I ran across this track while falling down a YouTube rabbit hole recently. I had heard it before, but not in a long while. I knew that it had to be my next project!
I’ve seen this track credited to both Fathead and Hank Crawford. I assumed that it must be Hank Crawford, but I was wrong. Hank plays Baritone on the track, but Fathead is playing Alto. I have a Hank Crawford box set with excellent liner notes, and confirmed it. My next transcription will be some Hank Crawford for sure!
This track is actually very difficult, both to transcribe and play. It’s relatively slow, which makes the subdivisions and the double-time sections even trickier. Fathead plays with the time quite a bit, stretching passages across beats and barlines – laying back at times, and then squeezing in as many notes as he can in a subdivision.
The melody itself is a master class is sound and phrasing. Fathead takes the first chorus, and then everyone else takes half choruses for their solos. Fathead returns with a blistering 8-bar solo, then the last 8 bars of the melody to finish it out.
It’s been a long time since I posted any Maceo Parker solos. Obviously I don’t have much of a plan with this blog, I post whatever strikes my fancy any given week. I realized that I had a backlog of Maceo solos that I transcribed a long time ago but never posted. Honestly, the ones that I haven’t posted are too intimidating to record, like this one!
The title of this track is deceptive – Basic Funk! I guess it’s true, it’s all basic stuff, but it’s a LONG solo to play – almost nine minutes and nine pages with little more than a bar or two to rest here and there.
The tempo is slow, right in the pocket. There isn’t any one part of the solo that is particularly tough, but it’s full of very intricate syncopation that makes it hard to sight read, and it’s too long for me to memorize all of those nuances, even after listening to it a bunch.
There isn’t much of a melody or form to speak of. Maceo comes in with what feels like the melody, but quickly transitions to filling in around the background figures. You can’t really tell where the ‘solo’ starts. When the band is playing, Maceo fills in. When they give him space, he runs with it. There are a few breakdowns and key changes, but really it’s just a long blow for Maceo! Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
I apologize for the video quality on this one. For some reason I had terrible problems getting the audio and video to sync up. I think the framerate on the video was off just enough that the drift over the course of the nine-minute track caused things to get out of whack. I chopped up the audio to sync it back up, but the video is a lost cause.
Here’s another Tommy P. solo from the latest TOP album. This is one of my favorite songs on the album to listen to, the groove is so funky. I love the background vocals, and I’m pretty sure that’s Chuck Hansen dropping the low notes on Bass sax as well!
This solo is super tough for me to play. I had a really hard time with the pitch on this track. I had to adjust the tuning about 20 cents to get it to lock in, which then made it harder to play. The break on the first bar is a good example. I’m pretty sure that he’s going for the tri-tone, but the pitch on the top note is between the F and F# to my ear. I doubt he’s playing F#, so I’m guessing the F is just high.
Aside from the pitch, there’s a lot of altissimo across the break, which is always tough for me. And then he really goes for it at the end up to the double F#!
Page tow of the transcription is more of a solo over the ride out as the track fades. It’s a long fade so I didn’t bother to record that part.
I think this is the first flute transcription that I’ve posted (and actually played), so hooray! My flute playing needs a lot of work I know, but this solo is just about the level of difficulty I can handle.
Tommy P plays two solos back-to-back on this track, both tenor and flute. I’ll post the tenor one next.
Here’s the sister track to the previous post – the last track of the album. It’s the same song, another take, with the sax solo in the middle this time. They changed the name of the track for some reason.
It’s an eight-bar section, all over the F# pentatonic minor blues scale. It’s really just four licks. I love the F#-C lick (tonic to flat five – using the tritone). I also like how percussive the articulation is, you really need to spit it out!
I’ve been really getting in to the new Tower of Power album – The Soul Side of Town. Tommy P takes a million solos on it, and this is the first one, right out of the gate.
It’s only four bars, but it’s a killer! The altissimo isn’t too high, but he gets around pretty fast. The way he crossed the break in the first bar is amazingly clean. He sticks to the blues scale, and does a trill on the last note, which was unexpected but cool.
This track is very much in the style of ‘Oakland Stroke’, opening and closing the album with a (mostly) instrumental jam. Burning solos by my pal Roger Smith on the organ as well! I’ll work on the closing track next, it’s got a longer solo.
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…
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!
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?