Well, Halloween is over and so are the 8+ weeks of decorating and preparing for my krazy Halloween Party. Now I’m taking things down a little at a time, which gives me back the time to do the other things I love…writing, having drinks and conversation at the Tiki Bar with my wife Colleen, catching movies, working on the ’53 Chevy Belair, and playing the sax.
I’d say I went from blowing notes every day in September to about once or twice a week in October…just to keep frosty. Last night I picked her up for the first time in days, and it showed! I was rusty as hell, my fingers tripping over the keys like a high school freshman. The reed wasn’t right, and my breathing was labored (too much Halloween candy, or not enough). So I backed up a few steps, took a deep breath, and played something I know inside & out…Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train”.
I’ve always loved the way A Train sounds on a solo tenor sax. It can be played low and moody, with a sort of bluesy darkness. Or it can be play crisp and light, filling in the gaps with lots of pretty notes. It can sound swingin’, reminiscent of the 30’s big band soloists. It can sound upbeat and boppy, like Bird. Or it can be played as a slow and easy ballad, almost mournful. I like to play it as a story.
I like to start out bluesy, kind of slow in the lower octave, the subject of our story just hangin’ out, waitin’ for the train to come. It’s late, and he misses his lady…the one who lives in Sugar Hill way up in Harlem. Then the train pulls up, he steps on, and the A Trains takes off out of
the station swingin’, movin’ a little faster. His mind fills with images of his beautiful doll, and as the train rolls faster so does the tempo. Third time around the tune really takes off, progressing into an up-tempo modern jazz style going way out into space and coming back in for a three-point landing around 125th Street. Then, suddenly, it slows down again to a nice, easy ballad as he sees his lovely lady waiting for him at the door.