"Make It Good to Yourself" - Fred Wesley

"Make It Good to Yourself" (PDF) from the James Brown album, Black Caesar (Original Soundtrack).
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The four words that I despise hearing are, "Make it sound good."  I interpret this phrase as, "I am too lazy and careless to arrange the horn parts for my music, so you do it," and I would rather bring the band rehearsal to a halt to have, and settle, an argument about the roles within the band.  For instance, if you really wish to hand me the responsibilities of making the horns "sound good," then the horns are going to be the star of the show.  That's just how I blow!  Additionally, what "sounds good" to me may not "sound good" to you.  So, choose your words wisely when I am around.

Of course, there are musicians out there, some trombonists even, that can "make it sound good" as if it had been pre-recorded.  I am not one of them.  I recall a studio session in which I was to record a trombone solo for a tune.  I knew the song but I had not yet improvised over it, and the vocalist had recorded it in a different key, as well.  Before we started recording, I was advised by the control room to "make it sound good," and from what I remember of that session, my solo was a composite performance of multiple takes of me trying to learn the tune.  A few months had passed when I heard the finished version, and I instantly realized that my solo had been re-recorded by another trombonist who sure "made it sound good."  I never received any money for my failed efforts, so just keep in mind that you get what you pay for, suckers.

When he was handed the task of orchestrating the film score for Black Caesar, Fred Wesley heard the phrase, "Make it sound good," many times from both the Hollywood executives and from the boss, James Brown.  Luckily, Fred's talents were eventually recognized by the "hardest working man in show business" as Wesley became a more prominent name within the J.B. hit factory.  Yet, I can only imagine that when it came time to record, "Make It Good to Yourself," a last-minute decision was made to include a trombone solo towards the end, where it could be cut if wasn't working.  Of course, Fred "made it sound good" as only he can do, which in some way explains why he plays the Eb minor pentatonic riffs over an Ab7 chord.  Sometimes you do not have the luxury of planning for it to sound good, you just have to make it happen.

Here is YouTube video (audio only) of Fred Wesley playing this rare tune with Karl Denson and The Greyboy Allstars.

Recommended Reading: Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman by Fred Wesley Jr.  Published by Duke University Press.