This is the first in a series of blog posts aimed specifically at Folsom’s instrumentalists. Each will highlight some of the great instrumentalists that they should know about. Listening to great musicians will give our students examples of beautiful tone to strive for on their instruments, as well as examples of their instrument playing in many different genres, with different styles, and unique sounds.
While these posts are aimed at our instrumentalists they can be used to inspire other students into perhaps, starting an instrument, or for great music to listen to and enjoy!
Great Saxophone Players
1. Charlie Parker (1920-1955) Charlie Parker, also known as “Bird,” was born in Kansas City. He came from a non-musical family but luckily found himself at a school that promoted the study of music, so he took up the baritone saxophone. His mother eventually scraped together enough money to buy him an alto saxophone. As an unsupervised teenager Charlie began to frequent the Kansas City jazz clubs. He learned mostly by listening to others play. Because he didn’t know much about music theory, when he improvised (made up what he was playing over the chords played by piano/bass/guitar) he often played notes that didn’t quite “fit” with what the traditional sounds were in Jazz in the 1930s. Because of this his sound was unique. He moved to New York City and found like-minded musicians. Together the beginnings of a new jazz style called “Bebop” were formed. He met Dizzy Gillespie-a great trumpeter in 1949 and they became fast friends. Bird was addicted to drugs and alcohol throughout his career, and at the young age of 35 died because of it. “Birdland” is a jazz club in NYC named in his honor. This first recording is of Bird playing “Ornithology” The next is “Summertime,” which many of our middle school musicians sang last year. You’ll hear Bird on sax accompanied by string instruments.
2. John Coltrane (1926-1967)
John Coltrane (often just “Trane”) pushed the musical boundaries of jazz contributing to bebop and “free jazz.” He played alto saxophone in high school and in church bands. He made the switch to tenor saxophone and taking inspiration from the greats like Charlie Parker, he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Trane, like many other musicians at the time, became addicted to drugs. His dependency resulted in getting him fired from his band. He overcame his addictions and returned to the jazz world. Trane developed a technique for playing long strings of notes at lightning speeds, sometimes playing up to 1,000 notes a minute. Trane moved jazz to a freer place with uncommon harmonies and rhythms. This first recording is of John Coltrane playing “Giant Steps,” where you will hear his long streams of fast moving notes. The next is a video of Trane playing “My Favorite Things,” which many of our musicians know from “The Sound of Music.” Trane puts a new spin on this classic tune.
Saxophones don’t ONLY have to play jazz…
3. Theodore Kerkezos
While it is uncommon to find a saxophone in an orchestra (but typical to find them in a Concert Band or Wind Ensemble setting,) there are MANY pieces written for solo saxophone and orchestra. Theodore Kerkezos is a professor and saxophone soloist in Russia. He has received some of the highest musical awards in Russia for his playing and teaching.
In this video you will here Kerkezos accompanied by the Moscow State Conservatory Orchestra in Russia playing Milhaud Fedoseyev’s “Scaramouche”
The info on John Coltrane and Charlie Parker comes from a very cool book that Ms. Kauffeld has in her classroom for YOU to borrow called “The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia Jazz & Blues” by Julia Rolf.
The info on Kerkezos comes from Ms. Kauffeld’s good friend who plays classical saxophone!