Friday, August 19, 2016

reeds reeds reeds!

For the past year I've been playing on synthetic reeds with mixed success. I was busy with school and breaking in reeds and treating them well started cutting into my limited practice time, so in the end convenience (and synthetics) won. Now that my school schedule has eased off I have decided to get back into cane. But before I make an order I am going to work my way through my current collection of cane reeds.

For quite awhile V16s were my go-to reeds on soprano (and alto before that) but along the way I would pick newly released cuts or reeds I hadn't tried. If they worked, I played them. If not, I would do my best to make them work for me or they might end up in the shoe box.

Currently in the box are reeds from: Rigotti, Marca (Superieure/Jazz), Roberto's, Vandoren (Java/Traditional/ZZ/V12/V16 and a couple of Java Red), Rico (Select Jazz and a few Reserve), Hemke, Alexander (Superial/Classique/NY and a few D.Cs too) and probably a few others I'll discover along the way.... perhaps a Ponzol or Gonzalez here and there.

I am confident of getting something useful out of any reeds that are too hard, although I'm sure that my reed knife skills will be a bit rusty and as a result a few reeds will be sacrificed. On the other hand, I have never had much luck clipping reeds that are too soft.... I'm not even sure I have a soprano reed clipper. My plan is to start with the open boxes first, probably Rico Select Jazz (a soprano reed I've never had any luck with) or Java Red or V12 as I only have a few of them left. Pre-synthetic, I had great success with Rigotti and Marca (and I wouldn't mind trying their new "American Vintage" cut) but with a little luck I won't have to buy reeds for a while.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peter Ponzol in Saxophone Journal

In Nov/Dec 1993 issue of Saxophone Journal Mel Martin interviews Peter Ponzol who provides some background on how he got into the saxophone and design business.

His comment, "It's amazing what we think we hear from our side of the horn," resonates with me as I'm sure it does with my fellow saxophonists out there.

I know there have been times when something has been bugging me about my sound/playing and when I have listen back to the recording I do not hear it. Then there are the times when you listen back and hear something that wasn't apparent in the moment (for better or worse!). My practice of late has suffered due to a lack of regularity and I haven't been recording any of my sessions, but this article reminded me to press record when I picked up the horn later in the day and once again, Ponzol's comment rang true.

Click on the image to view the full article. More magazine articles can be found here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Straight Horning: Some Coltrane

I can't say I'm a huge fan of John Coltrane, but I try to revisit his work occasionally. Over the last few years usually this has been in the form of his soprano playing. Over the past couple of months I've been listening to two of his early works featuring the straight horn from 1960 - The Avant-Garde (with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Percy Heath and Ed Blackwell) and My Favorite Things (with McCoy Tyner, Steve Davis and Elvin Jones).

I've always been a little curious about The Avant-Garde. Initially it was because he explores some works by Ornette Coleman (whom I was listening to a lot when I came across this album) plus it's Coltrane's first studio recording on soprano. Coltrane is still finding his feet on soprano and that alone makes it worth checking out. I'm not sure if it's the recording, the remastering, or maybe Coltrane himself but I find his tone on his horn (particularly soprano) to be very mid and treble-ly - like the bottoms have been mixed out. And while he never had what I consider a dark sound, the lack of bottom end is very apparent on this recording. Different band, different tunes, soprano debut - it doesn't feel like a fully realized album and maybe I can see why Atlantic sat on it for a few years before releasing it in the mid 60s. I wouldn't consider this essential Coltrane, but I do find it a very interesting album and it's a shame he didn't explore this direction a little further (I'm a fan of Ornette and his band members so it's hardly surprising I feel that way).

My Favorite Things was probably the 3rd or 4th Coltrane album I heard - after Blue Train and Giant Steps.... then it was either My Favorite Things or A Love Supreme (but I think it was the former). I have friends for which My Favorite Things was the album that got them into jazz in a serious way. It never made a big impression on me and as a result I hadn't given My Favorite Things a listen in quite some time. In fact, I can only remember listening to it once since I took up the soprano sax in ernest back in 2010 so I decided to give it a whirl again. The contrast between his tenor and soprano make for interesting listening (recorded 3-4 months following The Avant-Garde he is still finding his way on the soprano) and I had forgotten how subdued the band sounds on the title track. And although the album has probably had a dozen spins over the past six weeks or so, I can't say it has grown on me and I have to admit My Favorite Things still tends to leave me a little flat.

Next up on my Coltrane soprano listening list are the half a dozen or so tracks featuring soprano on the 1961 Village Vanguard recordings. I'm always open to suggestions, so let me know your favorite recordings of Coltrane on soprano and I'll try to get around to listening to them!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Jan Garbarek: Jazz Forum Interview 1984

Over the past couple of years I have finally managed to give Jan Garbarek more than just a passing listen - mostly his work from the 70s and a couple of albums from the 80s. Recently, Folk Songs (with Egberto Gismonti and Charlie Haden) has been getting a spin along with StAR (with Miroslav Vitous and Peter Erskine) and yesterday Keith Jarrett's Belonging was accompanying me as I put together this post and got a few things organized (it has been a little crazy here lately). Even though Garbarek had taken up the soprano only two or three years earlier, he had developed a very distinctive sound - check out the sole soprano track from Belonging, "The Windup." The influence of Ornette Coleman seems a little more apparent on his soprano playing than it does on tenor (and on this track he even quotes from the melody of "Lonely Woman").

This interview comes from Jazz Forum (issue 1 from 1984). Click on the image to view full article. Eventually I will get around to uploading a few more Jazz Forum articles from the 70s and 80s. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.