I only play soprano, not tenor, alto, or any type of other saxophone. My introduction to soprano saxophone came several decades ago, but becoming a soprano player happened fairly recently. This first post is about how the soprano saxophone got under my skin. First, a quick history.
I played clarinet for a few years as a child, and then became a pianist. More accurately, I became a Farfisa organist and singer in rock bands. Then I went to Goddard College in Vermont and studied jazz piano. Under the tutelage of a fine pianist, I spent several years in a room practicing, as the snow piled up outside, until it was time to go.
I kept up with the piano playing and became a piano/singer/songwriter through my 20s. Then I moved to Los Angeles, began making spoken word recordings, and composing background music for them. That led to composing music on its own, incorporating elements of jazz, rock, and the usually maligned new age genre. (I admit that new age music is generally awful, but I still insist that mine is worth listening to.)
My Introduction To Soprano Saxophone
I hired an outstanding wind doubler named Jon Clarke to record on my first music albums, Touch The Sky and Stars, and that began my relationship with soprano sax. Jon had played with Kenny Loggins and various other artists. And at the time he was playing flute, oboe, or sax on film and TV sessions all over LA. I wrote out parts, and Jon brought his own style and improvisations to the songs. He sounded wonderful. Cellist Ed Willet also brought some wonderful elements to my music, and has played on my albums ever since.
Jon Clark, Soprano Sax on Full Circle, from Touch The Sky:
Those first albums did well, and were picked up by The Wave, a syndicated radio group that played the hell out of them for several years. Thank you for the royalties!
Skip way far, far ahead to 2017. I had just completed my most recent album, Flying Not Fallling. Jon Clarke has since passed (he’s missed by many). And so another very fine wind doubler, John Yoakum, played soprano saxophone on this album. The sound he produced is different than Jon’s, but perfect for my latest material.
Jon Yoakum, Soprano Sax on Simon & Michael, from Flying Not Falling:
Getting A Handle On Things
Soon after the album was done, I was shooting a music video for the song Earthtones. I needed to film John playing the sax, but he was in LA. These days I’m based in Santa Fe. So I got my friend Rusty Crutcher, who is photogenic, accommodating, and has a nice Selmer Mark VI soprano, to stand in for John in the video. Rusty also happens to be an outstanding alto and tenor player, and did a small alto spot on the album too.
So we’re shooting out in rocky landscape near my studio in Santa Fe, and Rusty is climbing around to get to the best position He handed me his soprano sax while he got situated. I was then holding a soprano saxophone for the first time. I think in that moment some unused part of my brain lit up! A few weeks later I asked Rusty how long it would take me to make a beautiful sound on the soprano. He lied and told me a few months.
Thus was my introduction to soprano saxophone as a budding player. I was in.