knife or banana

people often ask me how long i've been playing saxophone. my usual answer, offered up in an effort to dodge the guilt i have about it, is that i should be way better than i actually am.  truth be told - i've been playing since fifth grade. so, that makes it almost thirty years oh my god. the first half was spent trying to not practice at all, attempting to snow the professors with doctored-up time sheets while hiding behind a fear of actually working on something.  the second half has been about trying to find an original sound, my personal voice on the alto.  i have rifled through reeds, ligatures, and mouthpieces in an effort to unlock the path to my holy grail.

but tenor?  i have no clue what i want to do with that. there are lower notes.  the sound booms from a different spot on my body.  my arms hang differently.  i'm not sure i really hear on tenor, and get nauseous at the thought of most tenor players on the scene.  however - i've stumbled on to a chunk of change which, timed with this midlife crisis, means that i'm ready for a new musical mistress. this new set of gams will go well with my life partner (the alto saxophone) and my muse (the fender rhodes).

tenor players i love include ben webster, hank mobley, mark turner, rick margitza, rich perry, tony malaby, charles lloyd, and chris speed.  other guys are good too, of course, but eight is all i can think of at the moment.

i made the trek to waterloo last friday with a brand new credit card and a stomach full of butterflies.  i wasn't sure i actually knew what i wanted to sound like.  i didn't really have a reeds ready because i hadn't played tenor in a while.  i've been playing on a selmer usa, a school horn, and put all of my hope into a refaced link i picked up from doc tenney back in the year 2000. i had heard that the guys over at tenor madness were really gonna work me out on some horns, and boy was that the truth.

randy jones is a wiz, pure and simple.  he and his guys have designed a new line of saxophone that rivals the great Mark VI horns.  he was so patient with me, kicking back on a folding chair with a small glass of either iced tea or scotch, listening to me play a whole bunch of musical nonsense on a variety of horns.  he would ask me what i thought of the neck/body combo i was using, and could somehow decipher my abstract descriptions.  i spent five hours playing soft, loud, palm keys, middle action, bottom end, altissimo, into the room, up against the glass door. randy stuck it out throughout the day, helping me choose my next horn.  definitely must have been scotch.

i finally settled on something beautiful.  for all of you sax nerds out there - i got an unlacquered tm custom with rolled tone holes, high f# key, walnut thumb rest, tino schucht thumb hook, copper 550 neck, and am shoving all of that into an (unfortunately named) hiscox flight case.  

mucho thanks to randy, jim, drew, and the rest of the clan over at the shop for being on top of your game and cutting me a sweet deal.  and double thanks to the wife for not killing me after i come home with a new love interest.

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