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Pete Hales
Pete Hales

Pete "Saxpics" Hales is the former Moderator of the Sax on the Web Forum, a current columnist for Sax on the Web and is the webmaster and creator of the Vintage Saxophone Gallery website.

Pete's SOTW articles:
SML: The Ongoing Story
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A Day in the Life of a Saxophone Historian
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Fun with Vintage Saxophones
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What is the Best Vintage Saxophone for Me?
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Stencils and "Second Line" Models
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Designing The Perfect Saxophone
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Vintage Saxophones Revisited a CD Review
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Prose and CONNversations Jazz standards featuring the Conn-O-Sax By Rob Verdi a CD Review


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CD Reviews by Peter Hales - 2:

So Low: Music for Large Saxophones

By Jay C. Easton

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So Low: Music for Large Saxophones. By Jay C. Easton
Available from Jay Easton's website, www.jayeaston.com, $16 US
Seven audio samples available on website
Total CD playing time: 50:51
De Profundis CD001 (2003)
How I got the CD: Christmas gift

Conclusion: If you are really into low saxophones, “modern” music or the works of Walter S. Hartley, this is definitely the CD for you.

What this CD is: It's exactly what the title suggests: music for large saxophones – in other words, a recording featuring the Eb baritone, Bb bass, Eb contrabass and Bb subcontrabass saxophones.

What I liked most: Features the new Bb subcontrabass saxophone from Benedikt Eppelsheim. Recordings of Carl Anton Wirth's “Dark Flows the River” and Ralph Vaughn Williams' “Six Studies in English Folksong”.

What I liked least: Some recording problems. Tone.

Commentary: A CD that's fun to listen to AND scares my dog.

I'm either one of the best or worst folks to review this CD: I played Bb contrabass clarinet in high school, I've played Bb bass on a few occasions, my main axe was Eb baritone, I've played a couple of the pieces featured on this CD in the past AND I went to the same college that Walter S. Hartley taught at. This might make my review a bit harsher than ususal.

This CD is one of the few that showcases any of the low-end of the saxophone family -- and this one features the entire low-end, excepting only the almost non-extant C bass and Eppelsheim's new C contrabass. In that alone, that makes this CD is very special. The fact that the playing is high quality makes this CD one to buy.

That doesn't mean that there aren't some things I didn't like. Mr. Easton has an extremely uniform tone throughout this CD, almost like he's not switching between four different horns, but he's playing one really big saxophone with an immense range. In some respects, that's very good form, but it's very difficult to hear the differences in the tone quality of the horns presented and these tonal differences are what I look for. This may be because Mr. Easton used the same mouthpiece on all of the horns (a large-chamber bari mouthpiece can be used on the Bb bass and some Eb contras do use bari mouthpieces) on this CD or it may be because the microphone's too close to the horn. I tend to think more of the latter, as you can hear the keys flapping on several of the pieces, particularly ones that feature the Bb bass and Eb contra. Also, I had to jack up the treble on all the stereos I played this CD to make the saxophones sound brighter and less stuffy.

(Additionally, the liner notes are incorrect: there are a couple reed instruments that have a lower range than the Bb subcontrabass saxophone, including the very rare octocontrabass clarinet [see this excellent article on Contrabass.com]. Let's just call the Bb subcontra the lowest reed instrument in “mass production”.)

I do believe that Mr. Easton proves that A. Sax succeeded in producing a reed instrument that had all the tone of a low clarinet, but several times the power: if I could play the contrabass clarinet with as much power and volume as Mr. Easton can on the Bb subcontra, I'd be a soloist. However, the growly sound and hard-to-distinguish notes of the dueling Bb subcontras on Walter S. Hartley's “Duet for Basses” does reinforce my opinion that the contras and subcontras really shouldn't be solo instruments.

On a lighter, and higher, note, the Eb baritone pieces on this CD are quite well done and I enjoyed them immensely. Of particular note is the excellent altissimo work in Ralph Vaughn Williams' “Six Studies in English Folksong”. The people I played this CD for were also fond of the amusing “Austro Polka op. 5/6” by Werner Schulze as arranged for Eb contra and piano.

In conclusion, this is a very good CD to demonstrate the lower end of the saxophone family and I highly recommend it. I do suggest playing the baritone pieces for the unsuspecting public, first.
 

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www.saxontheweb.net
Created: March 14, 2004
Update: January 18, 2005
© 2004-5, Harri Rautiainen and respective authors
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