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.
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!
Since Prince passed away three months ago, I’ve posted nothing but transcriptions from his catalog. As enjoyable and therapeutic as this has been for me, I think it’s time to move on. So this will be my last Prince “tribute” transcription…for a while anyway. I’ll start changing it up.
But what a track to end on! This one takes some explanation. This track was recorded by Prince with Sheryl Crow on Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. Maceo took these exact backing tracks and replaced the lead lines with his own playing. Presumably, he did this with Prince’s close collaboration. Maceo is credited as performing on the original track, but he doesn’t play a solo. This track is one long Maceo solo!
I can’t think of any other examples of artists collaborating this way, but who wouldn’t do this given the chance?? I think it’s a great idea for a mash-up/re-mix. The possibilities are endless.
The track itself is hidden – it’s not listed on the liner notes for Maceo’s album. You have to skip past seventeen seconds of silence at the end of the “Homeboy” track to the 6:05 mark when “Baby Knows” starts. I wonder if this is due to some copyright issue, or the fact that Prince and Maceo are on different record labels?
The track itself is super fun to play, and pretty easy both to play and transcribe. There are a ton of falls notated, but they are barely even lip falls. Maceo plays these very subtly, just letting the breath support fall away to give the fall effect.
This is the only saxophone solo on the 3121 album. It’s a medium tempo latin-funk feel. Maceo plays an eight bar solo in the middle of the track, and then a longer sixteen bar solo towards the end. I added the time indexes to each solo and split them across two pages for ease of reading.
These are very typical Maceo solos, although he uses altissimo more here than he usually does. It’s also a little unusual to see him jumping up and down so quickly, but he pulls it off nicely. This is something that has gotten a lot easier for me on the Conn 6M compared to my Mark VI. The altissimo notes just pop out, even some of the tougher notes over the break like G.
The Musicology tour was the only time I saw Prince live. It was easily among the best musical performances I have ever seen (and likely ever will see). Maceo and Candy were both with him that night. He also did an amazing mini-set in the middle of the show where he just cranked through a medley of his hits on solo guitar. Unbelievable!
I went to the show with a bunch of my bandmates from Doctorfunk. We all got copies of the Musicology CD with our tickets. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I understand now that by bundling the CD with the ticket sales, Prince was able to game the system into making the album top the charts. Genius!
Dear Mr. Man isn’t my favorite track on the album, that honor goes to the title track. But this has a great Maceo solo in it. Unfortunately it’s the only one on the whole album. It’s short (only eight bars), but fits in the pocket over the slow, funky groove.
I know I’ve been posting a bunch of short solos lately, but I’ll make it up to you next week 🙂