After a long time playing tenor sax, I moved to alto sax. Most people move in the other direction because tenor sax is the cool one: Lester Young, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins – you can’t argue that tenor is cool. It just is.
Alto sax is more lyrical though; it can be a little screamer, and it’s so easy to play, plus an alto sax weighs a lot less than a tenor, and if you’re busking for hours at a time, that’s not to be sniffed at.
But I always wanted to play soprano saxophone. I love soprano saxophone.
I owned a lovely Yamaha soprano sax, Junko, but had to sell her because we weren’t getting on very well – they’re not easy to play, sopranos, they don’t wail, so they don’t sound much like a ‘saxophone’ anyway, and the tuning is a bitch to control.
On top of that, although I have very even top teeth*, my lower teeth are thrown right out by a dodgy right canine, which leans right over toward the middle of my mouth. Playing tenor or alto, it doesn’t mean much, it might even make my sound more interesting, but on soprano, which has a very small mouthpiece and is subject to the tiniest interference, it can sound like I’ve employed some sort of overdrive pedal to break up and distort the sound.
So tonight I endured another less-than-fruitful practice session with my soprano. In despair I even asked her, ‘what are we going to do?’
And after some thought she said to me, ‘listen to Steve Lacy. And Branford Marsalis.
‘And be all in.’
So I leapt from that particular cliff, and am hoping to grow wings on the way down.
- I had a couple of molars kicked out of my mouth in a fracas with three body builders some years ago*, but my front teeth are very even.
- Have I told that story? I must set it down some time.