The ‘barking’ baritone sax is the epitomy of rock’n’roll saxophone, listen to Lottie B honking with Sarah Mai on ‘ain’t gonna hush’
Ivan Hewett in the Daily Telegraph 26 Feb 2014
Is the sound of a saxophone intrinsically ugly? No, a million jazz fans will cry. Yes, many classical music lovers will shout back. There was a moment this morning when my sympathies were entirely with the classical camp. I was passing through central London via a tube station, and there in his usual spot at the bottom of a tube escalator was a busker, playing alto saxophone. Oh what a dreadful, dreary honk he made, like a Canada goose guarding its territory. He was playing that song by George Michael, the one with the sax solo, which I hope never to hear again.
You might say he’s just a bad player. As indeed he is, but there’s something about the saxophone that tends naturally towards a throaty bark. Of course there are players who make the most wonderful seductive creamy sound, like Johnny Hodges. But even with him you’re aware of the ‘noise’ element of the sound, the brute fact of breath passing down an airway, agitating a reed that‘s often remarkably reluctant to speak. We accept all these imperfections because the playing is so wonderfully expressive.
It’s the insinuating curves joining up Hodges’ notes that are so beautiful, rather than the sound itself. Some players make a sound that by normal standards is really ugly; Archie Shepp, for instance, whose curdled honks seem to scrape at one’s ears.