#93 How To Play Mike Brecker's Solo On "Native New Yorker" by Odyssey

sax hall of fame Oct 25, 2020

This week you'll be learning one of my favourite sax solos of all time, and that's Michael Brecker's awesome 1977 tenor solo on Native New Yorker by disco legends Odyssey. Make no bones about it though - this is a really hard solo! If you need help with your high notes, check out my Ultimate Guide To Altissimo.

Be sure to pick up your free PDF sheet music transcription of Native New Yorker here, which has got the sax solo written out for alto AND tenor, plus the scales that Brecker uses. Here are the Q&A topics covered in this lesson, with video time stamps (min:sec). Clicking on the time stamp will take you straight to that portion of the video on YouTube (in a separate tab). Full Time stamps for the video and a complete transcript are available at the bottom of the blog.


Who plays the sax solo on Native New Yorker by Odyssey? (3:38)

  • the sax solo on Native New Yorker by Odyssey is played by American tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker
  • can can find out everything about Brecker in my Michael Brecker Sax Legends video!


What scales are used in the Mike Brecker Native New Yorker sax solo? (9:15)

  • apart from the 2 bar lead in, the solo alternates between two sus chords - Ab7sus (Bb7sus tenor, F7sus alto) and F7sus (G7sus tenor, D7sus alto)
  • this graphic shows the main scales that Brecker uses, in tenor pitch and alto pitch

Is it hard to play the sax solo on Native Yorker?

  • in a word...YES! lol Especially on tenor!
  • you can check out my How To Play Altissimo video to get that range under control!


 What are the notes for Mike Brecker's Native New Yorker sax solo?

For full fingerings, get your free PDF sheet music transcription of Native New Yorker. These are the notes for each phrase.

* = second octave, ** = third octave, ***=fourth octave

__ = a longer note

  • phrase 1 - tenor (5:14): F#*  A*  A*__B*  D**  D**__F#**  A**  A**  B**  C**  B**  A**  Bb**
  • phrase 2 - tenor (5:34): G**  F**  Eb**  D**__Bb*  Eb**  D**  Bb*  D**  Bb*  C*__Ab*  G*  F*  Eb*  D*  C
  • phrase 3 - tenor (6:12): D*  E*  F*  G*  A*  B*  C*  D**  E**  G**  A**  C**  D***  Eb***  D***  C**
  • phrase 4 - tenor (6:31): Bb**  C**  D***  Eb***  D***  C**  C**  Bb**__
  • phrase 5 - tenor (7:15): G**  Ab**  G**  F**__Eb**  D**  C*  Bb*  A*  Ab*  C*  G*  E*
  • phrase 6 - tenor (7:38): F*  G*  A*  C*  E**  G**  A**  C**__A**__Bb**  A**  G**
  • phrase 7 - tenor (7:55): E**  D**  C*__D**  C*__A*__G*


  • phrase 1 - alto (5:14): C#  E*  E*__F#*  A*  A*__C#*  E**  E**  F#**  G**  F#**  E**  F**
  • phrase 2 - alto (5:34): D**  C*  Bb*  A*__F*  Bb*  A*  F*  A*  F*  G*__Eb*  D*  C  Bb  A  G
  • phrase 3 - alto (6:12): A  B  C  D*  E*  F#*  G*  A*  B*  D**  E**  G**  A**  Bb**  A**  G**
  • phrase 4 - alto (6:31): F**  G**  A**  Bb**  A**  G**  G**  F**__
  • phrase 5 - alto (7:15): D**  Eb**  D**  C*__Bb*  A*  G*  F*  E*  Eb*  G*  D*  B
  • phrase 6 - alto (7:38): C  D*  E*  G*  B*  D**  E**  G**__E**__F**  E**  D**
  • phrase 7 - alto (7:55): B*  A*  G*__A*  G*__E*__D*


Where can I find a backing track for the Native New Yorker solo? (11:33)

  • there's a backing track that you can play along to, here!


So that's it for this week, I hope you enjoyed learning this epic solo. Don't be discouraged if you can't play it though - I can hardly play it myself! lol Don't forget to get your free PDF sheet music transcription of Native New Yorker here, lovingly transcribed as always for tenor and alto. Next week you can learn how to play the sax riff from Just The Two Of Us by Grover Washington. Until next week, keep practicing smart and I'll see you later! 

Jamie :-)


Video Timestamps

0:00 - intro performance

0:21 - intro and titles

0:51 - why am I doing the video

3:07 - how to get your free PDF transcription of Native New Yorker

3:19 - how to get your free one hour masterclass

3:38 - about Native New Yorker and Michael Brecker

5:04 - the notes








8:04 - contour of the solo

9:15 - the scales used in the solo

10:23 - putting it all together



12:06 - outro

13:09 - outro music and bloopers


Video Transcript

Hi, I’m pro saxophonist Jamie Anderson and you’re watching Get Your Sax Together. I sax up your Sunday every week, with free online saxophone lessons teaching you great technique tips, player profiles and breakdowns of your favourite sax solos. Oh man, I am super excited today, cos you’re gonna learn a proper Hall Of Fame classic, and that’s Michael Brecker’s legendary solo on Native New Yorker by Odyssey.


I’ll be honest guys, if you’re a beginner on saxophone, this week is gonna be game over for you. I’d be quite surprised if most intermediate players could even manage this one, which begs the question “why are you doing such an impossible solo on the channel Jamie?” Well, as if I needed any other reason, I’ve always LOVED this solo. Brecker plays with immaculate time, tone and tuning, and effortlessly soars over the funky disco rhythm section with singing, bluesy altissimo lines that are totally locked into the beat. I haven’t found any information about the recording of this one, but I’d be gobsmacked if he didn’t work out some of these lines a bit before recording it, because they are just SO perfect. Having tried to play this myself, I can tell you that his technique is ridiculous. He makes crossing into the high altissimo sound as easy as a major scale in the mid range, but be warned - this solo is REALLY hard. Even on alto. So that’s one reason why I’ve chosen it, I just love it. However, it’s not the only reason. In a famous research study designed to help a failing school, the low scoring pupils were shown A+ exam papers from high achieving students in a different school, and in the next year’s exam results a much higher percentage of the pupils in the failing school achieved an “A” grade for the first time. The researchers concluded that the pupils in the failing school hadn’t been achieving A Grades because they’d never seen an actual A Grade paper. Once the pupils saw what an A+ exam paper looked like, their eyes were opened to this possibility, and they were able to raise their own game accordingly. In much the same way, even if this Michael Brecker transcription of Native New Yorker is way above your current level, it’s still worth investigating, to get a sense of what saxophone excellence sounds and feels like. You can almost absorb the improvement by osmosis, and when you see the seemingly impossible laid out before you in black and white, at least you can appreciate how it’s done and plot a course to get there yourself one day. Now, make sure you watch right to the end of this lesson, cos I let the backing track run for YOU to play along with, and use the link in the description below to download your free PDF sheet music transcription, which is written out for tenor AND alto sax. It took ages to take this one down, so don’t miss out on your free transcription! Finally, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to go and check out my one hour Saxophone Success Masterclass, which is an awesome FREE lesson with me covering a whole load of stuff that will get you sounding instantly better on sax. Just use the URL below, or click the link in the description.

[STING: About Native New Yorker]

Originally recorded by Frankie Valli in 1977, Native New Yorker was a big hit for disco band Odyssey later in the same year, and it features the wailing tenor sax of session and jazz legend Michael Brecker. You can see my detailed profile of Mike Brecker linked on the card above now. Brecker was one of the most in demand session players of the seventies and eighties, and although he was one of the world’s best jazz players, he never allowed that override the melodicism and funk of his pop solos. You can find links in the description for my breakdowns of his solos on “Your Latest Trick” by Dire Straits and “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon, and in the third part of my transcription series I demonstrate a burning lick by Brecker from Night Flight…

[play excerpt from transcription video]

On this solo, Brecker showcases his altissimo virtuosity, but don’t worry about how to do it, cos you can learn everything you’ll ever need to know about altissimo playing by watching the lesson linked on the card above now. Once we’ve learned all the phrases of this solo I’m gonna highlight a couple of cool features of this solo, so stick around. Right, without further ado let’s check out the first phrase in slow motion. No pissing about here, it’s straight into the altissimo from the get go!

[phrase 1 slow]

The second phrase is one of the few more playable phrases, so enjoy it while it lasts. It still starts on an altissimo G for tenor though…

[phrase 2 slow]

Phrase three is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to play on this channel. Not necessarily the range of it, although it’s super high, but more the speed and dexterity needed on the sixteenth notes to get there. You’re not even safe on alto for this one I’m afraid. If you wanna try out different fingerings, I’ve recently done an extensive finger chart for the altissimo notes on alto AND tenor, and the links for those videos are in the description. Here’s phrase 3…

[phrase 3 slow]

The next four phrases are really one long, four measure phrase, but I’ve chopped it up to make it easier to teach. Here’s phrase 4…

[phrase 4 slow]

There’s lots of ways to skin a cat, but I found myself inventing a new fingering for the tenor Ab for this phrase, and it’s not even one of the six featured in my tenor altissimo finger chart linked above. All you do is play the G with standard front F fingering, then switch your front F finger for the A key, like this… I just found it was an easy way of quickly and smoothly going from G to Ab and back again. I then used the front F fingering for the next F. It’s easy on alto as you’re not in the altissimo range. This is the phrase where Brecker uses the bebop scale that you’ll learn just shortly. Here’s phrase 5…

[phrase 5 slow]

Phrase six is another impossible rip up the pentatonic scale to the altissimo. He hits all these notes so precisely and cleanly on the original recording. It’s insane.

[phrase 6 slow]

Finally - about the only 100% easily playable phrase in the whole thing!

[phrase 7 slow]

[STING: About the solo]

I just wanted to point out a couple of teaching points before I put this solo all together for you. Firstly, as I was half asleep in bed this morning with the solo running through my head and hands I realised it’s got a beautiful, symmetrical arc to it. Check this out, the first four bars have a rising and falling melodic contour, which is repeated exactly the same in the next four bars. To finish with, this contour is compressed into two measures instead of four. This rising and falling also complements the chord changes, which rise and fall from concert Ab sus to F sus. These rising and falling chord changes are what I call the game show chord changes. Here’s the solo played in isolation so you can see the rising and falling contours.

[play solo on its own]

The second thing I wanted to show you was the scales used in this solo. I haven’t included the first two bars, which are over a concert C major seven chord. He just plays a concert C pentatonic on this bit. That’s a D pentatonic for tenor or an A pentatonic for alto. Once we’re into the third measure, where the solo really starts, the chords alternate between sus chords that are a minor third apart. On the first sus chord Brecker mostly plays the standard Mixolydian scale that you would expect on a dominant seven chord, although in phrase five he throws in the bebop scale to mix things up. On the lower sus chord he also uses the mixolydian scale but tends to stick more to the major pentatonic blues scale of the associated key. In other words, he uses a C major blues scale for tenor, or a G major blues scale for alto. This gives the solo a really grounded, bluesy feel instead of being full of more jazzy sounding phrases. When the backing track runs for you to play along with you can experiment making up your own solo using these scales. I’ve included these scales in the free PDF for this lesson. Just click the link in the description or use the URL below. 

[STING: Putting It All Together]

Now we can put it ALL together. As usual, remember that the chart is NOT the territory. Definitely get the free PDF from the description, to learn the notes and basic rhythms, but it’s the nuances of phrasing and timing that really make this solo stand out. I’ll now play the whole solo with the backing track, and after I’ve played it, the backing track will then run again for YOU to play along with. Some people don’t know this, but you can change the speed of play back on YouTube. Just go to your settings for the video on your computer or phone and slow it down to 0.75 or even 0.5 speed to make things more manageable. May the force be with you padawan!



[STING: Before You Go]

So that’s it for this Sunday, I hope you enjoyed learning Mike Brecker’s awesome tenor solo on Native New Yorker by Odyssey. What can you say? What a solo. Insane. Don’t forget to pick up your free PDF using the link in the description, and if you wanna learn some more in-depth sax stuff go to double-u double-u double-u dot get your sax together dot com, forward slash masterclass, to get your free one hour lesson with me. As always I’m humbled and encouraged by all the support and generosity I get from you guys, so thank you so much for that, and rest assured, there will be more and more great stuff for you to enjoy every Sunday at 7am! Go ahead and give the video a thumbs up, leave me a comment, subscribe to the channel, click the bell icon to be notified when I upload new content and check out my Insta and Facebook pages. To be totally honest I don’t even know what next week’s video will be, but until next Sunday, practice hard and practice smart, but above all, enjoy your music. See ya later!


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