When Less Is More
From time to time in my blog I’d like to highlight music that contributes something of interest. This week, I’m including a clip of one of my all-time favorite solos, provided by The Dave Matthews Band’s saxophonist Leroi Moore, who died tragically in 2008 from complications after an all-terrain vehicle accident.
Providing a solo in a rock and roll song can lead to numerous outcomes: it can be electric, momentous, mind-baffling, stimulating, tear-inducing, dull, messy, sloppy, and – on occasion – absolutely perfect. Although there's a time and a place for nearly every type of solo, the ones that typically appeal to me are melodious and sparse rather than infused with a gazzilion notes, which is why I’ve always preferred David Gilmore to Alex Lifeson, David Brubeck to Art Tatum and John Helliwell (you might have to look him up) to say…Charlie Parker (which is an unfair comparison since they’re from different genres, but what the hell).
The solo from Leroi Moore below is from “What Would You Say,” the second song off The Dave Matthew Band's debut album, Under the Table and Dreaming.
Leroi spends almost a full four measures on only three different notes (concert E, G and A), a beautiful example of restraint for an accomplished musician, and it raises the tension of the song as the listener awaits a more conventional solo, which Leroi eventually provides.
When I’m playing, I’ve often found myself in the midst of solo and instead of coming up with something melodious, I've ended up just ripping through a blues scale as fast as my tension-filled fingers can muster. But playing as fast as you can not only isn’t necessary, it’s far less interesting in most cases from a carefully selected group of notes that could serve as a sort of secondary melody.
Consider the lead guitar Neil Schon plays in "Don't Stop Believing":
How much less of a song would it be if he hadn't added that memorable phrase?
Do you have a favorite solo you'd like to highlight? If so, please post a comment and I'll try to mention it or provide clips for it in a future post.
In the meantime, rest in peace, Mr. Moore.