Posts tagged: tenor saxophone

Paul Gonsalves Continued

By , September 20, 2018 12:05 pm

Some more Paul Gonsalves from Diminuendo in Blue.  I really like the mix of traditional and modern (at least to my ears) in his playing.  The last chorus on this clip gets me every time!

 

Paul Gonsalves

By , August 10, 2018 4:51 pm

I have a new project! I’m not sure how long I will last but I have begun working on Paul Gonsalves’ famous 27 choruses on “Diminuendo in Blue” from Duke Ellington’s 1956 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

There is a lot of backstory surrounding this performance, none of which I can verify as true or false: the band’s financial struggles and drop in popularity leading up to 1956, a cultural and generational clash at the festival between older patrons and a newer and younger crowd, Ellington’s clashes with the rowdier members of his band (Gonsalves included), and the story of one energetic young woman that began dancing in front of the band and (according to legend) reenergized the band and their set.

Regardless, the solo is really fun and incredible, and it’s a good showcase for Gonsalves’ style, which I think is really underrated. His technique his totally unique, sliding between notes with an articulation that nobody else I’ve heard has, and that kind of hides how modern a lot of his ideas are. To me, Gonsalves has a really modern vocabulary but his tone and vibrato are really expressive and kind of old-school; its not super crisp and clean like a lot of saxophonists during his time or after. Check out the songs “Happy Reunion” and “In Triplicate” for some other examples, but there are plenty of others from his time with Duke!

This style adds to the challenge of transcribing, as it’s really hard to nail that sliding approach down! Still, it’s just the beginning and I did my best, so here’s the first 3 choruses, warts and all!

Junior Walker

By , July 11, 2018 7:20 pm

My earliest memory of “Shotgun” by Junior Walker & the All Stars doesn’t actually involve the song, exactly.  I remember watching the Cosby Show with my family a lot as a kid, and I thought, when I was younger, that “Shotgun” was the theme song, at least for a couple of seasons.  As it turns out, it was a really a similar sounding song by Craig Handy called “Kiss Me”, but that confusion goes to show how iconic a song “Shotgun” is.

It’s been used in TV, movies, and everywhere in between, and in addition Junior Walker is one of the greatest Rhythm and Blues saxophonists of all time (as well as one of the first musicians my fiance and I connected over), so it was about time I dig into Walker a little deeper.  It helped that Walker’s birthday came around recently, and my friend, record collector/A&R Man/Super Supporter of Soul Music Colton Thomas (who I interviewed on the blog here) hit me up to suggest a little transcription in honor of the occasion.  This intro is just a start, and a work in progress; my first reaction to learning it was surprise that I haven’t had to learn flutter tonguing until now!  Here’s to filling more holes in my technique and learning new things!

 

King Curtis

By , June 13, 2018 11:36 pm

A little yakety sax for your Thursday!

One of my grandmothers had a bunch of old records that she would let me look through, and one of them was a Boots Randolph album.  Randolph was famous for the record entitled “Yakety Sax”, the title tune of which became the Benny Hill theme song and was used in many other tv commercials and themes, but I only remember listening to Randolph’s version of “Moon River”, which I would play on my grandma’s record player over and over.

Much, much later I would discover one of Randolph’s contemporaries and the soloist that influenced his “Yakety Sax” composition:  King Curtis.  Although I didn’t know his name when I was younger, I had in fact heard Curtis’ playing already; he was Aretha Franklin’s bandleader for years and was a mainstay session musician for Atlantic Records.

I didn’t know anything about King Curtis until college.  Thanks to Professor Larry Starr’s class on mid-20th century Popular Music, I listened to Curtis’ solos on recordings by the Coasters.  “Yakety Yak” was the first one I heard, and the first time I really thought about that type of playing as a unique and specialized style of playing the saxophone.  Since then I’ve heard it referenced in various ways:  “Texas Tenor”, “Ballads and Blues Tenor”, or just “Rhythm & Blues Saxophone” (although each of these labels encompass a LOT more of their own characteristics).  I’ve even heard “yakety sax” as a term for this style!

Since then, I’ve listened to a bit more of King Curtis, especially his album Live at the Fillmore West, but there’s a lot more out there.  Here’s a transcription of Curtis’ solo on “Yakety Yak” to give you a taste:

 

Transcription

By , May 18, 2018 11:53 pm

Hey all,

I’ve already posted this on my other social media platforms, but here is a bit of a sequel to my previous transcription post, another David Fathead Newman solo off of the Genius of Ray Charles album, from the tune “Deed I Do”:

Once again, you can check out a little description if you click on the youtube link, but in general it has been really informative and inspiring to get into how freely Newman plays with rhythm.  Also, this solo really gives you a sense of how wonderful Newman’s tone was, especially the beginning of the solo in which he restates the vocal melody (you really should listen to the actual recording for that, though.  I’m just a vague imitation!)

 

 

 

 

Transcription

By , May 4, 2018 9:48 am

 

Hi all!

I think a lot of you have already seen me post this clip elsewhere, but I thought I would put it up here as well.

I would like to get more in the habit of posting video of what I’m playing/working on; just short informal bits, nothing too intense.  This is the first in that effort, so tell me what you think!  

If you’re interested, click the youtube link on the video and read the description for my quick thoughts on this solo and why I’m interested in it at the moment!

Art

Saxophone Siblings

By , April 15, 2018 4:48 pm

I started playing music by learning clarinet when I was 9.  I had 2 cassette tapes:  one of Swing clarinetist Benny Goodman and one of saxophonist Kenny G.  That ended up being the only Kenny G music I had, but I did go on to get several Benny Goodman tapes after that.

I then went on to listen to more and more jazz, and by the time I was 13, when I had the opportunity to play in Jazz Band at school, I was excited to play this music.  At the time, however, the band did not allow clarinets, so if I wanted to join I had to play the saxophone.  

I don’t remember being disappointed about it, and in fact I think I was excited to learn this instrument that was in so much of the music I listened to, so I was given an old Alto Saxophone from one of my cousins and things kind of took off after that.  I’ve been playing alto ever since.

After college, I bought a Tenor Saxophone from an old friend and would play it by myself sometimes, but never really worked with it; all of my gigs were on alto, and I considered myself an alto player.

Then one day Scott Morning recommended me for a new band, and assured the members that I did, in fact, play tenor (although at the time he didn’t know for sure!)  That was my introduction to Polyrhythmics.

As Polyrhythmics continues to move forward each year, I have deepened my commitment to being a better tenor player.  Although the 2 instruments are closely related, they really do require different things, and most importantly the voices are distinct and very different from each other.  

It’s difficult to maintain a balance, because I never want to stop playing alto.  It’s where I began and I still feel like it’s an important voice to me.  But I think some of the difficulties I’ve had lately (that I hinted at in my last post) come from an underdeveloped voice on tenor saxophone.  After all, I have 20 years of playing alto to try to catch up on if I really want to strike a balance.

As I said, alto will always be a part of me, and I will continue to use it as a primary voice in Theoretics, as a well as a part of my sound in Unsinkable Heavies.  But I am also excited to expand and explore tenor sax more seriously in the years to come!

 

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