By request – Here’s the solo from the end of “C Jam Funk”, the track that rolls over the credits of the film “My First Name is Maceo”. The track is also on the accompanying CD. It’s a long track, but a short solo – 16 bars, starting around 10:30.
The movie/album came out in 1994. I actually have it on VHS tape, but I don’t have anything that plays it anymore! Fortunately, the whole thing is on YouTube. The quality isn’t great, but it’s from 1994…
It’s a hybrid concert/documentary, with both on stage, rehearsal, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage. It’s Maceo and his band doing what they do best. Super funky music and great playing all around. There are great guest stars, including the Rebirth Brass Band and George Clinton.
This track is an up-tempo funk groove. The solo is short, and pretty tough rhythmically. As the name implies, it’s all over one chord.
Here’s one that I’ve had on my to-do list forever. It’s a slow ballad, which always makes for the toughest transcription jobs. The fast passages get in to really minute subdivisions to fit everything in, which makes it difficult to notate, and to play. As a bonus, it’s in 6/8!
I love Maceo’s delivery on this one though, his tone is so beautiful. The melody is sparse and haunting, but the track builds and builds. When Maceo finally lets loose in a flurry of notes, it’s well-deserved.
Rather than trying to read all of the subdivisions, I suggest just listening to it a bunch and trying to internalize the timings. I limited myself to one take on the melody and one take on the solo, but I wish I had a few more to listen and play through.
A few notes on the transcription – during playback I realized I left out one bar where he’s holding the low C. Just keep holding! Also I forgot to add the chords, although it just alternates between the one and four, so it’s not super complex.
Another duet – this time Maceo and Candy Dulfer from the great ‘Life on Planet Groove’ album. I’ve been working on this one for awhile. It was a monster to transcribe. Duets are hard enough because you can’t always tell who is playing which part. But this track also had Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis, so at times there were four horns improvising at the same time!
I chose to focus on just Maceo and Candy’s parts. The song is really a feature for Candy. She’s the only one who takes a full solo. She and Maceo trade off on the melody, which is beautiful. Maceo fills in a little behind her, and she also fills in around the chorus parts when the other horns come in.
I’m including both parts separately as well as in ‘score’ form if you want to see how the parts line up together. They play off of each other beautifully, finishing each others’ ideas at times (which also makes it extra hard to figure out who’s playing what).
Both parts have tough sections to play. For Maceo, it’s more about the rhythms. Candy’s solo has some altissimo (up to high B), and some particularly fast runs.
On the video, I limited myself to one take for each part, so there are definitely parts I’d like another crack at. I stopped the video at the part where Maceo introduces Candy. She (and the others) solo more after that, and I included as much as I could in the written transcription, but it gets pretty chaotic to follow.
Overall, it’s a great solo by Candy, with beautiful playing by everyone all around. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
I have a hard time coming up with my list of ‘favorites’ for anything – movies, music, you name it. But if I were stranded on a desert island and could only take one album with me, it would be Maceo’s ‘Life on Planet Groove’. I can listen to it anytime, anywhere, and never get tired of it!
This is a short solo from ‘Got to Get U’. It’s just eight bars over one chord. It’s simple, and relatively easy to play. The tempo is slow, and you can really hear the sixteenth note subdivision coming through in every part. It’s so strong that it’s sometimes hard to tell if Maceo is actually playing every subdivision, or if I’m just feeling it.
The first three bars are almost entirely played with the one, flat 3 and the flat seven (he plays the fifth once). That makes it all the more powerful when he leans on the ninth on the downbeat of the fourth bar. Back to the 1, b3, and b7 for the next two bars until he leans on the 4 (or 11, whichever you prefer). The next figure re-introduces the 9th, and also throws in the 6th (13th) for good measure.
So for a one-chord funk groove, even though Maceo sticks primarily to the minor pentatonic, he uses all of the notes in the scale for added color. Ironically, the one note that he doesn’t play that you might expect him to is the flat five. He doesn’t need it!
There are a couple more great solos on this album that I want to try and work on before the end of 2018, but they are much more involved. Wish me luck!
Back to M-A-C-E-O! This is a transcription that I’ve had on the shelf for a long time. Every time I pulled it out to record, I always struggled to sight read it. It’s not technically difficult, but the rhythms are crazy hard to right read. Finally I broke down and just practiced it for an hour! I broke down each phrase, and took it slowly until I could feel it.
The track is a classic James Brown tune. The recording is from a 1994 video, right around the time that Maceo was starting to come in to his own as a solo artist. It features the classic JB horns lineup of Fred Wesley on Trombone and Pee Wee Ellis on Tenor. The band is killing!
The more Maceo solos I transcribe and learn, the more I realize what an amazing ‘escape artist’ he is. I often run in to short phrases that seem to fall on the wrong foot, or don’t quite turn out how you intended. We all get these. When I run in to these phrases in my own playing, they knock me out of the zone too easily. It can take awhile for me to recover and get back in to the groove. But Maceo has this akido-like ability to turn these phrases around and roll right through them in to the next phrase.
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.
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.
What a week this has been! I promise I won’t talk politics. Usually practicing, and especially transcribing serves as a good escape from whatever is going on around me, but this week was particularly tough to focus on anything and be productive. Still, onward and upward!
This is a fairly obscure recording from the J. B. Horns. It’s around the time that Maceo struck out on his own, but before he had really broken through as a solo artist.
The thing I like the most about this track is the horn section work. It’s great practice to play along with the J.B.s and really get in to the mindset of these lines. Nice and short, crisp articulation, tight cut-offs, dynamics, and controlled lip falls. Lots to get right (or wrong!)
The solo is over a one-chord groove. Slow and funky. The solo sticks almost entirely to the blues scale, with the 13th thrown in for color in the sixth bar. Very tasty.