Category Archives: News

One Buttock Phrasing

One Buttock Phrasing

Benjamin Zander is a leading interpreter of Mahler and Beethoven. Widely known for his charisma and amazing energy – and his brilliant pre-concert talks – he has an infectious passion for music that I hope you will find both moving and engaging.

Watch from 1:15 when he talks about the seven-year-old pianist.

The key is how the 11-year-old pianist has just one impulse per phrase …

How can we be ‘one-buttock’ saxophonists?

Consider what Benjamin says in this video:

  • Everyone has a fantastic ear
  • No one is tone deaf
  • Different combinations of notes – in all parts of the world, and in every kind of music – have the same power to change our mood.

Happy 200th Birthday Adolphe Sax #sax200

Celebrating the 200th Birthday of Adolphe Sax

Thursday, 6th November was truly an eventful day. Saxophonists and music lovers from across the world celebrated the 200th birthday of Adolphe Sax, the man who invented one of the most expressive and personal instruments ever – in my humble opinion anyway!

Throughout the day I sent out various bits of information, including a number of videos. I won’t post them here but if you visit my Facebook or Twitter pages you can find all the links there.

The video above was shot on the roof of Methodist Central Hall Westminster for the Sax200 concert in Berlin.  It’s only short as our lighting nearly ended up on the roof of Westminster Abbey (it was quite windy up there) and then it started to rain. (Perhaps there was something in that ban the Catholic church placed on the saxophone? I jest …)

During the day I popped over to the Poppy Field in Westminster Abbey and was truly moved by the display, even more than when I visited the superb installation at the Tower of London. I was reminded how important our ‘call for peace’ was to the concert in Berlin. Over there they were also celebrating the 25th anniversary (the actual day is Sunday 9th) of the fall of the wall that had divided their city. The very building on which we shot the video (Methodist Central Hall) was the venue for the foundation of the United Nations after the Second World War. And of course 100 years ago the ancestors of all the musicians playing for this event faced each other across the battlefields of Europe.

Let’s make sure that generations to come after us never have to fight each other.

Let’s work for peace and reconciliation, creating a spirit of unity through music.

Let’s speak to each other about ‘A Love Supreme’ …

John Coltrane, one of the greatest musicians ever to pick up a saxophone, said ‘Peace, it is so beautiful … Indeed A Love Supreme, Thank You God.’

Happy #saxophoneday!

P.S Make sure you read the experience of my student Kim, who visited the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels to view their special Saxophone exhibition!

D’Addario Select Jazz Mouthpiece Review

This is a superb alto saxophone mouthpiece and a great ‘first upgrade’.

D’Addario have owned the RICO brand for over ten years – I’ve played their Select Jazz reeds for even longer.

This mouthpiece gives you a lovely dark, centred tone that is very similar to a vintage Link or Meyer.

If you want to get a really great jazz sound, I would highly recommend you give this mouthpiece a try.

Stapleford Jazz Collective

One of the most common targets from all my students at the start of the year was to reach a standard where they are able to make music with other people.

With this in mind I decided, in partnership with Woodwind and Reed, Cambridge and the ACE Cultural Foundation to launch the ‘Stapleford Jazz Collective’ at the brand new Stapleford Granary Arts Centre.

We meet on the first Wednesday at each month at 7.30pm

The ensemble is open to all musicians who have reached grade three or above and it is a fantastic opportunity to get together with like minded individuals and make some music, just for fun!

As someone who has lead various ensembles of different age groups I’m really looking forward to this and encouraging ALL my students to get involved.

If you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Chris Potter, Joshua Redman and Chris Cheek with Dan Forshaw of Cambridge Saxophone

Chris Potter, Joshua Redman and Chris Cheek with Dan Forshaw of Cambridge Saxophone


Quite possibly the greatest gig ever for a saxophone player – four of the modern day greats all playing together.

I was delighted to hear Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner and Chris Cheek performing at the Wigmore Hall, London, as part of the Axis Saxophone Quartet. They all played tenor at some point (check out this video from their gig in Moscow playing ‘Tenor Madness’, just as they did in London), but then they also divided duties across the three other main saxophones. Chris Potter and Josh played soprano and alto (Potter is a beast on the alto, even though he doesn’t really play it much any more), Mark stayed mostly on tenor, whilst Chris Cheek kept the low end going on baritone.

Chris Potter told me his alto mouthpiece was an exact copy of Charlie Parker’s Brilhart and had been moulded from the original, now in the possession of Parker’s daughter.

I was thrilled to meet all of the guys backstage afterwards courtesy of Yanagisawa UK, who lent Chris Potter and Joshua a 991 alto and soprano (watch my reviews of these horns here).

Some of their words of wisdom that I wanted to pass on to you:

  • ‘Keep working on your sound as much as you can’ – Chris Potter
  • ‘What you do outside of your music has as much effect on your music as practice’ – Mark Turner
  • ‘Wow, is that the new iPhone?’ – Joshua Redman (seriously, we spent ten minutes chatting about my new phone before we got near any saxophone talk!)
  • ‘Don’t just play digital patterns in 4s, work on them in 3s, 5s and even 7s’ – Chris Potter

It was a great thrill to hear all these guys in one place, in a fully acoustic setting. I had a long chat with Josh about bringing the event to Cambridge at some point in 2015/16 – let’s hope we can.


Wynton Marsalis Chats to Cambridge Saxophone Students

On Saturday, 21st June I was delighted that Wynton Marsalis brought the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to the Cambridge Corn Exchange. It was a particularly special date for me as it was exactly fifteen years ago to the day since I performed on the same stage with a Blues Brothers band.

I had been in touch with LCJO saxophone players Sherman Irby and Victor Goines to arrange a backstage meeting, but they both escaped to The Eagle for some fish’n’chips! I met up with them later on, but it was a real thrill to introduce some of my students – in particular 14-year-old Rob Burton, who, maybe one day, will be playing with LCJO – to … Wynton Marsalis.

Some of the great pearls of wisdom that Wynton shared with us are outlined below.

Don’t just learn the notes, learn why those notes were played.

Many of you may know that Wynton is quite a jazz conservative. His excellent book Moving to a Higher Ground is a must-read for any student of music, jazz fan or not. We’re going to read his book and have a Google hangout on it over the summer. But he surprised me a great deal by encouraging Rob (and all of us) to learn the music of Ornette Coleman:

The avant-garde is what youngsters should learn. They need to appreciate the freedom that is found in the music of Ornette Coleman.

I later met up with Sherman Irby, Victor Goines and other members of the saxophone section for a few beers. I’ll say more about this over the next few weeks, but these are some of the key points they wanted to share:

  • If you want to be a musician, be like a stockbroker. Spread your portfolio as widely as you can: be an arranger, clarinet player, teacher, composer – but work hard at all of them.
  • Vocabulary is everything – if you want to be a better musician, learn the vocabulary to express it.
  • Work hard on your sound. (Where have you heard that before?)
  • Spend time each day listening to music – really.


It was such a great thrill to have these guys in Cambridge. I’m in touch with a few interested parties about getting a Cambridge International Jazz Festival and I’d love to welcome Wynton and the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra back to this town.

Just before the guys came to Cambridge they recorded this in Harrogate