02/08/2013 (12 Moons Solo Project Day 39)

12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 39

Date: 02/08/2013
Instrument: Tenor saxophone
Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)


A few years back a student of mine traveled to India with his family and as a gift they brought back a recording of the great Indian Shehnaai Player Ustad Bismillah Khan. The first gesture of the album begins with an upward to downward bend, with a final upward resolution. The gesture used the scale degrees 7-9-7-8. This Shahnaai player was a true master of his instrument, and on the opening 10 seconds of the album and in just this single phrase alone, I heard a level of control and mastery well beyond anything I have achieved. I tried to channel this beautiful sound In my improvisation today, and I used a fingering that allows for a similar pitch bend.

The pitches used in this improvisation are as follows. In concert Key: B-D-C#-E, and there are actually two fingerings used in this piece. The first is used only to create the lowest pitch–the concert B. All three remaining pithes are made by carefully adjusting my air flow and embouchure pressure to bend the notes upward and downward. This fingering naturally creates a Concert E (in middle octave) drone. However, the drone only speaks within certain embouchure perimeters, and because I bend pitches the drone enters and exits when those perimeters are momentarily fulfilled. 

My overal health is feeling somewhat low today, and I searched while practicing to find a piece of music to lift me. A specific melodic gesture with the pitches B-D-C#-D-E-C# became very pleasing to my mind and body, and I used it as a kind of refrain throughout this improvisation.