Category: News

Two baritonists have passed on, Hamiet Bluiett and Don Payne

We are saddened to report that two elder statesmen of the baritone saxophone have passed on.

Hamiet Bluiett was an incredibly unique and innovative baritone saxophonist. With a long career he influenced many younger saxophonists especially with his trail blazing exploration of the upper registers of the baritone saxophone and his un-matched, often times aggressive sound.

Hamiet was a powerful advocate for the baritone saxophone. He also is credited for introducing many musicians to the avante garde side of Jazz. He led many of his own bands and recordings on top of his very impressive list of sideman accomplishments.

I would highly recommend everyone make sure they have sampled at least some of his music.

For a detailed bio, you can see our page for Mr. Bluiett.

Click here to read NPR’s full obituary.


McDonald “Don” Payne was perhaps a bit lesser known, but a fine baritone saxophonist having played in several military ensembles and very much present in the New York scene and Broadway pits. He was also a very active educator.

Everyone who met Don remembers him as a very soft spoken kind person.

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!

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.

A mural in Brooklyn, NYC of Cecil Payne!

Brooklyn has a number of great street murals, and now for fans of the baritone saxophone there is one featuring the great bop player, Cecil Payne!

I’m not sure of the reasoning behind it or the story, but you can watch a short YouTube video below of the mural being created. The artist is Dave O’Brien, be sure to check out his website for more images of the mural!

If you are in NYC, you can see it for yourself. It’s located at 220 Kosciuszko Street.