Although folks like Joe Henderson feel that the best way to learn the language of jazz is to learn a solo by ear and memorize it, there’s definitely a place for reading transcribed solos, and possibly committing them to memory off the manuscript. Some of us might be as ambitious enough to transpose transcribed solos into different keys. And if nothing else, transcribed solos make for great sight-reading practice.
The Other Kind of Free Jazz
Of course, there are a gaggle of amazing transcription books available for purchase in stores and on websites. But thanks to the power of this newfangled internets online, we can get a boatload of transcribed saxophone brilliance without putting as much as a ding in the pocketbook.
The Sites to Check Out
Cannonball, Brecker, Coltrane, Phil Woods, Kenny Garrett, Bergonzi, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, and many, many more, this is one of the best free transcription sites to bookmark and pillage. What I like about this site is how the list of solos is presented quite clearly compared to many of the sites out there. Great, great stuff.
While this German website is not winning awards for English translation or web usability, it is one of the richest online resources for free saxophone transcription action as well as many other instruments as well. With over 100 transcribed solos at the time of this post’s publishing, solos by traditional as well as modern/smooth jazz players and even a few sax rock-n-rollers make this an incredibly well-rounded storehouse.
Sax player and educator Jeff Rzepiela offers up a fine collection of solos by straight-ahead sax players such as Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt, and Wardell Gray to name just a few. Since this is one of the few transcription sites out there with versions of each solo for C, Bb, and Eb instruments, it works for both alto and tenor folks (not to mention the three C Melody player on the planet). As an added bonus, Jeff’s site features analysis of three of the of the solos on this page.
Holy smokes are there a lot of solos transcribed here! Admittedly, not all of them are sax solos, but all of the solos are by great musicians - the vast majority of who are sax players. A few of the solos even come in multiple versions transposed for all of the common instruments.
Prolific transcriber of solos by jazz musicians of all instruments, renown bassist Lucas Pickford is no slouch in the sax solo transcription department. With the exception of Ornette Colman, the solos included here are all by tenor players, but these are indeed some of history’s great tenor monsters including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Michael Brecker, and Coleman Hawkins among others.
Can we say, “WOW”? This collection of solos by the late, great tenor titan Michael Brecker is transcribed mostly by Rick Margitza – himself a leading voice on the saxophone. Taking us through about 3 decades of Brecker’s legendary career, the site features solos from Brecker’s massive multitude of stints as as sideman with artists such as Horace Silver, Chet Baker (and about a jillion others) as well as solos with Steps Ahead plus his own solo outings. What’s surprising about this collection is that it’s actually free for the taking.
Here you’ll find a decent collection of solos saxophone macho men including Joe Henderson, Kenny Garret, Ralph Moore, Stan Getz, Jerry Bergonzi and more. Note: when you click the link to this site, you’ll see that the main content area of the site is broken. However, all you need to do to get to the solo of your choice is to click on the name of the solo you want to check out and there it will be. Unfortunately the solos are not in PDF format, so you’d have to read off of your computer screen, or save the image of the manuscript and print it out.
Here you’ll find some free sample transcriptions for all of us cheapos out there who don’t feel like paying for solos from this great not-for-free resource. It should be noted that the for-pay part of the site is obscenely abundant with over 2000 solos(!!!). With a few solos by Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and others, this is yet another place to get a few free solos.
Guess whose solos are featured here? But seriously, if you like Cannonball, then this is the site for you. Featuring 17 of Adderley’s solos transposed for C, Bb, and Eb instruments, each solo also comes with an audio sample, but you’ll need the Real Audio Player to listen (does anyone even use RealPlayer these days?). Anyhow, a great collection for players of all saxophones.
While not a saxophone solo transcription site by any means, this site features user-generated documents of all sorts, and due to the sheer mass of content on the site, there is a decent helping of sax solo goodness to be had here. Just go to the site and do a search on your favorite sax player, and if it’s one of the major players, there’s a good chance that you’ll find at least a one solo. Here’s one example of a fruitful search for Eb alto solos on the site.