Donny McCaslin Blues Solo in 4ths Transcriptions

Here are 2 more solo transcriptions I started working on yesterday. This is from a clinic recording of Donny McCaslin demonstrating using fourth intervals while improvising over a standard blues on the tenor saxophone.  I have no idea what this is from or even where I got it but it must have been on the internet somewhere.  I tried doing a search for the rest of the clinic but couldn’t find it anywhere online.   Donny has graciously said he was ok with me posting the recordings and transcriptions for all to check out.


Donny McCaslin is a great tenor player who was just leaving Berklee as I was arriving there in the 80’s.  He doesn’t know it, but he had a large part in inspiring me to move to Boston.   I went to Boston during the summer of 1986 to visit my girlfriend who was going to Berklee at the time.  I remember going to a concert at the Berklee performance Center.  Donny McCaslin was playing alongside Warren Hill.  They were both students at the time and a little bit older than me.  I remember being amazed at that concert.  I don’t remember exactly what they played but I think I remember a Steps Ahead tune like “Trains”  and maybe also a Sanborn tune.   I remember deciding right there at the concert that I had to leave Ithaca College and transfer to Berklee immediately.  If these were the kind of players Berklee was turning out then I wanted to be there.  I transferred to Berklee that fall and am very glad that I did.

I remember even at that time that Donny seemed to have his own sound and concept going on.   He had long flowing original lines that weaved in, out and around the harmony.  His technique was amazing.  He would play complicated patterns and intervals throughout the range of the horn with ease. Even at that time,  I remember getting to Berklee and finding a recording of Donny playing on “There will Never Be Another You” from some performance.  I transcribed that solo and interestingly enough, even though it was 28 years ago, I remember there were also lines with fourths throughout that solo………

I decided to transcribe these 2 solos because they are unique in their use of fourth intervals as well as some of the rhythmic ideas used.    There is also another solo in 6ths that Donny performs in this same clinic that I will transcribe later.

Please be sure to check out Donny McCaslin’s recordings and website.   Thanks again to Donny for giving me permission to post these recordings as well as being such an inspiration in today’s jazz scene.     Thanks, Steve


Blues in 4ths Demo 1 PDF

Blues in 4ths Demo 2 PDF

There were parts of the Demo 2 solo that were hard to notate rhythmically.  Especially in bars 9-11.  Donny is playing a repeated rhythmic figure that happens 7 times over 9 beats.  i could not figure out how to notate this with Finale over the 4/4 measures so I made it a 12/4 measure for those 3 measures.  Try not to be confused by that.  If you practice it with the recording you should be able to get the time feel down.  If any of you have any incites into those measure including the rhythm or how to write it I would love to hear from you in the comments below.    Thanks………..I’m off to practice my 4ths now……………

If you like the lines in this solo or love other tenor players like  Michael Brecker or Bob Berg, check out my book “Devastating Minor Lines for Jazz and Funk Soloing”. It contains 100 killer modern 16th note lines in the styles of these players in all 12 keys………You can hear samples and read reviews by clicking on the link below. Thanks, Steve

DevastatingFrontCoverSmallAdDevastating Minor Lines for Jazz and Funk Soloing

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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. Yeah man. Yes. Very nice work as always Steve!

  2. Hi Steve,

    It seems that both links above are referring to the same file (Demo 2). It would be nice, if you could fix this.

    Thanks for sharing your work with us!

  3. Both PDFs are demo 2…

  4. Christian and Josh,
    Thanks for letting me know. It is fixed now. I’m surprised no one said anything earlier…………Steve

  5. Whew! Just when I think I’m getting there on the first segment, I play along with your sample and realize how lost I am in those triplets in bars 17 and 18. Oh, well, keep trying! Then I think I’m doing okay for awhile so I look up Donny McCaslin and find this live-in-studio gig and wonder wtf, some of this isn’t even possible. Sigh.

    He’s a monster.

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