Recently, I was able to participate in a group effort to transcribe another amazing solo saxophone performance by Chris Potter. This time it was Cherokee done in 10 keys over almost 13 minutes.
Steve Neff was one of the key contributors and describes how the effort came about on his blog.
My contribution was chorus 5, spanning pages 11-12 below. Big thanks to all who were involved in the effort, especially Steve. Due to a family emergency, I threw two pages of rough notes and rhythms over to him in email and he was able to proofread and combine with the rest of the choruses.
Although these solos are amazingly complicated, they aren’t as hard to transcribe as you’d think. Chris is such a clean player that the lack of rhythm section makes it easy to hear each and every pitch if you slow it down enough. The hard part is taking those pitches and making them into something readable. Since there is no frame of reference for time, you have to make a lot of subjective judgment calls.
I’m mirroring the finished work below for ease of viewing on the web. And no, I won’t be posting my own video of me playing along because this is way above my skill level at full speed!
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!
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.