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.
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!
Time for some flute! This was the first flute solo I ever transcribed. I’ll admit that I probably bought this album ironically back in High School because of the smurfs on the cover, but when I listened to it, I realized that it was the real deal. There are so many good tunes on this album, including one of my favorite Chick Corea compositions – Samba Song.
Joe Farrell’s playing on this tune is beautiful. He plays tenor on the album as well, and I’m a big fan of his sax playing too, but I have to say he’s probably my biggest influence on flute. Without even listening to the track, you can tell how masterfully he builds the solo from beginning to end. Just look at the page to see how the register gradually moves up and the density of notes increases as he builds. And of course when you listen to it you’ll hear how masterfully it’s executed.
I was hoping that one positive side effect of my jaw surgery would be a lot of down time from the saxophone that I could channel in to my flute playing. Alas, that was not to be. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that my lower lip would be 100% numb for 6+ months! While I’ve started to slowly pick up the saxophone again, I can’t make a note on flute because I can’t feel where it is on my lip. If I play in front of a mirror I can get a note out, but it’s frustrating to say the least.
Here’s the trumpet solo from Bring the Funky back. To me, this is the centerpiece of the whole song. The whole tune is a driving, up-tempo funk feel – opening with a fade into an organ solo, and then in to a guitar solo.
But after the guitar solo, the rhythm section breaks down to a floating feel that feels very loose even though the time never actually stops. Greg comes in with a harmon mute, playing around with the different tonalities that the keys are laying down.
Then after 24 bars of the breakdown feel, the band comes back in and kicks it back in to high gear. Greg loses the mute and goes for broke over the last eight bars.
He does a great job of building through to the end of the chorus, a very cool solo! I should transcribe more trumpet solos. The nature of the instrument leads to a different set of ‘comfortable’ patterns, so playing transcriptions from other instruments is a good way of stretching your comfort zone.
In a way, this is the solo that started it all for me (again). While I had done a lot of transcribing in high school and college, I had gotten away from it for several years after college for one reason or another.
But then I heard this solo one day and felt compelled to transcribe it (and play it too!)
So I set about transcribing it, and managed to get through the whole thing. I have no idea how long it took, probably two weeks with a few hours here and there devoted to it.
When I first transcribed the solo, I was just going for notes and rhythms, not paying much attention to form or chord progressions. With no rhythm section reference, it can be hard to follow at times, or even find where ‘one’ is (intentionally!)
I made heavy use of off time signatures to reconcile this. But I realize in hindsight that this was a mistake. I recently went back to try and add in chorus markers and chord changes for reference. But often I found that phrases might be notated a few beats away from where they ‘should’ land to line up with chorus start/end points. I spent some time editing and quickly realized that it was going to be a huge amount of work to clean up. So instead I present it as-is, mistakes and all. There are better transcriptions of this solo out there for sure, but this one is mine 🙂
I’ve learned to play passages from the transcription, but it’s obviously verydifficult to play certain sections, so don’t expect to see a video of me playing the whole solo any time in my lifetime. I have tremendous respect for those who can!
The recording was the first of many bootleg recordings of Chris Potter playing a capella at a master class. There are now many of these floating around with varying audio quality. I don’t think Chris sees any money from these unfortunately, so please support his albums and performances.
We’re lucky to have such a legendary saxophone player active in our lifetime who is so incredibly gifted both musically and technically!
P. S. For those of you who are interested in how my recovery from double-jaw surgery is going, I’m about eight weeks post-surgery and still a long way from playing the saxophone. I can now eat soft food gently, but my lower lip is still totally numb and very stiff. I predict another 6-8 weeks before I’m playing again.
My playing hiatus due to jaw surgery continues, so no video this week. Instead I’ll be posting transcriptions from the archive.
This is one I did way back in high school. I learned altissimo by playing along to transcriptions of Marc Russo and David Sanborn, and a little help from some books like Ted Nash’s
Top Tones” and David Liebman’s book “Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound” (for overtones, etc.)
I dusted this one off a few weeks ago to clean up the transcription and get ready to post it. I forgot how HIGH it went – double G! D is pretty much my limit these days, although I somehow managed to play this back in high school. I had a very different setup those days, and apparently much harder reeds and tolerance for pain.
I started to work this one up, and I was hoping to get a video posted before my jaw surgery. But once the braces went on, I could barely play anything taxing, they just shred my lips with anything that requires any pressure. So I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever get back above that high D again. For the kind if playing that I do, I don’t ever go that high, so although I appreciate the value of being able to do it, I realize that my practice time is better spent focusing on more immediate needs with tangible benefits.
That said, Silverlake is a beautiful track. Kind of a ballad that breaks into a funky latin/fusion feel for the solo. There are a few bars that sounds like he switches to soprano, so I indicated that in the transcription (while still notating for alto).
More Bob Mintzer solos from Mint Jam! I was hoping to get this solo done and recorded before my jaw surgery, but alas that was not to be. I got the transcription done and I was working it up, but it’s a pretty hard solo and wasn’t where it needed to be for me to record it. I’m confident I can work it up some day, but it will be a few months before I can play again, so I’m just posting as-is.
This is definitely the hardest solo I’ve transcribed from Mint Jam to date. Both in terms of the transcription and the performance. Lots of very fast passages, as well as some tricky altissimo.
There’s a lot of complexity in what the rhythm section is doing, and Bob plays off of it very well. For all that is going on, the track still manages to swing – what a killer band!
I plan on continuing to work through this album while I’m laid up. There’s an EWI track that I might even be able to work on while I recover, before I can play sax.
This is definitely the last video I will post before I go in for jaw surgery. I was on the road all week for work, so I didn’t have a chance to practice or transcribe something new. I pulled something out of the archive and spent about an hour working it up – not enough to do it justice. Tomorrow I get the wires put on my braces in preparation for surgery Wednesday, so I doubt I’ll even play sax again before I go offline for 3+ months.
But I didn’t pick an easy one to go out on. Quick Step is an up-tempo Maceo tune (as the title would suggest), and it’s in a flat key, which is pretty unusual. It’s basically a one-chord jam with e melody that is intercut with several short solos.
Transcribing the opening was tough, because when you first hear the tune, you don’t know where ‘one’ is. it becomes clear once the rhythm section comes in. But it can be a good exercise to try and figure it out without that context.
For me, transcribing is like a science experiment. You listen, and formulate a hyopthesis (guess). Then you listen again with that hyopethesis in mind to either validate or invalidate it. If you’re really good at it, you can guess about a whole line at a time. But if you’re like me, sometimes you’re guessing about a single pitch, or the rhythmic placement of a single note in a phrase. But if you follow that basic approach you can get through the hardest transcription there is. Just slow it down and focus on solving one problem at a time until it all comes together.
This may be the last video I post before I go in for jaw surgery. I’ll be traveling for a week, and then back for only a few days before I go under. I’ll also be getting wires on my braces when I get back, so playing will only get harder. I’ll keep posting and transcribing as much as I can, just no videos for a few months.
So hopefully this is a good one to go out on. Pass the Peas is one of my favorite Maceo tunes, and this is a great version of it. It’s from the Roots and Grooves CD set, recorded with a full big band.
The melody is a lot of fun to play, but it’s a bit repetitive, so I didn’t record it. I start with Maceo’s first solo, which is pretty straight forward. After a few more solos, Maceo comes back in to trade with the drummer – none other than the legendary Dennis Chambers! They trade twos, and they start pulling the tempo down almost to a crawl. It’s a lot of fun.
I’m still adjusting to my Conn 6M in some ways. The hardest adjustment is the left hand table. I don’t like that the B key is in the middle. I prefer the Mark VI layout which has only the C# and B keys on the second row and the Bb below. Towards the end of the sax/drum solo I missed the B key because I still can’t feel instinctively which is which.
After Mceo drops out, Dennis Chambers takes an amazing drum solo. I didn’t record the melody on the way out either, but it’s all in the written transcription. It’s worth playing along with if you don’t already know the tune.
Another tough week for me – I’m counting down the days to my impending jaw surgery, and yesterday they put braces on my teeth which will hold things in place after the surgery. Needless to say, it’s a bit of an adjustment to play saxophone now! But I’ll have to re-learn how to play completely after surgery. I’ll probably have to take 3+ months off from playing entirely following the surgery. I’ll have my jaw wired shut for 6+ weeks as it is! I’m not looking forward to it. But I promise to keep posting transcriptions. I just won’t be playing them for awhile.
I just finished up a killer Bob Mintzer solo, but it’s going to take me a long time to learn, so I may not get it posted before my surgery. So, back to my Maceo archives! Can you tell that I’m going alphabetically? 😉
This is a fun, up-tempo solo. It has kind of a jazzy, funky, almost latin flavor to it, but it swings! The solo isn’t too technical, but as with most Maceo solos, the rhythms can be tricky. The main solo isn’t too hard, but I messed up the timing of some of the fills over the ride out.