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



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lol Coxhill (solo soprano)

Here's one of my favorite solo soprano performances--Lol Coxhill performing at the Battersea Arts Centre in London. Even though they primarily program cutting-edge theater, occasionally they throw in some cutting-edge music, too.

I've always liked Lol's patience when playing solo. Saxophonists tend to go down the "bizerk" and "noisy" routes too quickly when performing in this format. When used too often, even things that are typically viewed as cutting-edge can sound like cliches.

Whenever I play a solo concert, leaving space is probably the most challenging thing for me to do. And it's usually the most effective, too.

In this clip, Lol reminds me of a long distance runner. Running, not to win the race, but just to run. Totally in the moment.



Monday, November 22, 2010

John Butcher (solo soprano)

Here's something from John Butcher at the 2009 Bohman Brothers Festival in London.

The Bohman Brothers festival is six consecutive nights of improvised music curated by music experimentalist Adam Bohman, and features prominent musicians from the UK improvised music scene such as Evan Parker and Lol Coxhill.

John has really great control of multiphonics, as you can hear in this clip. He integrates them well which his monophonic language--if you will.

I like the fact that when he circular breathes he doesn’t fall into an Evan Parker thing—which is not a easy thing to do. He really pulls out all of the sonic stops on this one--multiphonics, circular breathing, bird sounds, flutter tonguing, the whole nine yards. Sometimes I guess you have to get beyond conventionality to discover yourself.

I’ve always envied guys who can just go for it. I don’t always have the courage. One day I hope to develop enough trust in myself to get from underneath the skirt of Mother Structure.

I’m looking forward to hearing more of his solo stuff.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roscoe Mitchell (Solo Soprano Saxophone)

Here's some very challenging music to listen to!

In this clip, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell is playing a solo soprano saxophone set at the Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen Festival. This festival features free jazz and improvised music in a small village in the Austrian province of Burgenland close to the border with Hungary.

Roscoe is combining two extended techniques--circular breathing and multiphonics. It can be difficult to circular breath on one multiphonic like this. This particular one is actually good, because it's consistent.

At times, it sounds almost industrial--similar to a jackhammer. I used to practice circular breathing on this very multiphonic. I could never figure out what to do with it musically, so I put it down. Now that I hear Roscoe exploring it, I might investigate it again.

It's a good thing a bought my sound-proofed Whisper Room!


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.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Soprano Titans: Shorter and Liebman

I have always found it inspiring listening to Wayne Shorter and Dave Liebman. I'm inspired by Wayne's patience with the playing the instrument. He's not afraid of making the use of space a part of his sonic palette--not to mention all of the interesting colors and inflections he uses. I actually don't hear it as a soprano when he plays it. It just sounds like a voice.

With Liebman, his command and intensity on the instrument is unrivaled. He's probably has one of the most influential soprano sounds in modern jazz--especially amongst the post-Coltraners. Or should I say "Coltraneez."

Both of the guys always make me want to go and practice. Speaking of which...

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Art of Circular Breathing on Soprano

Those of you not hip to Evan Parker are in for a treat. Even though Evan has developed many extended techniques to the highest of levels, the one for which he has left his mark is by far, circular breathing. This is when a player pushes out short puffs of air stored in the cheeks while simultaneously inhaling air through the nose--giving the impression of playing a continuous stream of air without a break.

Not only can Evan do this very well, but he can keep several parts moving at the same time. He's like a one-man sonic orchestra. Check out this clip of Evan back in the eighties.


Masters of Extended Techniques

Here's are two masters of extended techniques on the soprano. Lol Coxhill (on the left) who has a slower, more patient style, while John Butcher (on the right) is little more in you face. They compliment each other very well. I find it fascinating that two players can be totally in their own worlds, but yet, totally together.

I often go to these guys when I'm looking for some cool, new sounds!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Soprano Saxophone Extended Techniques

I came across this site some time ago when I was heavily investigating multiphonics. This mystery man does a great job of categorizing them according to levels of difficulty. Let me know if any of you have some success with them. Often times multiphonics can be very horn and set-up specific. Check it out! www.uauaua.net Let me know what you think.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Microtonal Saxophonist

I recently came across a saxophonist by the name of Bhob Rainey. I was doing my monthly Google search for a saxophonist whose working in the medium of micro-tonality. No one in particular, just a like-minded person. And it was a pleasant surprise when his name came up. Even better, he actually considers himself a "micro-tonal saxophonist." I thought, how cool!

I downloaded his solo soprano saxophone CD, 6 Standing Desert. It's an interesting and short recording, slightly less than 20 minutes in length. Mr. Rainey is part of the Boston Microtonal Society, a select group of musicians in the Boston area, all of whom work in the realm of micro-tonality.

I like his sonic approach to the instrument. Many musicians can get too caught up in line and lick playing on the soprano. But I like his "noise" approach. He has a very good understanding of how to use multiphonics, harmonically and textually. He gave me some ideas.

I'm looking forward to hearing more from him. I could always use a good partner to play quartertones and multiphonics with. But then again, can't everybody?


Here's a sample of some of Bhob's playing. Pretty wild stuff!

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