Great Transcription of George Coleman over Cherokee Changes

Here’s a burnin’ tenor saxophone solo from the great George Coleman.  This is from the album “Amsterdam After Dark”.  It is from the tune “Apache Dance” which has a solo section over the changes of “Cherokee”.  I was actually given this solo transcription by a teacher at Berklee  almost 30 years ago.   (I think it might have been Bill Pierce).  I remember shedding this solo like crazy. even though the solo was written for the tenor sax and I played alto sax at the time.  I was captivated by the extensive use of the bebop scale in this solo.   I had heard of the bebop scale before but to be honest, I never really heard anyone use it that much in the recordings I had.  This was the first recording and transcription where I saw it in action.

George Edward Coleman is an American hard bop saxophonist, bandleader, and composer, known chiefly for his work with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in the 1960s. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master for 2015.

George Coleman

It was my first or second semester at Berklee and I was really wanting to get Cherokee down and burnin’ fast.  I remember taking the lines and concepts and transposing them to the alto key and trying to get them mastered.  i spent thousands of hours on these lines and over the course of time the transcription was destroyed or lost. Pages were ripped, pieces were missing, pages were lost……. Years later when i started teaching I decided to transcribe the solo myself to use with my students who were working on the bebop scale material.  (It wasn’t very hard as I knew many of the lines already.)    Working on the scale and links from my “Mastering the Bebop Scale” books is one thing, but nothing replaces hearing the lines and concepts pieced together in a real recording to hear how they can be used.

This solo is also a great demonstration of how to use diatonic scale patterns in a solo.  You can hear how,  at this incredibly fast tempo, Mr. Coleman has to rely on certain tools to build his solo from. A good portion of these tools are bebop scales, diatonic patterns, approaches and bebop links (that’s my name for them from my books)  You can hear the diatonic patterns on measures 23-24, 31-32, 35, 70, 71-72, 81-82, 103, 119-120, 187-188, 212-213,242-243.  Notice how he just uses little bits from each pattern within the lines.  Any more than that becomes too much…….

George Coleman

This is another solo that could keep you busy for a few years.  It’s not enough to just play through the solo and get it up to speed.  You really want to take apart the lines, understand the concepts and transpose them to other keys to really get them mastered and into your own playing.  Enjoy!!

Apache Dance-George Coleman Solo Bb

Apache Dance-George Coleman Solo Concert Key

*As a side note:  For those of you who like Eric Alexander, you can hear that Eric was heavily influenced by George Coleman as you listen to this CD.  Even in this solo, there is a lick at measures 193-195 that I have heard Eric Alexander play hundreds of times.  As you listen to George Coleman, I think you will hear many similarities as far as phrasing, articulation, lines and sound in my opinion.

If you enjoy this solo be sure to check out my extensive books and lesson on “Mastering the Dominant and Major Bebop Scale” below:

Bebop Scale Material

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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. Thanks again! I’ve always loved George Coleman’s playing
    and can hear it in Eric’s………

  2. Avatar Larry Weintraub says

    Steve: FOr some reason when I went to print this the note heads came out super large and you cannot tell what the pitches are. Is it loaded in wrong. The Scott Hamilton/Harry Allen solo on “Blues Up ‘n’ Down came out perfect.

    Larry W

  3. Larry,
    I don’t know. I have never heard of that before. I printed mine out just now and it was fine. Does it look ok while looking at it on your computer screen? I did it the same way I did the Blues up and Down solo………….

  4. Fantastic transcription !
    Thank you very much.

  5. Avatar Larry Weintraub says

    Steve: It’s working this time, thanks. Btw – you mentioned Eric Alexander in your article. He was the facillitator of the combo I was in at the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshop in 2003. That was a really great experience.

    Larry W

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