Tom “Bones Malone” – Sweet Home Chicago (Bone)

Continuing on the Blues Brother theme…this solo is definitely by Tom “Bones” Malone. My first trombone solo on this blog! I transposed for Tenor since the range is fairly similar.

I love the 12/8 feel on this one, it really swings hard. Harmonically, it’s a little more complex. While he relies a lot on the pentatonic scale, he uses a lot more 9s and 13s on this solo.

I love the transition from the end of the first chorus in to the start of the second chorus. It’s a great example of building on a simple theme. He takes it up an octave at the top of the chorus to kick the solo into the next gear. The lick over the four chord on the second chorus is great. There’s so much gold to mine in this solo!

Tom Malone - Sweet Home Chicago (bone)

 

Enjoy!

@SdartSax

Pete Christlieb – Deacon Blues

I was saddened to hear about the loss of Walter Becker, one of the founders of Steely Dan. I’ll admit, I have more of an academic appreciation for Steely Dan than true passion. It’s not music that I sit and listen to often, but when I do, I can recognize the craft that went in to its creation. No band has bridged pop, rock, and jazz so beautifully. The horn arrangements are always great, and they have worked with some of the best sax players ever.

This is one of the classic Steely Dan sax solos – by Pete Christlieb. I met Pete when he was the guest artist at my high school’s jazz festival one year. Of course I didn’t know much about him at the time, and I certainly wasn’t hip to Steely Dan back then. But he was a hell of a tenor player and left a big impression on me.

I’ve had this transcription on the shelf for a while. I should have posted it before my surgery. I spent a few days trying to work it back up, but my high chops aren’t where they need to be to pull it off. Maybe in a few months?

Update: I finally posted the video. It’s not perfect, but then, they never are!

Like most Steely Dan songs, the changes are pretty intimidating, but Pete plays beautifully over them. Picking out chord changes by ear is my weakness, so I cross-checked a few sources until I found chords that seem to match.

Pete Christlieb - Deacon Blues

 

Enjoy!

@SdartSax

Lew Del Gatto – Sweet Home Chicago (Bari)

For my first post back after surgery, I decided to go with an old favorite. As a kid growing up in Chicago in the 70s and 80s, few movies had a bigger impact on me than the Blues Brothers. This song in particular touches my heart, and the playing on it is great, so what better place to start?

This solo really swings, and I really love how he utilizes the full range of the horn. I play a lot of bari and use a lot of air, but I really struggled in spots to drive the whole phrase through to the end with the power that I needed. These are long phrases!

Harmonically, the solo is super straightforward, which is one of the things I love about it. C# (concert E) is a real ‘guitar key’, not always fun for an Eb transposing horn player to get around in, but he plays it beautifully with simple pentatonics, and very sparing use of the flat five for emphasis.

Update: I’m updating this post to credit Lew Del Gatto with the solo. Lew attributes the solos to himself in his bio (https://www.lewdelgatto.com/bio) and this is backed up by the fact that he was in the SNL house band (where the Blues Brothers originated) in the early days. Discogs.com gives him a vague credit of ‘horns’ on the track (citation)

Lou Del Gatto - Sweet Home Chicago (bari)

 

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

Stevie Wonder – Boogie On Reggae Woman (part 1)

It was Stevie Wonder’s birthday again this week, so I figured I’d work up a transcription of one of his harmonica solos again. Boogie On Reggae Woman is a classic funk groove, and Stevie plays two solos.

These are incredibly hard for me to notate because I try to be super precise in capturing what’s happening. Virtually every note is ornamented in some way – usually with a bend on the entrance or exit of the note. Sometimes it’s a clear grace note while other times it’s a bend.

I read about this solo from a harmonica player’s perspective here: http://www.harpsurgery.com/boogie-on-reggae-woman-harmonica/

You can see from the tab transcription on this page that it’s much simpler to read the tab notation for something like this, especially with dedicated shorthand for bends.

Stevie plays a diatonic harp on this track, which is very rare for him (he almost always plays chromatic). You would think that simplifies the transcription, but it doesn’t. He is such an expert at bending notes that he clearly plays notes that are not found on the diatonic harp. I slowed the recording way down to be sure!

I was hoping to have both solos done, but time got away from me this week, so I’ll post the second half later.

Stevie Wonder - Boogie On Reggae Woman - 1

 

@SDartSax

 

Tim Garland – People Get Ready

Finishing off the track from last week’s post – here’s the tenor solo from People Get Ready. I’m pretty sure that this is Tim Garland. He’s actually credited on the liner notes.

A nice 16-bar funk solo over (concert) C. Pretty straightforward tonally. I like how he plays the major and minor third against each other in bars 3. Nice use of the 13 in the next bar to give some tonal contrast, and he leans on the 9 a few bars later. With the exception of a few 9s and 13s, he sticks pretty closely to the blues scale. throughout.

Tim Garland - People Get Ready

 

Enjoy!

@SdartSax

Brand New Heavies – People Get Ready

I was listening to some old Brand New Heavies this week, and heard this track. I was really in to this CD in college, and transcribed the alto solo. It’s short, but it really burns. It’s pretty straight-forward: blues/pentatonic over C with some chromatic runs. But I love the sound and the attack.

As I was getting ready to post this week, I realized I didn’t know who the alto player was! They aren’t credited on the liner notes. The sax credits I see are Tim Garland or Jim Wellman. I suspect Tim Garland takes the tenor solo on this track. The alto solo comes in right before the fade at the end.

I don’t think it’s the same player laying down both solos. The alto player is definitely on the leading edge of the beat, whereas the tenor player is more in the pocket. That said, I play pretty differently on Alto vs. Tenor, so maybe that’s irrelevant.

If you know who the soloists are on this track, help me out so I can give credit where credit is due!

BNH - People Get Ready

 

Enjoy!

@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