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.
- Artist: Lenny Pickett
- Album: Tower of Power – Live and in Living Color (1976)
- Track: Knock Yourself Out
- Instrument: Tenor Sax