Saxophone Siblings

I started playing music by learning clarinet when I was 9.  I had 2 cassette tapes:  one of Swing clarinetist Benny Goodman and one of saxophonist Kenny G.  That ended up being the only Kenny G music I had, but I did go on to get several Benny Goodman tapes after that.

I then went on to listen to more and more jazz, and by the time I was 13, when I had the opportunity to play in Jazz Band at school, I was excited to play this music.  At the time, however, the band did not allow clarinets, so if I wanted to join I had to play the saxophone.  

I don’t remember being disappointed about it, and in fact I think I was excited to learn this instrument that was in so much of the music I listened to, so I was given an old Alto Saxophone from one of my cousins and things kind of took off after that.  I’ve been playing alto ever since.

After college, I bought a Tenor Saxophone from an old friend and would play it by myself sometimes, but never really worked with it; all of my gigs were on alto, and I considered myself an alto player.

Then one day Scott Morning recommended me for a new band, and assured the members that I did, in fact, play tenor (although at the time he didn’t know for sure!)  That was my introduction to Polyrhythmics.

As Polyrhythmics continues to move forward each year, I have deepened my commitment to being a better tenor player.  Although the 2 instruments are closely related, they really do require different things, and most importantly the voices are distinct and very different from each other.  

It’s difficult to maintain a balance, because I never want to stop playing alto.  It’s where I began and I still feel like it’s an important voice to me.  But I think some of the difficulties I’ve had lately (that I hinted at in my last post) come from an underdeveloped voice on tenor saxophone.  After all, I have 20 years of playing alto to try to catch up on if I really want to strike a balance.

As I said, alto will always be a part of me, and I will continue to use it as a primary voice in Theoretics, as a well as a part of my sound in Unsinkable Heavies.  But I am also excited to expand and explore tenor sax more seriously in the years to come!


2 thoughts on “Saxophone Siblings

  1. Lucky

    related to the previous post about melody composition: my two cents is that you will more likely come up with an iconic/interesting melody if you are improvising over a groove with an instrument you are less familiar with. I don’t know why this is, perhaps it’s because the more time you spend with a particular instrument, the more likely you are to be moved to reach out to your highest capabilities and may overshoot the natural or even primitive aspect of an iconic melody. this, of course is not to put down brilliant and adventurous melodies, it’s just an approach I’ll tend to employ if I am jamming along with a groove on my primary instrument (trumpet), and not ‘sticking’ a particular thing. alternatively, I’ll pick up a guitar or piano or something I have less facility with and I’ll sometimes come up with a melody that seems perfect to me. perfection in my mind for most melodies (but not all!!) is when nothing can be added or taken away, and it rolls around in the head for days (or even weeks!) after it’s been given birth to.

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