Today, the museum kicked off its 13th annual Jazz Appreciation Month by celebrating A Love Supreme’s 50th anniversary. And in honor of the occasion, Ravi Coltrane, himself an accomplished contemporary jazz musician, donated one of his father’s three principal saxophones—a Mark VI tenor crafted by Henri Selmer Paris, a manufacturer of high-quality brass and woodwind instruments. The saxophone was made in 1965, the same year in which the recording of A Love Supreme was issued. “Every time I open the case to look at the saxophone,” said John Edward Hasse, curator of American music, who presided over its donation ceremony, “I get goosebumps. John…Coltrane’s….saxophone.”
It was bound to happen.
Very cool video from the Steve Allen show where three of his saxophonists play ONE saxophone.
Here is the video (embedding was disabled)
The article on Wikipedia isn’t the authoritative narrative of the rise and fall of the C-Melody. In fact, the author(s) of the Wikipedia article say “However, it is important to note that production ended for purely financial reasons, and not because of any inherent flaw in the design or poor manufacturing standards. C melody saxophones were as good as the reputation of whichever company manufactured them.” and continue with this assertion “the “Big Band” era had started in the early 1930s and anyone who wanted to learn the saxophone was interested primarily in soprano, alto, tenor or baritone because this would, potentially at least, allow them to play in a Big Band, and Big Bands did not feature C melody saxophones in their instrument line-up. As a result there was no consumer demand for C melody instruments”.
I wonder if that is really the reason. If, as they say on Wikipedia, that the instruments “were as good as the reputation of whichever company manufactured them” then, why wouldn’t Pros use them? Wouldn’t it have been a whole lot easier to have a big band that had two C “tenors” and a slightly smaller C “alto” and a slightly larger C “Bari” in the section? I mean, writing for them would have been a lot easier. I would reason that there was something else that prevented the adoption of the C-Melody by Professionals of the day.
Another Wikipedia article says “settling upon instruments alternating between E? and B? rather than those pitched in F and C, for reasons of tone and economy” and “The C soprano saxophone was the only instrument to sound at concert pitch.” More fuel on the fire.
I know people who have C-Melody saxophones. They play crappy I think. Partly because the rest of the saxophone world has advanced in the 80+ years since the hay-day of the C-Melody. The sounds are different. Sort of like comparing a guitar sound and strings to modern guitars. Similar, yes, but different. Or maybe lets use a car analogy….naw.
So what killed the C-Melody then? Was it that companies just didn’t produce quality instruments? Was it (as I suspect) that they sounded crappy even if they were high quality? Was it the Big Band that killed them?
Rueters is reporting that long time Bruce Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons has died.
“Clarence Clemons, the saxophone player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, died on Saturday, according to media reports, almost a week after he had a stroke at his Florida home. He was 69.”
I got this in my email today. Funny stuff.
HOW TO PLAY THE SAXOPHONE
First things first: If you’re a white guy, you’ll need a stupid hat, the more stupid the better and preferably a beret.
Sunglasses are optional, but all the really, really good players wear them, especially indoors.
You’ll also need some “gig shirts”-Hawaiians are good, but in a pinch anything with a loud floral pattern is acceptable, as are T-shirts from various jazz clubs and festivals. The good thing about the latter is that you can get them mail order so you don’t have to go to all the trouble of actually seeing and hearing live music.
And sandals are an absolute must, even in winter.
Once you’ve assembled the proper attire you can begin practicing. One of the most important things about playing is being able to convey emotion to the audience. This you do through various facial expressions. The two emotions you’ll need to convey are (1) rapture / ecstasy and (2) soul wrenching pain and sadness (i.e., the blues). You may find it useful in the beginning to borrow a page from the method acting school. So, for example, to convey rapture, try thinking of something nice-like puppy dogs or getting a rim job from Uma Thurman while Phil Barone feeds you Armour hot dogs with truffle sauce.
To convey the “blues” try thinking of something really appalling – like ulcerative colitis or Alec Baldwin.
You should practice your facial expressions in front of a mirror at least two hours per day. You may feel a tad stupid at first, but you’ll never get the chicks if you don’t jump around on stage like a monkey with your face screwed up like there’s a rabid wolverine devouring your pancreas. And, bottom line, getting chicks is really what music’s all about.
Next, you’ll need the correct ligature.
Some people think that the ligature is just a stupid old piece of metal that holds the reed on the mouthpiece. Well, those people are idiots. Besides your beret, the ligature is the single most important piece of musical equipment you will ever buy. Mine, for example, is 40% platinum and 60% titanium; one screw is rubidium and the other plutonium. It makes me sound exactly like Booker Ervin would if Booker Ervin wasn’t (1) dead and/or (2) living on Mars.
You may have to spend years and years and thousands of dollars finding the proper ligature, but in the end it definitely will be worth it.
Now reeds. Optimally, you’ll want to move to Cuba, grow and cure your own cane, and carve your own reeds by hand. If you’re just a “weekend warrior” however, you can get by with store-bought.
First, buy ten boxes of reeds -100 in all. Next, open all the boxes and throw away 60 reeds. Those were unplayable.
Take the remaining reeds and soak them in a mixture of 27.8% rubbing alcohol and 72.2% pituitary gland extract for a period of 17 weeks.
Throw away 20 more reeds. Those were stuffy.
Take the remaining 20 reeds and sand each one for exactly 13 seconds with #1200 grade 3M sandpaper.
Throw away 14 reeds. Those squeaked.
Take the remaining 6 reeds and soak them for another 17 weeks, this time however in a mixture of 27.8% pituitary gland extract and 72.2% rubbing alcohol.
Sun dry the 6 remaining reeds for 3 weeks, optimally at an equatorial latitude, and throw away 3 more just on general principles.
You now have 3 reeds that will last you several months if you play each one only 20 minutes a day in strict rotation.
Now, you say you just bought a horn. Although you didn’t say what kind it is I’d sell it immediately and get a different one.
The best one to get would be a Selmer Mark VI made at 4:27 PM on June 14, 1963, serial number 635543. If you can’t get that one though, generally speaking the older and more expensive the better.
The following brands are good: Selmer Paris Mark VI. The following brands suck: any other Selmer, Yamaha, Conn, Beuscher, Yanigasawa, Cannonball, LA, Jupiter, Elkhart, King, Martin, Keilworth, Boosey and Hawkes, Couf, Silvertone, and Holton. On no account should you play the horn before you buy it: go strictly on reputation and price.
You will also need some accoutrements: a flight case capable of withstanding atmospheric pressure of dP = – Dg dz where D and g are, respectively, the density of air and the acceleration due to gravity at the altitude of the air layer and dz is a horizontal layer of air having unit surface area and infinitesimal thickness; a metronome; a tuner; a combination alto-tenor-baritone sax stand with pegs for an oboe, bass clarinet, flute, english horn and bassoon; Band in a Box; every Jamie Aebersold play-along record ever created; a reed cutter; swabs, cleaners, pad savers, pad dope, pad clamps; a Sennheiser Digital 1092 Wireless Microphone; an effects rig with digital delay and parametric EQ; and a 200 watt (per channel, minimum) amplifier and 18″ monitor.
It will be helpful if you listen to lots of sax players. Unfortunately, listening solely to players you like is absolutely the worst thing you can do.
To really understand the music and its traditions you have to go back to the beginning and listen to every bit of music ever recorded. I’d start with madrigals and work forward. Once you get to the 20th century, pay particular attention to players like Jimmy Dorsey, Sidney Bechet, and Al Gallodoro who are the foundations of the modern jazz saxophone.
In no time at all, or by 2034-whichever comes first-you’ll be able to understand the unique be-bop stylings of players like Ace Cannon, Boots Randolph, and Sam Butera.
Finally, to play the sax itself, blow in the small end and move your fingers around. (Author Unknown)
Ever wanted to see ALL the saxophones in action. Here you go.
A few months ago, RicoReeds.com had a survey or something (honestly don’t remember) on their website that, if you took the time to fill it out, they’d send you a neck strap. Well, lo and behold months later, I received said strap.
(it looks sorta like the one on the right, sorta. The patterns different.) If I was buying this strap for $10, I would. The hook is great, and it adjusts in a snap. That is what I love. My favorite neckstrap to take on gigs, especially if I have to switch saxophones a lot or use a bass clarinet, is a Ray Hyman strap.
Why you say? It adjusts instantly, and easily. But it has no padding?!? True enough, but generally in Orchestra Pit work and gigs, one wears a shirt with a collar. However, since I am down to ONE of these Ray Hyman straps (from 3 :-/), this Rico Strap will probably be the strap of choice. It is more comfy than the Hyman, but still has its adjustability. Oh, and they also make the same strap but padded.
I like this strap. Even though it says Tenor/Baritone, it works fine on Tenor/Alto. Thanks Rico/D’Addario for finally sending it out!
I picked up an LP of Eric Kloss “Consciousness”. Wow. However, he seems to have disappeared. This is what I could dig up about him via Google
“One of the true child prodigies of the ‘60s, saxophonist Eric Kloss holds the distinction of having a record contract with Prestige Records at the ripe young age of 15. Blind, smart as a whip, and technically proficient at even this early stage in his career, Kloss went on to make some remarkable albums up through the early ‘70s and then disappeared into academia.
Like a lot of other jazz cerca 1969-70, there’s a definite rock influence both in the rhythms and in Corea’s use of the electric piano (he also plays acoustic). Consciousness! (tracks 6-10) was recorded in January 1970, and sounds a lot more like the intense Fillmore recordings. Pat Martino, who joins the band on guitar, is an explosive presence.
This is highly recommended to any fan of Corea, Holland, or DeJohnette as well as to anyone who likes the sound of late 60s post-bop jazz. And besides, you will never hear a funkier version of “Sunshine Superman” in your life.”
And Allmusic has a little more. But…….what happened to him? Is this another case of a John Klemmer type who was totally amazing then disappears off the planet?
This is sad, tragic news:
“LeRoi Moore, saxophonist and founding member of the Dave Matthews Band, died Tuesday from complications stemming from injuries he sustained in an ATV accident, the band’s publicist said.”
DMB is one of the few good rock bands out there…..he is going to be hard to replace…..
I came across this article at the NPR. It is about Taiwan saxophones.
“Just how Houli became the world’s unsung center of saxophone making is largely an accident of history. The story dates back to just after World War II. It stars a larger-than-life character named Chang Lien-cheng. He was a farmer’s son who abandoned the family land to become a painter and jazz musician, says a spokeswoman for his company: “No one during that time was actually playing any kinds of Western instruments. But he was fascinated by this instrument called saxophone.””
There is also a “Listen Now” for this article that is worth checking out, as it goes into more details than the written article.
Canadian saxophonist, Al Gallodoro turns 95 on Friday. Check out his site at www.algallodoro.com.
I wonder why things like this get funded.
John Coltrane and other famed jazz saxophonists hit piercing high notes that amateurs can’t by expertly changing the shape of their vocal tracts, research now reveals.
No shit Sherlock. It’s called having chops. Practicing for a long time.
Untangling this mystery has proven hard, since it is challenging making precise acoustic measurements inside the mouth during playing.
You think? Really? No way.
“It’s wet in the mouth and the acoustic conditions in there are really variable, and it gets really loud in there during playing,” explained researcher Jer-Ming Chen, an acoustician at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
No, you think?
Can I get a grant to do pointless research like this? Jer-Ming Chen, why not focus on IMPORTANT SCIENCE? Oh, maybe creating renewable energy, or creating a cure for cancer? No? Too hard? Is that why you had to spend time on this “science”?
Chen added that for pro saxophonists to reach these notes, “they say they have to hear the sound in their head, to kind of get a mental image of the sound. This suggests they have some muscle memory with this tuning. I think that means anyone can learn how to do this, but you need to put in a lot of practice to get that same muscle memory.”
A scientific study which “proves” the obvious. I give you a nice “golf clap” for this. Now go freaking do something worthwhile with science. Geeze.