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Thread: alto and tenor saxes

  1. #1

    Default alto and tenor saxes

    Hi everybody !

    Many jazz saxophonists play alto OR tenor mainly : from Prez to Brecker on tenor (and Rollins, Bob Berg, Andy - and Bob - Sheppard, Hawk, Chris Speed..........), from Hodges to Braxton (and Dolphy, Bird, Sanborn, Kenny G....arrett !:-) ................)
    Well there are some exceptions : Chris Potter, french Stephane Guillaume, Tim Rice (on alto with Maria Schneider - beautifull solo on Giant Steps) ; Lovano plays quite often alto too, Marty Erhlich is a good (but strange) tenor, Ornette played it only on his "Ornette on tenor" album etc etc !

    What's your opinion about it ? do you play the both ?

    As a bass clarinet "specialist", I prefer alto (because of my idols Dolphy and Marty Ehrlich ????) but love tenor ; so I find a "solution" : the C-melody !
    I play it with a Meyer alto mthp and worked it like a A or a T, trying to be not a "cameleon" but something else. Strange, I know ! I use my tenor for R&B, Rock or Big-Band (no work for C-melo !), but in my combo the only sax I play is C-melo.

  2. #2
    Forum Contributor 2009 TJS's Avatar
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    I personally have pretty much abandoned the alto for playing jazz. I really feel my true voice is on tenor. If I need to play a show or something on alto I will, but when given the choice I will always choose tenor.

  3. #3

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    I always gravitate to tenor as my main horn. When I sub with other bands there is a call for me to drag out my alto. I do play soprano more often than alto these days.

  4. #4

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    I guess the same reason you are a bass clarinet "specialist". Some people like certain instruments more than others, and thus exceed in that one in particular. I find myself pretty good with bass clarinet but still can't really play Bb clarinet even if my life depended on it. Unlike most people, I went from alto sax to bass clarinet.

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    I'm suprised no one has mentioned Sonny Stitt who was the ultimate alto/tenor player. Not only did he play both horns exceptionally well on an instrumental level, but he really understood the history and language of each horn.
    I think that's the difference between Stitt and guys like Lovano and Potter, who are both amazingly awesome players, but if you really listen to how they play you'll hear a style really strongly steeped in the tenor tradition rather than the alto. Josh Redman is another example of this. There are also some recordings of Bird playing tenor (once when he'd hocked his alto) and of Coltrane playing alto (the tune I heard was 'Ko-Ko' I belive').
    I personally started on alto but in the last twelve months have gravitated towards the tenor, mainly because I listen to a lot of Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson. I think that tenor will eventually become the horn I use as the tool for my own musical expression. Some tunes I write just work better on alto though.

  6. #6

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    Dear Benny,
    Oups I forgot Sonny Stitt.. That's the best example, I 100% agree.
    In an other style of alto / tenor :Archie Shepp.
    Parker on tenor on Milestones is great ! Coltrane on alto I only know the Impulse Live in Japan (Yamaha gave him an alto, he playes it on one tune).

  7. #7
    Prodigal Son and Forum Contributor 2008 martysax's Avatar
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    I love switching during a gig. It actually feels better to my mouth during a four hour gig. Even though I play Dukoff D8s on both horns, the alto still feels like a rest.

    For the last year or so we had no female singer, so I was playing mostly tenor. We hired a "girl" a few months ago and I'm playing more alto and flute, I may have to break out the soprano for her soon.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by martysax
    I love switching during a gig. It actually feels better to my mouth during a four hour gig. Even though I play Dukoff D8s on both horns, the alto still feels like a rest.
    Marty, I thought it was interesting that you play the same mpc on both tenor and alto. I have been playing alto almost exclusively for about the past year. Before that I was playing both alto and tenor, but mostly tenor. I just recently got a new (to me) tenor same make and model as my alto.
    I've been noticing that after playing tenor for a while and then going back to alto, the alto seems too resistant.
    I was thinking that I should try to get a more open setup on alto so the switch between the two would not make such a difference.

    Does any one else do this? Just wondering.

  9. #9
    Prodigal Son and Forum Contributor 2008 martysax's Avatar
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    Hey sw3119,

    I'm looking for a really open soprano mp for the same reason. I currently blow a Link 8* into the soprano, but need more!

    After being a loud tenor player for years, everytime I pick up the smaller axes they feel like toys. I squeeze the notes out. I switched from a Meyer 5 to the Dukoff D8 because I wanted to scream more.

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    Default Love'm all!

    I play SATandC, and love all of 'em. As far as the pros go, or the pros used to go, listen to Zoot Sims on "That Old Feeling" CD. It was recorded in 1956 and overdubbed using the technology of the day... totally awesome. Zoot plays in a sax section consisting of Zoot on Alto, Tenor, and Bari, and he plays all of them as if they were his main horn! Matter of fact, Zoot is one of my Tenor idols from way back; however, I almost think he sounds like a "natural" on alto. They used to carry the CD on CD Universe, but I don't see it there anymore... a few are still available on Amazon though. Best tracks IMHO are "Blinuet" "Noshin'" and "Zonkin'" for the "section work."
    John
    "Zoot" would a good name for a kid...

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