Reimagining the Saxophone

During a trip to Manhattan last winter (Jan 2016 or so) I heard some buskers in Union Square station making sounds that were at once familiar and new.

This is not my video, but this is roughly where they were playing, and this is how Too Many Zooz sounded.

My whole family stayed and watched for a while.  Entranced.

It turns out, there is a lot of new style music played with old instruments.  Gogol Bordello, Golem, the Pogues, the Dropkick Murphys and many others have done a wonderful job of merging Klezmer and Irish music with Punk, and Post Modern Jukebox has managed to make modern Pop work in older styles. What Too Many Zooz is doing is applying the same ethos to techno/trance/dance.  They call it Brasscore.

I’d call it Jazz.

The wonderful thing about the Tenor Sax is that it sits low enough in the range to cover the low end of the male voice and, with practice, you can get a huge range above.  Sometimes, it needs a little help, though, and you can see Moon Hooch get creative to get notes below the low B flat.

Both groups use effects that were novelties in older music.  Probably the most notable is the use of overtones, that rising squeal that sounds almost electronic. It turns out there are a whole body of sounds that the dedicated wind player can get from an instrument. When put together, and played creatively, it can give the impression of a small ensemble, even when just a single Sax player is producing the music.

Derek Brown has put them together masterfully:

He has a whole body of tutorials on his site that explains the various techniques.  I’ve been following a few of them.  Right now the two things I am working on is Slap Tonguing and Overtones. For the Overtones work, I am following the manual of the master:

It has been a lot of fun work.  I can hit the second Octave B flat pretty consistently, and the C and C sharp with work.  I can cheat up to the D using the low B flat fingering, by starting with the high D key open.

In doing so, I’ve felt my sound get stronger, especially at the top range.  I’m not where I want to be there yet, though.

The slap tonging is, in some ways, harder to learn, as all of the technique is internal to the mouth.  I’ve followed a few different tutorials, but the instructions here have proven to be the most helpful.

I’ve also gone through this sequence many times.

Not there yet, but every now and then, I get the sound.

I’ve really been motivate to practice and master these techniques. I’ll post video when I feel I have them down sufficiently.

3 thoughts on “Reimagining the Saxophone

  1. Really enjoyed your share. Thanks. The musicians profiled here are pretty awesome. My oldest was impressed

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