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Nelson Riddle talks about the Bass Saxophone

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I was reading my copy of Arranged by Nelson Riddle this morning and came across this quote:

"The Bb bass saxophone is seldom used anymore. The instrument is quite clumsy, and is generally out of tune."

No wonder it is the Rodney Dangerfield of instruments - dissed by the man himself!

Out of curiousity, I pulled out my Garcia books to see what he had to say. No mention at all.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Nelson Riddle was right. At the time that comment was written, it was the low point in the use of bass saxophones. The low A baritone was a better choice. But in New York and other big cities, there were woodwind doublers who could play the big horn well enough to please any arranger, producer, or contractor.

My favorite was Stan Webb
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Don't always take orchestration books at face value when discussion of the "unusual" instruments. The older ones (Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakoff and others) barely mention the saxophone, much less the bass or sopranino.

Many of the "newer" ones (even from the golden age of the instrument) don't address it, probably because the horn was so thin on the ground. My one book on 1930's dance band arranging is consistent in that regard.

And, the most recent one that I reviewed (in the book store - I didn't buy it for a variety of reasons, the extreme cost among them) was so far off base on bass clarinet and sax that it was laughable. The author made the categoric statement that the bass clarinet in A had never existed - this at a time when you could buy one from Selmer if you had the tin. Since I once owned one (a Buffet Albert system horn in A) as well, that was two strikes on the veracity of that author.

(I don't recall his comments on the bass sax, or even if he had any at all.)

I would imagine that most who have written books on orchestration have seldom touched any musical instrument save the piano or violin. What information they have on "other horns" is all (by its very nature) going to be of the second hand variety at the very best. I would imagine that (in practice) it's normally much worse.

Thin on the ground horns (as in basset horn or Ab/D/C/basset clarinets or the extreme saxophones, the bass trumpet, the contra-bass trombone, or any realistic discussion of what makes up the family commonly referred to as "the tubas") is always (by its very nature once again) going to be second or third hand.

So, selling the bass saxophone (classic or otherwise) is going to be treated in a superficial fashion in even the best of orchestration books. To expect anything else is nothing more than wishful thinking.

(After three weeks of extreme key signatures in three different shows (Guys & Dolls, The Pajama Game (with, as is so often the case, the classic "The New Musical" tacked on the end of the title) and Bye, Bye Birdie!, I'm not too fond of arrangers right now...)
 
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saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
(After three weeks of extreme key signatures in three different shows (Guys & Dolls, The Pajama Game (with, as is so often the case, the classic "The New Musical" tacked on the end of the title) and Bye, Bye Birdie!, I'm not too fond of arrangers right now...)
You would just love playing my arrangements. I write a lot in concert E and B and transpose to the sharp keys - mostly rock tune adaptations for big band. It's always fun to see the expression on the trumpet players when they see those six or seven sharps.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
The rock stuff in guitar keys is the worst.

I've gotten so that I like playing in sharp keys (the arrangement of the open C# on the sax enables it so) and in straight 4/4 time. Every year at show time (I'm doing three right now), I have to get back into cut time and 6/8 mode. Such is life.
 
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