Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Friday, November 12, 2010

Keith Jarrett Plays the Soprano Saxophone

Keith Jarrett
I must confess, I always enjoy the looks on peoples' faces whenever I mention that Keith Jarrett is one of my favorite soprano players. Without fail, the response is always, "Keith Jarrett, the piano player?"

 But wouldn't it be funny, though, if there was a guy out there named Keith Jarrett who only played the soprano?

On this musical excerpt, you can certainly hear the Jan Garbarek influence as well as Dewey Redman and Ornette Coleman. He sounds almost like a gruff, Jan Gabarek. You probably won't hear a more organic sound on the instrument. To me, Keith gets a pure soprano sound. He definitely has a sound centered approach.

Junior High Stage Band
Being a piano player, he has an advantage in that he can play the soprano from a non-doubler's perspective. He probably didn't start off playing alto and tenor in the junior high stage band (at least I don't think so), therefore, he can hear the soprano as a soprano and not an extension of a much larger saxophone.

Listening to Keith, I learned that you can get a meatier sound in the high register, rich with overtones, if you don't use the octave key. I use this technique whenever I'm playing something with a Middle-Eastern vibe.

Dewey Redman
Quick anecdote: I remember one day I was taking the Amtrak train with Dewey Redman, going from New York to Boston to play a gig, and I asked him his opinion of Keith's soprano playing. I thought for sure he was going to share my sentiment about Keith's unique and original approach to the instrument. But I was almost crushed when he said, "Man, every time he pulled out that thing, I would cringe!" He was Dewey Redman, so of course I didn't debate it with him.

But then I thought, maybe it's a soprano thing...

This track is titled Eyes of the Heart, from Keith's 1979 release on ECM records of the same name. It also features Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian.

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