Grace Kelly and Leo P – NYC Popup #31

Another Grace/Leo duet. It’s a short one this week. Leo plays the bass part. Grace accompanies him in the beginning, then drops out until her solo. It’s only four bars, and for some reason my fingers kept getting tangled up in the first phrase. She comes back in with the accompaniment, and they finish it off with an altissimo ‘freak out’ before the big last note.

Big thanks to Derek Brown of the BeatBoXSAX channel. He posted a great video tutorial on the ‘overtone gliss’ technique, which is what Leo uses a lot, including the end of this video.

I’ve got to work on it a lot more, but it helped me get the basic concept and tongue position worked out, which had me a bit stumped before.

I’m off to New York for a few days, maybe I’ll get lucky and catch Leo in the subway (although I think he’s too big for that now)! I should get back to Seattle just in time to catch Grace at the Jazz Alley. I’ve never seen her live, so I’m not sure what to expect. I’m guessing it will be a bit more reserved than this video is! I don’t know how the two of them play what they do while dancing in the streets of New York and jumping up and down. I have a hard enough time playing standing still! More power to them…

Grace Kelly + Leo P - Popup #31 (Grace)
Grace Kelly + Leo P - Popup #31 (Leo)

 

  • Artists: Grace Kelly and Leo P
  • Source video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K294MP3xxsY
  • Instruments: Alto and Baritone Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Grace Kelly and Leo P – Facebook Live Session #4

It’s a long holiday weekend in the US, so I thought I’d slip in a bonus post.

More Grace/Leo duets. This time a short one. I’m pretty sure that this one is 100% composed, with no improvisation. It’s not terrible hard to play, although it moves quickly, and the alto gets up to a high Bb at the end. Other than that, it’s pretty straight forward.

I’ve got a few more in the series that I’m going to try working up. They only get harder (and longer) from this point onward, so it might take a while. I’m pretty excited to see Grace Kelly at Jazz Alley in Seattle in a few weeks also!

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 4 (Grace)
Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 4 (Leo)

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Grace Kelly and Leo P – Facebook Live Session #1

Another Grace/Leo duet from the same YouTube series. This time Grace plays soprano, which gave me a real workout. My soprano chops are not where they need to be. I just don’t play enough of it. Some day when I’m rich I’d like to buy a nice soprano – any suggestions? My Mark VI just isn’t cutting it for me. I got suckered in by the Mark VI mystique! As I get older, I’m particularly over playing a straight soprano with no neck strap. My body can’t take it!

This has been the toughest transcription of the series by far. In bar 13-14 Grace plays a crazy double time figure that I can’t really wrap my head around. I broke it down as well as I could but it just doesn’t capture what she’s doing. It sounds like she’s double-tonguing and using some alternate fingerings. What I came up with is close, but not nearly the same.

Leo plays the bass role in this one again, but he gets some solo licks in as well. He’s got some amazingly dexterous altissimo for a bari player! I play a LOT of bari, but it’s all horn section work in the lowest octave. So I like to think that I do pretty on the bass parts, but my upper register isn’t as solid. And I’ve never invested the time in altissimo on bari. My setup certainly isn’t optimized for it. These videos have inspired me to give it a shot, but I’m going to have to experiment with some different reed options I think.

The timing on these videos is super tough. They’re playing on the street while dancing around, so the time flexes quite a bit. My solution is to just listen and play along a ton until I feel where to push and where to lay back to stay in sync. Still, I ended up fixing a few timing issues in the video where I got off.

For some reason, my camera had some auto-focus issues at the beginning – sorry about that! I also think I figured out why the audio for the last two videos was panned hard left. Hopefully that’s fixed now, and I’ll try to fix the existing videos if I can.

I’m posting the two parts separately this time, instead in score form. Let me know if you have a preference for these duets?

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 1 (soprano)

 

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 1 (bari)

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Grace Kelly and Leo P – Facebook Live Session #3

More Grace+Leo duets…

This one is pretty short, with no improvisation. Just 24 bars. But it’s a fun syncopated melody a four bar AABBAA form. Grace has a lot more fun bending the notes in the B sections than I did, I should have played that up more.

I’ve seen a few other transcriptions online, but different people have different ideas about what they are playing. I hope mine is accurate, but if not, please call me out so I can fix it!

I really should spend more time notating the articulations, but my tendency is just to listen for that and feel it. In this case, the A sections are all very short and punchy with the B sections more lyrical and connected.

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 3

 

  • Artists: Grace Kelly and Leo P
  • Source video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NKOMA7F1UI
  • Instruments: Alto and Baritone Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Grace Kelly and Leo P – Facebook Live Session #2

Duets!

I’ve been binge-watching videos by these two on YouTube lately. They are so much fun! I’ve enjoyed watching both of these artists separately, and I love the collaborations they’ve been putting out, so I figured it would make good material for the blog.

I first became aware of Grace a few years ago. She was somewhat of a ‘child prodigy’ and I heard her on the radio talking with Phil Woods, who seemed to be somewhat of a mentor to her. She has established credibility as a straight-ahead jazz saxophonist, but isn’t defined or limited by that label – she’s branched out in to all kinds of musical endeavors.

Leo became famous for his crazy dancing while busking around NYC. Videos of his performances quickly went viral. Many people we wrote him off as a joke, but if listen, yoully quickly hear that he can really play! As a bari player, I have a real appreciation of what he can do – even when standing still! I can’t imagine playing some of that stuff while pulling off those crazy dance moves at the same time. People used to say similar things about Lenny Pickett back in the day. If YouTube had existed then, imagine the things we’d see…

In most of these videos (there are many, and I’m working as fast as I can), Leo lays down a bass/ostinato part while Grace solos. But he also gets some licks in as well.

The performances are short and sweet. They are surprisingly tight (even when they are dancing through traffic in times square!) but they also manage to feel loose and spontaneous somehow. I’d love to see the background behind these – how much prep is done, what is planned vs. spontaneous, etc.

Most of all, these videos are a ton of fun. Jazz musicians are often considered dull and stuffy. Or, they are looked at as sellouts. I don’t appreciate either label. These two are the rising generation of musicians who are taking the music in to the modern age and embracing the social channels as outlets to connect with their audience. And I’m loving it!

Grace Kelly + Leo P - FB Live Session 2

 

  • Artists: Grace Kelly and Leo P
  • Source video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60A90ySWRWc
  • Instruments: Alto and Baritone Sax

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

Charles Neville – Yellow Moon

Charles Neville passed away this week, and has become my custom, I’m honoring him this week with a transcription of one of his most famous solos from the Neville Brothers hit Yellow Moon.

I love the Neville Brothers, and have been lucky enough to see them live a few times over the years. What an amazing feel, great songs, and of course, Aaron Neville’s voice is one of a kind.

I’ll be honest, I’ve not been a huge fan of Charles Neville as a saxophonist. Specifically, I always feel like he’s trying to play ‘outside’, but never quite pulling it off. Some players, like Maceo, never play outside. They don’t need to. Others, like David Sanborn, do it rarely, but when they do, it has a huge impact. And then there are players like Chris Potter for whom it is a higher art form, woven seamlessly in to the fabric of everything that they do. For me, playing outside the changes can add beautiful color, contrast, texture, and tension. But you have to do it with intention. The real payoff comes with the resolution, when you bring it all together. But it’s a fine line, and if it doesn’t feel intentional, or doesn’t resolve properly, it can cross that line and just feel like wrong notes.

In this solo, Charles is playing chromatically almost the entire time. That can also be used to great effect to build tension, which he does in this solo. I think he pulls it off well in this solo, although there are a few note choices that are questionable to me.

This track starts with a four bar solo before the vocal, and eight bar solo over the verse changes in the middle, and then another longer solo over the fade at the end – the same verse changes. I’ve included all three sections. You’ll need A LOT of air to get through the first solo. It’s basically two four bar phrases, and I could barely make it through each in one breath. There’s an interesting delay effect applied to parts of the solo, which makes the chromatic lines sound particularly dissonant.  I chose not to emulate that in my performance because it can make it hard to hear what’s going on.

I’ve been listening to a handful of Neville Brothers recordings this week, and the one thing that strikes me most about Charles’ playing is his tone. He has such a bright, pure tone on Alto that I almost mistake it for soprano sometimes. That’s hard to pull off without sounding shrill on Alto. I guess that’s one of the things that makes the Neville Brothers sound so interesting – Aaron Neville’s has such a tender, lilting quality to it, Charles’ sax playing is clear and bright, yet the rhythm section is funky and dirty. Contrast works.

Charles Neville - Yellow Moon

 

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

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Candy Dulfer – Shine on You Crazy Diamond

By request, here is the transcription of Candy Dulfer’s Alto solo from the 1990 Knebworth concert with Pink Floyd. Requests like this are a win-win: You get the content you’re looking for, and I discover new material that I wouldn’t have otherwise run across!

I was unfamiliar with this performance until one of my readers turned me on to it. I was unaware that Candy had worked with Pink Floyd, and this has clearly been out there for a while! The only source material I could find was a YouTube link. The quality isn’t great, but it’s good enough.

This one was really tough to transcribe and play. There aren’t any particularly hard technical passages – it’s all about the rhythms. I clearly don’t work in 6/8 enough! It’s also slow, which makes everything harder because more notes are getting squeezed in to a single beat, so you have to subdivide like crazy (in 6/8)! Halfway through, the time doubles up to a 12/8 feel. You can try to feel it in 4/4, just don’t lose that triplet.

Candy has lot of cool lines as usual, and plays back and forth between the flat five (sharp eleven) and the natural five, giving it a nice bluesy feel overall.

Candy Dulfer - Shine On You Crazy Diamond

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Michael Brecker – Ease on Down the Road #1

Here’s another Brecker solo from the Wiz. It’s from the first “Ease on Down” rendition, when Michael Jackson and Diana Ross first find the yellow brick road and start dancing across the bridge. For some reason, the solo is heard in the movie, but not on the soundtrack! On the soundtrack recording you just hear the rhythm track with no solo. I don’t know why they did it that way, since the other soundtrack recordings seem to be identical to what is used in the film.

Once again I’m using the EHX Riddle: Q-Balls to replicate the auto-wah effect that he used. I’m using mostly the same settings as the previous post, although I turned the ‘Q’ knob down a bit to about the 3 o’clock position. I also realized after the fact that I had some reverb on in the effect chain. Next time I’ll kill that – it’s too much!

He plays an eight-bar solo, and then doubles the horn line for two bars before the vocals come back in. He sticks pretty closely to the minor pentatonic blues scale, but also juxtaposes the major and minor third (or sharp nine) against each other a lot.

Just like the other solo, he does a killer altissimo run at the peak of the solo. I confess I had to punch that one in, I’m sure you can hear the edit on the recording 😉

Michael Brecker - Ease on Down the Road #1

 

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Michael Brecker – Poppy Girls (complete)

I’ve been traveling for work, so no video this week. I wanted to finish up the Poppy Girls solo, and I knew that the back half was going to be too technical for me to play anyhow. So I’m posting the remainder of the solo this week (both parts in one PDF for your convenience)

My business trip was extra long, and I wanted to keep making progress, so I worked up a little hotel room rig that would allow me to keep transcribing on the road. These days I pretty do about 90% of my transcribing on the piano instead of the saxophone anyways, so I’m used to not having my horn handy. It’s quicker for me, and quieter for my family 🙂 This also lets me transcribe straight in to Finale and I generally work in concert key as a result.

For this week I went old school and did my transcribing by hand. I picked up a little pocket-sized book of staff paper at a fancy paper store in San Francisco. I put Transcribe! on my laptop, and a little virtual piano app on my tablet. Transcribe! has a built-in piano but it sounds awful and since I don’t have a touch-screen laptop, it’s not very convenient.

All of this worked pretty well, with the only real problem being that I had two sound sources and no way to mix them. The tablet speakers are good enough, but the laptop speakers are terrible, and you really need good quality sound to pick out the pitches. At one point I had one earphone from each in each ear. I’m not quite sure how to solve this without making it complicated, but it worked well enough.

So here’s the full Poppy Girls solo. The second part is pretty involved (it’s three pages and the first part is only one page). Lots of hard altissimo and technical runs. I did some spot-checking after transferring from my notebook to Finale, but there may be some typos along the way, please forgive me!

Michael Brecker - Poppy Girls #2

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax