Since I’m still unable to play due to my jaw surgery recovery, I might as well break out the Brecker transcriptions!
Actually, this may be the only one I’ve done. I’m certainly no Carl Coan! Brecker’s stuff is impossibly hard to transcribe and play, and this solo is no exception. So I’m sure that it’s full of mistakes, but it’s the best that I can do.
I can play the first half reasonably well, but things get crazy in the second half (in typical Brecker fashion).
I recommend learning the first part if you can. It’s quite approachable, and has some great ideas. The first eight bars are a master class in developing an idea.
The next four bars play with rhythm and space, and then the next four bars add some interesting harmony and layer in some intervals to provide some contrast.
Brecker does an amazing job on this harmonically simple song. He brings in such rich ideas. He had such breadth and depth in his playing, it’s a tragedy that we lost him so prematurely.
One of the things that impresses me about Lenny Pickett is that he’s not just a virtuoso on one instrument (the tenor saxophone), he’s also a prolific doubler.
He’s got amazing tone and technique on the flute, and in this recording he really gets to stretch out and show off his flute chops. I’ve seen TOP a number of times, and I’ve always wished that they would incorporate more flute in the horn section. It fits so beautifully in to the classic soul ballad sound.
This track is no exception. For me, it’s the epitome of a sould ballad. Powerful lead vocal with beautiful backing vocals, soaring horns, and a bubbling rhythm section underneath. The solo section slips into a double time latin feel that’s just perfect.
This a live recording, and they execute it brilliantly. Well done guys!
If you’ve never heard this live Rufus and Chaka Khan record, stop what you’re doing right now and go get it! It’s one of my all-time favorites!
Both Chaka and the band are in top form here, and it’s great to hear what the horn section adds to these tunes. I believe Jerry Hey did the horn writing, so it’s no surprise there.
This tune is a beautiful duet, and Ernie Watts turns in a masterful 16-bar solo. I love the phrasing, how he sets up and executes these perfect four-bar ideas that build to a logical conclusion that ties right back in to the tune.
Obviously, the ‘black ink’ through bars 9-10 are the most difficult. But as with many passages, the faster it is, the better it lays on the horn. The tricky part here is how Ernie changes it up in the second bar. I don’t know exactly what he’s doing on the horn, but he’s overblowing the line to hit a higher harmonic. My suspicion is that he’s essentially playing the same line, but adding the front ‘fork’ key in the left hand to facilitate the overtone. When done quickly, it’s a cool effect and very tasteful.
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.
If you’re a fan of Tower of Power, but don’t know about Strokeland, go fix that right now, I’ll wait. www.strokeland.com
This is another killer Lenny Pickett solo. And what a great song! I just love a good hard-swinging 12/8 feel. I used to be intimidated by them, but it’s just 4/4 with a heavy triplet feel. Notating and reading it can be tricky sometimes if you don’t do it often, but it never gets old to play over.
I definitely got tripped up on some of the rhythms and a few of the high parts, but I’m amazed at how much easier the upper register has become for me just in the past few weeks since I started tenor month. This ‘practicing’ trick is useful!
Also, how great is Huey Lewis at this style of music?! I was already a fan, but now I want to hear more of him in this style.
I’m almost done with this box set. One more Candy solo after this, and one more Najee solo.
Anna Stesia is a classic slow funk jam in (concert) C. Candy’s solo is short and sweet – only about 8 bars, with some fills after that, but she’s got some nice licks in there. Nothing too hard here, and just one high note to worry about. In bar 12, she’s trilling between E and G. I wasn’t sure if that was clear from the notation. The minor third trill is classic blues/funk/R&B/pop staple – it always works!
Listening back to my recording, my timing was pretty off in the first few bars. I should have done a few more takes!
Happy birthday Stevie Wonder! Instead of waiting to celebrate these legends after they pass, I figure I should be celebrating them NOW while they are still with us.
So I grabbed this Stevie Wonder solo off of the famous Chaka Khan track “I Feel For You”. The song was written by Prince, so my Prince tribute streak is still intact 🙂 I love both versions of this song – Chaka’s version, which is probably much more well known, as well as Prince’s original studio recording.
But this track features an absolutely burning solo by Stevie Wonder on the chromatic harmonica. This track has peak 80’s production values: heavy reverb, delay, etc. so it can be hard to pick out what’s going on under the wash of effects, but Stevie’s playing is great. The harmonica has quite a range and really gets up there. I obviously took some parts down an octave, and arguably should have attempted a few more in the lower octave, but there’s no way to get better at your high chops without spending the time working stuff like this out.
The PDF contains the harmonica parts for the whole track, but the video only contains the solo.
I’m still on the Prince train, and I don’t see any sign of it slowing down any time soon! This time it’s the live NPG version of the incredible ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U”.
The liner notes don’t actually say, but I’m reasonably certain that the sax soloist is Brian Gallagher again. I read somewhere that it was Kathy Jenson (from the Hornheads), but I’m pretty sure that’s not true. I’m only familiar with her as an Alto/Bari player, and not tenor.
I really wish I could do this one justice. It’s a monster of a solo! The 5th bar is what really killed me, so I mercifully cut out the worst of the audio from my track and ducked the rest. But I got back on track the next bar. I can (barely) hit that high F#, but I can’t get up and down from it nearly as gracefully as Brian can. It’s amazing how fluidly he does it.
Interestingly enough, Candy Dulfer hits the exact same concert E her solo. It just fits. It’s high on Alto, but much easier to play than on Tenor (for me).
This is another solo that’s virtually impossible to read – you have to listen carefully and slow it down to really internalize the rhythms. The lines that he creates are so ornamented and intricate that there’s no other way.
More Prince. More Candy. Same CD box set as the previous two transcriptions.
This is such a beautiful song! Most people associate it with the 1990 Sinead O’Connor recording (and music video), but of course Prince wrote it. He originally recorded it with ‘The Family’ in 1985. It was hard to find that recording, and not worth the effort (for me), although some people swear that the original is the best recording.
Rumor has it that Prince did a studio recording of his own that was never released. Maybe it will see the light of day eventually? Until then, I’m only aware of his two live recordings – this one, and the more famous one that he recorded with NPG. I’ll try to work up that solo too, but my tenor high chops may not be up for it.
Candy really kills it on this solo. The third bar of the solo is pure genius the way she builds such connects such complex (and yet simple) ideas so fluidly – and nails it! I probably spent about an hour shedding that bar alone and still can’t play it as smoothly as she did.
And just try to play that high part at the end in one breath like she does. I like to think I get some pretty big air (I play a LOT of bari), and I couldn’t make it through both measures in one breath. But she pulls it off somehow!
The written transcription covers most of the song until the time stops. I’m only uploading the main solo to YouTube so I don’t run afoul of the copyright filters.
Slow songs are always the hardest to notate and read, so I really suggest listening closely to the recording as you’re trying to learn it. That’s always the best way anyway, but on ballads it’s almost impossible to do any other way.
We lost another music legend this week. This time, Maurice White, the founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. The impact that he has had on the music industry is immeasurable. He created so many classic songs that will live forever. In over 10+ years of playing with Doctorfunk, we’ve hardly played a gig that didn’t have at least one EWF song in the set list. They are definitely in the top five all-time great horn bands.
So when I heard of Maurice’s passing, I did what I always do: I listened. Then I got out my horn to play. I’ve had Don Myrick on my to-do list for a while now, so I figured there was no better time than today to tackle his most iconic solo.
And what a solo! Although the track is considered one of the ‘smoother’ songs in the EWF catalog, the Alto solo is anything but smooth. It’s only 24 bars long, but it’s filled with meaty bebop-inspired lines that are quite challenging to play. Picking them out of the lush mix was no small feat either! But it was worth it in the end to me, I can finally cross this song off of my bucket list!
I’l have more Don Myrick in the future as well – what an inspiration!