. I did my best to pick up the changes that they are using on the turnaround, but it’s likely wrong!
This was a fun one to transcribe and play! I’m glad I toughed it out to the end. Although this concludes tenor month, I think I’m going to try to mix it up more in the future.
I should probably do a bari month at some point as well…
I wanted to end Tenor Month on a high note with a nice meaty solo. I’ve done a lot of short solos lately, so I picked something long. 5 pages, 16 choruses, 200+ measures of up-tempo Bb blues.
This is a Sonny Stitt solo that I used to listen to a lot in High School. I had it on cassette tape! I remembered the track vividly, but I couldn’t remember the name or the album it was from, so I scoured his catalog looking for it and finally tracked it down. But I love this track because it’s so in the pocket and straight ahead. I read a review that trashed it, but I have to disagree.
This wasn’t hard to transcribe, and not too hard to play…at 200bpm. But he plays it at 230bpm, which is definitely out of my comfort range! I spent hours ‘shedding some of those lines and a few still got away from me. And after all of the altissimo work I’ve been doing lately, I missed the one high G!
One of the things that I love about Sonny Stitt is how he played both Alto and Tenor, something which you rarely see. And he has his own sound on each horn. That makes sense to me because I definitely approach things differently when I’m playing each different horn.
I’m going to try to finish the back half of this tune next week, but it might take longer. He blows a few more choruses, trades with the drummer, re-states the head, and blows some more. It’s as long as the first half! Tenor month may continue into October…
I have so much to say about this track! No, there is too much, let me sum up. I’m oddly obsessed with Jaco Pastorius. I listen to him more than I listen to some saxophone players. I wore this album out several times over. I had it on vinyl back in the day before it was released as a two-disc set.
I’ve always loved this track in particular, and this amazing solo by Bob Mintzer. I’ve met Bob a few times, the first was when he worked with my high school band. We commissioned a big band piece of his and he performed the premiere with us. I love his writing as much as I do his playing and have played many of his charts over the years.
I wanted to switch gears for the back half of tenor month and do a new transcription, something I had never worked on before. This fit the bill perfectly. The transcription flowed really easily since I knew the solo so well. But it’s quite hard for me to play!
I love Bob’s playing on this track – his sound is big and soulful. The solo is funky, yet has some beautiful jazz lines and phrasing at the same time.
As always, I get hung up on the altissimo, especially the stuff right over the break. But it’s getting easier. I really have to relax and try less hard (if that makes sense) to make it work.
If you’re a fan of Tower of Power, but don’t know about Strokeland, go fix that right now, I’ll wait. www.strokeland.com
This is another killer Lenny Pickett solo. And what a great song! I just love a good hard-swinging 12/8 feel. I used to be intimidated by them, but it’s just 4/4 with a heavy triplet feel. Notating and reading it can be tricky sometimes if you don’t do it often, but it never gets old to play over.
I definitely got tripped up on some of the rhythms and a few of the high parts, but I’m amazed at how much easier the upper register has become for me just in the past few weeks since I started tenor month. This ‘practicing’ trick is useful!
Also, how great is Huey Lewis at this style of music?! I was already a fan, but now I want to hear more of him in this style.
Funkifize is one of Tower of Power’s most famous songs, and this is the definitive recording. The tenor solo is short, but iconic. For years I assumed that this was Lenny Pickett, and then I learned that it was actually Skip Mesquite, the original lead tenor player for TOP.
Sadly, Skip passed away a few years back, but his work will live on forever.
The opening is the hardest part – a cold start on altissimo E, held out pure and clean for three bars before devolving into a wash of overtones. With these high solos, I have to hear myself, so I only use one earphone, which makes it harder to match pitch with the soloist.
The fourth bar is one of those effects that I think is impossible (and impractical) to duplicate exactly, but I did my best to approximate what’s going on.
The rest of the solo is straightforward, and super funky!
I don’t know the full back story behind how Skip left Tower and Lenny came on board, but it’s clear from this recording that Lenny Pickett didn’t invent the style from thin air, he was heavily influenced by those who came before him (as is always the case).
If you want to better understand your heroes, listen to who they listened to!
I have to admit that this solo is a bit beyond me, but the completionist in me couldn’t post Part 1 without at least attempting Part 2.
The name of the game with this one is Placement. The high notes need to go HIGH and everything else needs to stay low! It’s easy to just psych yourself up for the high notes and rely on the brute forve method to belt them out with a lot of air, firm embouchure, and a fast airstream. But if you overdo it, EVERYTHING goes up high!
So this solo is a great exercise in control. You’ve got to get up and down from the high notes gracefully without losing control on the sensitive notes like G and G#.
Once you make it to the one chord, you’re pretty much home free (although I managed to crack the high A-Ab). Pay attention to the articulation and phrasing – he really sells the simple eight note lines with articulation. There’s some nice triple tonguing during the fade as well.
I may have exhausted my collection of ‘achievable’ (for me) Lenny Pickett solos, but we’ll see. Tenor month isn’t even half over yet. I should have paced myself better…
This track is almost the opposite of Oakland Stroke. It’s another instrumental jam, but this time it’s a slow groove. There are no difficult technical passages, but the altissimo in this one is killer!
Twice he walks down altissimo F-E-D, which is definitely pushing the limits of what I can pull off. But it’s great practice. My old nemesis altissimo G also figures prominently in this track as well when the band goes to the four chord.
I’m working on part 2. I have it transcribed, but it’s a bit harder to play than part 1 so I need some more time in the woodshed before I’m ready to post it.