The Cooker

“The saxophone lives in a strange world. It’s neither fish nor fowl. Not brass yet not quite a woodwind. The saxophone has never been fully embraced by classical music or by the classical orchestra and, outside of the jazz world, the saxophone has a poor reputation. This can sometimes seem confining. It is, however, an amazing instrument with huge possibilities that have only been partially explored.”

-Lenny Pickett

Let’s talk about motivic development.

But first, let’s talk about Stefan Redtenbacher. And then Lenny Pickett.

We have much to discuss… Plus a solo transcription!

Stefan Redtenbacher is a funky bassist all the way from Salzburg, Austria. A product of both the Vienna Music Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, he landed in London where he has become a staple of the world funk scene. With his own ensemble, the Redtenbacher Funkestra, he’s pooled together some of the greatest living talent into a hard-hitting, super tight funk band.

While Redtenbacher is a virtuo bassist himself, the most famous member of the band may be his drummer, Mike Sturgis, who’s toured with everyone from David Bowie to Bob Mintzer. The Funkestra also features a slue of A-list guest musicians, not the least of which is Lenny Pickett.

As an aside, I recommend you check out Redtenbacher’s website for some hip bass transcriptions!

Lenny Pickett is one of the most profound saxophone players to go through the legendary Tower of Power Horns, but is, perhaps most well known to the public as the current Saturday Night Live musical director.

Scratch that. He’s most well known for recording on a Katy Perry album.

But aside from recording Kenny G’s greatest sax-syncing paycheck ever, Pickett has shaped the way that the funk/R&B saxophone sounds. From his stint with Tower to working with the Borneo Horns to becoming the sound that people fall asleep to every Saturday before Showtime at the Apollo comes on, Pickett’s altissimo-centric sound has become iconic.

Now let’s take a look at today’s featured transcription:

 

The Cooker - Tenor Sax_0001

The Cooker - Tenor Sax_0002

 

 

You can download the solo for C, Bb, and Eb instruments by clicking here.

 

I recommend that younger student don’t waste their time attempting the altissimo register without consulting their private teachers first. Instead, learn the solo in an octave you can manage. Be sure to play along with the recording!

As I mentioned earlier, this post is really about motivic development. Since the solo is comprised entirely by the blues scale, there really isn’t much to talk about in terms of harmonic or melodic development. And because there is a very definitive structure to the solo, our previous discussion on implied form is irrelevant.

First, a brief definition: A motif is a brief musical phrase (usually 2 measures or less). Sometimes a single musical phrase contains multiple motifs within it. Motivic development is the act of elaborating, inverting, retrograding, transposing, or otherwise altering a single motif to create a coherent musical idea. We’ll be exploring exactly that today.

Pickett’s solo uses chiefly three motifs. The first (which we will call motif one, or M-1) is in the second beat of the solo: Descending eighth notes from A to F#. This is repeated in the beginning of measure 3.

The second motif (which we will call M-2) is in the first half of measure 4: ascending sixteenth notes A-B-C#. Interestingly enough, he resolves M-2 using M-1 in measure four.

The third motif (M-3, of course) is in measure 6, a descending blues line.

Arguably, a fourth rhythmic motif exists (bars 17-19 and 23-24), but we won’t be dealing with rhythmic development today.

To recap:
M-1 = A-F# descending
M-2 = A-B-C# ascending sixteenths
M-3 = Blues descending

 

The Cooker annotated_0001

 

The solo begins with M-1 repeated several times, with a brief introduction of M-2 in bar four (resolved with M-1). M-3 makes an appearance in measures 5 and 6.

Now that the motifs have been introduced, Pickett begins to develop them. Firstly, M-1 is developed in measures 7 and 8. The original A-F# motif is expanded to B-F#, C-F#, and C#-F#. Changing one note in a motif such as this creates both excitement and musical tension as the interval increases.

Measure 9 into 10 exhibits M-2 once again, undeveloped. Pickett proceeds to M-3, which always looks and sounds different but provides the same blues flourish.

Now back to M-1 in measure 13. This time a B is inserted between the A-F#. Elaboration, or the addition of grace notes and ornamentation, is an old composers technique to get more out of a simple motif. Pickett’s use hides some of the original motif, but the descent to F# is still prevalent.

Next, M-1 is developed once more through the use of octave displacement (measure 14) –a fancy term that means the F# is played up the octave while the A remains the same.

Bar 15 yields an inverted M-2 (C#-B-A) resolved with an M-3.

Now Pickett gets away from motivic development and focuses instead on rhythmic variation, but he never ignores his old friend M-2, which reappears at the end of bar 19 (this time on the downbeat)

The Cooker annotated_0002

Measure 20 into 21 brings back the descending third of M-1 back, this time modulated to C#-A. Then once M-3 is once again used as resolution (measures 21 and 25)

Now the motif M-2 is juggled around and transposed. Instead of sixteenth notes A-B-C#, we have C-A-B. The C# is modulated to C and displaced to the beginning of the phrase. This displacement could be argued as a new motif, but it is not dissimilar to the way atonal composers handle tone rows. In annotation, I’ll refer to this as M-2T (motif 2 transformed).

The transformed M-2 is intermittently punctuated with M-1. Ultimately, M-3 is used in its familiar capacity of resolution (bar 28 into 29).

M-2T reappears briefly in measure 31 followed by M-3. The solo is ultimately resolved, however, with a final M-1.

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