What 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
I came home from a quick trip out of town late this evening to find the house filled with young musicians. My son, Mark, was rehearsing a string quartet for his upcoming recital. He had transcribed a piano accompaniment of G. Caccini’s version of “Ave Maria”. Mark will be singing Countertenor on this selection.
Adding a bass, piano and classical guitar, they also sight-read a medley of songs from Les Miserables which included “I Dreamed a Dream” as an instrumental featuring my student Michaela on soprano saxophone and “Stars” with Mark singing Baritone.
First of all, this is no ordinary high school string quartet. The 1st Violinist and the Cellist both study at Peabody Conservatory. The sophomore Violist placed very well in the NC Honors Orchestra even as an underclassman. Awards and accolades abound for all these players. The ensemble was glorious.
Aside from the skill level of the musicians, it warms my heart to have people create art in my home, and I am privileged to be witness to it. Bravo, young artists. Bravo!
So what do you do when you teach a student about, say, “Piano-less Jazz Quartet” and the student is excited to learn a specific tune? You allow that passion to drive the learning forward. Sometimes that means transcribing a less familiar song.
We will hear this at a private saxophone student’s Senior recital. She has recruited and rehearsed a rhythm section, and asked me to play Bari as she channels her best Chet-Baker-on-alto for this tune.
I am blessed with great students. I really enjoy working with younger players and watching them develop as musicians and as artists. Here’s the funny thing: When a student shows drive and excitement it often leads to learning for both the student and the teacher. Transcribing this tune and Gerry Mulligan’s lines was fun, and put me back in the mode of listening more carefully. It also has motivated me to start transcribing improvised solos again.
I think I am getting the best end of this teaching deal…just sayin’