Continuing on my Blues Brothers kick with another “Blue” Lou Marini solo. This is short, but its a doozy! I transcribed this back in high school. It played an integral role in the development of my upper register, which I’m now learning all over again. I almost posted this with no video, but I decided to tough it out and work it up (as best as I can right now).
The first part of the solo is very cool. The timing is amazing to me, it’s way behind the beat, but somehow keeps it together without dragging. Lou relies on the 9th and 13ths a lot for harmonic color.
The last four bars are pretty tough for me right now. High Ab has always been the hardest altissimo note to hit consistently. The best fingering I can come up with is LH:1,3 + RH: 1, middle side key, and D# key. For B and C# I overblow D and E respectively.
The hardest part I have with my surgery recovery is control. Keeping the note from getting away from me and going too high is the challenge. The numbness makes it hard to get the feedback I need. But it’s a work in progress. A month or two ago I couldn’t get above high F at all.
More Blues Brothers! This time, a solo from the legendary “Blue” Lou Marini. Lou is such a distinctive player. His sound and his approach are instantly recognizable. For someone who is so highly regarded as a Blues/R&B player, his approach is much more ‘outside’ than you would expect (harmonically)
This solo is no exception. It opens with a minor third trill from the 5 to the flat 7. He bends up from the flat 5 to create tension. I chose to write it out, because it’s very even in time, and transitions so smoothly into the next line, I struggled find any other way to notate it. How many of us have started an idea with a trill like that only to get stuck with no way out of it? Lou shows how it’s done here, developing an idea and building it into a phrase that leads into the four chord.
The four chord of the first chorus is a good example of his harmonic approach, which is built on the extensions. He’s playing a line around the 5th and 7th, so it’s firmly rooted in the chord, but the other notes are the 9th and 11th.
The feel is also very different from Tom Malone’s solos, which are very on top of the beat. Lou plays with the time quite a bit and often sits on the back end of the beat.
This is another transcription that will have to wait for a video from me. My high chops are out of commission while I’m recovering from surgery, and Lou does a lot of very tricky altissimo work right across the break, which is hard for me to pull off accurately right now.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
Maceo to the rescue again! This week has been crazy – traveling cross-country with a bad head cold all week, busy at work, and gigs this weekend. I was able to scrape together one hour to practice this week, so here is the result, a transcription from my archives that I spent a few minutes working up…
Margie is a Ray Charles song that Maceo performed on the Roots and Grooves set, which is basically a Ray Charles tribute show recorded with a live big band. Maceo sang on many of the tunes, like this one, so we only hear him play over the solo.
It’s a tasty solo – not too hard to get the basic mechanics right once you sit and listen to the rhythms, but there’s a lot of nuance to pick out if you can devote the time. I maybe hit 50% of it, but it was the best I could muster this week. Hopefully I can shake this cold and get back in to the swing of things shortly.