Category Archives: News

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

Masterclasses

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

Why I teach music

I’m often asked why and how I got into teaching the saxophone.

My answer can be as simple as two words: passion and inspiration.

I’ve been inspired by some great teachers over the years. Going right back to when I was just about tall enough to reach the keys and hammer away on my grandma’s organ, music has always fascinated me.

At primary school my teacher, who was not a trained musician, was so passionate about getting kids involved in music that he held DAILY band practices and an hour’s rehearsal after school on a Friday.

When I got older I met – and studied with – some of the biggest names in the saxophone world,  As I got to know them and found myself having amazing conversations with them, one thing struck me: ALL of them were passionate about music and wanted to draw other people in to know and love this wonderful art form.

 

 

How to Prepare Reeds

Let’s face it, when it comes to the saxophone few things give us more frustration than reeds. Finding a good reed is like finding the perfect playing partner: when the reed plays well, you play well. I’ve found that RICO reeds give me the best chance of finding the best ones; I play Rico Select Jazz 4M at the moment on my tenor sax.

In this video I explain my process of preparing reeds. I’m not someone who spends a lot of time on this – I would far rather be playing! However, I do find some soaking and breaking in helps the reed ‘speak’ better and extends its life by quite a few weeks.

Anyway, here’s my video review – enjoy it, and please leave your comments below!