Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Transcriptions Books: Mark Turner - Transcriptions & Essays and Chris Potter - Dreamer is the Dream

For your consideration, these are two really great transcription books authored by an accomplished NYC-based saxophonist, composer, and educator (and handsomely bearded) Jeff McGregor. The books feature Mark Turner and Chris Potter, two of my favorite saxophonists, so I may have a bit of bias here.

Mark Turner - Transcriptions & Essays
This book is something like an encyclopedia of Mark Turner solos. The book's 35 solos cover his entire career, including solos from one of Turner's most recent album, Lathe of Heaven, spanning back to his first album, Mark Turner. The book also covers important collaborations like all the Fly Trio albums and Mark Turner's work with Kurt Rosenwinkel. In total there are nearly 200 pages of transcriptions here, and that is just solos as the book doesn't include the heads.

Another cool feature of the book is that besides covering albums, it also covers well-known videos too. Here is the youtube playlist Jeff (the author) assembled, putting all the solos in one easy place.

At the end of the book, there are a series of short insightful essays. Backed with plenty of quotes from Mark himself, the essays explore his approach to music, covering Turner's influences, his use of the blues, his harmonic concepts, etc.

Notation-wise the book is clean and well written. Accidentals and rhythmic content are all easy to read even in the three unmetered selections. One aspect that is a bit less easy to approach is Turner's altissimo, which he is famous for. Most of the altissimo register playing is notated in ledger lines, which some saxophonists are fairly comfortable with. Personally, I find that 8va notation makes the content easier to read, but that being said, I did find that with some practice the ledger lines were becoming more and more readable, and as Jeff pointed out to me, learning to read up in the stratosphere like that is part of Turner's world, who has no problem reading up there. Overall, the book is beautifully presented with intuitive notation and detailed chord changes.

Here is a link to pick up a physical copy of the book: Mark Turner - Transcriptions and Essays.

I highly recommend the book, as I've had a lot of fun and learned a lot working out of it. Here is me playing the first couple pages of Turner's solo on JJ from Fly:

Chris Potter: The Dreamer is the Dream - The Complete Compositions with Transcription and Analysis
Another awesomely complete book, this transcription book covers both the compositions and Potter's solos from his most recent album, Dreamer is the Dream. Each tune is presented with an analysis of the composition, a transcription of Potter's solo on the track, and Bb transposition, Eb transposition, and concert lead sheets of the tune (found in the appendix). Similar to the essays in the Turner book, the introductory essays to each tune include commentary by Potter illuminating his approach to the composition and improvisation.

Similar to the Turner book, this presentation is very clean, with easy to read notation, detailed chord changes, etc. This book makes a little more use of 8va than the Turner book, but it still has plenty of ledger line altissimo, inviting the reader to step up their game if needed.

Like the Mark Turner book, this is a very complete and detailed book, completely worth your time and study. Highly recommended!

Here is a link to pick up a physical copy of the book: Chris Potter: The Dreamer is the Dream, and here is a link to get the digital copy: Chris Potter: The Dreamer is the Dream.

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