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Peter Hales

Peter 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 TheSax.info website.

Pete's SOTW articles:
.. SML: The Ongoing Story
.. A Day in the Life of a Saxophone Historian
.. Fun with Vintage Saxophones
.. What is the Best Vintage Saxophone for Me?
.. Stencils and "Second Line" Models
.. Saxophone Body and Finish
.. More CD reviews:

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Created: December 8, 2007

A CD review by Peter Hales:

Rob Verdi: Saxophobia

Available at cdbaby.com (audio samples also available)
©2007 Rob Verdi.
Total CD playing time: 55 minutes.

Should you buy it?:

What I liked most:
“Saxophobia” on sopranino sax.  “Cute” on contrabass sax.  “Mood Indigo” on slide sax.  (Hey, it’s worth it just to hear slide sax on a feature-length piece.)

What I liked least:
Somewhat simple tone on odd instruments (Conn-O-Sax, contrabass, C Melody).  Remakes of tunes from sax greats.

One of the distinctly nice things about being me is that people send me a lot of saxophone-related stuff.

A few years back, Mr. Rob Verdi contacted me and asked if I wanted to go see a concert that he’d be in; he had a bunch of kewl saxophones that I had never seen in person, the concert was essentially around the corner from where I live and he’d even pay for the ticket.

It was a very good concert.

Somewhat after that, Mr. Verdi sent me a copy of his CD, Prose and CONNversations, to review.

Free concerts, free CDs?  What’s not to like?  I just want people to start sending me free saxophones, mouthpieces, reeds, necks and stands.

However, I have to review the stuff I get. Life can be tough.

There are at least two parts to review on this particular CD: entertainment value (is the CD fun to listen to?) and historical value (is the CD worthy of being in your library because of the content?).

Qualified “yes” on both parts.

In my opinion, there are two major flaws on this CD: the first is some of the concept and the second is some of the execution.

Note that it’s definitely “some”, not all.

My biggest disappointment is that the cover of the CD features Mr. Verdi with 40 instruments.  He doesn’t play all of them on the CD, though.  That’s a pity.  I really wanted to hear some Rothophone.

The playing on the CD definitely isn’t bad and some of the pieces are very nice, from any point of view.  For instance, I really liked listening to “Saxophobia”, as arranged for sopranino saxophone (I had seen Mr. Verdi perform this at the above-mentioned concert): it’s well played and not overly fast.  Unfortunately, only this, “Cute” (played on contrabass sax) and “Mood Indigo” (played on slide sax) are the pieces where you sit up and really take notice.  The other pieces are well played, but just not really “remarkable” or “outstanding”.

On some pieces the concept seems to have been, “Let’s take a piece of music made popular by someone and play the piece on the saxophone that the famous person played it on!” For instance, Paul Desmond played “Take 5” on a Selmer Mark VI alto, so Mr. Verdi takes out his Mark VI alto and plays “Take 5”.  Unfortunately for Mr. Verdi, I think a lot of people that would buy this CD already have in their minds what these pieces should sound like and – again, even though the playing is fairly good – will say something like I did: “That’s not the way Desmond played ‘Take 5’ on Time Out”.

Further, while I do not claim to be an expert bass, Conn-O-Sax or C melody player, I have played all of these and have heard a few other musicians play them, too.  Mr. Verdi’s bass sounds like a bari with a longer range, his Conn-O-Sax sounds a lot like an alto and his C melody sounds a lot like a Bb tenor.  I have heard other players play these horns in the same way, so I’ll no longer call this style of playing “wrong”, it definitely doesn’t show the color these horns are capable of: the bass is much more gruff than the bari and the Conn-O-Sax and the C melody have a beautiful, sweet double-reed tone.

Finally, I want to mention that there are several spelling and factual errors in the liner notes for the CD and companion pamphlet (some of the corrections being “ophicleide”, “Sarrusophone”, “Reiffel and Husted” -- and the saxophone was patented on June 22, 1846).  I’ve e-mailed Mr. Verdi with some of those corrections and he said that he’d try to get the printer to correct them in the next printing.

Again, this is a good CD to get and I encourage you to do so.  The playing isn’t bad and hearing a slide sax in a feature-length piece is priceless.  However, I’d also encourage you to listen to the original recordings by Parker, Coltrane, Desmond and others, too.

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