"T.M.P." - Big Sam's Funky Nation

"T.M.P." (PDF) from the Big Sam's Funky Nation album, Peace, Love & Understanding.
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Hey, what do you think "T.M.P." means?  The Morning Paper?  Tax More People?  Or howabout, Theodore Milhous Polk, our nation's first hybrid President?  Hmm, I think I am going to go with: Try My Patience.

Here is an interesting tune from Big Sam's Funky Nation.  For the most part, it hangs on the Ab7 chord and relies on the the rhythm to move the tune along.  Notice how the Funky Nation tends to emphasize "the 1" as its strongest beat.  Because of the driving pulse, the band does not have much room for rhythmic complexity, and instead showcases its own tightness.

They're Missing Pluto

A few compositional notes: the role of the Db, or C#, shifts within the chords used in the Bridge section.  It is this shared note that allows for the harmonic transition between two different keys (a half-step apart, nonetheless).  And getting back to the band's synchronization, a piece of rhythmic stretto occurs in the Bridge after the trombone solo, where the phrasing changes into a bar of 7, then 6, and then 5 beats.  

The Meat & Potatoes

When you are soloing over a dominant-seventh chord, keep in mind that it still resembles a major chord.  The purpose of the flat-seventh is to create tension.  So as you are improvising melodies to play over a dominant chord, the simplest technique is to rely on the major pentatonic scale, since the greatest melodies are all built around those five notes.  It is a sure thing.  The flat seventh, and in this case the flat third as well, create that bluesy sound that builds tension and excitement.  Use it with caution, or else your audience will become bored.

Time Mixed-with Pressure

Yet, the element of Big Sam's playing that shines like a diamond is his precious tone.  Developed over the years of playing in the streets of New Orleans, he makes the horn scream in the upper register as it cuts through all the other sounds.  This can be the hardest technique, as it requires you to manage your carbon dioxide resourcefully, so that you can shape the sound of the brass into a gem.  Use the phrase in this solo as a model exercise, where Big Sam ascends high up the scale from Ab to Eb (or E natural if you get too excited).  Keep in mind that his tone did not form overnight.  Take your time to develop your tone.

Finally, this YouTube video came up when I typed the phrase, "Too Much Pie."

Recommended Reading:  The (A) Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift.  (You try finding a book with T.M.P. as a title…)