We lost another great recently. This time Glenn Frey. He is most famous for his work with the Eagles, but he also had a successful solo career in the 80’s while the Eagles were broken up. If you haven’t watched the Eagles documentary, stop what you’re doing and watch it. It’s three hours long, but the opening scene where the band warms up their vocals on “Seven Bridges Road” is amazing. I’ll always remember Glenn Frey talking about how he learned the craft of songwriting. He lived above Jackson Browne, and heard him get up every morning and work through every detail of “Doctor My Eyes” on the piano until it was perfect. Over and over. Glenn Frey summed up “the secret” as elbow grease, and it’s the truth.
I grew up listening mainly to jazz music, so I wasn’t a big Eagles fan until much later in life. But you couldn’t escape the sound of Miami Vice in the 1980’s, and this song featured prominently on it’s soundtrack. So this is a song that I heard a great many times on television and radio growing up. It’s a classic pop sax anthem, and another guilty pleasure to transcribe and play!
The sax player is Bill Bergman, one of those killer players who you’ve heard everywhere, but you may not know their name or work. I didn’t realize that he’s a fellow Strokeland recording artist, both as a member of Jack Mack and the Heart Attacks, but also as a solo artist. I found a great video of Bill telling the story behind this recording.
There’s not a lot of soloing in this track. The signature lick is the three-note opening line: a half-step down followed by a major third. The melody is built around that motif. But there are some nice pop licks thrown in for good measure. There are simple chord changes throughout, but I lazily just called it all C#-7 in the PDF. This one is all about the sound – sing it out!
There are a bunch of sax solos in the genre that I’ll continue to work up over the coming months.
More Don Myrick! Why not? This track is perhaps his most well known work among the general populace. After all, this reached #1 on the pop charts, and had a music video that Don appeared in.
There was a lot of saxophone in pop music in the 80s, which made it a great time to be a player. Even though I was heads-down on jazz 95% of the time, it was a nice feeling seeing your instrument enjoy a prominent place in pop culture and the music industry in general.
So I have a soft spot for these sorts of solos, even though they aren’t in my wheelhouse of jazz/funk. They’re not super meaty, but they are a fun, guilty pleasure to play. Expect more to come!
This song is a ballad, which always makes the transcription tougher. I obsess over the rhythm trying to notate it as accurately as possible. The solo has a very rubato feel overall, so it’s best to listen and try to feel it as much as possible. Above all else, solos like this are a great way to work on your sound. Listen to how Don sells every note. Beautiful!
From time to time, I get asked to do studio projects for people. Over the years, I’ve done a few collaborations with The Fascination Movement. One of those tracks has been released, it’s called “In Code”:
While reflecting on the loss of David Bowie this week, I went back and listened through some of his work. When I got to this track, I couldn’t believe that I had never worked on it before! It’s such an iconic track for both Bowie and for Sanborn’s playing throughout.
I’ve heard people complain about Sanborn’s playing on this track – not that it’s bad, but that it’s too prominent throughout. I have to disagree somewhat, but I understand where they are coming from. I can’t fault David for this though, they probably just had him play over the whole track a few times in the studio, and then it was out of his hands. I would have done the same thing, assuming that they would use only a few bits and pieces here and there.
But there’s a lot of great playing on this track, and the transcription process also gives me plenty of time to sit and listen carefully to Bowie’s performance as well, and marvel over the energy and conviction that he delivers the vocals with.
The PDF covers the entire track – to the best of my ability…the saxophone is often low in the (busy) mix, and panned far to the left. So it can be hard to decipher exactly what’s going on, and even who’s playing what at times.
For the video, I included the opening solo, the second solo at the key change, and the ride out starting where the band comes back in after the long hold (midway through page 3 of the PDF). David’s altissimo work is flawless here. I’ve got to figure out how he does the A-G#-F# transition so smoothly. I’ve also got to work to get that high F# split tone back. I used to transcribe a lot of Sanborn in my college days (I’ll post some here soon) and I haven’t been playing enough of that style to keep it up.
Phil Woods passed away this week, so I thought it would be fitting to take a break from the Maceo transcriptions and share one of his most iconic solos.
While he was a jazz legend, I chose this pop recording since it is so famous. When was the last time you heard a saxophone solo in song on the top 10 chart for pop/rock? The 70s were a different time…
This solo deserves the praise that it gets. Phil didn’t dumb down his playing for a pop audience, or resort to gimmicks. He just played a simple, beautiful solo that has some great jazz lines in it, and subtle use of dissonance, tension, and harmony.
I had the pleasure of seeing Phil Woods live only once. It was around 1990, shortly after his phenomenal appearance on David Sanborn’s amazing “Night Music” show. I saw him at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. What a player.