Two articles on the late Hamiet Bluiett in the December 2018 DownBeat magazine









I was very pleased to see two articles about Hamiet Bluiett in this month’s DownBeat magazine. They discuss his life, his work, his music, and his extreme dedication to the baritone saxophone and belief that it is an under-utilized instrument with lots of potential.

Pick up a copy to read these excellent articles (or download them here and here.) This month’s issue also features the reader’s polls, congratulations again to Gary Smulyan for topping the list.

Eden Bareket releases 2nd album

NYC based baritone saxophonists, Eden Bareket has released his second album, again featuring his trio with bass and drums/percussion (read about the first album here.)

Eden has a very interesting approach to the baritone, and often shares the unusual methods for practicing. He is especially adept at using the upper altissimo range of the baritone, often playing alto or trumpet parts at pitch.

The new album is a very playful group of original songs. He has a robust sound, but a fairly gentle approach to playing. There’s no lack of variety on the album despite not including a chordal instrument. This time around Eden used some non-standard saxophone sounds (key clicks, overtone rolls) to create new sounds in a very listenable way.

I thoroughly enjoyed his first album, and have really enjoyed the second one so far as well. You can stream his album on Spotify, Apple Music, or purchase it directly from Fresh Sound Records.

Review: SaxSupport sax stand

This review is for a product that I don’t think will appeal to all baritonists, but it is certainly a unique product and not something seen before so worth checking out.

Many, if not most baritonists these days, use a harness or at the very least a neck strap that provides a lot of support. Neck straps and harnesses have come a long way in the last 10 years, with many new options and systems out there. For some people though these aren’t an option due to extreme back issues or other problems.

There are a few modern baritone saxophones that include an integrated peg (similar to bass clarinets), although none of the major or popular brands do. In the past baritonists that didn’t want to use a neck strap could get a Hamilton style stand with a part that sort of bolted to the mid bell section of the horn that could be taken on and off a sturdy stand, and more importantly adjusted so it could be played while sitting without any weight being on the player.

A new product from Australia offers a new option for the players out there that are looking for an alternative to neck straps or are unable to use them. The SaxSupport sax stand is a light-weight telescoping stand made to hold the weight of the saxophone in a similar way to a bass clarinet peg would. The stand reminds me very much of a monopod camera stand, similar type latches with multi-tired adjust-ability.

The materials seems to be high grade sturdy plastic with some metal hardware in the important places. The locks have a ‘cam-lock’ system with adjustable screws to adjust tension. The pole also has numerical markings to get the same precise length desired for different situations (sitting vs standing). A nice rubber bottom of the ‘peg’ keeps the stand from sliding too much. The top portion of the stand is covered in a rough velcro – this is the area that is made to connect to the horn.



The main issue I have with the stand and I think what will cause many people to hesitate is the manner in which the stand connects to the horn. Included with the stand are two narrower strips of velcro and one long wide strip with an adhesive on the back. The wide strip of velcro is made to be placed vertically on the bow/bell portion of the saxophone. The SaxSupport stand velcro will adhere to this strip and the two narrower strips of velcro are made to go around the bell and be tightened similar to horizontal belts.


When testing out the stand I did not use the glue back to adhere the wide strip to my horn. I was concerned with applying and adhesive strip and removing it on my horn and whether that would damage the lacquer, especially as the lacquer on my vintage horn is already missing in places. The maker of the stand could not provide exact details about the type of adhesive used in the backing. However he does provide pictures on his website of having removed the velcro after a year on his horn. With some glue removal solution it looks like there were no permanent marks. I imagine more modern horns with complete lacquer will be less at risk, but I think anytime you are attaching something to your horn, especially when using it to hold the horn you can expect some abrasion or permanent marking.

I was able to get the stand to hold the weight of the horn with a simple friction fit, using the velcro and the two thin strips very tightly clasped around the bell and the stand. It adjusted nicely, and while it felt a little strange as it was a different playing angle, it could certainly be adapted to.  The maker of the stand recommends using a neck strap or harness in addition to the stand and I think that’s a wise precaution.

One additional consideration is that the shape of the bell and bow on a Low A baritone is quite different than that of a low Bb baritone, especially a Conn like my own. The low Bb bells can be curved almost the majority of the bell, whereas low A horns have a much longer section that is pretty much straight. This makes the SaxSupport stand much more compatible with a low A horn rather than a low Bb horn, though by experimenting with placement I think you could still make the system work.


My honest perception of this product is that I don’t think most players really need it, or will be willing to adhere/glue a velcro strip to their horn to use it. However, for the few people that really can’t use a neckstrap or harness this product could be the difference between never playing the baritone again or continuing to enjoy the king of all horns. Aside from the issues I have with the connection to the horn and bell the stand seems very well designed and thought out. It should be noted that this stand could theoretically be used for any of the saxophones.

Check out the promotional video below.

The SaxSupport stand is $89. You can order one and see all of the details over at the website.

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!

Up and coming artist and undergrad Noah Pettibon was kind enough to give an interview with 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.