It’s recently been the 100th birthday of the legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker. Most musicians, and jazz enthusiasts know that he was (and still is) a huge influence on the music, but don’t necessarily understand why. I therefore decided to not only post a transcription of one of his solos, but take a closer look at what he actually plays so we can try and understand his genius (even if it’s just a little bit)!
Sonny Stitt’s Solo On “Elora” (Take 2) by J. J. Johnson
This is how I discovered the music of the great jazz saxophonist Sonny Stitt…
When I was fresh out of the Royal College, very young, and so very naive I arranged to have a sax lesson with the legendary American saxophonist Bob Mintzer whilst he was over in the UK on tour with his band the “Yellow Jackets”.
Back then I was still finding my feet with my jazz playing and if I think back to that lesson it makes me shudder! What on earth was I thinking?! Anyway, Bob was very kind to me in that lesson and actually he gave me some invaluable pointers.
Dexter Gordon’s Solo on “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Dorham
Dexter Gordon is undoubtedly one of the all time great jazz tenor saxophonists. His performing and recording career spanned some 40+ years, winning a Grammy, and even earning an Oscar nomination in the Best Lead Actor category for his role in the 1986 film “Round Midnight”.
From a learning perspective his solos can be a dream to transcribe thanks to their clarity, therefore making them ideal for the intermediate player. Dexter’s phrasing, use of space, and sense of time often give his playing an unhurried feel, and so his solos are great examples to try and emulate.
Are you looking to strengthen your jazz improvisation?
Building a “language” is invaluable if you want to become a convincing improviser, whatever the genre that you are interested in.
Bebop is undoubtedly the building blocks of jazz as we know it today and so at the bottom of this blog post is a pdf file for you to download and keep of 5 of my favourite jazz licks. They are by four of the greatest exponents of the idiom, namely Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, and Clifford Brown (Yes, a trumpet player. It’s extremely useful to transcribe solos by the masters that didn’t just play your instrument!).