Category Archives: Articles

General Saxophone related articles, opinions, questions, etc, etc

The 50 Worst Artists In Music History

Blender.com, a great music music site, published a great list in 2003 of “The 50 Worst Artists In Music History“. While I don’t agree about #16, Oingo Boingo, I do agree with #4, Kenny G.

"Hated equally by jazz and rock fans, Kenny Gorelick's limpid instrumentals and obsequious cameos helped turn the soprano sax solo into pop music's most feared cliche. He started his career with fusion hack Jeff Lorber, and his 1986 album, Duotones, established a steady market for anodyne, minimal background music, an aesthetic that reached its zenith in 1997 when "The G" set a world record by holding a single note for 45 minutes.
Appalling fact He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Washington with a degree in accounting.
Worst CD Classics in the Key of G (Arista, 1999)"

They also have some interesting comments about Jazz Fusion

"It's a rule of thumb that any music that uses jazz as a prefix will make you want to saw your head off in boredom (see also: jazz-funk, jazz rap, jazz house). But none is as wearying as the genre that thought what rock really needed was month-long bass solos and time signatures Stephen Hawking wouldn't understand.

Cut them some slack, they did publish a fairly good jazz list a while ago. They did nail the Kenny G thing though, I’d have put him as #2. And a newer list would have Paris Hilton and Ashlee Simpson I’m sure….

Tweaking Smart Music On The Mac

I have a love/hate relationship with MakeMusic’s Smartmusic. First, the love part. I love that it has a lot of backgrounds for classical etudes, and you can slow them down, tweak the key, etc. You can even record yourself with it, though the quality and the mixing of the resulting recording is not great at all.

Hate part. They tether you to the computer. Personally, I hate looking at a computer monitor all day, and for music. I like to have music stretched out on my stand. 3 Pages sometimes. A lot of stuff, including the jazz stuff in Smartmusic, is screen only. While I can understand copyright issues for songs, for simple little jazz patterns I don’t. Why not let people print them?

Anyhow, the Continue reading Tweaking Smart Music On The Mac

YouTube Jazz Videos

You’ve probably heard of YouTube. I’d say, it’s kind of like Napster of almost 10 years ago. People post all kinds of videos there, some are legal, some not (TV Shows, probably some of these videos, etc).

Anyhow, there are a number of great Jazz videos there. Do a search of Coltrane, or Michael Brecker. There are some fantastic videos there, even a recent one of Michael playing a new EWI. So go over to YouTube, and type in the name of a few of your favorite musicians. I’m sure you’ll find a good clip there. I’m still looking for a good clip of Quincy Jones (on Sat Nite Live) doing Manteca with Michael Brecker.

On a related note, if you like the video a LOT, you can download a program like PodTube to have it on your iPod.

Update: 08/28 18:30 GMT by E :Here are some of my favorites so far:

And a whole lot more.

Real Book Listening Project

I came across an interesting site. Real Book Listen. The goal is to provide links to audio clips of the songs found in the Hal Leonard Real Book (the one that was “illegal” about 10 years ago, and now is “legal”).

It’s a good idea, especially the iTunes links. I think the author should have included links to Emusic as well as they have a lot of classic Jazz available there.

Windcontroller Group (Group Think)

Over this weekend, I got into this heated argument on a Yahoo group about Wind Controllers. I was interested in perhaps getting a new EWI 4000 to supplement my practicing. I said in one post that I thought a lot of the people using the controller as a sax made it sound cheesy. And, honestly, the sounds do sound cheesy. And I stated that you should try to be a sax, or a flute at all because it just doesn’t sound right. Wow. The little people on that list blew up, calling my statements “stupid”, calling me “bipolar” when I said that the Garritan Jazz Band sounds sound good (but not good enough) and slandering me about everything under the moon. The moderator, Matt at Patchman Music decided to just remove me from the list without any explanation. Nice moderating there guy.

I thought it was really interesting that these guys have deluded themselves into thinking that playing a flute patch, or sax patch sounds as good as the real thing. One gem, was posted by this german guy “We emulators must have come very close to the “real thing” otherwise they wouldn’t feel to threatened and be so passionate about preventing emulation”. I totally don’t agree. You are doing a disservice to the music community. Whatever happened to tone? Isn’t tone the most important part of someone’s playing? If you are proficient on wind controller, why not just play the real instrument then? There is not much of a leap from EWI to clarinet. Why not just play it as it’s own instrument with it’s own unique sound?

Group Think

Ah, anyhow, the little group there seems to think not. Thus I got bounced, though people who slandered me seem to have been allowed to continue to post. I think the wind controller players are limiting themselves if they do emulation, or even think it sounds a “believable” substitute for a real instrument. Steps Ahead would not be on my iPod if Brecker was using a flute patch to play all those songs.

But what do you all think? EWI as a substitute for a real instrument? As it’s own entity (ala Brecker)? I am totally for the latter, and opposed to the former.

Future Of MP3 and Surround Sound

Wired magazine is running a story pondering the MP3 format, how long it will last, and where surround sound is going to fit in. Basically, it looks like it will be around for a while even though better formats, like AAC or MP3Pro, are out. AAC is part of the MPEG4 standard, but a lot of people, like the geeks on Slashdot have issues with Fairplay encoded AACs (or Digital Rights Management (DRM) AACs. Stuff you buy off iTunes Store for example).

For myself, I gave up encoding to MP3 years ago. Most everything I encode now is 160 or 192 (due to cymbals in some jazz recordings getting “washed out” at 160) bit AACs. They sound great on my iPod (and new iPod video), and on both my stereo systems (studio and home).

I see AAC and MPEG4 winning out over other formats, though we will probably have to put up with WMA (Microsoft) formats for a while longer.

Silent Saxophone Practice

Ok. Brass instruments have had that Silent Brass system for a while. Most sax players wish they would use it all the time ;-). Now, it seems saxophone players can have something similar.

E-Sax is a new case/silent practice thing. Interesting stuff. Looks really funny, but they say it works. You can even do Karaoke with it. Woohoo!

I have always been hoping for some sort of noise cancelling system to come out. A system where you’d hook a mic up, and while you play a digital box takes your sound, and then produces and blasts out the inverse and cancels out the sound. Perhaps someday….

Best/Worst Of 2005

I just picked up a copy of Tim Ries “The Rolling Stones Project”. I have to say, this is probably the best CD I’ve bought in 2005. I can’t think of another CD that I bought in 2005 that was better. Seriously, I think the industry needs to stop doing American Idol and other cheese things, and get back to producing good music.

On the Worst side, the RIAA lawsuits. Here is a great clip of a CNN interview with a person being sued and the RIAA head. Wow, talking about blinking. And here is another guy challenging the suits. I think if an album is good, and reasonably priced, people will buy it (HINT: Around $10). Also, a potential problem for the Recording Industry in the form of Spitzer. What? Price collusion? The RIAA? Never…..not in a hundred years…..

RIP Jazz Font

Since it first came out, I was an advocate for the Jazz Font. I still have the 3.5″ floppy that I bought to use with Finale 3 something. The disc has 1995 written on it. Anyhow, now I see it all over the place. The Jazz text font people use with other fonts. Yikes! And the music produced using the Jazz font is hit and miss. Sometimes it looks good, sometimes not (except like Warner Bros professional scores, those look great). And then there is a variation called Swing Font from the same author, and we won’t go into that goofy looking Sibelius “jazz” font….all these “hand written” fonts don’t look hand written to me anymore. I hate coming into a rehearsal and having to deal with a bad font and poor formatting. I had a rehearsal about 2 weeks ago where someone brought in a Sibelius chart that could have been 2 pages in Finale, but was 4 in that goofy Sibelius jazz font. Looked like crap.

Having been exposed to a “better way”, I’m am leaving the world of the Jazz Font. Too many people use it, and, honestly, it isn’t as cool or as good looking as it once was.

I’ve rewritten my venerable “Zinn Practice Regimen” for sax using Bill Duncan’s Finale Productivity stuff. Amazing. There is no comparison. This new version is easier to read, looks better. Hell, it’s better than some books I have bought. Mr. Duncan is currently working on some Jazz Articulations to include in his package. Scoops, falls, bends and whatnot. Looking forward to it!

It’s been a good run Jazz Font, but, alas, time for you to be retired.

James Newton Howard On Scoring For King Kong

KongisKing.net has a couple of interesting videos about the post production of the new King Kong movie. Of interest are the post production movies of weeks 4 and 5.

Amazing that he does about 2 minutes of music a day, and then the copyists come in at like 4am to write out parts for the orchestra to play in the morning. Also amazing the amount of Macintoshes used 😉 Also of note is that it appears that Finale is used, by the look of a couple of the pieces of music in the videos, specifically in the Week 4 video, about 4:21 into it. Looks like Finale using Bill Duncan’s Finale Fonts

Sax Amplifiers??

Pimsoul writes “I play in a band, on alto sax. The think is, because the drums are loud the bass and guitar is loud, so i have to play loud too. But I can’t always keep up with loudness, so we thought about amplifieing my sax. Because it isn’t good for a normal guitar amplifier to use it for saxophone i’m looking for an alternative. I thinking about an amplifier for sax, but do they even exist? So yes, are these things expensive (when you compare it with the quality)? If they don’t exist, what are the other alternatives?
I would appreciate replies very much, thank you!
Kind regards, Pim
(excuse me for my bad English)”

There is not a “sax amplifier” per say. What you can use is pretty much any type of amp you want. Or a self powered speaker. Keyboard amps work great, something like Rolands KC350. Really depends on how much money you want to spend. And you would need a microphone as well, something like a Sennheiser 421.

But you might consider asking the other guys to play down at 11 rather than 13. If you can’t hear yourself play in a band, you have to wonder what the long term effects on your hearing (not to mention sanity). Is it worth losing your hearing to play really, really, really loud?

Boycott Sony Music

If you haven’t heard, Sony is installing DRM on its CDs. This DRM has also been exploited.
In fact, there is even a lawsuit over it.

Now, it seems even Mac OS X gets some sort of DRM with a Sony CD.

It’s time to boycott Sony Music.

Update: 11/13 20:27 GMT by E :There is an interesting discussion about Sony’s End User License Agreement on Slashdot.org. Amazing how this company is protecting it’s profits.