Category: General

Interview with Dr. Jared Sims by Tim Hecker

Interview by Tim Hecker.

Dr. Jared Sims is the current Director of Jazz at West Virginia University and the former Assistant Director of Jazz at the University of Rhode Island. He performs on all of the saxophones, clarinet and flute, and has recorded with such artists as Bob Brookmeyer, Cecil McBee, the Temptations, the Four Tops and many others. He has both toured internationally and inspired young artists at home as the guest conductor of All State ensembles in multiple states. This week, he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule in order to give an interview to jazzbarisax.com. Here’s what he had to say–

I know you play a lot of baritone- in fact, you once told me that you are a bari sax guy at heart. What kindled your fondness for the baritone sax? What keeps you coming back to it?

I like to say that I did not necessarily pick the baritone — the baritone picks me. I like it because it feels natural to me. The other saxes feel great too, but the baritone has always felt normal and in some ways easier for me. I first had the baritone in my hands when I was in the fifth grade. The band teacher tried to slow me down but instead I was playing bari in the high school jazz band by the end of my fifth grade year.

What artists and recordings have influenced you as a saxophonist, especially but not exclusively on baritone? To what degree do those who came before you influence your own recordings?

I really like the fire of Ronnie Cuber and Pepper Adams and the imagination of Sahib Shihab and Cecil Payne. Tradition is very important and to me. I think we have to reference tradition in our playing to add depth to our sound, but we also need to know the tradition in order to find new ways of presenting the music in terms of forms, or harmonies, or phrasing.

What is the first thing you notice when listening to a saxophonist, and what draws you to that element of playing?

I think the sound is the first thing. If the sound is not full or it is out of tune or uncentered, it is really hard to hear. Otherwise, I notice the phrasing and the rhythm of what is being played. In some ways the sound of the instrument is the HARDEST and MOST IMPORTANT thing that we can do on the saxophone but so often students do not make this a primary focus of study.

The classic question- what is your setup, and why is your equipment what it is? Do you think equipment makes a difference, or do you believe that it is all up to the player?

I have two baritone setups and go back and forth between them. One is a silver Buescher True Tone/Big B from the 1930s. It is a strange transitional horn and only about 900 of them were made. The other baritone is a silver Conn Naked Lady from the late 1940s. The mouthpieces that I use are a vintage Berg Larsen and a new Theo Wanne. I use Marca reeds either 2.5 or 3 strength.

I choose a setup based on the gig – the style and what instruments that I need to blend with. I think it’s up the player to live with the setup and not expect the setup to feel good right away. That said, I think players need to experiment a lot with every aspect of the setup — including where the ligature sits on the mouthpiece, the reed placement, etc. At the end of the day, though, yes a great player will sound great playing anything.

Another classic question- what is your practice routine? Do you have any practice rituals specific to bari sax?

My most recent favorite practice routine is to play 20 minutes on each instrument starting with flute, then clarinet, alto, tenor, and then baritone. My entire baritone technique is based on efficiency, which means that the air and the fingers and everything needs to be as perfect as possible to have the right sound and precision. That said, I could pick up a baritone cold without playing a bunch of other small instruments, but it’s good to have a nice long routine to put the air and fingers in the right place.

What are your interests outside of music? Do you find that they influence your playing, and if so in what way?

I really like to travel, to go to art museums, and to be outdoors. These are all things that help to investigate the creative process and to contemplate creativity.

Do you aim for certain qualities in your sound? What do you do to achieve the sound that you want?

I like a FULL sound with all of the different ranges of the sound included. Sometimes, I record myself and listen back to hear the true sound of the instrument. In general, mouthpiece sirens and overtones open up the sound. At this point, I have done a lot of that work so just making music and hearing my sound is enough to center the sound. A lot of musical issues get taken care of by simply having the horn in hand and spending time making music. It is all very intuitive to me.

If you could say one thing to people interested in specializing in bari sax, what would it be?

There is a misconception that the baritone takes a lot more air and that you have to play slower or fewer notes or perhaps play more simply on baritone. I think it probably does take some more air, but if the setup is right I think it is possible to do all of the same things on baritone that other sax players are doing.

Practice parts from Brian Landrus’ newest album

Brian Landrus has a very nice album out recently that involved quite a bit of orchestral work that took some time to write, prepare and record. Brian has been kind enough to provide JazzBariSax.com with the baritone parts for his baritone saxophone Concerto ‘Jeru’ that is part of his latest album so other baritonists can download, view, and practice the parts along with his record.

Click to download the Landrus’ Jeru Concerto Baritone Parts

And of course if you haven’t already, be sure to check out Brian’s new album on his website, or on itunes.

News from the Curator

I try to make it apparent that I (Andrew Hadro), am simply the curator of this website, JazzBariSax.com. I inherited this site, and have done my best to add to and improve it. I encourage as much as I can other baritonists to submit content, news, and information, and we are fortunate that so many have done so.

That being said, I would like to take the opportunity to share something of my own.


Today, April 1st, is the ‘official’ release date for my second album. 🎉
I’ll thank you in advance for the inevitable congratulations – I am fortunate to have kind internet friends, I do appreciate the sentiment very much.

April Fools seemed as fitting of a release date as any – release dates being mostly arbitrary vestiges of a once-existent jazz industry. The title of my album is For Us, The Living II: Marcescence. Marcescence refers to when leaves die and wither upon a tree but do not fall off – My own semi-private joke about how it feels to study, practice and perform original acoustic music. I don’t mean to be overly-bitter, but having a dark sense of humor seems to help with being a musician these days.

It’s four years to the day since my first album released – It took over two full years to make this album. I wanted something I could keep going back to and work on until I felt it was done, rather than lining up a day in the studio and hoping for the best. (And why limit the self-deprecating torture of hearing yourself play to a single session when you can stretch it out for months?)

A lot of thought and production went into the album, but at the core of it, it is a duo album with my friend and pianist Julian Shore. While I am constantly in doubt of my own abilities and ideas, I trust Julian’s taste and ears more than most things in my world. Rogerio Boccato was kind enough to add his percussion to the tracks that required more than I initially could foresee. Michael Perez-Cisneros is the first person to ever capture the sound of my saxophone in a way that matches what I want to hear in my head, the audio quality and sound of this album makes me as proud as the performance on it.

As with my first album, I recorded compositions I’ve collected from living composers. A couple of my own ideas, but mostly those of other people who write beautiful music that doesn’t get heard as much as it could. I like the idea of recording, or re-recording others’ works – Why must jazz artists all write AND compose? One could spend a lifetime dedicated to either pursuit.

I was recently interviewed by a journalist for an upcoming article in Downbeat Magazine about being an independent/DIY musician. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the last 15 years I’ve spent in New York City working as a musician and damn near every other aspect of the music business as well. Many people marvel at my Jack of All Trades abilities – Web designer, production assistant, arranger, tech support, interviewer, graphic designer, composer, consultant, teacher, administrator, product specialist, saxophonist, editor, band leader, record label manager, crowd funding planner, distribution/shipping lackie – I would give it all up to be master of one – and am slowly shedding the parts I am fortunate to not need anymore. This history and ability to see so many different facets of music has just made me want to do something different with my output.

There is no Kickstarter. This album won’t be on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon. There aren’t really liner notes. I sent it to only the few reviewers I respect or who were kind enough to listen to my last album. I won’t be posting outside of my own site the inevitably positive reviews (has anyone read a jazz review that was incredibly negative recently?), and I won’t boast to you how well its doing on the radio (although this I am actually genuinely optimistic and thankful for).

You can hear the album on my website (http://www.AndrewHadro.com). I don’t expect you all to buy it, but as I said of my last album, if you think its good, buy it for a friend. I don’t expect this album to reach the far corners of the universe, but I will be pleased if the people who appreciate beautiful sounds made with acoustic instruments hear and enjoy the album.

For those of you that made it this far, I invite you to my performance at the Cornelia St Cafe in New York City to celebrate the new work. Ingrid Jensen is kind enough to lend her beautiful sound as a special guest on Wednesday April 18th.

Thank you for your time,

Andrew Hadro
Curator, JazzBariSax.com

Eden Bareket shares his practice work

Baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket shares videos of some interesting and unusual things he practices, often working on extreme altissmo. He has gathered them all in a YouTube playlist to check out. If you’re looking for some new things to spend time on in the shed there are some excellent ideas here.

Check out the full playlist at: http://bit.ly/Practicebarisax

Below is an example from the playlist:

 

Leo Parker’s complete discography, compiled by Frank Basile

Leo Parker is definitely among the greats when it comes to baritone saxophonists, although he is mostly known only to dedicated baritone saxophonists. He passed away at a somewhat early age and only produced a few different albums under his own name. But fortunately we now have a new resource for finding recordings with Leo on them.

Baritone saxophonist Frank Basile has completed was must have been a massive project to compile Leo Parker’s complete discography. Including all recordings he appeared on, both as a sideman, co-leader, and as a leader. The amount of research that Frank did is astounding and this is a great document for those of us interested in the original Leo P.

You can check out the fruit of Frank’s labor over at jazzdiscography.com:
http://www.jazzdiscography.com/Artists/Leo-Parker/Leo-Parker-Complete-Discography.php

Finally, a Harry Carney transcription!

It took longer than it perhaps should of, but with the new addition from Maximiliano D.L. we now have a Harry Carney solo transcription in the repository. Since Harry almost universally agreed to be the father of modern jazz baritone saxophone, i’d suggest everyone check it out! Its from a beautiful album where Harry got some much deserved solo time with strings.

Head on over to the transcriptions page to check it out!

Historical Interviews

While we have done some more recent interviews with great baritone saxophonists, there are some excellent historical interviews floating around the internet and we’d like to highlight some of them for you.

Rampone & Cazzani makes a very compelling handmade baritone!

Rampone & Cazzani is an Italian company that has been making instruments for well over a century. Recently they have been putting quite a bit of work into their saxophones, and my opinion is that this is one of the finest modern baritone saxophones available anywhere. In this era where there are more new saxophone companies than ever before this is quite an achievement.

One of the key things that makes the Rampone horn different is that it is completely hand built. It comes from a small artisan workshop in Italy. The bells are hand hammered and everything made by hand. Many of the newer saxophones are all built in factories in Asia. Even ones that claim to be hand assembled have quite a bit of machine-based work in them. Repairmen have grumbled about build quality, materials, and repair-ability of these horns, although that is not something I’m overly qualified to comment on.

The modern Asian horns all play pretty well, they are generally priced fairly well and look great – but they all play exactly the same. (To clarify I mean the horns coming out of China and Taiwan, less so Japanese insturments). If you blindfolded me I’m not sure I could easily tell them apart. None of them really stands out as different and honestly they are all basically copies of Selmers – with some small differences here and there and a huge range of aesthetic finishes and options. Not to mention more and more keys (do you really need a high G key?). As baritone players even the companies that are making decent horns these days either don’t put as much time into their baritone, don’t offer a professional level horn, or only offer a Low A option.

A really important difference and distinction between saxophone brands and models is the shape of the bore. The shape of the bore determines a lot about a saxophone, especially its sound. Conn’s, Martin’s and Kings all have different bore shapes and dimensions that the Selmer horns. Most modern horn are modeled after the Selmer dimensions since the Mark VI is so highly regarded and was played by many of the saxophone greats. However baritone players have often sought out slightly different horns than alto and tenor players, often favoring Conn’s (Mulligan, Temperley, Carney, Smulyan etc).

Rampone offers their baritone with many different options, finishes, materials and offers both a Low A and Low Bb variation. I’ve had a chance to play the horn many times and it’s by far my favorite modern horn to play and very comparable to my vintage Conn baritone, albeit with modern keywork and so many fewer dings and dents.  I also recently had a chance to speak with Claudio who along with his father are the makers of these new horns. He is incredibly knowledgeable about saxophones and modern players and did not have the snake-oil salesman aura about him that a lot of other modern horn manufacturers do.

When playing the horn it had a huge, robust sound. Lots of projection, and maybe a somewhat brighter sound than my Conn – although this could also be related to the silver plating. The neck is very long, even longer than my Conn, so it had a slightly different feel to it and need the harness/neckstrap to be let out a bit, but was fairly comfortable to play, and the modern keywork was much appreciated, especially compared to an unmodified Conn layout. The horn comes with a beautiful hard case, covered in leather, and on wheels. The case in and of itself is a huge step up for a baritone! The model I tried is their R1 Jazz saxophone, it was fully silver plated, although the neck had a slightly different finish to it. The whole horn and especially their engravings are beautiful – as one would expect from Italian craftsmen. Check out the gallery below for all of the pictures!

The folks over at Rovner are handling the US distribution for Rampone horns and have been travelling around to some shows with them to let people try them out. If you get a chance, I would really recommend trying these unique horns.

You can take a look at them over on their site as well:
http://www.ramponecazzani.com/eng/2009j_ag.html

Lauren Sevian shares her story about sexism in jazz

Jazz is a disproportionately male genre, at least in the US and I suspect most places. As such, it is unfortunately not shocking, but disappointing, to learn that the ‘scene’ or industry is rife with sexism against women.

Sometimes its struggling with the absurd assumption that women can’t play as well, and sometimes its just dealing with everyday stupid and inappropriate behavior from teachers, colleagues, promoters, or anyone else – I’m sure many other scenarios that I can’t even imagine.

I would very much like to present Lauren Sevian‘s recent story about her own experiences:
Sexism in Jazz, From the Conservatory to the Club: One Saxophonist Shares Her Story

Playing and promoting jazz, improvised music, and even just acoustic music is already an uphill battle. The negativity from sexism doesn’t help anyone and can be incredibly damaging. Lauren’s story is just one of many, and honestly by far probably not the worst out there, hopefully with the recent attention to this issue things will change for the better.