This is the last track on the Close-Up album, track #10: Camel Island. For some reason I could have sworn that Sanborn had recorded this track before Close-Up, but after a little searching, I guess I was wrong. This song seems to have stuck around as one of his go-to classics, and I can see why. It has a very funky groove that is hard to categorize. Hints of jazz, latin, funk, and it manages to swing at times. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘fusion’ label, but I guess it is accurate.
This track is definitely challenging to play, but I also feel as though it’s attainable. There are a couple of tricky altissimo passages, and some fast flourishes, but overall I felt good about my performance. I’m breaking in some new reeds, and my lip was killing me from all of the altissimo or I would have done a few more takes to pick up a few of the lines that I messed up. It’s a real challenge finding reeds speak throughout the full range of the horn. For a transcription like this where you need to hit (and hold!) an altissimo D twice, you need a stiff reed, but it can’t be too hard or you’ll kill yourself playing everything else (like I did on these takes).
I noticed that my altissimo G is really flat on this one. I was using the long fingering almost exclusively (LH 1-3, RH 1 + SK 1). I’m used to that one being more stable (even though I still missed it in a few spots). On my new Conn, the short fingerings are more reliable, but my brain is accustomed to decades of avoiding them.
I like to think that the quality of the transcriptions on the back half of the album (all of which I did recently) are noticeably higher quality than the front half of the album (which I did in high school). Let me know what you think!
Continuing through the Close-Up album, this is track #9: You Are Everything. This is a beautiful soul ballad originally recorded by the Stylistics in 1971. Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye also released a version in 1974.
The great thing about transcribing an entire album is that it commits you to completing every track on that album. if I were picking and choosing, I would definitely have skipped a few because they were too hard. This is one of those tracks!
Ballads are always toughest to transcribe and play because of the intricacies of the timing. The subdivisions get really small. Unless you’re an excellent reader of complex rhythms, there’s no other way to learn it than to listen over and over, slow it down, and feel it. On faster songs I can just sight read and get by most of the time, but not on this stuff.
In addition to the rhythms, there’s a ton of hard altissimo as well as some tricky double time runs. I could definitely use a few more hours in the woodshed with this transcription. But I’m committing to putting out a new solo every week, which means some are less baked than others.
My schedule has been crazy this summer with a ton of travel and gigs, so I’m squeezing in transcriptions wherever I can!
P.S. I’m trying out the suit jacket look this week. I might stick with it for all future videos. I remember reading articles in the Saxophone Journal by both Lenny Pickett and David Liebman where they discussed the benefits of always wearing the same thing. That leaves you with one less thing to think and worry about (and more time for practice). If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me 🙂
Continuing through the Close-Up album, this is track #7: Pyramid.
This track was a lot of fun both to transcribe and to play. It’s a nice medium tempo tune with a funky pop-feel to it. The melody is laid back and beautiful with lots of sustained notes in the upper register.
This is a classic ‘guitar key’ song, with tons of sharps. Again, I didn’t really dig into the chords. He pretty much sticks to a G# ‘blues’ scale, mixing pentatonic and chromatic lines.
The double time runs are a lot of fun to play – they actually lie pretty nicely. That’s always the nice thing about transcribing for the horn that the solo was played on. I bet the lines are impossible to play on trumpet!
Lots of altissimo in this solo as well, including uncomfortable notes (for me) like G# and A#. Of course he goes up and down across the break very fluidly.
I was really worried about recording this one since it’s one long blow with no real breaks (I could barely turn my pages). It actually came together easier than I expected. I got about 80% on the first take, and 90% on the second take, so I called it good after that 🙂
Track #7 from the Close-Up album: Tough.
I can see where the track name came from – this solo is TOUGH! The melody is pretty straightforward (although there is a high G at the end of the A section), but the solo is anything but straightforward…
He plays a lot of figured that play off of the second and fourth sixteenths of the subdivision, giving some of lines almost a latin feel to them. Things start to get crazy in the ninth bar of the solo where everything is in the upper register. Fast syncopated, with large interval jumps all combine for some very tough passages (for me).
I realized after I posted the PDF that I didn’t really put down any chord changes once I got the key center figured out. For some reason these changes are very hard for me to hear, maybe it’s the timbre of the synths. I’ll keep working at it and post an update.
Continuing through the Close-Up album after my long detour into Prince’s catalog, this is track #6: Pyramid.
This track is an excellent workout for playing altissimo smoothly over the break. The opening line of the melody is a four-note motif starting on altissimo G and descending to F#, E, and down to B. There’s a variation which goes G-A-F#-E as well.
These figures happen no fewer than eight times in this track. I can play these figures reasonably well, but not well enough that I would write a tune built on them that I would have to record and play live hundreds of time! Although doing so would certainly be a forcing function for learning it better…
He plays an E minor pentatonic/blues scale pretty much exclusively throughout the track, but there are a couple of lines in this solo that really knock me out. I love. In the eight bar of his solo, he does a beautiful chromatic turnaround from the B7 to the E-7. Interestingly, he repeats the same pattern (not transposed) as a passing phrase over the D in the sixth bar of the second solo.
I also love the A-G-E-D 12 over 8 pattern that he uses to build into the climax of the first solo and again at the end of the fade. The rhythmic play works so well because he executes it perfectly!
FYI, this is the first transcription that I’ve done off of this album in over 25 years! The ones I posted previously were done when I was back in high school and only given a cursory once over as I transferred them from paper to Finale. That’s as far as I had transcribed into the album at the time. So from here on out these are all fresh! Hopefully you’ll notice an improvement in the quality of the transcriptions from old to new. If not, that either means I was perfect to begin with, or I haven’t learned anything in the past 25 years 🙂
Continuing through the Close-Up album, this is track #5 Same Girl. This is a short track – a beautiful ballad with no improvisation. It’s very straightforward to play, just a little tricky to follow since the time is loose.
For some reason, every time I hear this song I’m reminded of the theme song from the old 70’s Incredible Hulk show with Bill Bixby. As far as I can tell, there’s no relation between the two, but here’s a link so you can have a listen for yourself and be the judge.
This is the last of the ‘legacy’ transcriptions I did of this album in high school, so the rest of the transcriptions will be all new!
I’ll get to them as soon as I can. It’s been hard finding the time to transcribe and post regularly over the past month or so, but having this blog helps keep me motivated to practice even when I’m busy.
Continuing through the Close-Up album, this is track #4 Goodbye.
This fits nicely with the rest of the album – a down tempo track with another soaring melody line. The thing I like the most about this track is how Sanborn’s vibrato is perfectly in time and is so pronounced on the held notes during the ‘A’ section. It’s something that you don’t hear done very much, and it was very tough for me to match exactly.
The ‘B’ section is equally powerful – use lots of air! I wasn’t ready and I couldn’t make it through the first note. This section is a real workout!
Like the other tracks on the album, there’s a brief solo section, then a return to the melody and some more soloing on the ride out. Lots of altissimo, including a high D. I feel like it’s getting a little better, but I still need to work out some short fingerings that will make the high B-A-G-A run.
This is a continuation in my series of resurrected high school transcriptions. I found some glaring errors so I spent about 15 mintues fixing things up, but there are still big gaps (especially at the end). Hey, at least it’s free, right?!
Continuing through the Close-Up album, this is track #2: JT.
This is probably one of the hardest tracks on the album for me to play. There’s a ton of tricky altissimo passages that are right in the break between F-A (the hardest range for me to navigate fluidly).
This month has been a busy one for me, making it hard for me to hit my self-defined goal of posting one transcription per week. I did these Sanborn transcriptions back in High School (with pencil and paper!) Given my limited time, I quickly keyed them in to Finale, played through once or twice to fix the most egregious errors and then rolled tape.
The quality of the transcriptions that I did back then doesn’t meet my current bar for quality. I neglected to put in chord changes, I didn’t transcribe all the way to the end of the fade (I think I stopped when I got to the end of the page!), and there are occasionally multiple parts being played simultaneously that I didn’t capture. Not to mention little inaccuracies with notes and rhythms that I didn’t catch until playing them a few times.
I might need to do a ‘Take 2’ pass of these when I get more time. I could only find my written transcriptions for the first half of the album, so the second half will have to all be done from scratch. Hopefully you will notice an improvement in quality as I go!
Continuing through the Close-Up album, this is track #3 Lesley Ann. A really beautiful track with a soaring melody. There’s not a lot of soloing to this one, just melody, but it’s one of my favorite tracks from the album.
A brief editorial note – You may catch a small overdub in the video. As much as I try to get everything in one take, I don’t always have the time for that. Sometimes I’ll record longer or more difficult pieces in sections and choose the best takes for each section. In this case, there were no breaks in the track, and I blew one altissimo passage late in the track. So I grabbed the audio from another take to patch it up. But there are a few bars where the audio and video don’t line up well 🙂
A few weeks ago, I was reading a discussion on Facebook where someone asked what the best David Sanborn album was. They weren’t looking for the best solo, the best track, or an album that contained a few great tracks and a few filler ones. They wanted to know what people thought the best overall end-to-end album was. And the overwhelming majority said ‘Close Up’. I couldn’t agree more!
The production values sound a little dated now, but the playing is amazing. Whenever Marcus Miller is involved, you know it’s going to be good.
When I was in high school, I transcribed most of this album, and it’s how I learned altissimo on the alto. Since reading that discussion thread, I’ve gone back through my archives and dug up those old transcriptions. They needed a little work to get up to snuff (and so do my altissimo chops!)
Slam is the first cut of the album. The melody is simple yet powerful. You need a lot of air to deliver it with conviction the way Sanborn does. This track has some really crazy high parts that I’m not quite solid on, but I did my best.
Hopefully by the time I get around to posting all the tracks from this album, I’ll have a much better handle on the upper register of my alto with this new mouthpiece!