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I once heard Sonny Rollins practice before a concert, since I had arrived hours early. He was working entirely with the overtone series - this was in the early seventies - his altissimo went above the human vibratory range of hearing. It wasn't particularly musical - purely technical, and I didn't understand it at the time, didn't know what it was, since no one had yet pulled my coat to playing overtones.

Someone else wrote something similar once about Rollins - that he overheard him practicing/preparing for a gig, played overtones as high as possible, and then came out for the concert and his first note was a low B flat.

RootyTootoot said:
I came across this in the March 2007 edition of the UK magazine, jazzwise. I do apologise if this has come up before but I had a look around and couldn't find it. Anyhow, the material is so interesting I decided to risk it. This is Sonny Rollins talking. The brackets later are the interviewer:

"I work on technical things so that when I'm on stage with my band I can just play - you see, you can't play and think at the same time. You have to be able to play without preconceived thought, and play anything that comes to you. That's what I prepare for. I work on technical patterns, breath controls. I'm also interested in the technique of playing in different registers. I've spent a long time working on getting a full sound and the proper accuracy on the notes you find above the so-called "normal" range of the instrument. I've been experimenting with it, really, since the 1950's. I've got books on such things. What interests me is the accuracy and the security of getting each note right and full every time." [We talked at length, and about what embouchure was needed to produce this properly formed extended range. What Sonny had established after much experimentation was that he had to keep the same position on the m/p for the entire range. ] "I found that you only got the accuracy of pitch control by keeping your embouchure in the same positionon the m/p and controlling the pressure on the reed through the lip, along with manipulating the saxophone's fingering".
[I wondered, given that he's been interested in this since the 50's, why there was so little evidence of him using it in concert or on record] "The whole problem was in getting to feel secure about creating the notes as i wanted; in assimilating them entirely into my "normal" technique. I don't want to have an artificial division between registers - it should be seamless in my playing. Only then can i incorporate it into my natural improvisational practises. I can do it privately, when I practise, but it is only recently that i've felt that i've reached the proper level of note production whereby I could play it on stage. I'm building up to it. I may try soon".

Interview was by Keith Shadwick.

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