#79 How To Play Brecker's Solo On Still Crazy After All These Years

sax hall of fame Jul 19, 2020

I've always been a massive fan of tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, and Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon has one of his most memorable pop solos of all time. From Simon's fourth studio album of the same name, it's simple, soulful and technically superb - I'm sure you're gonna love learning it this week. It's a bit high for tenor I grant you, but what's a triple B between friends? lol

Be sure to pick up the free PDF sheet music for Still Crazy after All These Years and if you want to play along you can get the backing track here. 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 at the bottom of the blog.


Who plays the sax solo on Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years? (0:55)

  • the solo on Still Crazy After All These Years is played by tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker
  • he was 28 at the time of recording


Who is Michael Brecker?

  • active from the 70s through to his death, Michael Brecker was an American tenor saxophonist who was one of the leading saxophonists of his generation
  • Brecker was equally at home playing pop/funk sessions (Native New Yorker/Your Latest Trick/Candy) and hard core jazz sessions (Brecker Brothers/Herbie Hancock etc) and was known for his exciting solos and devastating technical ability
  • he died in 2007
  • you can find my detailed profile of Mike Brecker here


What are the best alternate live versions of the Still Crazy After All These Years sax solo? (1:20)

  • Paul Simon on Saturday Night Live in 1977 with Dave Sanborn playing the alto solo
  • Brecker embellishing his original solo on the 1991 World Tour with Paul Simon
  • Saturday Night Live in 2015 with Lenny Pickett on tenor duties
  • you can find all these performances on YouTube


What time signature is Still Crazy After All These Years? (5:32)

  • the original time signature is 12/8, but I've notated the solo in the free PDF transcription as 3/4 to make it easier to read


What are the notes for the sax solo on Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon?

*=second octave, **=third octave, __=longer note

  • phrase 1 - tenor (2:30): B  F#*  B*  D#**______B  F#*  B*  E**______
  • phrase 2 - tenor (3:21): B  F#*  B*  D#**  C#*  B*  C#*  D**   C#*  B*  G#*__B*  C#*  G#*___
  • phrase 3 - tenor (4:13): B**___G#**  B**__G#**__A**  G#**  F#**
  • phrase 4 - tenor (4:49): D**  C#*  B*  G#*  B*  G#*__F#*  E*  D#*  F#*  B*__ 


  • phrase 1 - alto (2:30): F#  C#  F#*  A#*______F#  C#  F#*  B*______
  • phrase 2 - alto (3:21): F#  C#  F#*  A#*  G#*  F#*  G#*  A*   G#*  F#*  D#*__F#*  G#*  D#*___
  • phrase 3 - alto (4:13): F#**___D#**  F#**__D#**__E**  D#**  C#*
  • phrase 4 - alto (4:49): A*  G#*  F#*  D#*  F#*  D#*__C#  B  A#  C#  F#*__


Is there a backing track for Still Crazy After All These Years? (6:14)


So that's it for this week. quite a challenging solo to master, but even if you just take it down the octave where need be it's still an awesome solo to learn. Don't forget to get your free PDF sheet music for Still Crazy After All These Years, for alto OR tenor, and I'll see you next week for a real dirty blues song - Night Train by Jimmy Forrest, as played by Marvin Berry And The Starlighters in the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance in the 1985 movie Back To The Future. See ya!

Jamie :-)


Video Timestamps


0:20 - intro and titles

0:55 - about Still Crazy After All These Years

1:20 - different versions to compare

2:02 - how to get your free PDF


2:45 - how to get the free Saxophone Success Masterclass


3:39 - question…what’s YOR fav Brecker solo?


4:25 - discover pentatonics and blues scales


5:01 - more about Mike Brecker

5:32 - why I wrote it in 3/4 time



6:47 - Sign off

7:31 - end 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 technique tips, player profiles, tips on playing great solos and, of course, my famous breakdowns of the world’s best loved sax lines.

In today’s free online sax lesson you’ll be learning how to play one of the most beautiful, melodic and memorable sax solos of all time and that’s Michael Brecker’s iconic tenor solo on Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon.


Recorded in 1975, Still Crazy After All These Years is the title track of Paul Simon’s fourth studio album. A twenty eight year old Mike Brecker plays the famous tenor solo after that lush middle section of woodwinds and strings, and the combination of the Aeolian A minor changing to A major and the clarity and richness of Brecker’s tone make it a moment of pure magic in music recording history. Mwah!!! [bellisima!]

If you want some context, check out three other live versions of Still Crazy on YouTube - the Saturday Night Live special in nineteen seventy seven featuring Dave Sanborn, Brecker’s live version from Paul Simon’s nineteen ninety one world tour and Saturday Night Live again, this time in twenty fifteen, featuring Lenny Pickett. It’s pretty obvious that at least the first phrase or two is part of the composition, although Sanborn doesn’t play it. Anyway, let’s just be glad we’re not learning Pickett’s extended solo or Brecker’s live one, cos they’re both way harder than the original, and the original is hard enough, as you’re about to find out! lol

Just before we dive in to the first phrase remember to go down into the description for this video and click the link to get your free PDF sheet music for Still Crazy After All These Years. It’s written out for alto AND tenor sax, with the chords and all the phrase numbers marked in. Also, keep watching to the end, cos after I’ve played the whole thing I let the backing track run for YOU to play along with. It’s a good day to be an alto player, cos the third phrase is damn high on tenor. There’s four phrases to learn - here’s the breakdown of phrase one…


Just before we move on to the second phrase, I wanted to quickly mention my free Saxophone Success Masterclass. It’s a totally free one hour video lesson that you won’t find on YouTube, with loads of in-depth teaching to help you improve your tone, improvise a great solo, design a structured practice routine so you don’t waste your time and there’s loads of other super cool pro tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the years as well. The link is in the description, or you can visit double-u double-u double-u dot get your sax together dot com, forward slash masterclass. 

Okay without further ado, let’s look at phrase two now. This is all on the major blues scale.


Before the fireworks start with phrase three, here’s the question of the week - what’s YOUR favourite Brecker solo of all time? Is it a poppy one like Native New Yorker or Your Latest Trick (see the card above), a funky one like Cameo’s Candy or is it a full on jazz solo like Nothing Personal or Night Flight? Let me know in the comments.

Moving on then, here’s phrase three. This phrase flow straight into phrase four without a gap. If you’re a beginner on tenor sax you’ll definitely want to take this down the octave. If you play alto at least it’s only an F#. Still high though!


If you get the free PDF from the description you might notice that almost every note Brecker plays in this solo is from the major blues scale. B major for tenor and F sharp major for alto. If you wanna find out about pentatonics and blues scales go to the card linked above now, and all will be revealed. Phrase four flows straight from phrase three and it’s back to a more polite range again, thankfully! lol


[STING:Putting It All Together]

So that’s it - we’ve got all the phrases covered now but just before I play this through for you at full battle speed - if you wanna find out more about Michael Brecker, I’ve done a whole profile video which is linked above now. You’ll learn about his life and times and a ridiculous lick as well.

I’ve put together a backing track together for this one and after I’ve played it through, the backing track runs for YOU to play along with. Remember to get your free PDF from the description to follow along with each phrase as I play it. The piece is in twelve eight, strictly speaking, but it can be tricky to read music in twelve eight, so I’ve written it in three four. The intro is four bars of three four. Fingers crossed, here we go…


[Sting:Before You Go]

These solo breakdowns are a serious mission to put together, but when it’s something as lush as this it’s totally painless! What a solo.

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 and get your free one hour lesson with me, and as always, you can support me by giving this video a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel, click the bell icon to be notified when I upload new content and check out my Insta and Facebook pages.

Next Sunday you’ll be learning another, completely different, sax classic - Jimmy Forest’s gravelly tenor on Night Train blues. Until then, happy saxing, practice smart and have a great week! See ya. 


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