The range of up-and-coming talent on the jazz tenor saxophone scene is breathtaking. Bobby Malach, Bill Pierce, Bob Mintzer, Chico Freeman, Mike Brecker, Bob Berg, David Schnitter, Ricky Ford, David Murray, – and these are just the cats who were in their twenties at the time!
Roger Rosenberg was part of this community of vibrant and high energy musicians; here he is soloing on tenor with George Russell’s New York Big Band in 1978; it’s an Ernie Wilkins chart on “God Bless The Child” featuring vocalist Lee Genesis. Roger was a busy freelancer who worked with Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Buddy Rich and many, many others during these years.
At this time he also began to focus on the baritone saxophone, the instrument he’s been associated with ever since, and you can hear a lot of tenor sax vocabulary and vitality when he plays the bigger horn. Roger was part of the Lee Konitz Nonet that performed at the first Chicago Jazz Festival in 1979, and the band’s performance was broadcast by NPR on Billy Taylor’s program “Jazz Alive.” Here’s a recording of Roger tearing it up on the Nonet’s set-closer, “Giant Steps.”
In the early eighties – soon after these recordings were made – Roger became a charter member of Bob Mintzer’s Big Band; he’s played on all the recordings and anchors the sax section of the band to this day. During those years he also worked in Chet Baker’s quintet, playing baritone and soprano. For more information about Roger, consult his biography at jazzbarisax.com, search for his performances and interviews on YouTube, and check out his recent studio projects Baritonality and Hang Time. Both albums contain many of his excellent original compositions.
In 2018 he’s still a busy creative musician around NYC, and on the road and in the studio with Steely Dan.
Here’s a transcription of Pepper Adams‘ baritone sax solo on “Each Time I Think Of You” by Duke Pearson and Donald Byrd. It was recorded at Donald Byrd’s session in May of 1961 for the Blue Note album, “The Cat Walk.” It’s a high energy, happy tune and Pepper sounds like he’s enjoying the changes. Note that he takes two choruses while the other soloists each take one.
There’s lots to enjoy here. Pepper’s improvised lines flow effortlessly through the shifting tonalities of the tune, and his time and rhythmic momentum are SO strong. There is continuity, connectedness, yet also space to breathe (a difficult balance on the baritone sax).
I hope you enjoy playing along with Pepper’s solo as much as I do. For a link to a recording of the full performance and a lead sheet for the tune, go here.
At his11/26/45 recording date for Savoy, his first session as a leader, Charlie Parker produced 3 of his best known and most influential solos, Now’s the Time, Billie’s Bounce, and Koko. These 3 recordings have challenged and inspired generations of alto saxophonists, and to learn these solos is an essential part of learning Bird’s language. That particular day in the studio was also the source of many folk tales, thanks to Teddy Rieg’s casual paperwork, Bird’s loose concept of leadership, and the haphazard research that used to be acceptable in jazz criticism and scholarship. The actual story of that day is fascinating (see here for more details) and much more music was recorded besides the 3 most famous tracks.
Which brings us to Meandering. Several weeks ago a colleague – Marc Phanuef – played me a fragment of a gorgeous Bird solo that sounded like it might be on the changes of “Embraceable You.” Marc says the mystery snippet was used in the background during the Charlie Parker section of Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary. Where was the rest of this great track? After a little research we were surprised to discover that the recording was “Meandering” from the 11/26/45 session that we thought we already knew very well. In order to fully appreciate this solo we needed to hear it outside of it’s usual context as a ‘lesser’ outtake next to the monumental Koko, Now’s the Time, and Billie’s Bounce. Clearly it’s a wonderful full chorus of Bird at his heartfelt best; an artistic achievement well worth studying.
Yes, the track is an out-take for good reasons. It’s apparently a loose rehearsal rather than a finished performance, and the changes that Dizzy is comping at the piano don’t always match the harmonies that Bird implies during his solo. (In the final turnaround in the last two measures of Birds’ chorus, Bird, Dizzy and bassist Curly Russell all go in different harmonic directions before landing together at the top of the next chorus.) And then there’s the brutal cut in the fourteenth measure of the piano solo – ouch!
Here’s a PDF of Bird’s Meandering solo written out for alto sax. (The chord symbols describe the changes Dizzy is comping and they don’t always match Bird’s harmony.)
Hope you enjoy listening to it and playing it as much I do!