I’ve been up against it the last couple of months composing and preparing for the Cambridge Jazz Festival gig on the 26th of November, featuring ‘Jazzman’ John Robert Clarke’s performance poetry and Laura Brera’s dance interludes – just about there…things are at the herding cats stage trying to set up some rehearsals; unlikely we’ll have everyone in the same place at the same time.

Reading an interview with Jan Gabarek, he mentioned that he never had much interest in geeking about with possible sax/mouthpiece/reed combinations; he had used the same somewhat standard (and a bit unfashionable) MkVI-Berg Larsen set-up for years, in the meantime creating one of the iconic (and most copied, after Brecker – and it’s interesting to speculate whether Brecker had been influenced as well) sax sounds of the last quarter of the twentieth century. I remember sitting in the Jazz Workshop in Boston in the early 70’s, waiting to listen to him, determined to disapprove of some unknown Scandinavian interloper (with the strange “I-come-from-the-planet-Vulcan” haircut seen below) who had replaced my fave guy of the moment, Dewey Redman, in the Keith Jarrett Quartet…. and then he just played a simple, soaring line…

He talks about never giving his gear a thought until rather recently, when he started getting involved with the Internet. He referred to his sax as a tool, a ‘hammer’ something which he not particularly interested in and was invisible to him as long as it did his bidding. This saxophone-as-hammer is similar to the idea of Heidegger’s hammer (I know, there was the unfortunate business with Adorno, who was down on this guy) ; an object that is invisible as long as it fulfills its function. Garberek was happy for years playing in his preferred manner without thought of mouthpieces , reeds or particular instruments .But, of course, Theo Wanne promises everything, and once Gaberek started messing about on the internet, the chimera of a better world hovered just beyond his reach; one where everything spoke effortlessly from low Bb to an altissimo double F… balanced, in tune, rich in timbre. Squeaks are sent to a specific circle of Hell, or perhaps just on Charon’s ferry across the Acheron to accompany the wailing of souls on their final journey to damnation…I think all reed players would like to think of that as the last outing of all their squeaks down through the years. One would faint, and find that all the squeaks had been banished upon awakening on the other side. Here is Delacroix’s take on Charon, Dante and the Damned (not the band) hearing all the squeaks from the mortal world while crossing the Acheron on the barge, such as all those Parker out takes….

 

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