Sax in a sess

Re: Sax in a sess

in those clips, the tunes are played in F and Bb to cater for the sax. this is not good if the session comprises of box players and flautists

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Fine with me - just don’t play it in Canberra

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Saxophone, banjo, and keyboard. All it’s missing is a bodhran.

Just kidding. I actually like some of the McGoldrick stuff with sax. I also wouldn’t care if someone brought one to the pub- talking about guests that is. It isn’t my cup of tea, but I don’t hate it. Also, it might be better if it could be played with instruments in D. Maybe a Soprano sax would be better? I might mind it a bit though if it was an every session kind of thing.

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playing session tunes on an Eb alto sax has got to be like playing soccer wearing ice skates; possible, but extremely difficult and why do it at all? (unless you like playing in 5 sharps all night long)

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Weapon you have in mind is the C Melody, whose basic fingering is in D. They used to use them in Irish orchestras of the 1920s/30s, Josie McDermott used to play one in his combo, I believe. They fell out of favor after the 30s, perhaps contributing to their rarity in ITM. I uploaded a few sides of Paddy Killoran’s Pride of Erin Orchestra to archive.org if you want to hear them at work, here’s a solo on the Fly By Night hornpipe: http://www.archive.org/details/PaddyKilloranAndHisPrideOfErinOrchestraSweepsHeirloomHornpipes

Always loved the sax and thought they’d make a great instrument for trad. They can just utterly wail, like the pipes.

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That orchestra seems to be playing in Eb, so perhaps he was using an alto etc. Or perhaps the record is spinning too fast.

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Kevin - where were you two years ago when I was leaving Portland and had a C melody I was trying to sell? 🙂

You’re right, of course, the C melody makes the fingerings work out nicely, but I still don’t think I’d be happy if one turned up at a session. They’re pretty loud, which you can sort of deal with, but they always seem to smear the time around more than I like.

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Jon - did you find a buyer? I’ve looked at what they sell for on eBay and it seemed a bit pricey to dabble in. Plus 2 years ago I was a bit busy with other stuff. Pity I thought it was a good eye to dismantle my uncle’s Buescher when I was 16; mangled it all beyond repair. But I still have his/Dad’s Conn/Buescher tenor and bari. Tried to get the tenor going 6 years ago, needs a pad replaced.

Did you ever assault them with the C at the Alberta Street etc? Can’t be louder than the Beglan box.

Mike - that’s pretty cool. Might have to crank one out on my wood lathe, as he’s closing up shop.

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I found a buyer, but I had to let it go for pretty cheap.
I’m not sure how committed he was to it, though. If you’re in Portland and interested, I still have his email address - if it wound up in his garage, you might be able to swing a deal with him.

Re: Sax in a sess

The sax is like the mouth organ — players seem unable to resist the seemingly overwhelming urge to wail, wah and adlib. If the players can manage to avoid this ‘ear-jerking’, the sax can be just about acceptable, but I don’t imagine it will ever be adopted, for reasons already stated.

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Re: Sax in a sess

PS
Is it still a session if you play standing up?

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Not an instinctive ‘yes’ here, but I always remember McBrides and the rest of the Moving Hearts sets when it worked so well. One also came out in that session I played in Plockton a couple of years ago. Can mesh quite nicely with Uilleann pipes…

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Not Irish I know, but if you want to see what including a sax in the mix does to otherwise good trad musicians, compare early Blowzabella recordings with the stuff they’ve done since Jo Freyer joined the band.

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I have a C melody (a Buescher made in 1922). It’s helluva sluggish, as well as being far too loud for normal sessions. (Works okay if the other instruments are piano accordion and border pipes). The sort of ornamentation normally used in Irish music would be impossible on it, they keywork is just too slow and heavy.

There is a modern one, made by the New Zealand firm Aquilasax. Those are probably more responsive. I haven’t tried one. They also make a C melody soprano, which would probably shout down a bombarde. (Old C melody sopranos have notoriously awful intonation).

The Highland Hornpipe is a clarinet, not a sax. They aren’t made any more. I have a metal Turkish G clarinet which does everything their large model does and then some - sounds absolutely identical and responds very fast. Also has an immense dynamic range so you can go down to a whisper. They used to be cheap but aren’t any more. The only maker is Ramazan Kor from Bursa. Here is where to buy them:

http://www.muzikor.com/gp/nefesliler/klarnet/sol-klarnet/ramazan-kor.html

It also plays higher than the C melody sax, and weighs a fraction as much. All round, far more useful.

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I have a tape of the Kilfenora playing at a dance in 1962, they had a sax but not for Irish tunes. I suppose you need At the Racket for that.

Didn’t Liam Walsh play the sax in the dance band he had? Must be a Waterford piper’s thing.

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Disagree.

I suspect if that was what I first heard of ITM,
I would have remained a hard rock bassist.

Not my cup of tea at all.

Of course, the sax is conspiring with the
electric piano on this particular "homicide".

Hmmn.

GAELicide?
CELTicide?
CHOONicide?
Aha -

TRADicide!

My judgemental twa farthings.
Good day, all.

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I’m enjoying the 2nd clip (Seamus O’Donnell, John Carty et al.). I’m always interested to hear what a good trad player can do with a ‘non-traditional’ instrument. But a session is different from a gig; I have to admit, I would be skeptical if someone turned up to a session with the telltale Z-shaped case (although most sax cases are probably rectangular). I used to play in a session where one of the regulars (i.e. paid ‘anchor’ musicians) played sax. He didn’t play sax all the time (he was a good flute and whistle player as well) but when he did, it was overpowering and it felt futile to try and play along. I cannot speak from a player’s standpoint, as I have never played the instrument, but it would appear that even the lowest volume achievable on the sax is too loud to blend with the usual combination of instruments found in an Irish session. The problem is, I suspect, compounded by the fact that the player cannot hear the other instruments over their own and consequently is unable to regulate their volume accordingly. There is a good reason why there are such things as *wind bands*, comprising exclusively brass and woodwind instruments. An Irish trad wind band - now that could be interesting.

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I’ve not managed that….oh, sAx!

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As ever, when a discussion of this nature occurs: surely it all depends on the player and the music they create. Not the instrument per se.
If someone really knows the tunes and can appropriately play in an ensemble setting, they would be fine (if somewhat eccentric to the tradition currently).
I suppose a good trad flautist could make all the right ornaments as long as the sax was a semi flat (an alto/ bari in D or a tenor/ soprano in A). Playing the tunes traditionally in the usual key/ modes i.e. D/ G on the usual Bb/ Eb instruments would be a test of fingering skill!
But as I say, some would play sax in a session appropriately, some most certainly wouldn’t!

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A sax fits in a session about as well as a trumpet, trombone, and drum kit. At some point it becomes jazz, not trad.

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yhaalhouse - assuming you play the keyless flute or whistle - go to a music shop, get your hands on a sax, and try fingering a moderately ornamented reel on it in the way you’re used to. You simply won’t be able to move that mass of metal fast enough. You can get pretty close on a good silver flute, but the keys on a sax are several times heavier with a lot more travel.

The most convenient key is C, as other people have said (fingers like a D whistle or C recorder). There have been saxes in F (i.e. like a G whistle or F recorder) but they were always even rarer than C melody saxes. There may be G saxes (fingering like A whistles) in museums somewhere, but they aren’t something you can hope to buy these days.

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Lots of Ceili Bands back in the fifties had a sax in the line up. Admittedly many of them just used the sax for the waltzes but many of them could and did play the trad stuff as well. As for the trumpet, I only ever remember Jim Cameron and his Scottish Country Band using one also in the fifties. A fine trumpet player he was too when it came to the trad music.

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at the racket.great band.

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Sax in a sess?….
About as welcome as sex in a sash…

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My dad loved to talk about his gig playing trumpet in a square dance band during the Korean War era, when he was an MP in the army in Georgia. Another folk-brass crossover, that happens occasionally.

"I have a C melody (a Buescher made in 1922). It’s helluva sluggish, as well as being far too loud for normal sessions. (Works okay if the other instruments are piano accordion and border pipes). The sort of ornamentation normally used in Irish music would be impossible on it, they keywork is just too slow and heavy."

Well, the border pipes I’ve heard/played aren’t any louder than your typical wide bore uilleann pipes chanter. And of course saxes set up properly can play faster than snot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lhkq2IMe8KU


Maybe yours just needs some TLC? But when I researched all this on the ‘net all I ever read from sax players was that the C was, like you say, sluggish, and also dull-sounding. Those guys are trying to play Bird charts though.

And I like extraneous noise from instruments - melodeons with lots of key clack, valves on the pipes bellows clicking away, fiddle strings that squeak, etc. So some sax key noise wouldn’t put me off. Can you just tongue triplets instead of attempting grace notes?

Liam Walsh played sax in his orchestra, yes. Dunno if that inspired JOBM. Ed Reavy cut some 78s with a band that had a very nice sax playing on the side of barndances.

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From what I have heard from old timers, the old Irish Boston dance halls used saxes a lot in the bands for the same reason they used accordions with multiple voices, for volume purposes (I have heard that some of the accordionists had arms like lumberjacks because it was so hard to pump air thorough all those extra reeds). But then again, those bands played a lot of American swing music, and Irish tunes with a jazzy swing to them.
But a sax in a session would be way too loud, I would think.

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Not fond of the Youtube clips at all. All it needs is a trumpet to sound like Dixieland.

As everyone points out, playing in D and G on saxophone transposes to B and E. Irish music in 4 and 5 sharps on a Boehm system instrument isn’t much fun and sounds wrong because you’re all over the keywork and the cut and roll fingerings are problematic. Been there, tried that.

If anyone walked up to a session with a sax I’d probably head to the bar to listen from a safe distance.

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Get rid of the sax and the keyboard, and I would really enjoy this clip.. 🙂 I really like John Carty’s banjo playing (not to mention his Paragon!!)

However, as it is now - certainly not my cup of tea! I really hope there won’t be any sax players showing up at my local session here in Sweden..?

/Mattias

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Sessions aren’t the only way to play Irish music.

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Too many composers try to be "trendy" by having some boring bilge with a sax carrying out a tuneless doodling on top.
If it is modern jazz, do it in a jazz club, not a session.
You would get short-shrift playing reels in a jazz club.

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Yes, Dougie in Plockton trots the sax out for a party piece once or twice during the session, which is a laugh, but he spends most of the night on the flute or pipes. The sax is just too bloody loud to be playing all night at the session. The thought I didn’t have was, "That would go well with the uilleann pipes." Quite the opposite. Completely the wrong key.

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Another of Pincock’s party pieces is his cross fingering a virtually chromatic scale on the GHB chanter - and going above the ‘normal’ range.

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I thought the Catholic Church opposed dance music because it might lead to sax…

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Nice one Al <: I’ve dropped in late on this discussion but it seems a little saxist to me…Josie McDermott won the Fleadh on sax around 1967. So it has a bit of provenance. Not to everyone’s taste and C melodies do have a few intonation problems, but hey, nobody’s perfect…I have a Buescher C mel, and this year managed to pick up a rare C mel soprano (also Buescher) from an old band guy in the states which I’m trying to get fixed up. It’s fun.