12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 319
Instrument: Tenor saxophone
Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)
The past several weeks I’ve worked with at least half of my students on the music of Duke Ellington, and particularly in the phrasing and ornamentation styles of Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves. The popular high school festival Essentially Ellington is accepting auditions soon, and virtually every high school in the Seattle area sends in an audition tape. With my alto students, we spend a lot of time listening to the original recordings and learning to imitate the wide, upward bends and deep vibrato that were such a stylistic hallmark of Hodges’ sound. In today’s improvisation, I decided to work with my own interpretation of these upward bends, but with a much more animated and aggressive approach.
During this improvisation I followed a common Hodges approach into the bend, which included momentarily pushing against a pitch a perfect fifth below the final note that is held. However Hodges’ approach was generally much more gentle and much slower than my own interpretation here. I also occasionally used false fingerings to expand the vibrato between pitches of a greater distance from one another. Again, Hodges tended to hold only a single fingering and use vibrato with about a whole step in total distance.
The image accompanying today’s post is of the great saxophonist Johnny Hodges.