Another Pickup Wedding Gig

Leggz out of VA

Leggz out of Roanoke, VA

This past weekend I played yet another last-minute pickup gig with a band I never played with before. It was a great example of why you need to use every avenue of communication available to you. It started with a Facebook message from someone I had never met but who is related to one of my Facebook friends. In the message the band leader asked me whether I was available for the date which was about ten days away. He wanted a horn section and asked me to get a trumpet player for him as well. From FB we went to text messaging back and forth for a couple of days. We then moved to phone calls before finally meeting face-to-face about 90 minutes before the gig. I’m pretty sure if i didn’t have the Facebook account I probably wouldn’t have gotten this gig…it pays to network.

During this time I was busy emailing some trumpet player buddies of mine but the first couple guys I tried were unavailable. One of the guys told me to try a guy from the Airmen of Note in DC and that worked out really well. I played with a guy named Rich Sigler and we got along great and the gig went smooth as silk. It was another one of those gigs with no charts but I knew a bunch of the songs and the keyboard player usually plays the horn parts so we were easily able to pick up things we didn’t know. We did a few dinner songs like This Masquerade and Moon Glow before moving on to the meat of the dance music. There was a wedge monitor for us but we really weren’t in it so hearing was a little rough and we also had to share one microphone because they only carry a small mixer. Still, things went really well and I’m pretty sure they will call us back if they are in the area and need horns again.

Oddly, I didn’t even know the name of the band until I got the check at the end of the night. The band is called Leggz and they are out of Roanoke, VA. It’s a great group and they put on a great show. The party was a blast – it had a Kentucky Derby theme and they even had the ceremony in time for everyone to go watch the race as well as real Kentucky blue grass on the tables. Martin O’Malley, the governor of MD, was even in attendance although he didn’t stay for the whole thing.

I used the Jazzlab SaxHolder again and it felt pretty comfortable although I wish I had taken more time to adjust the parts that came into contact with my shoulder blades…it was a little painful by the end of the night and that didn’t happen when I used it with my bari. I want to play a couple more gigs with it before I write a full review. My back felt great at the end of the night but I need to figure out why it aggravated my shoulders especially since the tenor is much lighter than the bari.

Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club 4-26-13


Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club - Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD

Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club – Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD

I played Friday night at the new Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, MD with Jr. Cline and the Recliners. I was playing the third horn chair (they usually only use two but add a third for the bigger gigs) so I was on alto and bari for this gig. It was a great show for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, we had the addition of Julia Nixon on vocals. Julia is a top notch singer who was a mainstay in the DC area for years although I believe she lives in North Carolina these days. Having her on stage really made a special night even better. The gig was also special for me because it was my first one with the ten-piece show version of the band. It went very well in spite of only one rehearsal with the full band (actually no rehearsals with Julia although most of the guys have worked with her before).

What a Beautiful Room!

What a Beautiful Room!

The club is absolutely gorgeous and is set up perfectly for concerts. It seats a few hundred people at dining tables, has a large area available as a dance floor, and has house PA and lights. The stage is plenty big and the acoustics of both the stage and the room in general are excellent. The food is excellent although maybe a little pricey but the band can order whatever they want for half price. In addition, everyone we dealt with was very nice and supportive of the band and our efforts.

It’s often said that the things that burn the hottest burn out the quickest and, much like the Tally Ho where I played a couple weeks ago, it takes a lot of support to keep them great. This is the kind of place we need to have around both for fans to have a nice place to go as well as for bands to have accommodating places to play. If you’re interested in seeing great bands in a great environment then make sure to frequent places like this to make sure they stay around.

One last thing. I finally managed to get a Jazzlab Sax Holder and it arrived just in time for the gig. I actually tried it out for the first time on stage. I will post a full review very soon but I’ll say this (Spoiler alert!) I think it’s a keeper.

The Second Most Important Part of Your Setup

It's not this yet...

It’s not this yet…

Way back in July of 2012 when I started this blog I spent my third post discussing what I thought was the most important part of any player’s setup. It wasn’t the mouthpiece or the reed or the horn in case you never read it. You can read it here in its entirety or I can just spoil it for you and tell you…it’s your concept – but read the post anyway. 🙂 It’s finally time to talk about the second most important part of your setup and once again it’s not your mouthpiece or your reed or your horn. After your concept comes your physical makeup.

There’s a lot to this really as so much of your body is involved in playing the saxophone. One key element is obviously your lung capacity and your ability to deliver your breath in a controlled and predictable fashion. Connected to this is your ability to open your throat (or constrict it in an interesting way to make certain tones and effects). Also connected would be your diaphragm and how you use it to control the pressure of your tone production system. Other factors can affect the system as well such as your posture and how well you understand how the system works.

Another area that has a lot of effect is your mouth, embouchure, and oral cavity. Of course your embouchure is important for many reasons but many people ignore some important factors like how the size of your oral cavity (including how open your throat is) works as an extension of the cavity inside the mouthpiece (which is part of the geometry of the whole system). This is one of the big reasons why different people sound different on different mouthpieces and why some guys sound dark with a high baffle mouthpiece and other guys can sound quite bright on large open chamber mouthpieces with very little baffle. In addition, minor differences in tongue position can angle (or block) your airstream in such a way that enhances or negates things you are doing in other areas.

There are other factors that have an influence as well. Your physical size and strength will probably go a long way towards choosing what saxophone you should play for instance. Also, I discussed critical listening in that post and several others since then. Obviously your brain is responsible for deciphering the inputs but your ears are what gets the information to your brain. On a meta level, it’s important to make sure that the information gets in there as clearly and cleanly as possible and that’s why I use in-ear monitors and try to protect my hearing as much as possible.

Some of these things you can’t do anything about but they are just part of the equation and don’t usually prevent you from getting the sound you want. Other factors like your embouchure, breath support, tongue position, ear training, etc. can all be trained and are usually more than enough to compensate for any potential deficiencies or shortcomings in other physical areas. One of these days we can actually start discussing those mundane things like mouthpieces and reeds but I would hope that thinking about your concept and your physical makeup as being more important would keep you from dwelling on hardware like so many sax players do. It’s more important to use what you have and continue to hone your craft than it is to spend tons of time and money chasing after some elusive hardware combination.

I got thinking about this stuff again because I was at a rehearsal for a gig I have coming up this weekend. It’s a new band for me and a different horn section including a sax player I have never worked with before named Scott Young from the DC area. Scott has had a long and fruitful career and is a consumate pro. After rehearsal we stood outside and talked shop (you know mouthpieces and stuff) for quite a while and it struck me how long it had been since I did that…it was a blast. 🙂  I’m really looking forward to working with Scott this weekend, talking more shop, and hopefully playing more gigs together in the future. If you’re in the Bethesda, MD area on Friday come on out to Bethesda Jazz and Blues Supper Club to see Jr. Cline and the Recliners featuring Julia Nixon.

Crack the Sky and Getting Ready For New Stuff

Last night the Crack Pack horns (same as the Retox Horns – Dave Makowiecki, Jim McFalls, and me) played with Crack the Sky at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore. The place was absolutely packed and we had a great time. We played two of the songs we recorded for the most recent CD, Ostrich, as well as the “usual suspects” of Skin Deep, She’s a Dancer, Mind Baby, and I Am the Walrus from the Beatles (always the closer). I once again played the Cannonball Raven tenor because it’s really tight and the intonation is pretty well locked in. I am still having trouble with a sticky G# key that is really getting on my nerves but I’m getting better at prepping the horn to limit it as much as possible. I’m mostly annoyed because I took it back where I bought it to have them look at it, it took them ten days to get it done, and it’s still exactly the way it was. I’m going to take it to my regular tech soon.

I’m also getting ready to play some high-profile gigs with Jr. Cline and the Recliners. The first one is in two weeks at the Bethesda Jazz and Blues Supper Club in Bethesda, MD. I’ve played with Daryl before but it was with the smaller club band, This gig is the first of a series with a ten-piece group (three horns) and I’ll most likely be playing alto and bari (bari for sure but it looks like alto will be a double). I’m pretty much caught up to where I was years ago on the bari with the possible exception of some endurance but I’ve been practicing a decent amount on alto to make sure that’s up to speed as well. I was playing alto in New Monopoly but only on a couple of tunes a night. I’m liking it more and more. I just had my horn (Buffet 400) in to the shop for some adjustment and it feels awesome. I’m also really happy with the Phil-Tone Custom (now called an Aurora) that has been my main piece for a couple of years.

I have been writing a lot of charts to get ready for the gig because there is no Eb book and it’s just too mind-bendingly hard to sight transpose the Bb book for me. I am still using Muse Score for this because it’s both free and (at least for me) very easy to use. I like the fact that I can enter everything  need with the computer keyboard and a mouse so I can work on charts wherever I have access to a computer. I’ve achieved a great comfort level with this entry method and can get through several tunes an hour if I’m not too distracted. I don’t even bother printing them out because I read everything from my iPad these days. I just export as a PDF, upload them to my Dropbox folder as a backup and then grab them from the pad. If I was doing more charts I would probably consider going for Sibelius but for my purposes, this free program does everything I need.



It’s been a while since I posted and there are quite a few reasons for that. I was in South Korea on a business trip and the jet lag coming home really hit me hard. I was home for a week but I really didn’t feel very well the entire time. I followed that up with another business trip to San Francisco for the Game Developer’s Conference. I got back from that on Saturday morning (the 30th) and had a gig in Leesburg, VA that night and then another one on Sunday afternoon. When that was all done, my family and I went on vacation to Ocean City, MD for a couple days. The end result is I didn’t get a whole lot else done and that definitely included the blog. I’ll try to get back on track starting with this post.

The two gigs were a lot of fun. I played with Technicolor Motor Home in Leesburg, VA at a club called the Tally Ho (here is their FB page). The Tally Ho is a relatively new club that opened in an old movie theater in downtown Leesburg. I think it’s only been open for about 8 months but they are off to a great start. They’ve had (and continue to have) lots of great artists in to play. The staff is incredibly nice and everyone seems to know exactly what to do. The club has its own PA and lights as well so you can travel light to get there. We had a pretty decent crowd considering we were very new to the area and they more than made up for the number with their enthusiasm. We also had a great young singer/songwriter named Andrew Sales (can’t find his web presence anywhere right now) open up for us and he did an outstanding job. One very cool thing was the owner of the venue came up and talked to each of us at the end of the night. He’s a really nice guy and it was a very nice touch that was much appreciated. Here’s a video from the gig but the sound is a little weird because the camera was just picking up some monitors and not the mains:

Also of note for that gig was we had three subs for the gig: one of the guitars and both backup singers. The band still sounded great even though there were a couple of interesting moments. 🙂 It’s a tribute the musicality and professionalism of the whole band but especially to Andy Shriver (guitar), Amber Letters, and Jen Smith (vocals) as they were right there with little or no rehearsal time.

On Easter Sunday we did something a little different. One of the big concert venues in my area, The Recher Theatre, is closing its doors as a concert venue and reopening as a dance club. It is a sad circumstance but many musicians and bands took the opportunity to pay tribute to a great club that had meant tons to our careers and to support charity at the same time. I think there were over 20 bands involved and the festivities started in the early afternoon and went all the way to closing. Many of the Technicolor folks were tied up with it being Easter and all so we created a miniature version of the band that we called Technicolor Mini Van for the event. It was Glenn Workman on keys and lead vocals, Ben Sherman on guitar, Mark St. Pierre on drums, Anthony Setola on bass, and me on tenor. We ended up going on early so we had a little bit more than the usual allotted time (30 minutes) to perform. We were able to cover a lot of ground and it was extra fun because we really opened the solo sections up quite a bit. I don’t know if there is any audio from our portion but I’ll try to find out. As I said, I’m very sad to see this hall go away but I’m thankful for all of the years we had to play there and for the great care they gave us. Special thanks to house sound man Keith Nachodsky for making everything sound great over the years and for spearheading this wonderful event.



When It’s Okay To Suck

Well I just flew in from Korea and boy are my arms tired (ba dum bum).  I was there for the last week doing stuff for my day job and now I’m home and all jet-lagged but I wanted to get something posted before I get too far behind.

As with my last post, my topic comes partially from a post on Sax on the Web Forum.  In it, a younger player laments how dejected he is and how embarrassed he has been to play ever since the first time he tried to play the horn. This struck me as odd because it’s very rare for someone to be good at something right from the start. Also, I don’t think anyone has ever sounded great the first time they picked up a saxophone without some other prior knowledge like playing another instrument. Luckily, I had saved a link several months ago with the intention of writing a post about it and now I have the perfect opportunity.

This says it all

This says it all

I love Lifehacker and I get tons of great advice from them and, yes, even some great ideas for blog posts. Back in November they posted an article that was itself sort of a repost from a blog from a blogger and author named David Kadavy. The post was about giving yourself the permission to suck and it struck me as being both a very interesting viewpoint as well as being very appropriate to musicians. In a way, David’s post was very closely related in intent to another famous statement from Ira Glass who was speaking about writing. You can watch that Youtube video but I actually prefer this version:

The point of all of these statements is that everyone has to start somewhere and you will probably not be very good for quite a while. In fact, it’s safe to say that everyone you might idolize whether it is Chris Potter, or Michael Brecker, or Bob Sheppard, or even the person  sitting first chair in your middle school band started right where you were or are and maybe they weren’t even that good. What they have is drive, perseverance, and a desire to improve and that’s something that anyone can have and use. One of the problems we often run into is summed up in another quote:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”  Steven Furtick

This is a very important distinction because when you are living your day-to-day life it’s often hard to see any real progress because progress is often minimal and incremental. Have you ever tried to lose weight and you keep looking at the scale and thinking you aren’t making any progress only to have someone who hasn’t seen you in a while tell you how thin you look? The reason that they see it and you don’t is because you are mired in it and they can look fresh from a point of reference that is removed from that standpoint. They can compare you to the last time they saw you so what is incremental and minimal for you could be striking depending on how long it’s been since they saw you.  The same is true for music or art or any other creative endeavor you attempt.

The key is that it has to be okay to suck and that your gratification may be delayed but if you care about it and want it then you can find ways to improve without losing heart. The other key is recognizing that we’re human and we will always find some comparison that will make us believe we still suck…and we probably do but it should be a call to action rather than a disincentive. Here are a couple personal examples:

  • My playing has come a long way over the years and it’s good enough to make me a sought after member of my local community but if I listen to Chris Potter or any of my other idols or even some other players in my area I can find ways that I still suck and maybe even suck really bad. That’s cool, I may never be as good as those people but I’m game to try.
  • Last summer I decided to write this blog.  I sucked at it then, I probably still suck at it now but I’m enjoying myself and I like having a place to get these thoughts off my head.  An old Monty Python line comes to mind, “I’ve suffered for my art…now it’s your turn”. 🙂
  • I used to be a fairly good doubler on saxophone and flute but several years of not having a reason to play them have left me woefully lame on them. I’m getting ready to start at least practicing flute again to get back where I was because I think there’s work out there if I do it…long tones here I come. Clarinet? Not so much but I may start messing with bass clarinet real soon. I’ll suck of course but it’s all about the challenge and entering uncharted territory.
  • One of my hobbies is bonsai gardening and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I truly suck at it but it provides me with another chance for expression and a lot of stress relief.  I’ll keep plodding along and I’ll probably sacrifice a few more trees to the bonsai deities but I have every intention of producing show-able trees before I stop. I may even start a blog about my journey to help push myself.

Anyway, I’m probably a little long for this post but check out the various links in my post because I think you will find they say things different and, yes, in some cases much better. But that’s okay.

Overtones and Your Tone

Overtone series based on Bb Fundamental

Overtone series based on Bb Fundamental

I spend a lot of time on a forum called Sax on the Web but I generally don’t post a ton. Part of the reason is because there’s a lot of other guys that often jump in with great, helpful stuff. Of course, it’s also the internet so there’s also a lot of hate and misinformation and I generally like to stay out of that kind of stuff. One of the questions that seems to be coming up a lot lately is related to overtones so I thought I would put a post together with my thoughts.

The question that got me thinking about this was someone asking if overtones created your tone or if your tone made overtones better. That was followed soon after by another thread asking why practicing overtones helps at all. The second one might be better left to someone else but the first one is interesting and sort of relevant but maybe also a bit misguided.  I mean of course having a better tone would probably lead to better overtones but I think that’s a little cart before the horse.

First let’s discuss what overtones are in case you’re unfamiliar with the concept. A bugle is an instrument that is played entirely with overtones. A basic bugle has no valve so there is only the tube. The bugler can make a base tone by buzzing their lips so that you are getting a wave that is based solely on the length of the tube – the fundamental. If they blow a little harder and tighten their lips they can get a perfect 5th higher than that.  Further air speed and embouchure increases will then add a perfect 4th, a major third, a minor third, and so on. Some of the partials (the intervals introduced as you go along) are not perfectly in tune but they are functional. You can get the same effect with a saxophone and even change the fundamental depending on what note you start with. We usually work with the fundamentals based on low Bb, B, and C but you can get some partials from many different notes.

So how can overtones help your tone? Well first they are the gateway to the altissimo – notes higher than the “normal” keyed notes on a saxophone. Learning to control the overtone series will really help dial in your ability to control notes in the altissimo. The possibly bigger payoff is how well you can open up your tone by matching partials to the actual fingered note (and vice versa). Try this: Play a middle Bb and then finger a low Bb and try to play the same note in the same octave. It may take a few tries but you will get it – try playing the Bb with the bis key and then quickly adding the low Bb fingering without changing your embouchure. Once you have that, try doing the same thing with a top line F. You can keep the octave key down when you finger the low Bb but later it can be optional. Once again, try to match the tones of the two notes. You can continue going up the overtone series doing the same thing and trust me it will help your tone and help set your embouchure.

So back to the original question about whether overtones lead to better chops or better chops lead to better overtones. Like I said, your advancing embouchure will lead to better, more-controlled overtones but it comes down to one of the most important aspects of practice…intention. You may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. If not, you should check it out because it’s a very fascinating concept. The thing is, he didn’t really do any scientific studies to come up with that number so the time to mastery could be shorter or longer and it may differ depending on the pursuit and the individual. I think that it’s possible to achieve mastery in 10,000 hours or less by just noodling around and playing a lot but I believe that the time could be cut significantly if the time you spend mastering something is filled with intention. You should have something specific to work on and a goal in mind every time you pick up the horn and something like practicing the overtone series is a great pont of intention for your sessions.

If you’re interested in spending more time with overtones and tone development you could try several books that are out there like Top Tones by Sigurd Rascher that’s been around forever. Another great alternative is a book I reviewed a little while back called: A Complete Approach to Sound for the Modern Saxophonist by Ben Britton.

Here’s What to Say

If you’ve been playing for a while it’s kind of inevitable that someone will either see you somewhere or hear you on a recording and will take the time to tell you they thought you sounded good.  They might say, “Hey, you sounded great!”, or “I really enjoyed your playing” or some other variation of that. For many people I know and especially younger players the response is usually some sort of self-deprecating explanation of why they didn’t “really” sound that good or how much better they could have been but this kind of response does a disservice to the social exchange that could be happening if they would just say the right thing. Believe me when I say that this is something that took me a long time to figure out and it’s something I still struggle with sometimes so don’t think of it as preaching.

First let’s examine the complimenter’s side of the interaction. They were in a situation where they heard you play and they wanted to take the time to make sure you knew they enjoyed the experience. That’s pretty special no matter how you played so keep that in mind.  Now maybe they aren’t some great musician with a finely honed sense of discretionary hearing or maybe they are biased towards you because they are a friend or relative. That shouldn’t matter at all but it does because I think players go even farther out of their way to explain how “bad” they were when it’s another musician. I also think everyone discounts the bias of friends and family. No matter what the connection just think of the context as exactly what it is…one human reaching out to another to tell them they did a good job.  That’s a powerful thing and you should treat it as such.

Another way to look at it is this.  When you negate someone’s compliment by being self-deprecating or simply disagreeing with them it makes them feel bad because you are essentially calling out their lack of musical knowledge or discerning ear.  No one wants to hear that.  No matter the person’s musical ability or knowledge they know what they like and their individual tastes should be respected.  Just remember that their experience is the sum total of many things like who they are with, what their expectations were going in, and yes even how much they may have imbibed that evening along with your performance.

On the other hand let’s look at your motivation.  You probably want to tell them how much better it could have been.  This is, of course, invalid because musicians are always perfectionists and it could always be a little bit better than it was.  I’ll bet even Michael Brecker had nights where he wasn’t happy with what he did but I would have still thought he was amazing. I remember seeing David Sanborn and when I was talking to him backstage (after he had thanked me for my compliment and then realized I was a sax player) he told me how much trouble he was having with his reed…sounded like first class Dave Sanborn to me.

Now sometimes people will pay you a “backhanded” compliment that’s really not heartfelt like, “I really dug what you were trying to do up there.” or something like that but these instances are rare and you should just ignore them anyway. Better to take the high road I always say.

So what should you say?  Simple is better so just say, “Thank you” (and mean it) and fulfill your part of the social contract.  Whether the person is a music expert or not doesn’t matter.  Neither does your true opinion of how well you did.  The fact is that something you did struck them in a profound enough way to make them reach out to you and you should respond in kind. Here are some things I do in addition.  If I really didn’t think I was that great I will often add, “You’re very kind” – it makes me feel better sometimes.  I’ll also often add, “I’m really glad you enjoyed it” because I really am.  I love playing live for people and my goal is that they have a good time.  Sometimes with other musicians or people I know to have a discerning ear I will follow up by discussing some things that may have prevented me from being totally comfortable but no matter what I always lead with a simple thanks to get things going.

It’s a tough lesson to learn and it sometimes feels counterintuitive but saying thank you will make you feel better and make the people who complimented you feel good as well.  Give it a try and I think you’ll like the results.


Busy Weekend

Friday night I got to do one of my favorite things. I played with Technicolor Motor Home at Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis. It’s the second time we’ve been there and the second time we’ve sold the place out. It’s not a huge venue but it has a great vibe and thee have been some amazing acts on that stage so it just feels great to be up there. It’s always a great time when I play with these guys especially playing with my partners in horn section crime, Dave Makowiecki and Jim McFalls. It was a great night and here are some samples:

Last song of the night after over 2 hours of playing..still a lot of energy going on:

A little EWI action on this one.  The chromatic harmonica patch was a free download from EWI Reason Sounds.  It was a melodica on the original recording but this gets the job done.

Some horn section goodness and some wonderful guitar work by Ben Sherman:

I played the Cannonball Raven on this gig with my Phil Barone Super New York mouthpiece and Rigotti Gold 3 1/2 M reeds. It was a struggle because I was still having a devil of a time with the G# key sticking.  I made it through the night but it drove me crazy the whole time and I had a really hard time feeling settled.  I took the horn to L&L Music in Gaithersburg where I bought it and they are looking it over and adjusting it as a warranty repair so I’m hopeful that it will be great when I get it back. With the exception of the sticking key (which could be attributed to a bunch of things) the horn felt absolutely awesome…very tight and punchy and it just looks awesome.

This week I’m playing a LOT of bari in a big band setting. Every year a local private high school called Archbishop Curley has a night of jazz featuring their students and an alumni band along with a guest act. I didn’t go to Curley but I have a few friends there and I’ve subbed with the alumni band numerous times including every chair in the sax section at one time or another. I think this will be my third concert with them and the first for me on bari. We had a rather long rehearsal this evening and we will have two more before the concert on Saturday night. I’m playing on my Selmer bari with my Lawton 8*B mouthpiece and it’s really starting to feel a lot more comfortable…maybe I don’t need to get some mouthpieces refaced after all. Oh well, I already sent one off to Mojo (Keith Bradbury) so it’s a done deal anyway. I’m also using an inexpensive reed alternative – Woodwind brand from the Woodwind and the Brasswind. I ordered the jazz cut in a 3 and they are playing really well for me right now. I also have some La Voz MH that I have prepared in the rotation as well. We’re only doing 5 tunes for the concert but it looks like it will be a lot of fun. I think there are a few tickets available for “All That Curley Jazz” but it appears to be another sellout this week. 🙂

A Couple of Quick Things

Great Gig


I played a great gig Saturday night in Falls Church, VA with Jr. Cline and the Recliners.  I had played with them on tenor before Christmas but this time I was playing bari as Daryl (Jr.) was trying a few things with the horn section.  It was a much easier gig on tenor for a couple reasons.  First, the book is a Bb book so I was trying to sight transpose everything…sometimes it felt easy and natural and other times it felt like calculus…mostly calculus.  Second, the club is tiny (same club as the last gig I did with them) but this time we had three guys on the tiny stage instead of two. Finally, there were no monitors and the bari is much harder to pick out acoustically than tenor so I was never really settled with regards to pitch or blend. On the other hand, the section from last time was augmented by a wonderful guy and great sax player named Al Williams on tenor. Al has been a Washington area legend for years and previously toured with both Stanley Clarke and Mongo Santamaria so it was an honor to share the stage with him and blend in the section along with trumpeter Chris Hutton.  I’m hoping there will be more work with this section and this band in the near future.


I took my son (who plays string bass in high school) to the All-County Solo and Ensemble Festival on Saturday.  He was playing with a trio that ended up getting a top grade but that’s beside the point. 🙂  While we were there in the warm-up area I saw not one, not, two, but three sax players that had Rovner ligatures on upside down. I really wanted to go say something but I figured the last thing they needed was someone messing with their setup before they play so I must content myself with posting this thought here. It’s pretty simple really. The ligature screw always goes on the right unless you have doe something special to put it on the other side so that gives you a clue as to how the ligature should be applied. It’s not a matter of the vast majority of people in the world being right handed, it’s actually much simpler and aplicable than that. Having it on the right allows you to be able to play some notes with your left hand while possibly adjusting the tension with your right. If you reverse this then there is only one note that will sound…C#. Also, in the case of the Rovner ligature, if you put it on upside down you are losing the whole point of why you would by a Rovner in the first place. So think about it and make sure you’re using the ligature you bought the way it was intended to be used.

Bari Mouthpiece Work

Now that I have more bari work coming in, I’m starting to mess around with my setup a little bit. I have a mouthpiece that I love (Lawton 8*B – you can see it pretty clearly in the pictures above) but it’s been a little tougher to play since I haven’t been playing as much bari and I’m not 25 anymore so I was hoping for something a little easier to play. One possible solution is that I have an Otto Link Tone Edge (Hard Rubber) out with a mouthpiece guy named Phil Barone and he’s giving it something I refer to as the “Ronnie Cuber Treatment”. It’s a series of modifications he did for Ronnie years ago (Ronnie is one of my favorite bari players). I’m thinking it’s going to be easier to honk out low notes and it should be freer blowing than the Lawton. Unfortunately it has taken quite a while to get those modifications but I’m hopeful it will be coming soon. I have also contacted another mouthpiece refacer who specializes in bari mouthpieces although he works on all types. His name is Keith Bradbury but he goes by the name MojoBari or simply Mojo on forums. I have a couple of mouthpieces that I want to send to him for refacing and I’m going to start with an old hard rubber Berg Larsen 115/1. It’s got a couple things I like (honking low end and easy to blow) and a couple things I hate (stuffy upper register) so I’m hopeful Keith can straighten it out for me. He’s a little backed up so it will probably be a month before I get it back but I can definitely gig on my Lawton for a while longer and, who knows, maybe I’ll just get comfortable on it again from all of the work I’m hoping to get and it won’t feel too big anymore.  Stay tuned for updates.