JazzBariSax.com Interview Series: Aaron Lington

Tlingtonhe latest installment of the JazzBariSax.com interview series features Aaron Lington.  He is a great baritonist and holds down the fort on the west coast. He is an educator and a leader, having led numerous recordings, as well as having been kind enough to add a handful of transcriptions to our repository here. Please get to know him:

Why the baritone?
I have played all four of the saxophones to varying degrees throughout my playing career (hardly any soprano, a good deal of rock/blues/R&B tenor, and a TON of classical alto), but it is the baritone that I have always returned to and it is what I have played exclusively now for the last 10 years or so. I feel that I get a better and more natural sound on it than the other saxes, altissimo comes more easily, and as I play pretty aggressively, I feel I can “lay into the horn” a bit more than the other saxes.

Favorite recordings of and/or with baritone saxophone?
Bob Brookmeyer and the New Art Orchestra – Celebration (features Scott Robinson)
Pepper Adams – The Master
Gerry Mulligan – What Is There to Say?
George Benson Cookbook (features Ronnie Cuber)

How did you find your way to the baritone saxophone?
I played piano and violin for many years as a young man. I played violin in my high school orchestra and the orchestra director also happened to be the band director. The two of us had developed a friendly relationship and I asked him the summer before my sophomore year in high school if he could teach me a wind instrument so that I could play in the school marching band. Saxophone was his primary instrument, so he loaned me his alto sax and gave me some lessons. I played in the marching band that fall semester, but all marching band members had to also play in the concert band. He had me play baritone saxophone in the concert band and I *really* fell in love with it and have played it primarily ever since.

What’s your equipment/set up?
1969 Selmer Mark VI Low Bb
1994 Selmer Super Action 80 Series II Low A
Lawton 8*B
Rico Orange Box 3.5
for a ligature I have lately been using a new prototype ligature designed by Bay Area engineer Joel Harrison – it’s a unique new design and is REALLY awesome…he hopes to have some in production soon

for classical bari I play:
Selmer S-80 C**
Rico Reserve 3.5 or 4
Francois Louie ligature
Low A, Low Bb, or “My favorite horn is the one in front of me” ?
Low Bb for most all jazz gigs, low A for classical solos, saxophone quartet and pit shows

Anything specific to the baritone you recommend practicing?
Long tones: it helps with developing efficient air control and tone quality which are essential for the big horn.

Tips for young baritone saxophonists?
Have fun!

Favorite venue/place to play?
In the Bay Area there a a number of great venues:
Davies Symphony Hall
the new SF Jazz Center
Studio Pink House (a “house concert” setting in Saratoga, CA)
Yoshi’s Oakland
Yoshi’s San Francisco
Palace of Fine Arts (San Francisco)
California Theater (San Jose)
Le Petit Trianon (San Jose)
Blackbird Theater (San Jose)
Cafe Stritch (San Jose)
the list could go on…
In my home town of Houston, there is a really hip, intimate club in the Montrose called Cezanne’s

When traveling, does the horn go under or in the plane?
Anvil case under the plane. Although with the exorbitantly high baggage fees lately, I have been borrowing a horn at most out-of-town gigs. Not ideal, but not the end of the world either (my wife is a pianist and she reminds me that she plays on a different instrument EVERY time she leaves the house!! lol).

Favorite quotes about music?

Art teaches nothing, except the significance of life. (Henry Miller)

What do you do when not playing music?
Long distance running. Wine making. Video gaming.

Bonus Question: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”
“My iceberg made a wrong turn at Albuquerque.”

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