Promises is another tune from Doctorfunk’s album “Second Opinion”. This one was written by Jack Halsey, our lead trumpet player, horn arranger, and musical director. It’s a slow funk groove with a great feel to it.
Alexey Nikolaev turns in another great solo on this one, with both fills around the verses as well as a feature solo as well. I love the intervallic work he does during the solo, both up in the altissimo range, but also down to the bottom end of the horn. It really gives the solo some nice contrast and feels unexpected.
When we recorded “What’s Up Doc?”, we had a fairly long ride out at the end. The band was vamping over the groove and the background vocals.
We decided to have Bob blow a tenor solo over the ride out. Alexey had the feature solo during the tune, but rather than have him play a second solo, it felt like a good opportunity to give Bob some time.
Bob and Alexey are both killer players, and I’ve learned a ton standing next to them night after night. But they are also diametrically opposed. While Alexey’s strength comes from his technical prowess, Bob is all style and delivery. Although he’s a tenor player, he reminds me a lot of Maceo Parker in that regard.
It turns out, this is exactly what the tune needed to fill the void at the end. Not pyrotechnics, but soul. And Bob delivers. He starts off very reserved. Finding the gaps and filling them in tastefully. The phrasing is beautiful, and he builds some nice lines as the song vamps and fades.
Bob left Doctorfunk a year or so ago when he had to undergo the same jaw surgery that I’m now recovering from. He comes and sits in with us occasionally, so it’s great to know that recovery is possible, and that I should be able to play again. Bob’s my hero!
What’s Up Doc? is a song I wrote as a tribute to Doc Kupka, of Tower of Power fame. As a baritone sax player, he’s obviously been a huge influence on me, and he’s also provided tremendous support to Doctorfunk over the years.
We worked with Jeff Tamalier (former TOP guitarist) to produce this album, and he continued to work with Doc through Strokeland records. Jeff had Doc record a bunch of his witty sayings to pepper in throughout the recording which make it even more fun.
This is Alexey Nikolaev’s tenor solo from the album. When I wrote the tune, I knew I wanted a tenor solo reminiscent of classic Tower of Power and Lenny Pickett. I didn’t even have to tell Alexey this, the first time he played the solo (and every time since then), he’s nailed it every time, and this recording is no exception.
I was in the studio when he recorded it. He did a few takes just to give us a few options to choose from at mix time, but they were all perfect. He’s a real pro, and a monster player, as you can tell from the solo!
The solo comes roaring out of the gates at the break over the bari walk up (hey, that’s me!) I like how Alexey builds tight four-bar phrases. The second four really knock me out with his use of chromatic bebop-flavored lines and precise rhythmic delivery. The ending is off the charts!
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…
P.S. I updated the PDF to include both parts 1 and 2 of the solo, covering the whole track from start to finish. The video above is only part 1, stay tuned for part 2!
Since Prince passed away three months ago, I’ve posted nothing but transcriptions from his catalog. As enjoyable and therapeutic as this has been for me, I think it’s time to move on. So this will be my last Prince “tribute” transcription…for a while anyway. I’ll start changing it up.
But what a track to end on! This one takes some explanation. This track was recorded by Prince with Sheryl Crow on Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. Maceo took these exact backing tracks and replaced the lead lines with his own playing. Presumably, he did this with Prince’s close collaboration. Maceo is credited as performing on the original track, but he doesn’t play a solo. This track is one long Maceo solo!
I can’t think of any other examples of artists collaborating this way, but who wouldn’t do this given the chance?? I think it’s a great idea for a mash-up/re-mix. The possibilities are endless.
The track itself is hidden – it’s not listed on the liner notes for Maceo’s album. You have to skip past seventeen seconds of silence at the end of the “Homeboy” track to the 6:05 mark when “Baby Knows” starts. I wonder if this is due to some copyright issue, or the fact that Prince and Maceo are on different record labels?
The track itself is super fun to play, and pretty easy both to play and transcribe. There are a ton of falls notated, but they are barely even lip falls. Maceo plays these very subtly, just letting the breath support fall away to give the fall effect.
I don’t think I’ve posted anything from the Mo’ Roots album. I look at this as a transitional album for Maceo, where he was really starting to establish himself as a solo artist. More importantly, it’s pretty much a straight ahead jazz album. I feel as though he was trying to expand people’s thinking about what kind of music he was capable of.
This is a very straight forward tune – a hard-swinging version of the classic Lionel Hampton big band song from the forties. Maceo himself was still a toddler when this song was popular, but he does a great rendition here.