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.
Maceo to the rescue again! This week has been crazy – traveling cross-country with a bad head cold all week, busy at work, and gigs this weekend. I was able to scrape together one hour to practice this week, so here is the result, a transcription from my archives that I spent a few minutes working up…
Margie is a Ray Charles song that Maceo performed on the Roots and Grooves set, which is basically a Ray Charles tribute show recorded with a live big band. Maceo sang on many of the tunes, like this one, so we only hear him play over the solo.
It’s a tasty solo – not too hard to get the basic mechanics right once you sit and listen to the rhythms, but there’s a lot of nuance to pick out if you can devote the time. I maybe hit 50% of it, but it was the best I could muster this week. Hopefully I can shake this cold and get back in to the swing of things shortly.
It’s 4th down, 15 yards to go, far outside of field goal range – time to punt! It’s been a crazy busy week for me between work and gigs. I had planned on serving up another Marc Russo solo this week. I found another old transcription in one of my high school notebooks and cleaned it up. It was missing a page so I re-transcribed half of it. I planned on practicing and recording it today. Then I had a three-hour chops-busting gig last night, with another one tonight.
I looked through the Marc Russo solo and realized that it went up to a double altissimo G, so I decided to save my lip for the gig tonight and pull something easier out of the archives.
So – back to Maceo! A slow 16-bar blues. It pops up to a high Ab briefly, but other than that it’s pretty easy to play once you figure out all of the ornaments and grace notes. Just take it slow.
I may return to the Marc Russo solo next week, we’ll see how my chops are feeling!
Back to Alto for a bit. My recent Bob Mintzer transcriptions led me back to the Yellowjackets, which led me to dig up some of my old Marc Russo transcriptions from high school. I found this in one of my hand-written notebooks from about 1988 or so, and cleaned it up and brought it in to Finale.
These transcriptions are where I really cut my teeth (or more accurately, my LIP) on altissimo. Even more than David Sanborn, he is my go-to guy for alto sax altissimo. He incorporates it so beautifully into his playing.
Overall, his sound is smoother than what I personally go after, but it’s a great exercise to try and emulate. It takes a fantastic amount of control and discipline. On this track, he’s got to sell a very simple melody, and he does it beautifully with a clear, bright, round tone that is very pure. I’d have to play this style for weeks to really get it in to my head, but it was a good challenge to dive in to this week.
Obviously the hard part is the altissimo on this solo – all the way up to high D right before the fade. I really have to visualize this note to hit it. Playing along with the track (LOUD in my ears) is a big help because Marc’s intonation is spot-on. The run up to the high D (E-G-B-D) was tough, I was focusing so hard on the D that I missed either the G or the B every time. I need to slow this one down and work it out some more, but my lip only lets me do it in small doses. It’s like doing heavy squats for your lip! Then you have to be strong enough to hold the high D without shaking, and bend it back down to the B and control the line all the way down to the octave below. Good luck!
More Bob Monster solos from Mint Jam! This track has a bluesy, almost gospel feel to it.
The tune itself is pretty intricate. It’s a little down-tempo, which is always makes it harder since there are so many subdivisions. The form took awhile to figure out. The solo is basically ABABABCDD. I was able to find a lead sheet online that helped make sense of it (also why the chord changes are so detailed!)
The transcription wasn’t too hard to do, but learning it turned out to be way harder than I expected. The solo itself only has a few really tough parts (I’m looking at you high notes), but it is long with a bunch of medium difficulty stuff, which makes it hard to get one continuous take with no mistakes.
I haven’t done many saxophone solos from big band recordings, so I let my current Bob Mintzer kick lead me into his big band work. If you haven’t heard his big band recordings, check them out, I highly recommend them. The big band seemed like a vehicle to showcase his writing (which is excellent) and served as cheap marketing for his charts, which every high school in my area played when I was growing up. Bob got all of the top New York players to record these, so the section playing and soloing are all top-notch.
I devoured these recordings when I was in high school. Our band played many of these charts over the years, and even commissioned Bob to write a chart for us and perform the world premier together with our band. I thought that was pretty cool then, but I don’t think I fully appreciated it until much later.
Bob was super nice and of course a great player. I met him after a Yellowjackets show years later and joked that we had played a gig together. He thought I was serious until I told him that I was in the high school band he performed with. He thought it was funny, and remembered the band and my director from back then. He’s a real good guy.
This solo is great. It’s a cut time quasi-latin feel, very up-tempo. Lots of changes, and some of the lines are very tough. There’s a funky pedal section at the end of each chorus to break up the feel as well. The bari solo by Roger Rosenberg on the track is also very good (but very hard). I may get around to transcribing it some day as well. I’m overdue for some bari transcriptions!
I had so much fun doing the last Bob Mintzer transcription I decided to do another. I’m a huge fan of his playing. And I also love the Yellowjackets! I was big into them in High School and have a bunch of Marc Russo Alto transcriptions in my notebooks somewhere. I need to find those.
This track is probably my favorite Yellowjackets recording. It was recorded live, so it doesn’t have that ‘over-produced’ feeling that many of their albums do (sorry, just my opinion).
This track has a really funky groove and Bob’s playing is just killing on it. I wish I had a few more hours to woodshed this and get it more solid. It’s a lot of fun to play.
I have so much to say about this track! No, there is too much, let me sum up. I’m oddly obsessed with Jaco Pastorius. I listen to him more than I listen to some saxophone players. I wore this album out several times over. I had it on vinyl back in the day before it was released as a two-disc set.
I’ve always loved this track in particular, and this amazing solo by Bob Mintzer. I’ve met Bob a few times, the first was when he worked with my high school band. We commissioned a big band piece of his and he performed the premiere with us. I love his writing as much as I do his playing and have played many of his charts over the years.
I wanted to switch gears for the back half of tenor month and do a new transcription, something I had never worked on before. This fit the bill perfectly. The transcription flowed really easily since I knew the solo so well. But it’s quite hard for me to play!
I love Bob’s playing on this track – his sound is big and soulful. The solo is funky, yet has some beautiful jazz lines and phrasing at the same time.
As always, I get hung up on the altissimo, especially the stuff right over the break. But it’s getting easier. I really have to relax and try less hard (if that makes sense) to make it work.
This is the last track on the Close-Up album, track #10: Camel Island. For some reason I could have sworn that Sanborn had recorded this track before Close-Up, but after a little searching, I guess I was wrong. This song seems to have stuck around as one of his go-to classics, and I can see why. It has a very funky groove that is hard to categorize. Hints of jazz, latin, funk, and it manages to swing at times. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘fusion’ label, but I guess it is accurate.
This track is definitely challenging to play, but I also feel as though it’s attainable. There are a couple of tricky altissimo passages, and some fast flourishes, but overall I felt good about my performance. I’m breaking in some new reeds, and my lip was killing me from all of the altissimo or I would have done a few more takes to pick up a few of the lines that I messed up. It’s a real challenge finding reeds speak throughout the full range of the horn. For a transcription like this where you need to hit (and hold!) an altissimo D twice, you need a stiff reed, but it can’t be too hard or you’ll kill yourself playing everything else (like I did on these takes).
I noticed that my altissimo G is really flat on this one. I was using the long fingering almost exclusively (LH 1-3, RH 1 + SK 1). I’m used to that one being more stable (even though I still missed it in a few spots). On my new Conn, the short fingerings are more reliable, but my brain is accustomed to decades of avoiding them.
I like to think that the quality of the transcriptions on the back half of the album (all of which I did recently) are noticeably higher quality than the front half of the album (which I did in high school). Let me know what you think!