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Back again for another wonderful month. This time I wanted something very understated and simple. So here's the feature song from the movie Mo' Better Blues written by Bill Lee. Always loved this one, and was reminded when doing this almost a year ago that Taragot said this would make a great B&I TOTM!


Showing Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington acting, but this is performed by Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard on tenor and trumpet respectively.

Here's a great take from Jay Metcalf playing over his own track


I hope everyone can slow down and knock out some stellar solos over this beautifully simple track. Here's some lead sheets and backing tracks (one was altered to the key of F using audacity)
 

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Alrighty, putting a baseline up before my month gets crazy*. So, you know I like to write... I think of Spike Lee as Bill's kid, not the other way around. Bill Lee was the bassist on my favorite Clifford Jordan record, Glass Bead Games. Half the record features Jordan's regular band, Cedar Walton/Sam Jones/Billy Higgins, and if I told you that band was featured on the weaker tracks on the album, you'd probably thing I was crazy. Stanley Cowell and Bill Lee fill out the rhythm section (along with Higgins) on the album's best songs. My regular bassist loves this album as much as I do (we've talked about re-recording the whole album as a tribute, but man, that music is HARD!), and turned me on to the She's Gotta Have It soundtrack (also penned by Lee). The movie was a bit of let down IMHO, but man, this sure is a nice tune. Forgot to add, this tune reminds me of Taj Majal's band from the early-70s (w/Howard Johnson), and for me, that's a happy place.

I used BIAB to create a backing that felt right-ish, and used Branford's harmony line from the film, adding a low-end harmony line for the bari.

Self-analysis: The feel of all three horns is the same, because I'm one guy. This is not really my genre, so I'm a bit of a fish out of water (the poppy/bluesy feel). It was fun to play alto, but there is clearly one horn here that I'm FAR more comfortable on of the three. Even given what I said about the parts being too similar, on the trading choruses, I really tried to build off of what each prior voice played. I'm hopeful I can work this and revisit it again before the month is over.

Mo' Better Blues baseline recording

*Month of February is always a challenge because for the past... 15?... sounds right... years, I have participated in the RPM Challenge. Started by a local arts newspaper in the mid-oughts, the challenge is to record an album start-to-finish (10 songs or 35 minutes) all in the month of February. It is okay to write the material ahead of time, but recording MUST happen in February. This year my old quartet is basically getting together and we're doing a bunch of my tunes (it has to be all original material) for the disc. Unfortunately, given Covid and other issues, we won't be in the same room for most of it. Friday, the drummer and hopefully the bassist will come by. I will have to have some stuff ready for them to play to get those tracks down. The bassist will likely come by another time, as well. The trombonist is in Florida and will be recording remotely. Needless to say this will be quite the logistical challenge and I will probably lose a lot more hair before the end of the month. So, apologies in advance if I'm less of a participant this month.

If you're interested in partaking of the challenge yourself, you can learn more here: RPM Challenge
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Alrighty, putting a baseline up before my month gets crazy*. So, you know I like to write... I think of Spike Lee as Bill's kid, not the other way around. Bill Lee was the bassist on my favorite Clifford Jordan record, Glass Bead Games. Half the record features Jordan's regular band, Cedar Walton/Sam Jones/Billy Higgins, and if I told you that band was featured on the weaker tracks on the album, you'd probably thing I was crazy. Stanley Cowell and Bill Lee fill out the rhythm section (along with Higgins) on the album's best songs. My regular bassist loves this album as much as I do (we've talked about re-recording the whole album as a tribute, but man, that music is HARD!), and turned me on to the She's Gotta Have It soundtrack (also penned by Lee). The movie was a bit of let down IMHO, but man, this sure is a nice tune. Forgot to add, this tune reminds me of Taj Majal's band from the early-70s (w/Howard Johnson), and for me, that's a happy place.

I used BIAB to create a backing that felt right-ish, and used Branford's harmony line from the film, adding a low-end harmony line for the bari.

Self-analysis: The feel of all three horns is the same, because I'm one guy. This is not really my genre, so I'm a bit of a fish out of water (the poppy/bluesy feel). It was fun to play alto, but there is clearly one horn here that I'm FAR more comfortable on of the three. Even given what I said about the parts being too similar, on the trading choruses, I really tried to build off of what each prior voice played. I'm hopeful I can work this and revisit it again before the month is over.
This is quite the awesome arrangement you set up! Love the low end harmony coming in. You perfectly mix in some awesome jazzy licks with a some great soulful bluesy sounds in the alto solo. But I can tell you definitely felt more comfortable on Bari and Tenor, the solo was even more soulful :). The trades were fantastic! Especially love the alternate fingering part where the tenor takes over right where the alto leaves off. I also really love the work from Bill Lee, but mostly focus on this movie soundtrack. Great work on this, glad you could get one together.


My number zero take, quick and dirty:

Great choice on the subtoning Bari. Really made the head sing here. Love the subtone/reverb mix as well. Felt like you really could feel the vibe of this tune. You've got a great approach to this style of tune and your solo definitely told an interesting tale :D. Awesome quick take!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
https://soundcloud.com/user-805266588%2Fmo-better-blues
Here's a quick one from me, maybe to drum up a bit more interest! I've been working to channel some Branford (hence the head). Let me know how thats working out :D.

And definitely welcome to hear more takes! Hope everyone can get a great recording in here!
 

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Thank you for suggesting this tune, Jared! I found it a lot harder than expected to give it a natural flow. Hope to get another version up this month.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you for suggesting this tune, Jared! I found it a lot harder than expected to give it a natural flow. Hope to get another version up this month.
Nicely done Dirk! Felt so smooth throughout this one! Love your sound here too. It's definitely flowing well through you - doesn't sound like it was hard all :D. You made this quite the beautiful piece. (Great mix too). (Also love the A Cappella ending!)
 

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Heared all your very nice tracks - some short comments:

@Jared: liked both tracks, the wonderful pure and "unexcited" sound of the first alto recording a bit more than the tenor version (I think, my preference is only a mixing or recording thing, there are some muffeled or boxed sounding tones)
@BayviewSax: Great that you implemented the very important background lines to your track. I'm not shure about all your notes. I think Branford goes first (concert) c-d-eb and then d-c-bb (you did f-e-d, no?, which get's a bit in the way of the bluesy eb). Low voice and impro sound very nice!
@guido: I did not think that bari would work with that song but it worked GREAT in your own special version.
@Alex: That sweet soprano!!!!! I was thinking about going a bit in that sound direction before - and your recording gives me exactly that sweet jazzy sound I was hearing inside. I fear my setup is too bright for that but I'll try to play along with your track later
@madav: Very nice!
"it's never as straightforward as I think" ;) - I was thinking the same when I listened to my track, but your's feels very straight, natural and easy to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Heared all your very nice tracks - some short comments:

@Jared: liked both tracks, the wonderful pure and "unexcited" sound of the first alto recording a bit more than the tenor version (I think, my preference is only a mixing or recording thing, there are some muffeled or boxed sounding tones)
Thats very valuable feedback, thanks so much Dirk! I've been playing with mic layout and recording settings. The tenor recording is about 4 ft away from the mic, and has the Mic Shield. I took the shield off last night for my practice and actually think I like it more. Notes seem to have more clarity without it, must have had some bouncing soundwaves inside the shield. I also think I was just a bit too far away from the mic, so I'll be trying some repositioning
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Well I’m here to party…….🤠


You’ll have to imagine a fade out:ROFLMAO:
Thats an awesome track you laid down! Laid back but still lively! Hard feeling to accomplish. Your playing is sublime, Love the interchange between the Soprano and Tenor. I was feeling the 90s studio sax vibes for sure. Actually reminded me of the intro to the sitcom Full House at one point. Great to invoke so much in one short playthrough! (Also, the imagined fadeout is hard to fit in there - just wanted it to keep going ;). )

and here's my stab at it..

https://soundcloud.com/madav%2Fmo-better-blues-hibikki9-rig-25sb
it's never as straightforward as I think
Always great to hear your pure tenor sound. Gorgeous tone, And I love the straight notes without vibrato, it's a struggle to avoid the vibrato sometimes for me, so very nice to hear it played cleanly! The slow start on the solo really lays the tone to build into it, and then the second chorus starts taking off and I was definitely loving it! Killer lines and well laid. Love the way you accent things in between your long runs. Great playing!
 

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I dunno how long I did not touch my alto - tried to get my tenor sound right (with mixed results). Today I suddenly felt the need to try alto again and liked it a lot! Perhaps this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship....
 

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Thats very valuable feedback, thanks so much Dirk! I've been playing with mic layout and recording settings. The tenor recording is about 4 ft away from the mic, and has the Mic Shield. I took the shield off last night for my practice and actually think I like it more. Notes seem to have more clarity without it, must have had some bouncing soundwaves inside the shield. I also think I was just a bit too far away from the mic, so I'll be trying some repositioning
Yes, perhaps a combination of being to far from the mic and some effects from the shield. Some notes (b for example and some solo second octave tones , but didn't check with an instrument) stand out soundwise - like a sort of vocoder effect (sounds cool in a way). And this is shurely somewhere the recording process, not in your playing!
But I listened only with my laptop speakers, so this could be a factor, too.
 

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Always great to hear your pure tenor sound. Gorgeous tone, And I love the straight notes without vibrato, it's a struggle to avoid the vibrato sometimes for me, so very nice to hear it played cleanly! The slow start on the solo really lays the tone to build into it, and then the second chorus starts taking off and I was definitely loving it! Killer lines and well laid. Love the way you accent things in between your long runs. Great playing!
thanks for the kind words, always difficult following Alex (!) I've been trying to strip things back to the 'essence' tone wise, and in the process learning a lot about how to record the sound. I like using the RE20, but find it requires a fair bit of discipline to not wobble around in from of the mike - difficult if I am struggling through the changes. This version was recorded using a Rohde NT2a, which has a sightly different tonal profile, but it is more forgiving regarding positioning
 

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Taking an RPM break (really waiting for some material from the bandmates to mix -- difficult recording separately, but that's the way it worked out this year).


J-Moen - from almost a year ago. It was interesting to watch you work into the improv. You could see you were locking in with the flow. On the head, the triplets seemed to throw you off a bit, but once you locked into the feel on the improv, it fit really well.

interest-drummer-upper-take. I like the ideas coming out, but want to hear them develop a bit more. Like, if you were to take the way you approached it at about 1:20-1:45, listen to that, and kind of pull it apart and see if you could work that into additional choruses that build off that, it feels like the flow would be great. The different choruses seemed disconnected from one another to my ear. The foundation is there, just needs a bit of sanding. ;)

guidocreo - First off, man, I love that sweater. Nice, mellow sound on the big horn -- perfectly offsets that busy electric bass. Thinking of the film, this reminds me of when he's working on the tune and thinking it through, like you're almost whispering the lines to yourself. Very cool.

Taragot - BIG tenor sound. Fat electric bass could be pushed back a bit. Really feels like your climbing the latter as the tune goes on; coming in low and building low and slow. Distinct Newk-ism around 1:20. Again around 1:55.

per your feedback - I listened to Branford's harmony, then wrote my own. I found a transcription (three, actually) and didn't agree with any of them, so I just knocked it around until it sounded right-ish to my ear. I've been trying to force myself to stay away from b3 and b5 on blues. It's brutal, and most of the time, I hate it, but it makes me play outside my comfort zone, so I do it.

alto. Man, that sounds right immediately. Some tunes just call for a particular horn, and your alto here is spot on. Funny how the little guy just grabs you from time-to-time, huh? Sometimes, it's just the right pick. This whole take is nice throughout.

Alex Nyman - Drawback of having such a great tenor sound, I can't even focus on the unemployment stick. :D Personal preference, I could do with less of the smooth trilling into notes, but when you do it, there's nothing accidental, you own it. Also fits the backing. Soprano solo is fine, but man, sure would have loved another chorus of that tenor. Tenor feature on the out chorus is nice.

madav - Nice, even tenor sound. I really appreciate how you seemed to avoid stock blues lines throughout. I mean, they're there, but you used them more as connectors. Nicely done.

Still unsure if I'll get a second take in on this, but it's on the calendar if I can make it happen.
 

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I don't know that I love what I did here--I listened to the song for the first time last night and decided to try to put it together today (because I don't know that I'll have time for the rest of the month). I feel like I hung around the tonic too much, maybe because I played it in Gb concert, but I'm happy with parts of the recording.

 

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I don't know that I love what I did here--I listened to the song for the first time last night and decided to try to put it together today (because I don't know that I'll have time for the rest of the month). I feel like I hung around the tonic too much, maybe because I played it in Gb concert, but I'm happy with parts of the recording.


Definitely swung it up! A lot different than the other versions, and that's good! Its delightfully yours. I would say I prefer to hear the long tone ring out a bit more in the melody, and think that would have sounded really good here.Love the art styling of your video, very creative and fun. Almost looks like the comic book art styling you see now in some movies. Your soloing flows well and I'm always happy if I can play a tonic solo like yours :). You venture a bit outside at times too it seemed, especially around 2/3s through. Great take Sam!
 
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