Lenny Pickett – Squib Cakes (Oakland Stroke)

One more solo before the end of the year, Lenny Pickett again. This is another classic solo with a lot of great stuff to learn. I worked up most the solo, but he loses me on the last four bars. I just can’t get that high with any control!

I’ve got several other transcriptions of different Squib Cakes solos, so maybe I should post a series where we can compare and contrast the different approaches?

I love the intro to this solo. He comes out of the stop-time section beautifully and sets up a great opening line that digs right in to the groove. The first four bars of the groove are solid and in pocket, heavily rooted in pentatonics.

The next four bars transition to a more chromatic approach, witha  bar of alternate fingerings that set up the transition to the next four, which starts to climb to the upper register.

Back in to some pentatonic licks and finally the last climb…up, and up, and UP!

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Lenny Pickett – Knock Yourself Out

Since I’m unable to play for a few months due to my jaw surgery, I figured that this would be a good time to share solo transcriptions that I’ve done, but cannot and will not ever be able to play well enough to record (to my standards). This is definitely one of those solos!

It’s an epic live Lenny Pickett solo from Tower of Power’s peak lineup in the late 70s. The main solo is nine minutes long, almost 300 measures, and it has some amazing technical feats that I’ll never be able to duplicate. Crazy high altissimo, long passages of circular breathing, as well as some incredibly agile intervallic jumps.

But it’s also filled with some very funky playing, with a lot to learn from. When it comes to transcribing, I’m a bit of a completionist. I feel compelled to transcribe every note, even if I know I’ll never work up that passage.

I could spend weeks trying to learn to slide up to some of those dog-whistle pitches, but I know that the time would not be well spent. It’s not the type of playing that I aspire to do, so even if I could learn it (which is doubtful), I don’t see the benefit.

So when it comes to my practice time, I’m a true pragmatist. I look at a solo like this and I pick out the sections that I feel will benefit my playing the most, and I focus on learning those. Make no mistake – there’s a lot of great material in this solo to learn from!

One thing that I haven’t been able to figure out is the false fingering that LP uses on middle E (pages 8-11).

This is a no-brainer on notes like Bb-C# (finger the low note and overblow the octave) or F and above (finger an octave + a fifth  below and overblow to the second partial). But notes like D, Eb, and E don’t really change timbre when you simply overblow the octave. I suspect that he’s doing some combination of closing lower tone holes while also opening higher ones, like the F palm key. He switches very fast between the alternate and normal fingering quite a bit, so it must be something that’s fairly easy to do. I don’t think he’s putting his knee in the bell to drop the pitch of an F 🙂

If anyone has any theories on this fingering, please let me know! None of my experimentation has come up with anything fruitful.

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Marc Russo – Silverlake

My playing hiatus due to jaw surgery continues, so no video this week. Instead I’ll be posting transcriptions from the archive.

This is one I did way back in high school. I learned altissimo by playing along to transcriptions of Marc Russo and David Sanborn, and a little help from some books like Ted Nash’s
Top Tones” and David Liebman’s book “Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound” (for overtones, etc.)

I dusted this one off a few weeks ago to clean up the transcription and get ready to post it. I forgot how HIGH it went – double G! D is pretty much my limit these days, although I somehow managed to play this back in high school. I had a very different setup those days, and apparently much harder reeds and tolerance for pain.

I started to work this one up, and I was hoping to get a video posted before my jaw surgery. But once the braces went on, I could barely play anything taxing, they just shred my lips with anything that requires any pressure. So I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever get back above that high D again. For the kind if playing that I do, I don’t ever go that high, so although I appreciate the value of being able to do it, I realize that my practice time is better spent focusing on more immediate needs with tangible benefits.

That said, Silverlake is a beautiful track. Kind of a ballad that breaks into a funky latin/fusion feel for the solo. There are a few bars that sounds like he switches to soprano, so I indicated that in the transcription (while still notating for alto).

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Bob Mintzer – Boomtown

More Bob Mintzer solos from Mint Jam! I was hoping to get this solo done and recorded before my jaw surgery, but alas that was not to be. I got the transcription done and I was working it up, but it’s a pretty hard solo and wasn’t where it needed to be for me to record it. I’m confident I can work it up some day, but it will be a few months before I can play again, so I’m just posting as-is.

This is definitely the hardest solo I’ve transcribed from Mint Jam to date. Both in terms of the transcription and the performance. Lots of very fast passages, as well as some tricky altissimo.

There’s a lot of complexity in what the rhythm section is doing, and Bob plays off of it very well. For all that is going on, the track still manages to swing – what a killer band!

I plan on continuing to work through this album while I’m laid up. There’s an EWI track that I might even be able to work on while I recover, before I can play sax.

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Maceo Parker – Quick Step

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.

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

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