I wasn’t sure what I was going to post this week. Then, as I was sitting in the barber’s chair this morning getting a haircut, I heard this old Ray Charles song on the radio. That was pretty unusual, because it’s not a “Ray Charles” kind of barbershop (are there any?)
Regardless, I heard the track and knew instantly this would be my project for the day. I’ve heard the track a hundred times at least, and I love the solo by David “Fathead” Newman. I should have known it was him, but I’m embarrassed to say that I had to look it up to find out.
The solo itself is pretty short, and technically easy to play. The hard part is getting Fathead’s sound and style. It’s kind of a major blues, but without the traditional blues changes. The only tricky part might be the ninth bar where he’s playing the trills from high D. Most people I know play this by adding one of the right hand side keys. On my horn, the E (topmost) side key in the right hand gives the best effect – like a minor third trill.
Here’s the last solo from the Peter Gunn Theme that I’m going to post, maybe the last Blues Brothers solo, we’ll see (for awhile).
Lew plays a great solo on this track. I don’t feel as though I quite replicated his sound on this one. He’s got a really strong upper register with a hint of growl to it. I never really solo on bari, I pretty much just play low, punchy notes. So this is good for me to work on.
I love how in-the-pocket his playing is in the first part of the solo. Really authoritative and driving. He does a couple trills at the end to wind things down. Nice and simple but effective.
Continuing on my Blues Brothers kick with another “Blue” Lou Marini solo. This is short, but its a doozy! I transcribed this back in high school. It played an integral role in the development of my upper register, which I’m now learning all over again. I almost posted this with no video, but I decided to tough it out and work it up (as best as I can right now).
The first part of the solo is very cool. The timing is amazing to me, it’s way behind the beat, but somehow keeps it together without dragging. Lou relies on the 9th and 13ths a lot for harmonic color.
The last four bars are pretty tough for me right now. High Ab has always been the hardest altissimo note to hit consistently. The best fingering I can come up with is LH:1,3 + RH: 1, middle side key, and D# key. For B and C# I overblow D and E respectively.
The hardest part I have with my surgery recovery is control. Keeping the note from getting away from me and going too high is the challenge. The numbness makes it hard to get the feedback I need. But it’s a work in progress. A month or two ago I couldn’t get above high F at all.
More Blues Brothers. Another Tom “Bones” Malone Bone solo, transposed for Tenor.
Bone solos are interesting to play on saxophone. The slide makes glisses and bends such a natural part of every note, and it’s different than the way a lip bend works on the saxophone. Check out the last measure. Since it’s too fast to do a lip bend, I went for the 1-2 RH key alternate fingering for A to flatten the note instead of playing it straight down to G#
This song is pretty simple – one chord with the same driving background riff the whole time. Everyone takes 16 bars. I’ll post some of the other solos over the coming weeks as well.
We’re definitely in a ‘guitar’ key. Tom sticks pretty much to the minor pentatonic scale with the occasional flat 5 and 13 for color.
More Blues Brothers! This time, a solo from the legendary “Blue” Lou Marini. Lou is such a distinctive player. His sound and his approach are instantly recognizable. For someone who is so highly regarded as a Blues/R&B player, his approach is much more ‘outside’ than you would expect (harmonically)
This solo is no exception. It opens with a minor third trill from the 5 to the flat 7. He bends up from the flat 5 to create tension. I chose to write it out, because it’s very even in time, and transitions so smoothly into the next line, I struggled find any other way to notate it. How many of us have started an idea with a trill like that only to get stuck with no way out of it? Lou shows how it’s done here, developing an idea and building it into a phrase that leads into the four chord.
The four chord of the first chorus is a good example of his harmonic approach, which is built on the extensions. He’s playing a line around the 5th and 7th, so it’s firmly rooted in the chord, but the other notes are the 9th and 11th.
The feel is also very different from Tom Malone’s solos, which are very on top of the beat. Lou plays with the time quite a bit and often sits on the back end of the beat.
This is another transcription that will have to wait for a video from me. My high chops are out of commission while I’m recovering from surgery, and Lou does a lot of very tricky altissimo work right across the break, which is hard for me to pull off accurately right now.
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!
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)
Maceo to the rescue again! This week has been crazy – traveling cross-country with a bad head cold all week, busy at work, and gigs this weekend. I was able to scrape together one hour to practice this week, so here is the result, a transcription from my archives that I spent a few minutes working up…
Margie is a Ray Charles song that Maceo performed on the Roots and Grooves set, which is basically a Ray Charles tribute show recorded with a live big band. Maceo sang on many of the tunes, like this one, so we only hear him play over the solo.
It’s a tasty solo – not too hard to get the basic mechanics right once you sit and listen to the rhythms, but there’s a lot of nuance to pick out if you can devote the time. I maybe hit 50% of it, but it was the best I could muster this week. Hopefully I can shake this cold and get back in to the swing of things shortly.
It’s 4th down, 15 yards to go, far outside of field goal range – time to punt! It’s been a crazy busy week for me between work and gigs. I had planned on serving up another Marc Russo solo this week. I found another old transcription in one of my high school notebooks and cleaned it up. It was missing a page so I re-transcribed half of it. I planned on practicing and recording it today. Then I had a three-hour chops-busting gig last night, with another one tonight.
I looked through the Marc Russo solo and realized that it went up to a double altissimo G, so I decided to save my lip for the gig tonight and pull something easier out of the archives.
So – back to Maceo! A slow 16-bar blues. It pops up to a high Ab briefly, but other than that it’s pretty easy to play once you figure out all of the ornaments and grace notes. Just take it slow.
I may return to the Marc Russo solo next week, we’ll see how my chops are feeling!
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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.