RTV: Lenny Pickett

Release Date: Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lenny Pickett plays four excerpts from “The Thing” (nos. 7, 3, 15, 1), expansions on 1970’s funk music idioms on tenor saxophone with drums, bass, keyboard, and guitar.

The first excerpt is a rolling 12/8 jazz funk; the next tune is another simple riff piece with a joyous upbeat feeling in interrupted duple time; the third begins as a moody ballad with a gospel feel that quickly cuts into a contrasting fast shuffle tempo; the fourth and last selection is a shuffle funk tune built on little pointillistic figures. In his interview, Pickett discusses the idiosyncrasies of funk music, and his survival as a musician.

For almost two decades, a composer-performer-arranger, Lenny Pickett has created the sound of the wailing saxophone that opens and closes the popular Saturday Night Live television show where he is now the musical director. Pickett first gained popular attention for his brilliant solos on Tower of Power’s 1973 breakout album. He continued to work with that band for about a decade, played solos on their 1993 CD “TOP,” and has since performed live and recorded with Rod Stewart, Elton John, Little Feat, Peter Gordon’s Love of Life Orchestra, Doc Kupka’s Strokeland Superband, and many rock and jazz albums and film and television soundtracks. Pickett’s own compositions appear on a 1987 Carthage Records vinyl “Lenny Pickett with the Borneo Horns,” which contains several toe-tapping pieces in wonderful, complex “riff” counterpoint, a kind of minimalistic pattern played by an ensemble of horns and saxes accompanied by simple percussion. Pickett has also written for the Kronos Quartet, New York City Opera, and many theatre and dance productions.