The oft heard debate about new gear vs better chops was vividly illustrated for me this weekend past. I visited a good friend who is a jazz instructor, and regular gigging musician. Very talented, very skilled, very experienced (at least 30 years on sax). Certainly has played often with many of the best players locally and nationally. His horn: usually a 62, but currently a school YAS 23! With a plastic yamaha 4C mpce! We had an interesting discussion about equipment, and his bland comment was that he has never 'got into' the equipment thing. He plays what he can lay his hands on. For him, its about playing the horn, rather than the horn itself. He told me how he learned sax on really bad horns, and had to learn to compensate, learn how to make each note speak, and which notes should at times be avoided etc. Teaching at a somewhat underfunded school, he has learned to make do, and teachers his students the same. He noted with conviction, that whatever he plays, he just sounds like himself. I've always taken this to be a cliche, but was startled to hear him play some licks on his YAS 23, then side by side play my MK Vl. SObering stuff. Yeah, we agreed the VI sounded richer, and more centred, but damn, he sounded so much better than I ever do on my six, when he played that 23! This was a very useful experience for me. Perhaps you had to be there to understand this, but I am going to be saving a lot of money on mpces from now on!
There is an oft-quoted story that Phil Woods tells about thinking he needed a new horn when he let Charlie Parker play his... He decided the problem wasn't with the horn. I think we've all had this humbling experience at one time or the other.
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