Category: General

Interview with Noah Pettibon by Tim Hecker

This interview was conducted and provided by Tim Hecker. Noah Pettibon is a student at Central Washington University and young aspiring baritone saxophonist. Big thanks to Tim for conducting the interview and writing it up for us at JazzBariSax.com!


Up and coming artist and undergrad Noah Pettibon was kind enough to give an interview with jazzbarisax.com after the recent release of his new straight-ahead and cool jazz influenced trio EP entitled Plus Two. For clarity, my questions are bolded and the artist’s answers are standard text. – Tim Hecker

First of all, what is your background in music? Who have been your mentors, teachers and inspirations?

I was born in 1998 and I’m from University Place, Washington which is next to Tacoma, a suburb of Seattle. I don’t come from a musical family, but music was always playing on a speaker somewhere. I always wanted to play music. I was given piano lessons from the age of 6 until I started playing alto saxophone in my 5th grade band. I switched to tenor eventually and started getting serious about music, then began pursuing the baritone in 10th grade. I played in a few local college and community bands in high school and the following year. Just before leaving for my first year at Central Washington University, I finally picked up clarinet and actually study it classically in the studio. I am heading into my second year there and will also be studying in the composition studio. Since 9th grade, I’ve been studying privately with alto saxophonist Tracy Knoop, an 80s Berklee graduate and staple of the straight ahead scene in the Pacific Northwest. He’s had a big influence on me and, most importantly, has taught me how to teach myself!

Tell me a bit about your setup?

-1950 Conn 12M “Lady Face”
-RPC .95 refaced by Matt Marantz
-BG Leather lig
-D’Addario Jazz Select 4M Unfiled reeds
-Boston Sax Shop Balam strap

What are your interests outside of music?

I love the arts in general. I enjoy learning about all kinds of creative mediums and crafts. I can always apply what I learn to music in some way. The internet can be an exceptionally constructive cure for boredom!

Let’s talk about your new EP, Plus Two-

Right away I hear a lot of Gerry Mulligan; were you trying to emulate a Mulligan sound and style?

It’s interesting you say that. In my mind I’m actually thinking about Pepper Adams a lot, at least baritone-wise. This is kind of controversial, but I think Mulligan would have been one of my favorite musicians had he played tenor. To me he doesn’t sound at home on the baritone. That said, I do very much admire his writing, his time, his melodic sensibilities, etc. To give some credit to your observation, I was undoubtedly playing at the lighter aspects of my sound a lot of the time here.

Why a trio? Was the lack of piano another cue from Mulligan, was it who was available at the time or were you just experimenting and found something that worked?

Acoustically, the baritone tends to get kind of buried. The sound of the instrument is so rich and complex that it blends in with many different timbres. Sonically the low saxophones hold their own very well which we see being fleshed out a lot lately with solo work by artists like Colin Stetson and the like. That kind of music is not something I’m currently working on, so the best way I could see to display my sound in a straight ahead jazz setting was with this instrumentation. It was primarily an acoustic choice. Also a trio is cheaper!

Tell me about your choosing the straight-ahead style; is this subgenre a personal passion for you, or a homage to things past before you forge ahead into the future? Will you continue to release albums in this style or do you plan to experiment with new blends and mediums for your sound?

Like I said, the straight ahead jazz tradition is what I am focusing my studies on at the moment. It is at the core of the variety of styles of western improvised music today. I don’t think those styles could exist without it. I imagine I’ll always be playing and sharing this style of music, but I have begun putting serious effort towards expanding my palette. My musical interests are pretty diverse, and I set my standards quite high. After all, there are still so many things I’m yet to hear the baritone saxophone do! Ultimately, I want to be making music I would want to hear. No one but you can make music the exact way you would want it done!

A number of the tunes on this album are ones you wrote; what is your process?

Yes, two of the seven tracks are my original compositions. They say Duke Ellington wrote every day. It’s one of those things that you improve at just by doing and self-analyzing. Pepper Adams said “As a composer, I use up erasers faster than lead!” and I can also relate strongly to that. It’s like chipping marble off a massive, cumbersome block until you manage to refine it to something beautiful.

Do you write for baritone specifically?

It depends. Take Malocclusion for example, which is featured on this record. That was my effort to write something that could really only sound any good on baritone, using all the beautiful registers while providing a nice challenge. I don’t usually do that, though. I certainly never write with the saxophone or for it. Always on piano and with little regard for the so-called difficulty level. I would rather rise to meet the sound in my head rather write down to my abilities.

Tell me about some of your influences and favorite composers?

There are so many prolific writers across all of music, especially in this genre! If I had to name a few favorites, they’d be Thad Jones, Billy Strayhorn, Benny Golson, Vernon Duke, etc. When I was very young playing piano initially and thinking critically about music for the first time, I always gravitated towards Beethoven very heavily. Such passion and emotion behind every note! It’s not about the theory (although that aspect is beautiful too) but about how the music is being played!

What’s the story behind Dunning-Kruger Blues?

It’s kind of a convoluted story. It was originally an untitled 4-horn septet tune I was working on with my combo at CWU. One of the local guys, a wonderful flugelhorn player named Dmitri Matheny, came as a guest artist and performed with all the combos in the program. Since I’m rather poor with titles, I asked him for suggestions. He made note of the fact that the music looks rather difficult on the page, yet lays surprisingly well. He connected that observation to something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which I just recommend googling. To be honest, the rationale is rather shaky. Really, it’s just something to call the tune!

What do you want people to take from this album? Is there a personal meaning for you that might be different than others’ interpretations?

There’s no special message behind the music. I wasn’t trying to make a killin’ barn-burner record. I’m just excited and proud to be someone who’s barely 20 playing straight ahead as well as I know how. It’s not paying homage and it’s not looking to the future. It’s simply what’s happening right now!

OPINION PIECE: “Why I Dislike the Mark VI” By Tim Hecker

This post comes from guest contributor, Tim Hecker. Feel free to leave a comment below.

      The Selmer Mark VI- regarded by many as the finest saxophone ever made and shrouded in so many legends the truth is nigh impossible to uncover, represents for me the harbinger of one of the saxophone’s darkest eras in terms of design and construction. Merely stating that you think this legendary horn is enough to garner funny looks from fellow musicians, but today I will go into detail as to why I find the Mark VI to be so distasteful.

Walk into any music store today, and you’ll be bombarded with marketing for dozens of different brands of saxophones- Yamaha, Yanagisawa, P. Mauriat, Jupiter, Eastman and of course Selmer- amongst others. What is it that all of these saxophones have in common? They are all carbon copies of the Selmer Mark VI, some given fancy feature names and styling elements to disguise their common heritage. Does this mean that these saxophones are all junk? Of course not! I play Cannonball saxophones as my primary instruments, and I have enjoyed many Yanagisawa and Mauriat horns as well. What, then, is my big complaint? My issue is that the constant pandering to the mythic design of the Mark VI has eliminated the design competition that made our instrument great.

So what does that mean? Well, around the 1920s the saxophone burst into popularity in a frenzy of scandal and novelty music, accompanied by jazz and various orchestral attempts that were not as successful. From the 20s then through around the 70s, brand competition was fierce. From Conn and Selmer to Buescher and even oddball brands like Couesnon, new design features were going gangbusters. Beveled or rolled or drawn tone holes, proprietary register key systems, assorted key layout for different ergonomics- all of these made it matter what you chose to play and offered comfortable options for people who didn’t like certain features. With the Mark VI revered as being the end all and be all of saxophones, we are in a dry spell for innovations. This, however, is only one of my complaints.

Let’s talk about the Mark VI itself. Legendary though it may be, this horn is not immune to quality control issues and lemons. Mark VI’s have a reputation for being fairly inconsistent- I often hear guys discussing ‘good’ serial number ranges, debating whether the engraving affects the quality of the horn (I’ve heard it said that the horns were disassembled to be engraved and that unengraved horns are more desirable.) Having played a few, the inconsistency jumped out at me the most. I’ve played a perfect example of a Selmer Mark VI, and a terrible one. Neither horn had flawless intonation. Neither horn felt especially good to me- in fact, I think Conn’s pinky table cluster felt faster and better, all things considered. Again, I feel the need to stress that no horn is immune to issues such as these- I merely intend to contest the fact that the Mark VI is a god amongst saxophones.

The Mark VI is just a horn. Every horn is really, just a horn. Some are built better than others, yes- but in elevating the Mark VI to a divine pedestal, we have lost sight of the fact that it did us a great disservice in killing off a lot of the diversity that made vintage saxes special- after all, good or bad it’s just another horn.

New book from Adam Larson!

While Adam Larson is not a baritone saxophonist, he is a great saxophonist and a very busy clinician and teacher. He has a written a new etude book titled “Leaps and Sounds”. Its not a baritone saxophone specific book, but I think its very relevant for any modern saxophonist. He has written 12 etudes over the chord changes to common jazz standards and incorporated large intervals and lines that move in and out of the altissimo register. I recommend these for advanced high school or college students, they are not easy!

I firmly believe that altissimo is especially important to the baritone saxophone. Not just as a way to remain in-step with the trends of saxophone in general, but also because I think its easier and more practical on the baritone. I hope to have a full article about altissimo on the baritone up soon, but in a nut-shell, because the first altissimo octave on the baritone is merely the standard upper octave of an alto saxophone I think those pitches are all usable and within comfortable listening range. The voicing, fingerings, and intonation can be tricky but worth the effort to have access to another octave of range for improvisation.

I’ve included a video of one of Adam’s etudes below, he provided me with a sneak peak and I really enjoyed learning it. They are extremely challenging but at the same time sound excellent. You can head over to Adam’s website and pre-order the book. It will be released on September 1st, 2018.

New album from Adison Evans!

NYC area baritone saxophonist Adison Evans has released her second album titled “Meridian”. It was released earlier in July and is available now. Inspired by the beautiful Italian country-side, It has an excellent line up of musicians and some interesting original compositions.

Those in the NYC area can catch her album release show at Birdland on September 2nd.

Check out the trailer video below, and head over to  Adison’s website find out more and pick up a copy.

New Transcription: Roger Rosenberg!

We have posted the first new transcription in a while to the transcription page. This time around we have a solo from Roger Rosenberg, from a Bob Mintzer big band album. Roger is a long time NYC saxophonist, long standing member of the Mintzer big band and these days can often be heard on tour with Steely Dan.

Head on over and check out the transcription page, and our thanks goes out to Gio Washington-Wright for sending this one in!

Review: Carbon Fiber stand for baritone saxophone

There are never as many options for a baritone saxophonist as there are for the other saxophones. This is true for brands of horn, mouthpieces, cases, and perhaps especially instrument stands. From a business perspective it makes sense – baritone products are larger, harder to make, need to be able to handle more weight/force and of course are harder to sell since there are less baritonists out there overall. But today I would like to review a product that now goes with me to every rehearsal and gig.

Gijs van Leeuwen is from the Netherlands and has created a company called Woodwind Design. As far as I can tell he has been around for a while, mostly making specialty stands for woodwinds, especially clarinets out of interesting materials, often beautiful woods and other materials. In the last few years however he has developed new carbon fiber stands that he crafts in his workshop (garage?). We mentioned the stands a couple years back. Carbon fiber is quickly becoming a very popular material, not only for its sleek futuristic look but also because it is incredibly strong yet lighter than many metals of the same weight. Its being incorporated more and more into many instrument cases – although beware, some case manufacturers offer a carbon fiber “finish” that looks like but is not actual carbon fiber. Gijs is a woodwind player himself, but also a tinkerer and inventor. His stands in my opinion are the best option for baritone saxophone available.

Low Bb tube with Conn 12M

For many years I traveled around New York City and the east coast playing gigs and rehearsals without a saxophone stand. I have had plenty before, big solid steel ones, and even the lighter K+M plastic ones, but without a car it just wasn’t feasible to carry them to gigs, especially if I had a bag, music stand, and bass clarinet! So the horn inevitably got put onto the floor between sets and sometimes quickly put down all too harshly if there was a quick instrument switch mid song. The horn of course got battered and dinged, which as a baritone player you almost get to the point where you can live with it. With Woodwind Design’s new carbon fiber stands I carry a baritone stand in my case every day – while barely adding any extra weight – quite the life changer.

I have been using the stand nearly every day for 2 years – each stand has a unique serial number and my first stand was #4! The stand has held up beautifully and is in almost like new condition. After putting together a bulk order for a number of NYC saxophonists I received a newer updated stand, and I am very pleased that Gijs continues to improve and upgrade the design, the newer design is even more ingenious (and lighter!) than the first. Check out the photo gallery below, or the video from Gijs as well.

Great features of the Woodwind Design stand:

  • Carbon Fiber tubes sized precisely so they fit nested perfectly into one another to save space
  • The tubes will easily fit into the bell or in a side pocket of a case, the bell holder can be stored on the bell in the case – no extra bag for the stand needed
  • The whole stand weighs only 1.1 pounds!
  • Carbon fiber is strong and will not break easily, also seems to hold up well over time
  • 4 leg design compared to most stands 3 leg design is much more stable, less likely to tip over
  • Screw on Bell holder allows for left to right adjustment if the bell on your saxophone brand is off center
  • Available for both Low Bb horns and Low A horns! You can even purchase an extra tube that allows one stand to function for either.
  • Rubber feet inset to the end of each foot tube keep the stand from sliding
  • Locking system makes sure that the upper tube that holds the bell does not move, as well as the bell holder
  • Alignment markings on each tube to make sure the feet and properly lined up
  • Rubberized bell holder is slightly bendable, adapts to each bell for secure hold and will not damage the horn
  • Each hole and tube are different sizes, so it is obvious to assemble

Woodwind Design Carbon Fiber stand

There are very few downsides to these stands. The main one is cost. They simply aren’t cheap! But carbon fiber as a raw material to work with is very expensive and each stand is had made and fit in the Netherlands. The next downside is how long it takes to get one – the wait can be up to several months from the time you order the stand – and so far they aren’t really distributed and sold in any stores that I know of. The last downside is that because these are hand finished stands, if you happen to lose a single tube, in order to replace it you have to send parts back to the Netherlands for a new tube to be fit precisely to the existing stand – but it can be done.

The stands are also available for all of the other saxophones, and possibly of more interest to baritonists, for bass clarinet as well! Those stands are also the most portable option for bass clarinet. JazzBariSax.com has a small stock of baritone and bass clarinet stands available for sale. Please contact us if you are interested!

UPDATE – 9/3/2018: We only have 2 small bass clarinet stands left.

You can also order the stands directly from the Woodwind design website:
http://www.woodwinddesign.nl/index.php/en/products/saxophone-stands/baritonsaxofoon-standaard-2-detail

Gary Smulyan has a new recording

Gary Smulyan has many records out as a leader, and his latest one is another excellent addition. Gary is known lately for digging up rare songs and standards and recording them. This album is no different with a bunch of great tunes and even a Smulyan original! Gary’s sense of humor is excellent, evident in his title “Alternative Contrafacts” – A contrafact is an alternative melody to a known standard’s changes – for example “Hot House” is a melody that uses the chord changes from the standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Gary’s original is titled “I’ve Changed” a humorous play on the standard title “You’ve Changed”.

The band for the album is pared down to a trio setting, with just drums and bass. But with Gary’s harmonic knowledge and capabilities there is no lack of harmony on the tunes.

Personally I really like this album, Gary’s sound on it is almost a little darker than before, an interesting and enjoyable change. The whole album is great, and the obscure song selection is a very welcome change of pace.

To hear a sample and read more about the album, head on over to Gary’s website.