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  1. #1

    Default Big Band Sax Section

    Which is more important and why......2nd Alto or 2nd Tenor??

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member BarrySachs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    They're all important. 2nd alto is the most difficult chair to play properly. There are so many incompetent 2nd alto players in the professional world. Cats that play lead from the 2nd chair. I really hate that.

    On 2nd alto, you gotta shadow the lead player whilst still supporting the lead.

    To play 2nd tenor, you must have a good low-register subtone. Without it, you'll sound like a fog horn below low D. That will throw off the blend of a voicing.

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    Distinguished SOTW member daigle65's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    I agree with everything BarrySachs said, but ....if there's one horn missing in the section it will be less obvious if it's the 2nd tenor.
    If the 2nd alto is out it will sound very empty in between 1st alto and 1st tenor.
    The same voicing gap in the lower register won't be as noticeable.
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    Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor Merlin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    I would have said 2nd tenor is harder to play - it certainly seems to be the case on Thad Jones charts.

    If there are five parts written, the result will always suffer when one is missing.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Second Alto is more important harmony wise in most cases.

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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    In the old days, some bands had the 2nd alto as the jazz solo chair but nowdays it seems the lead alto also plays all the jazz. The 2nd tenor sometimes has tenor battles with the 1st tenor. I agree they're equally important. Speaking personally, 2nd alto is more fun than 2nd tenor.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member Kelly Bucheger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Quote Originally Posted by BarrySachs View Post
    They're all important. 2nd alto is the most difficult chair to play properly. There are so many incompetent 2nd alto players in the professional world. Cats that play lead from the 2nd chair. I really hate that.
    Playing lead has been the best thing to happen to my *2nd* alto playing, because it made me think about what I'd like in a 2nd alto player... Also, playing 2nd under some great lead players has helped...

    In the meantime, Dick Oatts has some GRREEEAAAT and astute comments on what he's looking for from EACH chair in the sax section in Alex Stewart's book "Making the Scene" -- CHECK THIS OUT to see what I'm talking about.

    I highly recommend the book to folks who dig contemporary big bands and would like an interesting look at the New York scene...
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Quote Originally Posted by Merlin View Post
    I would have said 2nd tenor is harder to play - it certainly seems to be the case on Thad Jones charts.

    If there are five parts written, the result will always suffer when one is missing.
    I agree that the 2nd tenor is the hardest of the section. I have played 2nd tenor is a big band for over 12 years and am
    now playing the first chair. I found the first chair parts are easier to play. If you just play the second part without any other
    instruments, it makes very little sense harmonically whereas the first chair has more melodic phrases and more often carries parts of the melody at least that is how I perceive it. Every part is important in a big band

  9. #9
    Distinguished SOTW Member BarrySachs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Bucheger View Post
    Playing lead has been the best thing to happen to my *2nd* alto playing, because it made me think about what I'd like in a 2nd alto player... Also, playing 2nd under some great lead players has helped...

    In the meantime, Dick Oatts has some GRREEEAAAT and astute comments on what he's looking for from EACH chair in the sax section in Alex Stewart's book "Making the Scene" -- CHECK THIS OUT to see what I'm talking about.

    I highly recommend the book to folks who dig contemporary big bands and would like an interesting look at the New York scene...
    All the best 2nd alto players are good lead alto players.

    "Making the Scene" is a bit out-of-date. Al Stewart wrote is as his doctoral dissertation over 10 years ago. By the time it was published, the scene had changed. Also, I'm slightly misquoted in there.

    Anyway, as far as important chairs in a section go. They're all important. If the arranger writes a 5-note voicing, there should be a 5-note voicing. Most arrangements don't sound as good with parts missing.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician Grumps's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    When offered either... choose bari!

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    Distinguished SOTW Member kavala's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    I wasn't sure in your original post whether you meant that you are
    short by one player for the sax section, or whether you meant that
    the 2nd tenor or 2nd alto are there, but that they are mediocre players ?

    If it is the latter, it's real important to have 1st and 2nd alto to
    be able to play together in tune. Sounds obvious, but I've heard
    a few that were not.
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Quote Originally Posted by Merlin View Post
    I would have said 2nd tenor is harder to play - it certainly seems to be the case on Thad Jones charts.

    If there are five parts written, the result will always suffer when one is missing.
    But if one has to be missing I would do away with the 2nd(or 4th as it sometimes referred to) tenor.

  13. #13
    Distinguished SOTW Member Agent27's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    The 2nd tenor often gets the lines that make the least sense and that makes it harder to play. If there's one part most likely to have repeated notes while the lead line is moving, it's 2nd tenor. If a line is being voiced into 5 parts, one popular method is just to make the chord tight below the top note. Because this will inevitably result in 2nds between the top 2 voices at times (that obscures the lead line, you want at least a 3rd between the top 2 voices, the 2nd voice is often dropped an octave. What this means is that originally, the lowest voice is the last note plugged into the chord. Sometimes they just force notes in there, making for awkward lines. They're the left over notes. Anyway, when you drop that 2nd voice down an octave, that becomes the bari sax line and the line with all the awkward left over notes going to the 2nd tenor.

    This isn't always the case and good arrangers don't stick to one way of voicing throughout an entire arrangement. But this is a common method so you'll run across it a lot, even if you don't realize it.

    But as for which one's more important, like others have said they're both important but if forced to lose one or the other, I'd keep the 2nd alto and ditch the 2nd tenor.

  14. #14
    Distinguished SOTW Member BarrySachs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    I don't understand this? If you have arrangements written for 5 saxophones, get 5 bloody saxophones. Why lose a chair?

    Anyway, most stock arrangements have 4-part harmony in the reed section. So, reed 5 (baritone) is either doubling lead 8vb or playing roots. Since the doubled lead is superfluous and roots are covered in the bass, loose the baritone.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2010 Canadiain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    If you have to skimp on either 3rd Alto or 4th Tenor part, then Id say drop the Tenor, you lose something, but not as much as if you lose the alto harmony.

    I play generally play 4th Tenor, but if there are conflicts and one of the alto players misses a rehersal then I get bumped over to 3rd Alto to balance the section better. Does seem to me the "2nd" alto part generally makes more melodic sense than the "2nd" Tenor part, the tenor part is usually taking the less obvious route for want of a better description.

  16. #16
    Forum Contributor 2008 saxxsymbol's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    In all the big bands I play with, if we are short a sax we lose the 4th ,sometimes incorrectly called the 2nd, tenor. Only the sax section and the best ears will hear the missing harmony from the 4th part. And I feel you need the bottom voice of the Bari. A lot of our arrangements have completely different Bari parts from the lead alto. Especially our 60's, 70's and 80's charts. As a section we sound so much fatter with the Bari. I agree, if you can have 5 saxes, by all means use them.

    I have played all the sax chairs in the band and my favorite chairs to play are the 2nd Tenor and the Bari. I played 3rd Alto for 10 years and have played lead now for 5. But I am a Tenor player at heart.
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  17. #17

    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Thank you all for your responses...I should have clarified my situation....being an amateur band we have difficulty filling all the chairs so I wanted to know which part should be covered first.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    You know what second place is considered...?
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    Distinguished SOTW Member Agent27's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Quote Originally Posted by saxxsymbol View Post
    4th ,sometimes incorrectly called the 2nd, tenor.
    Don't get into semantics. There isn't a hard rule about this and either is correct. Don't think I've seen 3rd alto but I've seen 3rd tenor. I see parts labeled 2nd tenor more often, but as long as the right person gets the right part, who cares?

  20. #20
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2010 Canadiain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Big Band Sax Section

    Quote Originally Posted by Agent27 View Post
    Don't get into semantics.
    Just as long as you know what you are getting into when the band leader asks "Are you OK playing second tenor" its all good. I made that mistake once. Once was enough... waaaaaay out of my depth in the lead tenor seat Still, they were nice enough to ask me back again...

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