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VENDOR "Innovation over imitation"
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
There is a great post up here on SOTW asking people to pick what they consider to be the two "BEST" tenor sounds.
Those posts are always fun because we all like different things.

The problem for me, is that I just went to add to the post and I found it impossible and almost frustrating to choose just 2, because there are so many choices that would work for me.


SO...... it got me thinking:

If you took the first short phrase of a standard like "That's All", and had these 5 popular older players play that, I bet you could tell which one was Getz, Ammons, Lockjaw, Ben Webster, and Dexter... probably in seconds.

If you took 5 popular modern players like Potter, Redman, Frahm, Blake, and Branford....... would you be able to tell who they were in an instant, if they played that phrase???

I'm not saying you could or you couldn't. Of course it depends alot on who you listen to.
Not making any judgements on older plays vs todays players....
Just an interesting thought for a discussion.

There were such distinct differences in sound and phrasing from the popular name players of yesteryear. Do you find that to be the case with the popular name players today?

Let the discussion begin.....
 

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I think a lot of it has to do with familiarity, Mark. I can pick out Wayne, Brecker, and Branford in two notes each because I've listened to them thousands of times over the years. In a couple decades, I think people would be able to pick out contemporary greats like Troy Roberts, Tivon Pennicott, and Melissa Aldana within a couple notes as well... as long as any of their records become classics of the repertoire, which is becoming harder and harder to do because of sheer volume of material (and significant changes in technology, society, etc). Even a Monk winner like Melissa will have a tough time making a record that's as frequently listened to as "Speak No Evil" by jazz-heads.

There used to be far fewer records coming out every year, and much easier consensus-building on what were "The Records Everyone Must Hear!" in every genre. We now live in times of overwhelming options, and I think for a while anyway, one listener's classic will be another's unknown!
 

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There is a great post up here on SOTW asking people to pick what they consider to be the two "BEST" tenor sounds.
Those posts are always fun because we all like different things.

The problem for me, is that I just went to add to the post and I found it impossible and almost frustrating to choose just 2, because there are so many choices that would work for me.


SO...... it got me thinking:

If you took the first short phrase of a standard like "That's All", and had these 5 popular older players play that, I bet you could tell which one was Getz, Ammons, Lockjaw, Ben Webster, and Dexter... probably in seconds.

If you took 5 popular modern players like Potter, Cheek, Frahm, Blake, and Branford....... would you be able to tell who they were in an instant, if they played that phrase???

I'm not saying you could or you couldn't. Just an interesting thought for a discussion.

There were such distinct differences in sound and phrasing from the popular name players of yesteryear. Do you find that to be the case with the popular name players today?

Let the discussion begin.....


The short phrase recognition idea kind of doesn't really matter when you consider the more important issue of overall stylistic signatures
w/ the names you mentioned .

Potter is very distinctive and by now, a school unto himself
with plenty of emulators.
Seamus Blake, Chris Cheek also recognizable in sound and style -- Frahm, Branford .. same deal.

The thing with this sound issue is it's not the main component [for me] when I listen to and
enjoy players that I'm inspired to check out over these many years.

It's also critical that I like what and how they play just as much as the tone they get.
The sound, the ideas and phrasing/articulation are a unified whole for me .
 

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VENDOR "Innovation over imitation"
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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I totally get that, I was just focusing on the sound and phrasing of players.

Obviously what they play and how they play it, is going to make a difference for everybody in terms of who they enjoy listening to.

But I’m curious based on sound and phrasing, how people feel.

There are players whose sound I feel is good, but I don’t love what they play.
On the flipside, there are players that I like what they play, but I just don’t care for their sound.
So for me, this post was really just focusing on the sound and phrasing, but I am happy to see it go in other directions too, if that’s where it goes.
 

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I agree that it has to do with familiarity. I’m as familiar with many modern funk and jazz-type players as I’ve ever been with the icons of the jazz era. There’s a lot of cross-pollination on the scene today with horn players frequenting with multiple groups and even heavies like Potter, Redman, and Maceo doing sit-ins. I can pick out Karl Denson, Ben Ellman, any of the JB/ Maceo lineage, Ryan Zoidis, Candy D, Jeff Coffin, Troy Roberts, and so many others just as quickly as I recognize anyone on that greats list even when they’re with other groups. If the jazz we all hold onto were the popular music of the current time, these would be the folks on the frontlines. I think we all forget that these 50 or so household name players were just the innovators and the otherwise memorable cats of their time. Styles, what’s popular, and how we (public/ fans, not musicians) consume are constantly changing; what remains the same is that for every player that gains legendary status in their time, there are hundreds to thousands of other quality players who just aren’t widely remembered. Jazz isn’t dead, neither is the innovation and the presence of unique voices on the saxophone…sometimes people just forget that music changes with time and if we aren’t always looking for new things we’re bound to miss them.
 

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I totally get that, I was just focusing on the sound and phrasing of players.

Obviously what they play and how they play it, is going to make a difference for everybody in terms of who they enjoy listening to.

But I’m curious based on sound and phrasing, how people feel.

There are players whose sound I feel is good, but I don’t love what they play.
On the flipside, there are players that I like what they play, but I just don’t care for their sound.
So for me, this post was really just focusing on the sound and phrasing, but I am happy to see it go in other directions too, if that’s where it goes.
I understand your individual statements but in another sense I don't know what you
want to discuss, really .

The five 'modern' players you mentioned :

Could you tell who they were by their sound and phrasing as mentioned in your OP ?

I'm guessing your answer would be a ' no ' ?
 

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It's also critical that I like what and how they play just as much as the tone they get.
The sound, the ideas and phrasing/articulation are a unified whole for me .
I agree with this completely. As I mentioned in the other thread (to some pushback that I didn't find convincing), the sound by itself means little without context. The totality of artistry is what's meaningful, and of course sound is a big part of that.

Tryp, I'm very glad you mentioned Chris Cheek, he's another of my favorites who's very influential in NYC but rather under-the-radar elsewhere! I've been listening to a couple of his albums a lot lately. I toured with him briefly a dozen or so years ago and got to hear him play every night for a couple weeks... he made an enormous impression on me during that brief stretch. He embodies that totality of artistry in a powerful way, with an incredibly individualistic, unusual, and beautiful approach to every aspect of the music.
 

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I agree with this completely. As I mentioned in the other thread (to some pushback that I didn't find convincing), the sound by itself means little without context. The totality of artistry is what's meaningful, and of course sound is a big part of that.

Tryp, I'm very glad you mentioned Chris Cheek, he's another of my favorites who's very influential in NYC but rather under-the-radar elsewhere! I've been listening to a couple of his albums a lot lately. I toured with him briefly a dozen or so years ago and got to hear him play every night for a couple weeks... he made an enormous impression on me during that brief stretch. He embodies that totality of artistry in a powerful way, with an incredibly individualistic, unusual, and beautiful approach to every aspect of the music.
I was going to point out that Mark mentioned him the OP, but .. oops, not so.

He must've been in my subconscious due to his affiliation with some of the other guys
in that initial group of five listed.
Anyway, yeah.. me love Chris's playing long time very unique .

I can name that player in just a few notes, while noteworthy isn't the whole story, IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I did mention Chris Cheek in the original post, and then changed it to Redman. Was just trying to point of 5 guys that are popular, and Josh I thought might have a broader base. Chris is a fantastic player too!
 

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I think it has to do with the density of ones' listening with respect to a particular player. I can identify Potter, Seamus Blake and Joshua Redman easily because I have listened to them so much over the last 30+ years. Same with Brecker, Bergonzi, Lovano and Garzone, some of my favorite players from the prior generation. Other more recent players less so (Aldana, Pennicott, etc.), but I simply have not listened to them enough to develop a similar affinity for their lines, phrasing and sound.
 
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I believe tone can and does sound different from player to player, i.e., dark, bright, gritty, full, focused, etc. But someone’s SOUND is more than tone. As Mark mentioned, phrasing is huge when talking about someone’s sound. I would also add in licks as a major factor.
I’m going to throw out a different list of names because I’m not as educated about modern jazz guys. Michael Brecker, James Carter, Wayne Shorter, Lenny Pickett, Grover Washington Jr., King Curtis, Jr. Walker, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright (both alto and tenor), and Jon Smith are guys off the top of my head that I can hear and tell you who it is pretty quickly. It’s the combination of tone, phrasing, and licks that clue me in. Anyone can copy licks, but some guys do it like only they can and maybe more importantly, place those licks in just the right spot. I can hear Sanborn (I know he’s alto) going from the 6th to the 3rd like only he can do. He might do it 3 or 4 times in one solo, but it fits just right. Pickett’s altissimo. Walker’s growl. Elliot’s flat 3rd. Albright’s quick octave jump. Breaker’s ability to play 60 notes in two bars and NOT overplay. Carter’s ability to play sweet then coax a non-earthly sound out of the horn. Smith’s vibrato (if you don’t him, do yourself a favor and look him up). The combination of tone, phrasing, and licks make up their unique sound.
This is true for all horns I think, not just tenor. Mulligan versus Kupka on bari. Crawford versus Adderley on alto. They all combine these factors to make their own sound. I’m just trying to steal something from each one to make my “own” sound.
 

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To me, Eric Alexander is the most easily identifiable modern tenor player, based on his (commonly referred to as "burnished") tone and phrasing. But I'm a big Joshua Redman fan and can usually identify him pretty quickly too.
 

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Well, then there's the obvious, you have to hear someone before you can ID them. Garrett, Redman, Alexander, and Potter I can ID because I have their music. But others like Fromm I only know from maybe YouTube clips and such, so not so easy to ID. I remember having a contest with my buddy years back, we'd play records and try to stump one another, having to guess who the players were.
 

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I can tell the players that Mark mentioned easily after hearing a couple of bars, these are seasoned players and have a style that's recognizable. What Mark may be hinting at is that many younger players are not identifiable and players from earlier generations were. I don't need to hear another Mark Turner wannabee personally.
 

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For me, sound (tone concept over the range) is on par w/ any other aspect of a player's music. And if I'm familiar w/ a certain player, I can tell who it is in a few notes, regardless if it's a vintage or modern player (Trane & Berg, for 2 examples from different times, but w/ a clear stylistic lineage...there are many others). Maceo, Sanborn, Desmond, Bird, Cannonball, Hodges...each in 1-2 notes...

But there's a quote from ~100 yrs ago that seems to capture the concept of "unity of sound & ideas" being the pinnacle for a musician, but it's from the literary realm...
"Things aren't beautiful for how they sound, they're beautiful for what they mean." Edith Bratt (Tolkien)
 

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To address the original question, no, if I only heard the first phrase of a song (or even a 30-second clip) I don't think I would be able to differentiate between many modern players, such as Seamus Blake, Mark Turner, and Joel Frahm, just to name a few.

Most of them seem to try to emulate that Brecker sound, play on hard rubber setups that give them a pure, dark, almost classical sound, and spend a lot of time up in the altissimo. I think at some point (maybe in the '70s?), the sound that everyone started chasing was Joe Henderson's, which has those same qualities mentioned. And then Brecker took it a step further. I think that a lot of these guys fall somewhere in between the two.

The only two that I might be able to pick out are Joshua Redman, who I have successfully identified on the radio, and Eric Alexander, who has a really distinctive tone with a lot of George Coleman in it.
 

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I remember having a contest with my buddy years back, we'd play records and try to stump one another, having to guess who the players were.
Downbeat Magazine used to do this with top pro players! Does anyone else remember Downbeat's "blindfold test"?

I think Christian McBride still does something similar on "Jazz Night in America".
 

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I guess they’re not really “young players” but I recognize Rich Perry and Ruck Margitza’s sounds immediately mostly because I like what they play. I admire all the players mentioned but they don’t grab my station as much as those two Can.
As great as a sax player Chris Potter is I’ve never of his sound as a strong point. It seems stuffy to me.
 
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