Sax Panther· Registered
I just had a listen to a couple - I'm no big band expert, but to me they sound great, and fun to play.
No question about how they're labeled. I didn't write clearly. the 95% I was talking about wasn't the labeling, it was about the roles within the section. You're completely right, of course, that practice of at least the last 40 years is 1st alto = lead, 2nd alto = inner voice, 1st tenor = jazz tenor, 2nd tenor = inner voice.The above is pretty rare, nowhere near 95%, maybe 10%. In the past 40 years at least, most charts are alto 1, alto 2, tenor 1, tenor 2 and bari, or saxes 1 thru 5 where altos are first then tenors then bari. Those also line up with the harmony from top to bottom. Tenor 1 parts are lower than alto 2 the vast majority of the time.
As I say, it depends on what you class as a big band.Well, if people are calling Sax 2 "lead tenor", they don't understand how the standard big band sax section works. It comes from kids in band, who all want to play "first part", never mind that the interesting stuff is mostly down in the middle and lower voices.
This is why I and the few remaining dinosaurs like me, who learned from the guys who came up during the period of big bands' dominance, like the traditional nomenclature:
Sax 1 = lead alto (with clarinet and flute doubles)
Sax 2 = jazz tenor (with clarinet and soprano sax doubles)
Sax 3 = second alto (with clarinet double)
Sax 4 = second tenor (with clarinet double)
Sax 5 = baritone (with clarinet and bass clarinet doubles).
Doubles vary according to the chart; that's just the most common I've seen.
Each chair has a different role in the section.
Of course there are passages in charts, entire charts, even entire bands, where the "lead sax" is taken by the tenor (I'd expect most of these don't have an alto in the section at all), but the above is the standard. I'd say that in 41 years of playing big band charts more than 95% of the ones I've seen adhere to the above. For that matter, even the Herman bands without lead alto, when the sax section was functioning in the standard way, Woody was playing lead on clarinet.