Lester Young's Solo on Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
Hiii! Here's is a transcription of the iconic solo played by Lester Young on 'Way Down Yonder in New Orlenas.' Lester says it all with his beautiful melodic development and phrasing, so i'll just leave it at that!
How to Use the Transcription
Remember that transcribing an improvised solo is primarily an aural activity, not an exercise in reading. Always try to do as much as possible from the recording itself, and only use this transcription if you are really stuck on a phrase.
Sound and Phrasing
Lester's sound echoes along the years. With just a recording the listener is left to imagine what it was really like to hear him play for real. Even on this relatively good reproduction for the time, you can hear that honeydrippin' warmth in his sound, the consistency across the whole range of the instrument. Whether you're playing alto or tenor, try to copy his sound exactly, match the timbre of his instrument with yours, no matter what the setup you are playing on. This will take a long time, so get going!
Lots of really subtle phrasing in this solo, subtleties of ghost notes, half tonguing and glissandos. All of these finishing touches add elegance and shape to the beautiful melodies he improvises and they are a key part of the solo. Listen IN DETAIL and try to figure out your own techniques of shading with the tongue, diaphragm and combination of both. With the glissandos, I recommend you learn the solo first before adding them in, so you get a strong sense of the melodic and rhythmic core of the melody. These glisses are almost entirely using the finger-technique. Start on the note below the target note and gradually lift your finger (or press down the key). You'll notice a 'biting point' in the mechanism where the gliss takes effect. You'll need to practise thiis away from the solo for a while first. Although in the solo Lester does use some embouchure adjustments to shape some of the glissandos, I recommend you practise them using only your fingers, until they are really comfortable. This will avoid reinforcing the 'lip-drop' habit to simulate the gliss, which is not the correct technique.
Advice on Deeper Study
Here are some pointers on how to really absorb the content in this amazing solo
- Go for depth not speed. It doesn't matter how fast you learn it
- Practise in shorter phrases, gradually making them longer
- Really listen to and analyse the phrasing and articulation, try to copy it exactly until you sound exactly like the recording
- Don't worry about speed, play it as faithfully as possible with perfect phrasing and articulation at a speed which is comortable and relaxed
- Learn the meaning behind each phrase, what is its history? What does it mean? What is the musical context?
- Try to imagine how Lester was feeling when he was playing this. Practise this feeling as you practise playing the solo