San Diego Saxophone Lessons

San Diego Saxophone Lessons
presented in conjunction with

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wrap your ear around this...

As a student of the saxophone, it’s good to remember the importance of absorbing the classic albums and listing deeply to the great masters of the instrument.

Just as any rock musician knows Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, we as saxophonists should know Bird, Trane, Joe, Wayne, and all the others. I’m actually struck by how many of my students might know the name Jimi Hendrix, but get tongue-tied trying to name one saxophone player. Not only should we know our favorite players, we should know their seminal recordings thoroughly (Page One, Blue Trane, Kind of Blue, Speak No Evil…)! Listening is the best way to start to get the language of jazz in our heads. Great players I’ve met always amaze me with the depth of their knowledge of past recordings. Saxophonist Charles McNeal has humbled me with some of his saxophone blindfold-tests recently on FaceBook.

The prevalence of iPods has encouraged the younger generation to consume their music a-la-carte. In my formative days, I had only a dozen-or-so jazz CDs, which had to be sought out at actual record stores (for those under 18, record stores were retail outlets that sold CDs, tapes, and records). Not only did you have to save your allowance and find your way to the record shop, you were very lucky if the store (and I’m talking about the early ‘90s here) had a “JAZZ” section that ventured much beyond Kenny G! The few real jazz CDs I managed to find I knew inside-and-out, backwards and forwards. The same respect for albums generally doesn't exist today. After one track, your mp3 player will shuffle to a completely different artist and genre (if you even got through the one track before skipping it)!

These four CDs were some of the very first I had - I played them until they wouldn’t play anymore:

san diego sax lessons

Clockwise from top L:
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers “A Day With Art Blakey – 1961 – vol 2”
This one I found in a bin in an Amish record booth inside a large market in Pennsylvania. Incredible live concert in Japan with Wayne Shorter on tenor.

John Coltrane “Blue Trane”
This album (along with “Giant Steps”) could be considered the apex of Trane’s earlier period. I believe this CD was given to me by a teacher or friend.

Dexter Gordon “Ballads”
This is not an actual album, but a compilation. This one I think I may have purchased in a cheesy mall record shop. A truly iconic collection of tracks including “You’ve Changed”, “Darn That Dream”, and “Body and Soul”. I think I bought a second copy after the first one died. It’s that good.

Joshua Redman “Wish”
OK, I’ll further date myself with this one. Joshua Redman was one of the neo-hardboppers who led us back from the fusion and smooth drivel of the early ‘90s. Thank you, Josh! This record I “borrowed” from a neighbor. Good playing on this disc, even if it may sound a little dated by today’s standards.

That may be an odd assemblage of discs, but that’s what I managed to get my hands on. If you are just getting into the saxophone, here’s a short-list of great albums to get you on the right track:

John Coltrane: Blue Trane
Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil
Joe Henderson: Page One
Charlie Parker: Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker: “Town Hall, New York City 1945”
Eugene Rousseau: Colors (Rousseau is the most well-known classical saxophonist)
Cannonball Adderley: Somethin’ Else
Hank Mobley: Soul Station
Michael Brecker: Don’t Try This at Home

I'm trying to keep it simple but feel free to chime in with your favorites in the comments!


Peter August said...

I love a good discussion about favorite sax recordings.

Here are some that I will always love:

Hank Mobley: Soul Station
John Coltrane: Coltrane Jazz
Stan Getz: People Time
Sonny Rollins: The Bridge
Michael Brecker: Tales From the Hudson
Oliver Nelson: The Blues and the Abstract Truth

Ian Tordella said...

Ah, yes, The Bridge!

Ian Tordella said...

For Bird, Jazz At Massey Hall is also a great album. So many good solos on that one!

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