Review – Grace Kelly at Jazz Alley

As I mentioned before, Grace Kelly came through Seattle for two night at the Jazz Alley, which is the club that all of the big touring acts come through. I caught the show, and it was great!

I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Grace plays straight-ahead stuff, but also very contemporary stuff as well. 

First impressions – she’s an amazing singer! I didn’t really run across many videos of her singing on YouTube, so I didn’t realize how talented she is. And she probably sang 40% of the show. The rest of the time she played Alto, except for maybe two songs on Soprano.

She’s also a very talented writer and arranger. Her original music is very good – you can tell she has dedicated a lot of time and effort to her craft. From her stories about the songs, it’s also clear that she’s always writing. Ideas come to her at odd times, but she’s tuned in to those sources of inspiration, and she doesn’t let them slip away like too many of us do.

Her arrangements are very fresh too. She was playing with a quartet: Sax/voice, Piano/keys, electric bass, and acoustic/electric drums. The electronic components gave the quartet a very versatile sound, allowing them to go in many unexpected directions.

She also connects very well with her audience – sharing stories between songs, and dancing freely around the stage. She’s a very honest and genuine performer who seems to love what she does.

One nice touch was that she brought up one of her young students, an eight grader who studies with her over Skype. What a resource to have at that age! At that age I had just joined my first ‘stage band’ and was taking lessons from a clarinet player because our school didn’t have a dedicated sax teacher. I didn’t know anything about jazz or improvised music.

She had her student write a blues song, perform as a duet, solo with the band, and trade solos with her. She had him take nice long solos in front of a big crowd – quite a workout for kid his age, but he did great and the crowd loved it. I appreciated that she didn’t condescend to him or let him off easy with one chorus. She really made him work! As someone who came up as a child prodigy, you can see the effect her mentors had on her when she was younger. It’s great to see her giving back to the next generation.

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

Dave Koz – All I See is You

This week I’m adding a transcription requested by one of my students. This is another win-win situation, because he gets a free transcription of a song that he wants to work on, and I get content for my site that I wouldn’t have selected otherwise.

While I’m not a huge fan of ‘Smooth Jazz’, or Dave Koz in particular, it’s still great material to work on. The playing on this track is not technically very difficult, but it’s executed flawlessly. It takes a great degree of control and discipline to execute every note so consistently.

There isn’t a lot of improvisation in this track. It’s mostly an A-B-C structure where Dave plays the melody (either solo, or in harmony with other horns). At the bottom of the second page there is a breakdown section where Dave solos a bit more freely around the melody for a bit. Other than that, it’s mostly fills in and around the repeated melody lines.

I didn’t transcribe the harmony parts – I just went for what sounded like the main tenor line.

Fun trivia fact: Brian Culbertson is listed as co-writer. He and I are around the same age, and went to a jazz summer camp when we were in high school. He’s a great bone and piano player himself, and has a successful solo career as a smooth jazz artist. Well done Brian!

Dave Koz - All I See is You

 

  • Artist: Dave Koz
  • Album:  Saxophonic
  • Track: All I See is You
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

P. S. Bonus Content! Here is the (somewhat) simplified version of the transcription – for ease of sight-reading. It leaves out many of the grace notes and ornaments, but is basically the same transcription.

Dave Koz - All I See is You (simplified)

Wessell Anderson – Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Sorry for the dry spell, looks like I got this one out just in time for the holidays! This Wynton Marsalis album is my go-to Christmas tradition. It’s a beautiful album, with very cool arrangements of the classic Christmas Carols. I’m pretty sure my family gets sick of me dragging it out every year, but I love it!

This is really the first time I heard Wessell Anderson. I’m really only familiar with his work in Wynton’s bands. He has such a beautiful sound, so round and full! He reminds me of a modern-day Cannonball Adderley. I really need to check out more of his catalog.

His playing on the melody is beautiful, pulling the time back just the right amount. His solo really swings, with a lot of very cool lines in it.

You may notice that I’m back to my Mark VI on this video. I haven’t played it singe I got my Conn, but I finally sent the Conn to the shop for a much-needed overhaul. I had a weird feeling that I might pick up the Mark VI and fall back in love with it instead of the Conn, but no. Although I much prefer the ergonomics of the Mark VI, the Conn outplays it by a mile! I’ve got to re-learn how to play the Mark VI I think since the Conn will be on the disabled list for awhile…

Wessell Anderson - Hark the Herald Angels Sing

 

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

David “Fathead” Newman – I Got a Woman

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.

David Fathead Newman - I Got a Woman

 

  • Artist: David “Fathead” Newman
  • Album:  Ray Charles
  • Track: I Got a Woman
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Ralp Bowen – One More Once

I’ve been a huge fan of the piano player Michel Camilo since I heard his (US) debut album in the 80s. I’ve followed him ever since, even though he didn’t usually play with horn players. When he did, it was typically someone very technically proficient, like Paquito D’Rivera.

So when this big band album came out a few years back, I got really in to it. I loved the tenor solo on the title track. There’s so much to love about it – the tone is so smooth and pure. The technique is so clean and flawless. The altissimo is so clear and controlled. The solo builds beautifully and is filled with so many great ideas, and is so well executed.

I didn’t know who Ralph Bowen was, but I wanted to find out. Check this guy out, he’s a monster player!

No video for this one this week. I’ve been playing through it slowly, and can pull everything off in isolation, down tempo – but I’m a long way from putting it all together at full speed. Maybe that will be a project for me over the holidays if I get some time off of work. It’s going to be a real stretch!

Ralph Bowen - One More Once

 

  • Artist: Ralph Bowen
  • Album:  Michel Camilo – One More Once
  • Track: One More Once
  • Instrument: Tenor Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax