Saxophonist Steve Lacy, was one of the most important soprano players of the 20th century. His body of work stretched 5 decades, from the ’50s when he came to prominence as a Dixieland musician, until his death in 2004. During this time his prolific career travelled down many roads, including those of experimental jazz and free improvisation, to traditional jazz.¹
Lacy had a number of very profound things to say about music in general, and about the saxophone specifically. I personally really liked this quote that was attributed to him:
Play difficult and interesting things. If you play boring things, you risk losing your appetite. Saxophone can be tedious with too much of the same.
In this video clip from YouTube, you get a pretty good idea of how Lacy shook things up to keep them interesting. I especially like his commentary about the soprano sax. It probably explains why I dislike playing the horn so much.
The soprano really does sound hysterical if you don’t put enough time into it. I find for every hour I put into tenor or bari, I have to put a minimum of 2 or 3 into the soprano, to get it to sound half way good enough for a performance. I just personally don’t like the high pitches enough to want to put that much time into the instrument. (My large horn bias rears its ugly head again.)
So if you’re bored with your playing, shake things up a bit. Play something that’s a bit more difficult—but not so difficult that you’ll give up in frustration—and work on it until you can get it. Play something interesting, that’s outside of what you normally play.
If you normally play only jazz, try some classical. Or if you play only concert band stuff, buy one of the books in the Hal Leonard jazz play-along or Jamey Aebersold series, and give that a whirl. But no matter what you decide to go for… Just go for it!
¹ From the Steve Lacy Wikipedia page.
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