Over the last few months as all musicians have basically been sidelined at home, many of them have taken to collaborating online. One such group is the Quarantined Woodwind Ensemble, made up of many of New York City’s finest Jazz and/or Broadway musicians. Their most recent video on the classic song “Just The Two Of Us” features prominently two baritone saxophonists – Lauren Sevian and Jason Marshall. Check out the video below.
The transcriptions keep rolling in. Thank you to Avery Barten, for sending in another couple Leo Parker transcriptions. This time on “Glad Lad” and “VI”. Some nice medium-up tempo tracks off of Let Me Tell You Bout It. Head over to the transcriptions page and grab copies for yourself.
In other news, fantastic baritonist, record collector, and jazz scholar Frank Basile recently participated in a very interesting radio show. Its a show that features music found on 78 records. For you young ones out there, that’s not 1978, that 78 rpm
vinyl shellac records (thank you for the correction, Frank) that were used mostly in the first half of the 20th century. Frank brought in and discussed a number of excellent Be-Bop era records. To listen to the show head over to the Hot Club of New York website and scroll down to “Frank Basile”.
Recently JazzBariSax.com went dark for 48 hours in solidarity with the BLM movement. I would hope that the students, educators, and artists that make up the thousands of visitors every month already know how much they owe to Black Americans but It seems they may not be aware. Perhaps this can at least influence a few of them.
Some people want to just be able to focus on the saxophone and not mix politics. I’m pretty sure that’s how the artists felt 60 years ago. See below for the message displayed during the dark period.
JazzBariSax.com would not exist without Jazz. Jazz is a Black American Music. All of the content on this site is directly descended from the art and lives of Black Americans. In solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement JazzBariSax.com will be unavailable for 48 hours.
If you are grateful, or have use for the content on this website, I humbly suggest that you take some time to appreciate the great American artists that have made it possible. It is important then to acknowledge the struggles, discrimination, and brutality they faced while creating this music in America and the rest of the world. We have taken so much joy and pleasure in their art without doing enough to end the misery they endured.
I urge you to support the reforms needed to end violence and discrimination. If possible please consider donating to one of the following organizations:
NAACP Legal Defense Fund: https://www.naacpldf.org/
Black Lives Matter: https://blacklivesmatter.com/
We also now have our very first Joe Temperley solo in the repository. I can’t believe we didn’t have one before now, but thankfully that gap has at least somewhat been filled. Many thanks to Tom Sabin, for sending in a transcription to start us off for Joe. Quite coincidentally this solo is also on Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone“!
This is a pretty cool opportunity to see how two very different players approach the same standard. I hope everyone is staying well and busy during the on-going quarantine. Hopefully the plethora of new transcriptions will keep you all busy.
A few weeks ago Paul Nedzela prepared a great overview and history of the baritone saxophone as part of Lincoln Center’s Jazz Academy. The video is now up on YouTube! It includes a great basic history of the baritone saxophone in jazz with lots of listening examples, and at the end Paul answers a bunch of questions for everyone. If you didn’t catch the initial live stream check it out below:
There are a number of albums on the horizon or available now that everyone might be interested in. So in order of release please check out the following:
Brian Landrus – For Us
Brian’s new release features one hell of a band (Fred Hersch – piano, Drew Gress – bass, Billy Hart – drums, Michael Rodriguez – trumpet) as well as Brian playing his usual baritone and a host of other instruments. The album also features some string writing. What I’ve heard so far sounds excellent! So fans of modern writing for the baritone should definitely check this one out. Its available now, grab a copy here from Brian’s website.
Gary Smulyan – Our Contrafacts
Gary’s next album is another trio recording. I am very much looking forward to this one, which is a follow up to his last trio recording “Alternative Contrafacts“ that I enjoyed very much. Gary excels at trio playing – he is a master of harmony and the chordless setting really allows him to dictate all of the harmony very freely.
The album has listed release date of June 2020, but it looks like it might be available already? Head over to Gary’s site to check it out.
Ronnie Cuber – Four, Straight Street
Finding information on Ronnie can be hard these days. He doesn’t have a working website, and the record company (SteepleChase) that he has put some recordings out on doesn’t either. He’s also approaching 80 (78 as of now) and hasn’t been seen out performing as much, certainly not in the US. But he does seem to have produced a few recordings recently. The two most recent are “Four” and “Straight Street“, I believe from 2019. Fans of Ronnie will enjoy these as its still a powerful baritonist with a big sound and lots of edge.
However, I have to say this is not peak Ronnie Cuber. I don’t say this to be harsh, the man has played more baritone than pretty much anyone else alive. But I do want to warn fans to perhaps temper their expectations, and know that there are other recordings of Ronnie that better capture his incredible playing. Having grown up listening to him constantly, and even taken some (very strange) lessons with him, I’m glad we have more recordings of him even if they aren’t going to go down in history as his best.
I normally restrict my rants to the baritone saxophone and post them on this site. But over the last few years I’ve been tackling the bass saxophone. Its been quite challenging. I’ve also learned a lot about it. Most baritonists seem to appreciate a good low end, so I thought I’d share an article I recently wrote. It was published in the WAVE (We Are Vandoren E-Newsletter) today.
It covers a bit of the history of the bass saxophone, both the players as well as the instrument itself. There are also a number of video examples and it covers a lot of the modern practitioners of the horn. So if you have any interest in learning a little about the bass saxophone, head on over and give it a read.
After much skull sweat, and deliberating I would like to unveil two new articles.
The first is a list of 5 Essential Baritone Saxophone Albums. This list is intended to be a sort of primer for those looking to dip their toes into the deep pool that is the history of the baritone saxophone. I’ve done my best to distill 5 albums that are probably the most influential for the baritone saxophone in jazz. Not necessarily the absolute pinnacle of artistry, but good starting places for future fans of the big horn.
The second article is one that veterans of this website will find more interesting. Its a ‘Deeper’ Dive into the baritone saxophone. These are albums and/or players you may not have heard of but may find very exciting. The list goes from slightly past the main stream to extreme niche, so there should be something new there for just about everyone. Since this type of list in inherently far more subjective I reached out to some very prominent baritone saxophonist of today to get their input as well. So you can see what each had to add.
Whether you’ve come to this site for an initial foray into the baritone saxophone or are looking to delve quite deep, I hope there’s something here new and exciting for you.