Hank Crawford – Mr. Chips

As promised, here is a Hank Crawford transcription. An old adage is that if you want to emulate your musical idols, listen to their idols. Many of the modern blues/funk/R&B greats, like David Sanborn or Maceo Parker cite Hank Crawford as one of their early influences, and you can hear why on this track.

This is a pretty straightforward I-IV-V blues progression. Hank take about nine choruses, and I love the progression and how he builds the solo. My only criticism is that the pitch is a little off in spots (but so is mine, so, glass houses and all that).

The feel is solid 12/8 (eighth-note triplet subdivisions of each 4/4 beat), but I prefer to write it in 4/4. I find that many intermediate students struggle to read 12/8. It’s easier to read in 4/4, and if you listen and play along, you can feel the swing subdivision.

Hank Crawford - Mr. Chips

 

  • Artist: Hank Crawford
  • Album: Mr. Chips (1986)
  • Track: Mr. Chips
  • Instrument: Alto Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

David “Fathead” Newman – Hard Times

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.

David Fathead Newman - Hard Times

 

  • Artist: David “Fathead” Newman
  • Album: Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman
  • Track: Hard Times
  • Instrument: Alto Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Maceo Parker – Basic Funk – 101

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.

Maceo Parker - Basic Funk 101

 

  • Artist: Maceo Parker
  • Album: School’s In
  • Track: Basic Funk – 101
  • Instrument: Alto Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Art Pepper – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To

Funny story – I was walking around the mall recently (don’t get me started on who thought it was a good idea to put an outdoors mall in Seattle), and I heard this song coming over the PA system. I never really paid much attention to the music at the mall, but I certainly dug this tune.

It hit me that I haven’t posted any Art Pepper on this blog yet! I’m not sure why. He’s a killer player – kind of a cross between Paul Desmond and Sonny Stitt for me. I love his warm, dry tone, and the voice-leading in his lines is always so beautiful.

This is an old standard with some beautiful changes. I hardly ever hear anyone play it, so it feels fresh. It’s a moderate tempo, so most of the solo feels very relaxed and laid back, but then he breaks in to a double-time lick in the middle of the first chorus and you realize how fast the tempo is! It’s amazing how cleanly he plays it.

After the melody, he plays two solo choruses, then turns things over the piano and bass players for solos. He comes back in to trade 4’s with the drummer for a chorus and a half, and then plays an abbreviated melody with a tag to close it out.

Art Pepper - You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To

 

  • Artist: Art Pepper
  • Album: Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (1957)
  • Track:  You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
  • Instrument: Alto Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

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