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Songs for a 60 minutes Rocksax gig!


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The Rock & Blues(sax) Project that we are running were asked to play on a street festival in a small town in Denmark. A 60 minutes gig. Beside rehearsing we should also pick songs for a band with six saxes + rhythm section! How and what to play?

This is the songs we picked:

Walk Away (Andrew Clark): Concert A. It’s a blues song. We had charts for both Eb and Bb saxes. We decided to do two long tenor solos (24 bars), guitar (12 bars) and bass (12 bars). The last 12 bars of the tenor solo the other saxes were riffing.

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Joe Zawinul): Concert Bb. A song that most sax players know! A must! We started the song with just a cowbell, then the bass came in, the rhythm guitar, the lead guitar started to pick some tones and the saxes began to play. Two open sax solos (soprano and alto). When they wanted to get of the solo they should start playing the bridge and the other saxes should join in.

Same Old Blues (Don Nix): Concert C. This song is written by the saxman Don Nix (TN, Memphis Horns). We had no charts for this song. Two 16 bars sax solo; soprano/tenor and alto. We listen to several recordings of this song that have horns. So we took some hornlines and ideas from recordings. The Swedish blues-reggae man Peps Person recorded a version with soprano and the Danish bluesartist Thorbjörn Risager also recorded the song with horns. So we “stole” some ideas that we could use in “our” version.

Unchain My Heart (B.Sharp/F.James): Concert Dm. - Yeah, let’s do Unchain My Heart! For me there is just one version and that’s Joe Cocker w Clarence Clemons doing the saxsolo. No, it’s going to be Ray Charles version. Okay, we do can do that version. But we didn’t have any charts. I heard with an oversea friend if it’s possible to have a horn arrangement for ss, as, ts, bs. No problem he transposed the trp lines to soprano. And the trombone became the baritone part. When I got the pdf’s I thought: - At last! Something that sounds right and feels good under my fingers. The tenor part was in the key of F# (I like that key. I’m used to play in B, F# and C#). When I brought the charts to the rehearsal we discovered that I had misunderstood the other guys. I thought we should do the song in the original key which is G# minor (6 sharps Bb saxes, 5 flats Eb saxes). So when I handed over the charts it was wrong. The song should be in Dm (G major Bb saxes, D major Eb saxes). I couldn’t call and wake my friend up. I was Sunday afternoon our time and it was around 8:00 PM over there. Most musicians are out gigging on Saturday nights so we had to wait for new charts.

A Story Everbody Knows (Stix Hooper/Will Jennings): Concert F. This song was recorded by BB King, but with no horns! And we couldn’t find a recording with horns that we could listen to. We tried to agree about some hornlines, but with no good result. What to do? Call a friend that can do an easy horn arrangement for Eb and Bb saxes. So we got charts and a mp3 sample with saxes overdubbed the original song. Easy!?!?! I think it was hard to keep the saxes staccato-like.

Honky Tonk (B.Doggett/S.Shephard/C.Scott/B.Butler): Concert F. The ultimate R&B sax song! Two guys were already doing this song with their band and they are doing it well. So we decided to be just one tenor player and the rhythm section. But we talked about to do a call and response with the tenor and the other saxes. I thought of doing something in the style of Red Prysock’s song “ Purple Wall”. But we stay out of this and the other saxplayers were doing the Honky Tonk handclapping instead of blowing.
In The Midnight Hour (Pickett/Cropper). Concert Bb. We played straight out from the charts. It was a saxdrenched version. 1 soprano, 2 altos, 2 tenors, 1 baritone!

Genuine Snake (D.Wise). Concert G. This is a song that we’ve been playing a lot. It’s written by Don Wise (Delbert McClinton’s former saxman). We played the song so everyone could play a short solo.

Beside helping each other we also got lots of help from fellow musicians.

This was fun. Both the gigs and the rehearsals. It gave me a reason to play lot of sax during the whole summer. For me it was the first time since 1981 that I played in public, beside jam and blowing on workshops. Work, family, building and enlarge house …. are things that kept me occupied through the years. Now I have more time for music, so maybe we’ll do it again?


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