Posts tagged: tenor saxophone

Vocabulary

By , August 8, 2020 12:07 am

I’ve been talking with students about the use of vocabulary, “licks”, and learned musical sentences in improvisation in 20th century Black American Music.  If we compare music to visual art, I think sometimes it can be helpful to practice improvisation more like creating a collage than trying to paint something completely new on a blank canvas – taking previously discovered melodies and ideas and arranging them in interesting ways.  I’ve been focusing a bit more on some old vocabulary for my own playing, and trying to put it together, doing my best to avoid running through patterns and focusing specifically on melodies.  Here’s a little sample of that from some car practice I was doing a while ago (in the days of Covid, and everyone working from home, it seemed like the courteous thing to do).  Hope you like it!


 

Transcription Clip – Joe Henderson, “Song For my Father”

By , February 12, 2020 8:22 pm

When I was 15 my family went to Berkeley CA to visit my brother at college, and the Tower Records store there had a CD called “The Best Blue Note Album Ever”, a double-disc compilation.

I was getting into jazz/BAM at the time but I don’t think I knew what Blue Note was. I bought the CDs. Track 2 was Blue Train (I would mostly just listen to the first 15 seconds of Coltrane’s solo) and Track 1 was this song: Song For my Father, with the great Joe Henderson on saxophone. Kenny Garrett said that 2 musicians who always sounded to him like they were playing the blues no matter what the musical situation was were Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Henderson. I think about that, especially when I listen to this solo. So funky.

 

Transcription Clip: Shanice, “I Love Your Smile”

By , September 11, 2019 12:48 pm

I learned this short solo for fun for my wife a little while ago after we put the song on our wedding playlist, but lost the video on a broken phone!  I decided to try it again and put it up here.  After a little bit of research, I discovered the saxophonist is the great Branford Marsalis, which is a fun bit of trivia!  Without diving into discussions about tone, there’s some of the ornamentations and style here that point to a lot of saxophonists that would be considered Smooth Jazz, and it would be interesting to get more into that language, just for my own knowledge if nothing else.


 

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Transcription Clip: John Coltrane, “I Hear a Rhapsody”

By , February 20, 2019 3:37 pm

Playing Alto Saxophone exclusively when I was studying in college means that most of my knowledge is still pretty deeply related to that voice; I didn’t learn songs or jazz solos in all keys (which I should have), and for most of my time as a musician I heard ideas on alto rather than on tenor.

Because of that history, I have been energized recently by learning jazz standards on tenor in addition to continuing to transcribe tenor saxophonists, and it is especially fun to work on Coltrane.  Even though I’ve listened to him quite a bit and learned 1 or 2 of his solos on alto, studying his playing while actually playing tenor opens up so much, and it’s great to actually play those Coltrane idioms I’ve heard for so long (or at least try to imitate them!). This clip is rough, with plenty of things I still need a lot of work on, but I’m really enjoying it so I thought I would post it here!

 

Transcription Clip: Melissa Aldana, “Free Fall”

By , December 14, 2018 12:08 pm

 

 

 

This clip is from a solo from Aldana’s first album, released in 2010.  I’ve really gotten into her playing the last couple of months for a few particular reasons.  I think she’s one of the tenor players currently on the scene that really explores changing tone and expression while executing technical ideas at the same time.  She openly holds up Sonny Rollins as a really big influence for that approach, so her music has also led me back to Sonny, which of course is inspiring as well!

 

 

 

 

 

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!)

 

 

 

 

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