The Usual Suspects

Gio Washington-Wright's Top L.A. Studio Musicians Tribute Site

 

OK, I've received quite a few emails about my favorite Dan Higgins moments on the lead alto or woodwind book. I gave it some thought and decided to rank them below - with commentary. Enjoy! - GW


 

Dan playing lead with the Seth MacFarlane Big Band on Jimmy Kimmel
Seth "Family Guy" MacFarlane, vocals. Joel McNeely, arranger & conductor. Saxes: Dan Higgins (lead), Brian Scanlon, Pete Christlieb, Bill Liston, Greg Huckins. Trumpets: Wayne Bergeron (lead), Chuck Findley, Bob Summers, Warren Luening. Trombones: Andy Martin (lead), Steve Holtman, Alex Iles, Bill Reichenbach (bass). Rhythm: Ray Brinker (drums), Tom Ranier (piano), Dave Stone (bass), Jim Fox (guitar). Featuring Warren Luening, trumpet.

 

#1. "Mama Llama Samba"
Gordon Goodwin Jazz Orchestra / "Close To The Edge"
Saxes: Dan, Doug Walter, Greg Huckins, Robbie Elinson, John J. Mitchell.

Dan - Mama Llama Samba - Lead.mp3

This is the winner. This is one of the hardest solis I've ever played (it's angular and in a difficult key). Dan charges through this like it's nothing... and this soli is hard to make sound smooth. This was also the first soli I ever heard Dan play lead on - and I was destroyed. From what I understand, Dan just read this down with no problem, 1st take. If you listen closely, you can hear Dan playing piccolo before he switches over to alto.
 

 

#2. "Count Bubba"
Big Phat Band / "Swingin' For The Fences"
Saxes: Dan, Sal Lozano, Gordon Goodwin, Bill Liston, Greg Huckins.

Dan - Count Bubba - Lead.mp3

This is the soli that made Dan Higgins a household name. Brilliant playing by all - especially Dan. This one speaks for itself. Dan also plays a burnin' solo later on in the chart.

 

#3. "Bach 2-Part Invention"
Big Phat Band / "Swingin' For The Fences"
Saxes: Dan, Sal Lozano, Gordon Goodwin, Bill Liston, Greg Huckins.

http://www.lastudiomusicians.info/Dan - Bach Two Part - Lead.mp3

Another DIFFICULT soli. This one weaves in and out of various time signatures. Everyone plays so smoothly that you can't really tell.

 

#4. "Bach 2-Part Invention"
(flute intro)

Big Phat Band / "Swingin' For The Fences"
Flutes: Dan, Sal Lozano, Gordon Goodwin, Bill Liston, Greg Huckins.

Dan - Bach 2 Part - Flute Lead.mp3

Wow! This soli really allows you to hear how expertly Dan and the guys play their "doubles". What you're actually hearing is these guys double-tracked. In other words, there are actually 10 flutes playing. Just breathtaking!

 

#5. "I Remember"
Big Phat Band / "Swingin' For The Fences"
Flutes: Dan, Sal Lozano, Gordon Goodwin, Bill Liston, Greg Huckins.

Dan - I Remember - Lead.mp3

A beautiful flute soli by Gordon Goodwin. This is challenging because it is 5 unison flutes doubled with piano.

 

#6. "The Blues For Norma Jean"
Patrick Williams / "Blonde" soundtrack
Saxes: Dan, Terry Harrington, Plas Johnson, Lee Callet.

Dan - Blues For Norma Jean - Lead.mp3

Dan does an amazing job of emulating his heroes - Marshal Royal and Johnny Hodges

 

#7. "Man With A Horn"
Arturo Sandoval / "Trumpet Evolution"
Saxes: Dan, Greg Huckins, Bill Liston, Rusty Higgins, Joel Peskin.

Dan - A Man With A Horn - Lead.mp3

Hauntingly Beautiful...

 

#8. "Ya Gotta Try Harder!"
The Quincy Jones & Sammy Nestico Orchestra / "Basie and Beyond"
Saxes: Dan, Gary Foster, Ernie Watts, Pete Christlieb, Jack Nimitz.

Dan - Ya Gotta Try Harder - Lead.mp3

Another great one. Dan starts off on soprano then switches to alto for the outro soli.

 

#9. "Belly Roll"
The Quincy Jones & Sammy Nestico Orchestra / "Basie and Beyond"
Saxes: Dan, Gary Foster, Ernie Watts, Pete Christlieb, Jack Nimitz.

Dan - Belly Roll - Lead.mp3

A version of the Basie "L'il Ol' Groovermaker" classic. Hearing Dan and Gary Foster wail away is so awesome!

 

#10. "Lush Life"
Masanori Sasaji / "Afroblue"
Saxes: Dan, Brandon Fields, Pete Christlieb, Larry Williams, Kim Hutchcroft.

Dan - Lush Life - Lead.mp3

Like the other great lead alto players throughout history (Marshal Royal, Johnny Hodges, Dick Oatts, etc.), Dan's lead alto has a "singing" quality to it and is instantly identifiable.

 

#11. "In Your Own Sweet Way"
Masanori Sasaji / "Afroblue"
Saxes: Dan, Brandon Fields, Pete Christlieb, Larry Williams, Kim Hutchcroft.

Dan - In Your Own Sweet Way - Lead.mp3

Another wide-open, beautiful "song-like" soli with Dan's perfect sound on display..

 

#12. "My Favorite Things"
Masanori Sasaji / "Birdland"
Woodwinds: Dan, Brandon Fields, Ernie Watts, Larry Williams, Jack Nimitz, Sheridan Stokes, Greg Huckins, Gary Foster, Bill Liston, Gene Cipriano, John Yoakum.

Dan - My Favorite Things - Lead.mp3

A massive woodwind section (w/ big band) and Dan on 1st part. There is a lot of switching between sax, flute, clarinet, and oboe going on here. Incredible woodwind "doubling"!

 

#13. "Looking For Zaphoid"
Gordon Goodwin Jazz Orchestra / "Close To The Edge"
Saxes: Dan, Doug Walter, Eric Marienthal, Mike Whitman, John J. Mitchell.

Dan - Looking For Zaphoid - Lead.mp3

This is a hilarious tune and soli. The lead alto part calls for you to sound like David Sanborn. Of course, Dan drills it.

 

#14. "Hot Monkey Love"
Gordon Goodwin Jazz Orchestra / "Close To The Edge"
Saxes: Dan, Doug Walter, Greg Huckins, Robbie Elinson, John J. Mitchell.

Dan - Hot Monkey Love - Lead.mp3

A really fun (and funny) intro soli. Hats off to John Mitchell, as well. He sounds GREAT on bari. In fact, mostly all of the "Animaniacs" cartoons are John on his doubles.

Welcome

Newest Members