John Scofield, Hottentot

Hottentot - A Go Go

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Download the PDF: Concert, GuitarBass Clef, Bb, Eb

Hottentot, written by John Scofield and performed by John Scofield with Medeski Martin and WoodJohn Medeski, Keys; John Scofield, Guitar; Billy Martin, Drums; and Chris Wood, Bass. From the Album A Go Go, released 1997 by the Verve Music Group.

John Scofield sounds like no other guitarist I’ve ever heard, and the guy’s got some badass chops.  This solo is a testament to his seemingly endless creativity and flare for holding a listener’s attention, so we’re talking about the whole deal right here.  The entirety of this album is 200% listenable from start to finish so I recommend checking it out–it’s a collaboration between Scofield and “wide open” improvisers Medeski Martin and Wood.

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Bennie Wallace, Straight No Chaser

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(Clip starts at mm 36 of the transcription which is the start of the solo)

Download the Transcription: Bb

*I can’t seem to find my original Finale file for this transcription.  I’m in the process of creating a new one so that I can provide Eb, Concert pitch and bass clef versions of the solo; hopefully in the next few days.

This Bennie Wallace solo from the album Bennie Wallace Plays Monk is quite a unique approach to the blues form.  Quite honestly I don’t even know where to begin analyzing this solo in terms of harmonic language; this solo is far different from anything other I’ve looked at.  Bennie is clearly influenced by Monk in his use of harmony, interval jumps and even phrasing. In a few spots he is definitely basing his lines (or at least parts of his phrases) around certain intervals – typically starting low on the horn and jumping up by 6ths, 7ths, 8ths or 9ths.  A lot of the solo is “out” with respect to the chord changes which has a great tension building effect.  Bennie eases the tension a few times by hinting at a resolution to the 3rd of the I7 chord (see mm 83, 107-108, 217).

Starting around mm 145 the bass drops out making it a drum/sax duet.  This section builds to a frenzy with more frequent octave leaps (mm 151, 158, 163, 165, 173 etc…) and  more 16th note lines and flurries of notes up until the bass comes back in at mm 205.  Bennie counterbalances the frantic nature of the duet section by holding out a nice long G for three beats in mm 205 which brings the tension back down and leads to the end of Bennie’s solo.

I really wish I could provide the full solo for you to listen to because it is insanely awesome. Please check out Bennie’s website and pick up this track on Amazon or iTunes.  Definitely worth it to get some different ideas on the blues.

Ingrid Jensen, Transit

***Download the PDF: Bb, Concert, Alto, Bass Clef

(Ingrid’s solo starts at 2:48)

First of all, I’d like to send a quick shout-out to Darcy James Argue, who wrote this award winning (Charlie Parker Composition Award, 2004) piece, and is the leader of currently my favorite big band record, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Infernal Machines, on which this Ingrid solo is lifted. I am constantly inspired by Darcy’s music, and he is a big influence on my own big band writing.

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Ben Goldberg, Blind Paper Dragon

Ben Goldberg–photo by John Rudoff

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Download the PDF: Concert, Bass Clef, Bb, Eb, A

Blind Paper Dragon, written by Carla Kihlstedt and performed by: Tin Hat (Ara Anderson, Trumpet; Ben Goldberg, Clarinet; Carla Kihlstedt, Violin; Mark Orton, Dobro; Zeena Parkins, Harp).  From the album ‘The Sad Machinery of Spring,’ released 2012 by Hannibal/Ryodisk.


So I love listening to and transcribing solos that break lots of rules–and although rule-breaking isn’t a new concept in music (or any other creative activity for that matter), I like to think that it’s largely responsible for the generation of new musical material and original ideas in general.  Ben Goldberg breaks lots of rules in this solo, but for as far out as he goes there’s always a strong indication that he knows where the key center/next downbeat is.  It’s uncanny, really.  And as musically aware Ben must have been to play these killer lines, in an email Ben told me: “I took a nap in the studio and then just walked out in a daze and played that — I didn’t want to be thinking about it too much.” Continue reading

Ben Webster, Cottontail

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Download the Transcription: BbEbCBass Clef

Today’s post is a short and sweet Ben Webster solo over Duke Ellington’s rhythm changes tune “Cottontail.” Ben uses a fair amount of repetition to develop his ideas through the solo. In mm. 1-4 he repeats the rhythm while stepping down chromatically each repetition. Each bridge has an idea that he repeats throughout each chord change (mm. 17-23 and 49-56).

Measures 33-40 act almost like an interlude between choruses even though the form doesn’t change. This is also a great example repetition. Each time he repeats the motiv he moves up higher in the register which, along with the diminished sound, creates a ton of tension and a very nice peak to the solo.

This was a slightly challenging solo to transcribe because it is such an old recording and some parts of the solo are very hard to hear because they get covered up by the brass hits. I think the transcription is pretty accurate, but I might be off in some of those spots.

Trombone Shorty, Backatown


Download the PDF: Bass Clef, Concert, Bb, Eb

Rhythm. What can be more definitive in music? Rhythm is what drives music forward, particularly in music that derived from African roots like jazz. Trombone Shorty knows all about rhythm. He’s one of those New Orleans guys who never really shook that New Orleans attitude in his playing (thankfully). Trombone Shorty’s playing on this track especially, is derived from New Orleans Brass Band trombone playing. He approaches his solo very rhythmically, and doesn’t vary the notes he uses hardly at all. I think he steps outside the notes of the Eb minor pentatonic scale maybe once in this entire solo. The information is not in the note choice, but in the rhythmic development. Continue reading

Joe Locke, The Lost Lenore

Download the PDF: concert pitch, Bb, Eb, Bass Clef

The Lost Lenore“, written by Joe Locke and performed by The Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group featuring: Joe Locke (vibes), Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Mike Pope (bass), and Terreon Gully (drums).  From the album Signing released April 2012 by Motéma Music.


This is a really, really cool tune, and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to transcribe a solo that also has video, which we can include in full on the site.  So cool of Joe to let us share this with all of you, and congratulations to him on the release of his new album (click the image to navigate to his online store).

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Bob Reynolds, Vultures (Live)

Download the transcription: BbEbCBass

I’ve always been more of a straight ahead/bebop kind of player and since my main gig is with a pop band I’ve been looking towards some more pop oriented influences to help myself feel more comfortable soloing in that style.  The real lesson in this transcription is in the inflections, articulation and use of grace notes; I think that is really what makes this style come alive so to speak.  I tried my best to notate some of the more distinct articulations and grace notes, but you really are going to have to spend a lot of time just listening and following along with the transcription to pick up on these things.

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Confessions To My Unborn Daughter, Ambrose Akinmusire

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Download the PDF: Bb, Concert, Alto, Bass, Clef

Ambrose. My newest obsession on the trumpet. It took me months before I could remember his name “uhh…it’s this long name and starts with A, but he’s ridiculous!” but I’m sure I’ll never forget it. Ambrose is the perfect mix of math and emotion. Right when you think he’s lost you in a solo, he reels you back in with a sweet, warm melody, or just a straight up funky blues lick. Ambrose’s sound is mesmerizing. It’s always the first thing you hear, the sound of the instrument. Before all the licks, and all the “finger flapping” as Ambrose so humbly (he’s clearly full of it) calls it, you hear the sound. Just the pure sound of the instrument. Your sound is the #1 most important thing in your playing. It might sound weird, but I truly believe that. How can you tell when it’s Miles? It’s that sound. Dizzy? Louis? Clifford? Same thing. It’s their individual sounds, sometimes brittle, other times hypnotic, that make you go “No doubt about it, that’s Lee Morgan.” Continue reading

Rob Burger and Carla Kihlstedt, Fear of the South

(Mark Orton, Carla Kihlstedt, Rob Burger)

(accordion solo begins at 1:20, violin at 2:22)

Download the PDF: Concert, Bass Clef, Bb, Eb

Fear of the South, written by Mark Orton and performed by: Tin Hat Trio (Mark Orton, Dobro; Carla Kihlstedt, violin; Rob Burger, Accordion).  From the album ‘The Rodeo Eroded,’ released 2002 by Ropeadope Digital.


This is one of my favorite tunes on the album for its cleverness, lopsided time signature, and killer solos!  Rob Burger absolutely tears it up and Carla Kihlstedt swoops in and picks right up where he leaves off, both of them navigating 5/4 time like it’s their respective jobs.  Which it is.  So there you go.  This tune has a very simple chord progression and A/B form which balances out the quirky time signature–and the tuba does a very clever hemiola bassline in the B sections (mm. 17-18, 21-22, 49-54) that’s just charming as hell, and really caught me off guard ten times I listened to it.  The combination of simplicity, innovative quirks and killer playing epitomizes the impression I get from this whole album, so if you like this track I STRONGLY suggest buying the whole album.

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