Low Eh! Baritone Saxophone Adventures From Canada

Phrase from Sugar 

I was working on Stanley Turrentine’s tune, Sugar, with a student – we were working on the 16th note triplets, and I wanted to find different ways to use it on the horn. For my own practicing, I will take a lick that I like, and put it through all the keys, and use a variety of interval patterns, and root motion.

Here are a few ways that I could approach the root motion of the phrase so that I’m comfortable using it in any place that I hear it.

  • Diatonic, 4ths, major 3rds, minor 3rds, whole tones

I believe that when I start to move it around in this way, a phrase will become more integrated into my playing, and as the lick becomes more consolidated with my personal approach, I can use it while altering the rhythmic (starting it in different places, stringing several together, etc.), and harmonic elements (using it over different chords) of the initial line.

Here are the PDF for several iterations of this phrase.

Vacation Edition! 

As I’m sitting here writing this post (with a beer in hand. Haha!), I’ve been outside playing soccer with my daughters, checking out the chickens, bunnies, and hanging out with my family! I’m away on vacation before the school year starts! 

Normally, I get away earlier in the year, but this summer has been a little bit hectic with festival season back in full tilt, and new extra-curricular activities as my girls grow up. 

My vacations have changed significantly over the years. I used to bring a few horns, and made sure that my practicing was consistent throughout the vacation. Typically, I would have a small suitcase for a week, my instruments (tenor, clarinet, and flute at the time), hop the Greyhound, or Via Rail, and figure out the rest of the details when I got to my destination. Now, it’s pool toys, bikes, golf clubs, more than one suitcase (I have two amazing, young daughters) in my own car with rest stops, and still I bring a horn or two, but the practicing priorities have changed.

I have found an incredible amount of value in embracing my surroundings, and taking advantage of inspiration that comes from non-musical experiences – hanging out with family members, day trips, and taking in life in a different part of the country, are all releases from the rush of the music world. While I don’t spend as much time on my instruments as I normally would, all of these other experiences enhance the time I have an instrument on my face. It’s also great to be in a totally different space than my own.

Today, I practiced in the screened in gazebo, which was windy, but also made me think about my flute sound differently.

In March, I had a call and response with some chickens. I had been off of the horn for about six or seven days at this point, forgive the vacation chops.

At the end of the day, the break in my regular day-to-day practicing is refreshing. I’m grateful when I get to my instruments, but I’m not heartbroken if it doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes it’s nice to take in your surroundings, and have a beer! Cheers!

My Reed Storage 

I get asked about my reed storage regularly – probably because I’m usually carrying three or four instruments, so I thought that I would share. This is no new idea by any means, I’ve seen Michael Lowenstern, and Richie Hawley use similar or explain similar methods on reed storage.

In the winter of 2021, I couldn’t keep my reeds from getting mouldy. It seemed like I was throwing out a set of reeds a week, and cleaning my cases – in the dishwasher, letting it sit in different solutions, and I even replaced a few of the cases.

I had tried other cases in the past, but I’ve seemed to have fought mouldy reeds since I moved to Ottawa (humid summers, and dry winters). When I decided to rethink my reed storage, hoping that I would be able to fix the problem, I went back to Rico reed bag storage idea (which they don’t make anymore).

Here’s my version.

It’s simple, and I haven’t had mouldy reeds since.

Here’s what it is –

D’Addario Reed Guard – colour coded for each instrument and either jazz or classical reeds.

Boveda Humidity Packs – I like the 72%.

Ziploc Power Shield Bags – I wanted the slider on the bag, so I knew that it was sealed.

Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

I am happy to say that since I have switched from my old reed cases, that I used for years, I have had no friends growing on my reeds. I also notice that with only four reeds ready to go at a time, as opposed to eight or ten, I’m much better at keeping track of where they are in the process – I tend to rotate them out a little earlier than I used to, which keeps them sounding where I want them, and keeps my face used to fresh reeds.

What reed storage do you use?

Notion For iPad 

Music notation programs make so many things easier – saving, editing, and sharing charts, transposing with one click, consistency in the look, and formatting of charts, and so much more! I use Notion on my iPad, and Dorico on my desktop (although I still have versions of Sibelius and Finale active as well).

Notion is a tool that I use almost daily. I compose, arrange, build worksheets, and provide examples for students using the app on my iPad. While I am much more fluid at inputting my ideas on Dorico now than I was before, I still love the option to work when I’m not in my office.

Here’s how I chose Notion.

When I was in college (2005-2008), in both my composition, and arranging classes, all of my assignments were done by hand – no computers. We had copying parties – bringing in beer, and pizza to the first, and second year students to copy our big band scores, or our arranging assignments, and then playing through the arrangements to make sure it was done properly (because hand written charts have no automatic playback button. Haha!). It was all done by hand. I still love composing, and arranging with pencil on paper, and I feel like my ideas flow more naturally, I can keep track of my voicings, as well as see the “big picture” of the score.

Over time, I transitioned the bulk of my music for both teaching, and gigs, to my iPad, and eventually (after I upgraded to my iPad Pro, and Apple Pencil), started composing, and arranging using Notion.

Notion was an attractive app for me, because of the handwriting function (which is a paid feature). It allowed me to continue to “write” my music out. I could feel more connected to the ideas that I was inputting, because of the pencil, and paper idea, not inputting by keystrokes. It also saved me a step – I didn’t have to write everything out, and then slowly enter it into the computer (Sibelius, or Finale, and later Dorico). Also, as I mentioned above, the portability of the iPad with good notation software is a win for me (writing duets for students on the couch late at night has become a regular occurrence for me).

Notion’s purpose for me is strictly input. After I have the bulk of the work done in the app, I will then transfer it to Dorico, and format the piece. I like viewing the piece on the large monitor, and I can customize the formatting however I see fit. The XML transfer between Notion, and Dorico is pretty good – the pitches, rhythms, articulation, and dynamics all transfer well, but make sure that you’ve filled out all of your empty bars with rests, because the desktop programs don’t recognize empty bars. If you don’t, it’s a huge copy, and paste job into a new document.

Overall, the app has paid for itself several hundred times over, not just in arranging, and composing commissions, but in time saved. The ability to feel comfortable with the Apple Pencil, and the accuracy in which the program translates to Dorico keeps me using it while I’m away from my office.

I can definitely recommend it as a tool for someone who prefers to write charts by hand, or who need to work on the go frequently.

Tim Price 

I never had a teacher like Tim Price. Tim’s passing on July 21st, has had me looking back through our lesson notes, Facebook posts, and emails from the last 10+ years.

We connected when I was in a rut, and needed some direction/motivation. His individual approach to my playing, and humour always made me look forward to my lessons with him – it was the first time that I had taken lessons seriously since my first years at college.

I remember being nervous about my first lesson with Tim – not realising how open he would be to my musical journey, but I soon understood that he was always going to work in my best interests. We hit it off right away. Our lessons were early (8:30am), and although they were scheduled for just an hour, it was common for those to run until 11am or noon. We would talk everything at the beginning of the lessons from music to everyday life, and ease into the saxophone, clarinet, or flute.

His approach justified my playing to myself. I was in a stage of real doubt about whether I was moving in the right direction – Tim made me lean in harder to that direction, and add to it (something that I have tried to incorporate into my own teaching).

Here’s an excerpt from an old blog post from over ten years ago.

Our first lesson was great – Tim had me play over a bunch of my favourite tunes and then he started emailing me the exercises and concepts. 

I really felt (and still feel) like Tim really understands what I’m looking for in my own playing. We have discussions, tell jokes, swap stories and after every lesson I have a huge amount of creative energy that I can pour directly into my horns. One of the biggest challenges and one of the things that I look forward to every week is the spontaneity. I’m not saying that the lessons lack direction or that they are unstructured, Tim has a system, but it’s not a cookie-cutter system. Every exercise or concept that we talk about or apply relates directly to what I’m doing as an artist. This extremely personal approach makes me think about these concepts deeper and I take much more initiative than I have taken in the past to make these concepts my own.

Over the last two months I can feel the direction in my playing has changed. I have a positive outlook on my practice time and I’m truly interested in the music again!

The amount of material that I have collected over the years from Tim is incredible. From worksheets, and woodwind exercises to bootlegs of great performances, I am fortunate to have been able to have him as such a positive influence. If he had transcriptions, lead sheets, photos, or audio in his collection, he would share it.

Over the last year or so, Tim had really stressed to me the importance of writing my ideas down, and sharing them (this is one of the main influences behind the jazz lines that I’ve been sharing lately). His commitment to the woodwind community was extraordinary.

I’m going to miss seeing his name popping up in my feed regularly – usually sharing stories, or photos, or videos that would get me to dig deeper into the history of this music.

Thanks for everything, Tim!

Festival Season! 

I love the rush of festival season! And now it’s over…until next year.

I have missed this over the last two festival seasons.

This year, in Ottawa, from the June 25th to the July 16th, my life gets busy! Performing with many amazing artists, being able to watch so much hard work and talent on stage, as well as soak up the festival atmosphere – I am fulfilled!

I am incredibly fortunate to work with an array of artists, in different styles, on different instruments, with a short turnaround between gigs.

Here’s a breakdown of my festival season –

  • Jughandle – my electric jazz group (baritone saxophone/clarinet)
  • Roddy Ellias‘ Free Spirit Ensemble – chamber jazz (bass clarinet/flute)
  • JW Jones Big Band – blues trio with a big band (baritone saxophone)
  • Prime Rib Big Band – big band that performs original music (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, composer/arranger)
  • Renée Landry – soul-pop artist (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute, musical director, arranger)
  • Matthew Chaffey – soul music (baritone saxophone)
  • Sly High – a tribute to Sly and the Family Stone (baritone saxophone) Both at Mont Tremblant, and the Ottawa Bluesfest

On top of those featured acts, I continued my “regular” professional life – performing, rehearsals, teaching my (summer-reduced) student load, and recording.

I love the rush of festival season! Musically, it really caters to my personality. The scramble of making sure that I have all of my music in my ears, and under my fingers, keeping my face together on all of my horns, having all of my gear packed (I take over my dining room with gear – time to clean it all up today! Haha! Also, my office is a disaster.), soundchecks, and the hang with musicians that you don’t always get to spend enough time with through the year.

I feel so incredibly focused during this time, and I like to use it as my “New Years” – taking all of this energy, and directing it towards new projects, reviving old ones, and thinking ahead to the next year.

I’m looking forward to see what the next set of festival dates brings!