Category Archives: R&B

Santa’s Boots – sort of

BootsRWhat can put a sax-playing curmudgeon smack dab into the heart of the Christmas Spirit? That right, kiddies!  Transcribing an iconic tenor solo. What better to hear this season than Boots Randolph’s solo on Brenda Lee’s hit single “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”? None. Simply none.

Here it is. Rockin’ like that one-horse open sleigh going over the fields. Hot as chestnuts just off the open fire.

Brenda Lee was just 13 when she recorded this back in 1958! Boots was 31. Not until five years later did Boots record his famous “Yakety Sax.” And yes, he toured a bit with Elvis in the 60’s.

Here is a link to the transcription, if anyone cares to take a peek.   Rockin Tenor Sax

Marvin Gaye – isolated vocal

In studio recordings the whole should be better than the sum of its parts. Often listening to one isolated track is a disappointment – so much is missing; no support or context. There are certainly exceptions. Listen to this vocal-only track from Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” What fantastic time, pitch and inflection. So much groove and emotion. This is a treat, folks.

Everything New is Old Again

Gregory PorterGrammy nominee, Gregory Porter is a newer voice in jazz, with sounds deeply rooted in tradition. His combo is acoustic, straight-ahead and more than proficient, creating context and support for Gregory’s baritone voice. Very sincere and moving delivery. Very cool.

Jazz News reports: “Blue Note Records and Universal Music Classics & Jazz have announced the signing of singer/songwriter Gregory Porter. According to a press release from Blue Note, ‘Porter has been in the studio with his working band and producer Brian Bacchus recording his third album and major label debut, which will be released worldwide on Blue Note Records this fall.’”

Congratulations, Mr. Porter. I look forward to hearing more!

Oft Overlooked Jazz Singer

ColtraneHartmanOne of my “If you could only listen to 10 albums for the rest of your life” picks, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman ranks up there at the top. Love Hartman’s tibre, love his swing, and love his subtle emotion.

Rhythm section is a who’s who of Bop/Post-Bop jazz: Mccoy Tyner on piano, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones drumming.

‘Trane’s solos are evocative but never overbearing. Tightly balanced ensemble work, to be sure.

Give this cut a listen – Billy Strayhorn’s ode to dispair, “Lush life”.