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Bass saxophone in a big band

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Tonight I played bass saxophone with a big band in a 6 piece sax section. The Florida Atlantic University "Jazz Rats" is the University's big jazz band, made up of FAU staff and local professional players.

Bandleader Tim Walters found some Bob Florence arrangements with 2 baritone saxophones, including "Pumpkinette," which featured a baritone battle between me and Woody Herman baritone player Mike Brignola.

Since we had six saxes, and since a lot of the charts were custom written for the band, Tim Walters and trumpet player/arranger supreme Dave Gibble wrote me a couple of bass sax parts.

It was my first chance to play in a modern sax section on bass - no solos, just try to blend with the section. The other saxes were typical south Florida players, powerful, with a contemporary jazz sound.

In that environment, I had previously used a middle-of-the-road Link or Gregory baritone mouthpiece on my old Conn stencil bass. This time I tried the Zinner B bass sax mouthpiece on my Eppelsheim. I'm happy with the result. It took some effort and some air to match the section, but I could do it and the really, really deep bass sax sound was still there.

The concert concluded with "Hallelujuh Time" by Oscar Peterson - the Woody Herman 1964 chart. It was a tenor battle between me (I was Carmen Leggio) and former Airmen of Note tenor player Jim Hayward, who played the Sal Nistico part.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Back in the day (say 1925 or so), it was not uncommon to find two baritone parts in some of the hotel band arrangements if the time. Usually, the parts were taken by the two alto players (since a permanent baritone part was not used at that time and place in the musical world), and the arrangements were not what we would consider "interesting" (think Johnny Warrington stocks).

I think that the reason the two baritone arrangement (and, for that matter, the use of the bass sax overall) has gone the way of the dodo is primarily economic. The number of baritone players in the world compared to the number of tenor and alto players is probably something like 5 to 3 to 1. Throw in the bass sax and you can add a "to .1' at the right end of that string.

Music gets written (in general terms) for the ensembles that already exist. And, music written on spec (i.e., for commercial sale to unknown purchasers) is going to hew to accepted instrumentation , just to be on the safe side.

At a local (and recently closed) sheet music source, there was (tucked away at the end of the "big band" arrangement shelf) a Stan Kenton chart, mellophone parts and all. (I think that it was Habanera, but cannot be sure at this remove.) Some buyer for the firm probably liked the Kenton version, and picked it up as part of a bulk purchase from the publisher.

I noticed that chart the first time that I visited, mostly because it was in a bright yellow wrapper. I kept noticing it over the years, as it got more and more shopworn. But, always the same chart, looked at but never bought.

Mind you, one bass sax is a lot less uncommon than a group that has access to three or four mellophones. But, the principle is the same.
 
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Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
The two baritone charts were all custom written for our band, or for some other band, We played them as written.

When the FAU "Jazz Rats" play concerts, they are sometimes recorded, and less often videotaped. To be perfectly honest, I never know what's going on. I have a difficult time working the rehearsals and concerts into my schedule, but they let me play my big horns, and it's a good band, so I find a way. If there are decent clips/videos available, I'll try to post them.
 

sideC

Artist in residence
Distinguished Member
I play in a band that consists of six baritone saxophones and a three piece rhythm section. It's known as the "Brooklyn Baritone Saxophones," and if you can't have fun in this band, then it's time to throw the dirt on you. John Stephenson is the leader, and he does most of the writing. It's like a field day because you're usually by yourself when you play baritone in any band. In this band, you have five other baritone players to compare notes with. Literally and figuratively.

SOTSDO alluded to Stan Kenton's six piece saxophone section. I used to go hear this band back in the middle sixties. He used two bari's, one doubling on bass. The player that doubled bass was a kid my age out of L.A. named Joel Kaye. Joel was just 17 back in '67. Good player. Kenton also used four mellophones that had the bells sticking straight out. They called 'em mellophoniums. My friend Mark Taylor plays one of these today, and he says that the intonation is a bear.

Groovekiller, glad to hear that you're working with my old buddy Mike Brignola. He's an amazing player, and a heck of a cool guy. Good to hear that he's well. If you get a chance, please tell him that Julian Pressley says hello. Thanks.




Julian
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
Randy, still looking for that vid. :cool:

Hey guys, I’m looking for a big band chart with an interesting bass sax part. Anyone have any ideas? It would be nice if the part was a level 4 or less and not just doubling the trombones. In most of the concert band pieces that I’ve seen the bass sax part just doubles the baritones and tubas.

So far I have:
Malaguena – Stan Kenton
 
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I took the bari part from "The Simpsons" and reworked it for bass. I wanted to play the main theme an octave down and my meek low A bari wouldn't cut it. Plus, the whole look of Lisa Simpson with a big horn doesn't work with me playing bari. I'm 6'4" so it looks like a tenor when I hold it. Highly depressing. I'll scan a PDF and put it up in the next few days.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
I took the bari part from "The Simpsons" and reworked it for bass. I wanted to play the main theme an octave down and my meek low A bari wouldn't cut it. Plus, the whole look of Lisa Simpson with a big horn doesn't work with me playing bari. I'm 6'4" so it looks like a tenor when I hold it. Highly depressing. I'll scan a PDF and put it up in the next few days.
That sounds like fun. I'm 6'4" too. :cool:
 
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