[Dixielandjazz] Soprano Sax & Bechet

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 9 20:20:34 PDT 2005

Someone asked why a straight Soprano Sax? Probably because the straight horn
is sooooo much sexier. Bechet was a master at using his as a chick magnet.
He would see a gal looking at him, make eye contact and then point the horn
at her abdomen. He would then weave it around, up and down, while wailing.
Worked every time as the gals would start to weave and dance about. He would
then chat up the gal on break.

I just got back from our Casino gig where we get lots of interaction with
the audience. I admit to doing the same thing with my clarinet. It gets the
ladies moving, grinding and dancing about also.  We had a group of about a
dozen gals, mixed races, dancing about to the clarinet solo today which just
about broke everybody up. Sure puts to rest those myths about "no audience
for OKOM", or "Black & Hispanics don't dig Dixieland / New Orleans Jazz".

Also, intonation on Bechet's Sax was a bastard. All those early straight
horns were IMPOSSIBLY out of tune. You had a choice, either the upper
register was correctly tuned, or the lower register was. In either case, the
opposite register was completely out of tune. When you bought a Sop Sax back
then, you would specify which register you wanted correctly pitched and they
would supply the requisite horn.

Some guys compensated by adjusting the mouthpiece so that both registers
were out of tune. And some, like Bechet, used vibrato to good effect to
cover up the tuning problems. With his W I D E vibrato, part of the note was
bound to be in tune. :-) VBG.

Even today, just about all clarinets are slightly out of tune up and down
the horn. Players automatically compensate with their chops to cover the
deficiencies. This was brought home to me this week when I put my wide bore
Selmer 10G in the shop for air leaks and took out my trusty 60 year old
narrower bore Buffet. First thing the guitarist, who has excellent ears,
said was: "Hey, that horn is a little out of tune with itself." But by the
second gig, he also noticed that I had corrected it with changes of

Steve Barbone

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