Category Archives: alto saxophone

Brand New Heavies – People Get Ready

I was listening to some old Brand New Heavies this week, and heard this track. I was really in to this CD in college, and transcribed the alto solo. It’s short, but it really burns. It’s pretty straight-forward: blues/pentatonic over C with some chromatic runs. But I love the sound and the attack.

As I was getting ready to post this week, I realized I didn’t know who the alto player was! They aren’t credited on the liner notes. The sax credits I see are Tim Garland or Jim Wellman. I suspect Tim Garland takes the tenor solo on this track. The alto solo comes in right before the fade at the end.

I don’t think it’s the same player laying down both solos. The alto player is definitely on the leading edge of the beat, whereas the tenor player is more in the pocket. That said, I play pretty differently on Alto vs. Tenor, so maybe that’s irrelevant.

If you know who the soloists are on this track, help me out so I can give credit where credit is due!

Enjoy!

@SdartSax

Larry Williams – The Glamorous Life

This is a solo that I worked up during my binge of Prince music after his death. Prince produced this album, and pretty much discovered Sheila E.

I wasn’t familiar with Larry Williams or his music prior to this. I had to do some digging to find out who played the solo. But it’s clear from his web site that he’s a top-flight session player who has played with just about everyone!

There’s a lot going on in this track. It opens with just sax and rhythm. Larry plays very ‘out’ for a pop track, with lots of chromatic substitutions and overtones. There are some very cool chromatic runs in this section, which takes up the first page.

The second page is the solo that happens after the vocals. Great use of altissimo, and more overtone runs as well. But some really iconic licks in there around bar 12-16 of the main solo.

After the solo there is an extended four-minute drum break. It’s hard to believe that a pop single ran over 9 minutes long! There’s some amazing percussion work by Sheila E here. I didn’t transcribe all of the sax licks in this. For the most part, it’s just re-stating the melody lick. But there is a bit more towards the end. I was mostly in to the solos themselves.

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

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

Maceo Parker – Pass the Peas

This may be the last video I post before I go in for jaw surgery. I’ll be traveling for a week, and then back for only a few days before I go under. I’ll also be getting wires on my braces when I get back, so playing will only get harder. I’ll keep posting and transcribing as much as I can, just no videos for a few months.

So hopefully this is a good one to go out on. Pass the Peas is one of my favorite Maceo tunes, and this is a great version of it. It’s from the Roots and Grooves CD set, recorded with a full big band.

The melody is a lot of fun to play, but it’s a bit repetitive, so I didn’t record it. I start with Maceo’s first solo, which is pretty straight forward. After a few more solos, Maceo comes back in to trade with the drummer – none other than the legendary Dennis Chambers! They trade twos, and they start pulling the tempo down almost to a crawl. It’s a lot of fun.

I’m still adjusting to my Conn 6M in some ways. The hardest adjustment is the left hand table. I don’t like that the B key is in the middle. I prefer the Mark VI layout which has only the C# and B keys on the second row and the Bb below. Towards the end of the sax/drum solo I missed the B key because I still can’t feel instinctively which is which.

After Mceo drops out, Dennis Chambers takes an amazing drum solo. I didn’t record the melody on the way out either, but it’s all in the written transcription. It’s worth playing along with if you don’t already know the tune.

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Maceo Parker – My Baby Loves You

Another tough week for me – I’m counting down the days to my impending jaw surgery, and yesterday they put braces on my teeth which will hold things in place after the surgery. Needless to say, it’s a bit of an adjustment to play saxophone now! But I’ll have to re-learn how to play completely after surgery. I’ll probably have to take 3+ months off from playing entirely following the surgery. I’ll have my jaw wired shut for 6+ weeks as it is! I’m not looking forward to it. But I promise to keep posting transcriptions. I just won’t be playing them for awhile.

I just finished up a killer Bob Mintzer solo, but it’s going to take me a long time to learn, so I may not get it posted before my surgery. So, back to my Maceo archives! Can you tell that I’m going alphabetically? 😉

This is a fun, up-tempo solo. It has kind of a jazzy, funky, almost latin flavor to it, but it swings! The solo isn’t too technical, but as with most Maceo solos, the rhythms can be tricky. The main solo isn’t too hard, but I messed up the timing of some of the fills over the ride out.

Enjoy!

@SDartSax

Maceo Parker – Mother’s Kitchen

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.

  • Artist: Pee Wee, Fred, & Maceo
  • Album: The J.B. Horns (1990)
  • Track: Mother’s Kitchen
  • Instrument: Alto Sax

Enjoy!

@SDartSax