Wrapping up Tenor Month with part 2 of Barkan the Blues!
Part 1 ends where the piano solo comes in after rehearsal mark ‘Q’. Sonny picks up in bar 3 of section ‘R’ after the piano solo and blows for two choruses before jumping right into trading fours with the drummer for two more choruses (sections ‘T’ to ‘W’).
The drummer takes a chorus at ‘W’ and Sonny is back in with the head at ‘X’. At ‘Y’ it sounds like he’s going to play the head again, but really they go into a four-bar vamp/tag that carries them through the end of the tune. I did my best to pick up the changes that they are using on the turnaround, but it’s likely wrong!
This was a fun one to transcribe and play! I’m glad I toughed it out to the end. Although this concludes tenor month, I think I’m going to try to mix it up more in the future.
I should probably do a bari month at some point as well…
I wanted to end Tenor Month on a high note with a nice meaty solo. I’ve done a lot of short solos lately, so I picked something long. 5 pages, 16 choruses, 200+ measures of up-tempo Bb blues.
This is a Sonny Stitt solo that I used to listen to a lot in High School. I had it on cassette tape! I remembered the track vividly, but I couldn’t remember the name or the album it was from, so I scoured his catalog looking for it and finally tracked it down. But I love this track because it’s so in the pocket and straight ahead. I read a review that trashed it, but I have to disagree.
This wasn’t hard to transcribe, and not too hard to play…at 200bpm. But he plays it at 230bpm, which is definitely out of my comfort range! I spent hours ‘shedding some of those lines and a few still got away from me. And after all of the altissimo work I’ve been doing lately, I missed the one high G!
One of the things that I love about Sonny Stitt is how he played both Alto and Tenor, something which you rarely see. And he has his own sound on each horn. That makes sense to me because I definitely approach things differently when I’m playing each different horn.
I’m going to try to finish the back half of this tune next week, but it might take longer. He blows a few more choruses, trades with the drummer, re-states the head, and blows some more. It’s as long as the first half! Tenor month may continue into October…
This is the very first solo that I ever transcribed! I was probably 16? I don’t know how or why I chose this solo, but I’m glad that I did. It’s a killer track. A beautiful ballad with a bunch of super-clean bebop runs. For a recording that is over 60 years old, it sounds great (at least the Alto does).
I had this album on vinyl, and transferred it to cassette tape so I could transcribe it on my boom box (which had no pitch or speed controls). I listened to this solo for hours and hours before I even started the process. I listened to it in my sleep every night! I realize now that this is all a bit of overkill, but I didn’t know any better at the time.
For fun, I’m including a scan of my original handwritten transcription:
Unfortunately, this was page 1 of a notebook that is almost 30 years old. The cover and first page were torn off and lost years ago. So all that survived was the third page of the solo.
I had fun re-transcribing it, and it came back very quickly since I learned it pretty well back in the day. I was surprised to see how accurate my original transcription was. Given my inexperience and the primitive tools that I had to work with, I think I did a pretty good job!
The solo itself is a lot of fun to play. The bebop lines are hard, but not impossible. They generally lay pretty well on Alto, and I realize that I still find myself using some of the licks to this day on a regular basis. Nailing all of them 100% in one take proved to be a challenge, which only gives me that much more respect for the guy who improvised the solo in the first place. What a master!
P.S. About the chords…I lifted them from a fake book, so they may not exactly match what the rhythm section was doing on this recording. Transcribing chord changes has always been my achilles heel. Unlike solos, where there is a single line that is very clearly right or wrong, chord changes are more subjective and open to harmonic interpretation (at least to me). I’m working at it. If anyone has any advice, I’d love to improve in this area!