Joe Lovano

What is there to say about Joe Lovano which hasn’t been published before. He is a monster player and educator. He is passionate about his art and loves to share his knowledge. I’m glad I can help pass along a bit of it.

The brian landrus project

When elements of R&B, Hiphop, Free Jazz, and straight-ahead jazz are brought together along side quality performances what you get is the decidedly modern album “Brian Landrus Project”. From the moment you press play this album will surprise you with its driving rhythm section and DJ scratching funky patterns on top of the danceable beat. For all that this album is, there are a few things that it is not.

Let’s start with what this album is not. It is not a baritone saxophone heavy album. If I remember correctly there are only 2 songs in which Brian is playing improvised solos on Baritone. This is a bit of a shame in my opinion but when he does play bari it has a huge sound fills the audio space with the tone. The bulk of this album is Landrus on Tenor sax or flute.This album is also not like the others in the sense that it has a strong sense of collaboration and less of a sense of a soloist and his band.

If it isn’t all of that then what is it? This album is a emulsion of traditional jazz, hiphop, R&B, rock and elements of free jazz. Landrus choose to include elements of popular music that aren’t usually thought of as jazzy. The inclusion of DJ scratching rhythms along side the rhythm section adds a urban rawness that isn’t present in “legit” jazz.. There are also elements of late Miles Davis’esque audio effects on tracks like Organ Donor.

As a huge fan of Esperanza Spalding, well fan may be a bit of an understatement, I was excited  when Landrus started playing with her. Until he started playing with her I was only familiar with his later albums and didn’t quite get where his background in R&B and  funk came from. This album shows that he’s had it in him from the early days. Tracks like Soul Sauce, The Search, and Spur have a funky soul that is impossible to ignore.

Recently I had emailed Brian to see how the Esperanza Tour was going and to let him know I’d be talking about this album. We exchange emails every so often when his schedule has breaks. On the mention of this album he encouraged me not to buy it. He implied that it wasn’t his favorite. This had a huge reverse-psychological effect on me. At that point I had to listen to this album, after all what does this great musician have to hide? In my opinion nothing, he displays youth and exuberance and that makes this album just enjoyable to his later ones only in a different way.

TAKE AWAY: If you have listened to his later albums then you may not recognize the proto-Landrus on display in this album. Tons of passion and drive but not the same polish of his later baritone focused albums. In some ways this album is ahead of its time while also being a product of its time. I do suggest you purchase this album as MP3’s to save a few dollars you can then use to get his 2013 album Kaleidoscope.

NOTE: This album can be hard to find but it can be found on Amazon or reach out to Brain for information.

What do you get when you take one part Otto Link, one part Selmer Soloist, and mix in a bit of Berg Larsen? A Vandoren V16 of course. Not familiar? Pro bari performers all over the musical world have found the love of these pieces. Denis DiBlasio and Gary Smulyan are just two of the players use this piece to express themselves.

Vandoren has upped its game with this piece. If you are a fan of the V5 series, and I know there are a few of you out there, then you may find this piece a bit too open and free blowing. But if you’ve never tried a Vandoren baritone mouthpiece then you are in for a pleasant experience.

Construction: This piece is crafted from hard rubber, ebonite, and features a stylish but purely decorative gold band at the bottom. The craftsmanship is typical Vandoren with crisp sharp stampings and a smooth polished exterior. the mouthpiece features a long shank, thin for a rubber mouthpiece profile, and low angled beak. The tip and side rails are thin and even. This coupled with the flat table leads to quick articulation and sharp attacks.

The mouth feel of this piece is more like that of a quality metal mouthpiece. Rather than have a steep angled beak to accommodate the amount of rubber needed to make the beak area stronger on most hard rubber mouthpieces they chose to keep it slim. This slimness means that the mouth feel is similar to a metal mouthpiece. For those with smaller mouths or double on different horns throughout a set this will make the transition much easier.

Ligature: This is where the mouthpieces off size is a disadvantage. I keep a few ligatures in my collection and only one fit the mouthpiece, a one screw leather one for a hard rubber tenor mouthpiece. This ligature was not a perfect fit but would secure the reed without marring the mouthpiece. I played the piece for a week until the recommended ligature arrived, a Vandoren Optimum. Supplied with the correct ligature this mouthpiece really showed its personality. It was
was much easier to secure the reed and there is nearly no chance of marring the mouthpiece. The additional pressure plates do not make a difference to me but they are nice to have.

Sound: This is what you came for.  This mouthpiece has depth and a strong core to the tone. Depending on your physiological makeup, horn, and reed combo you can make this piece do almost anything. From warm and lush sub-tones to bright and punchy, this piece can be a lot of things to a lot of people. Currently I am using this piece in an 18 piece big band with no problems blending with the section. But when it’s time to stand and be counted I can add the edge needed to project to the back of the room just by changing my airflow.

Reed friendliness: This mouthpiece did well with every reed I threw at it within  a certain range for me. The piece I chose to play is the B9 tip opening. This features a long facing with a tip opening of around .122″. If I stay in the 2.5 hardness range then the piece is perfect but if I stray down to a 2 or up to a 3 hardness the mouthpiece makes me work for the sound. This is more a function of my chops rather than the mouthpiece construction. Recently I’ve settled in on a Légère synthetic reed for more warmth and buzz

TAKE AWAY: This is the mouthpiece which has halted my search. After spending the last 4 months with this piece I feel it offers the best bang for the buck for a production mouthpiece.

Sound sample: Here is Gary Smulyan and Denis Diblasio showing off the sound of this mouthpiece on two different horns. Gary’s vintage Conn 12m and Denis’s Yamaha YBS-62? really change the color of the tone and offer a great A/B of the mouthpiece. Both players are playing Vandorem V16 B9 mouthpieces. Coincidentally I have the same models of each of their horns, different years though.

As harmonically complex as a Denisov or Noda piece and as technically brilliant as a Parker piece.  Charles Evans has captured a sonic haiku and shared it with us all.

It’s not hard to hear why Charles Evans can be seen as a great talent on the baritone. His airy tone only hints at the power he can unleash at a moments notice. His use of large intervalic leaps, micro-tones, extended range, and dynamic contrast which rolls and sweeps across the tracks is evident of his musical mastery.

This album is very introspective and emotional. Unfortunately I don’t have liner notes as I purchased the album digitally. In listening to the the selection I can’t help but wonder if his liner notes offer insight into his moving and complex compositions. This album is avante garde and not quite danceable though with enough confidence any wiggle to the music could be seen as dance. Evans has an audience friendly avante garde style which is similar to players like Sax Rivers or Eric Dolphy.

This isn’t the type of album that I would play on the stereo to get my significant other “in the mood”. No, this kind of music has always been more cerebral to me and requires a fair amount of dedication to the musicians and their efforts. It’s this humble authors opinion that you have to have a relationship with the music and take it on its own terms to really enjoy the magic of it. You don’t have to have a Phd. in music theory to “get it”, you just need to really listen to it.

Evans’ baritone tone on this album is restrained and quite conservative in large sections. You can hear the restraint in his playing. I believe this adds a tension that when released is like an explosion and a great sense of relief for the listener. The venue in which they recorded the album adds greatly to the tone we hear in the recording. The listening space is large and the microphone placement allows for the bass frequencies in his low notes to develop as well as allowing the mid-tones to reflect back to the microphone. The space and or the microphone does seem to lack some of the high frequency which could add more sparkle to his great performance.

Evans is not at it alone on this album. To say he is accompanied by Neil Shah is to minimize the relationship. Shah on piano offers counter point and a base from which Evans can express himself. Shah’s light touch and awareness keeps each piece alive and moving. It is very clear that these two musicians must share a great trust and respect  as there are large swaths of time in which the players seem to move organically between and around each other and complete each others lines.

TAKE AWAY: This is a worthy purchase if you like poetry, avante garde or music to think to. But if you find that this isn’t your cup of tea then it still has loads of value as an example of expressive bari and sensitive piano playing.

I had the absolute pleasure of hearing Phil Woods when he came through my town and played with the local Jazz band. His tone and technique was phenomenal to hear live. For a rather large man his playing was light and airy. At the time I was playing alto full time and this man was who I wanted to emulate. One of his comments that always stuck with me was his comment on Charlie Parker. While I don’t remember it exactly as he told it, I do remember the gist of of it. Essentially he said that he does in fewer notes what took Park a sheets worth of notes to accomplish.

This master class is heavy on performance but is worth the 38 minutes spent to enjoy and learn by example.

Please follow the LINK to to purchase this content on DVD.

Long before I found the love of the low note I was enamored by the technical and stylistic abilities of Ernie Watts. Growing up he was right along side Eric Dolphy, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Gerry Mulligan in my jazz listening. So when I stumbled on his master class I thought it important to share his knowledge and performance.

Here at MBS we feel that passing on musical knowledge is one of the most important things we can do for our readers. Masterclasses will be a regular section of the site.

Jeff Suzda has been a great help in sharing his altissimo techniques with the rest of us. His approach is generic to the saxophone and specific to the baritone. If you are unfamiliar with his altissmo then you haven’t heard his albums. His tone in the upper range is full and direct. It is the type of tone that reflects the years of study he has invested in it. Enjoy the video he posted on YouTube, it’s a great way to approach those difficult first altissimo notes.


What do you get when you combine ½ of a cows worth of leather, brass rivets, zippers and foam? A Gard Bags baritone saxophone gig bag of course.
Gard Low “A” American Model, Black
Gig bags are colloquially called “repair man’s best friends” but in careful hands and under ideal situations this type or protective case can be both protective and convenient for a musician who has to carry their horn long distances by hand. For example, it is not uncommon for me to have to park my car several blocks from a venue if playing downtown. As you might image I would never leave my horn unattended at a venue for load-in. After many a strained shoulder, pulling, carting and carrying my Yamaha bari’s coffin case I needed something more convenient.
Convenience was judged on a few criteria specific for my needs. The first is that it had to offer reasonable protection from minor transportation bumps. Secondly, it had to close securely and remain closed while be carried. Thirdly, it had to have lots provisions for easily carrying it when the horn is inside. Fourthly, the case and horn had to fit into my very small cars only available space, the front passenger seat.  Fifthly, the empty case had to fit into a storage crate in a small closet at my home.
Because my bari spends the majority of its life in either its stock Yamaha case or on its stand in my home I wanted a case that offered enough protection that the act of driving to the gig wouldn’t misalign keys or tweak long rods in any way. The case features padding between 2 and 3 inches thick in some areas and will compress enough to absorb some minor impacts. The foam is much more forgiving than the Styrofoam material in the original case.
If you’ve never felt the weight of an original Yamaha case, with its wood construction and aluminum trim, you would be surprised at how much it weighs without the horn inside. This is needed to provide adequate protection to the horn but the problem is that the latches and handles become failure points over time. On my case I’ve had many latch failures in the past 8 years. First the center latches have pulled their rivets out due to the center handle placing flexing stress on the long face of the case and the center latches are closest to the handles. The popped off one at a time then I re-riveted them with backer plates and still the latches would get loose and become unsafe in 1 year. The same with the end handle, over time the vinyl covered blued steel handle would break at the attachment screws after 5 years. I’m on my third handle now.
This bag has very heavy duty brass zippers which slide smoothly and remain closed when slid to the closed position even with the weight of the horn inside.  As a secondary safety feature the grab handles have a Velcro strap which can bind them together and prevent the horn from falling backwards out of the case unnoticed.
Carrying this case is as easy as grabbing the grab handles or using the included leather carrying strap. The grab handles are suitably thick and are comfortable in the hand. The included leather sling strap has brass hardware and there are leather tabs covering both sides of the brass clips. This detail means that the brass clips will never grab or mark your clothes. This is a welcome touch if you find yourself in a suit and tie to play a ska show. There are  sets of “D” rings on both sides of the case which allows for a 3 methods of attaching the straps, vertical on either side or crossing from opposite pairs of rings. Crossing opposite pairs makes carrying the case horizontally over a shoulder easier .
I often get ribbed for driving a small car and playing one of the largest instruments in the band, the upright bass player is the only person for whom I sympathize and who understands my plight. The Yamaha case is simply gigantic. It offers generous amounts of space for accessories with a large triangular cubby at the bell and a long multi-segment cubby running 4/5’s the length of the body tube. All of this real estate comes at a cost. To transport my horn I have to place it in the passenger side seat with its bow in the foot well then buckle it in. While this is safer than strapping it to a trunk rack it does mean I can’t bring my significant other to a gig unless we travel separately.  This case is shaped and fits the horn snuggly and only occupies on ¾ the space that the stock case does. This still means that I can’t take my mate with me but at least I can see out of the passenger side window easier and more safely.
Lastly, I live in a small Townhome and space is at a premium. The need for everything to have a place and simultaneously be in its place is great. This case has been folded and unfolded a number of times will no ill effects to the leather or foam though in all honesty I’ve begun to hang the case on a cheap hanger in the spare closet. The case is so light that it will not break a cheap department store hanger. This leaves the case accessible for whenever it’s needed.
Another feature to note is the rain cover which is included. The little poncho fits perfectly in the small pocket they’ve sewn into the main pocket. This allows the protective cover to be accessible at any time regardless of the nature of the flying liquid. The rain cover is made from nylon and should be washable in the event a rogue beer should be spilled upon it.
TAKE AWAY: This case is a good value and will provide many years of use. It will not protect like a proper hard sided case but with great care you can utilize this case and keep your big baby safe.


Welcome to my blog modern bari sax. My name is Zel and I’m just that, a modern bari sax player. I play Baritone saxophone as my primary instrument. I do on occasion find an alto, tenor or flute part land on my stand but my main instrument is the Baritone sax. I had originally posted this in Nov of 2011 but due to popular request decided to repost it.

I can be seen in the  ESPN Monday Night Football promo with Hank Williams Jr. *edit* Promo canceled due to Hank’s ability to upset the media viewers. Promo is still available on Youtube.*/edit*  I have played in groups who have opened for bands like Reel Big Fish, The Pie Tasters, and Trivium. I can be heard on the 2007 acoustic metal album “Mad to Love” by Meka nism, 2009 rock album “Porn on the Cob” by F.I.P., 1997 ska album “Enter the Kabuki” by Fat Timmy, and the still in production reggae album by Shady People due out in 2012, 2013 featuring the saxophone playing of Trent Spears and Anthony Cole.

I am a regular stand in player for a number of groups. I have been bringing the sound of the baritone saxophone to small groups ranging from Western Swing and folk music to jazz jams.

Like many others my musical influences include Davis, Coltrane, Adams, Cuber, Diblassio, Parker, Garzone, Smulyan,  and  Brignola. These are the people whos music directly, though not always evident, influence my playing. But I am a long time lover of Reggae and 2nd and 3rd wave ska. Everyone from the Bosstones, Reel big fish, The Specials, Mustard Plug, The Pie Tasters, Less than Jake, and Toots and the Maytals have influenced the rest of my musical tastes. I am lucky to have opened for some of these bands through the years.

Here I will also be reviewing albums which feature baritone and bass saxophonists from across the decades. I do this because of my own difficulties finding baritone inspiration outside of Pepper Adams and Gerry Mulligan. Lastly I will be reviewing horns and where possible posting clips. It’s my hope you will read along and share your opinions on the things you see here and perhaps discover an album you’ve never heard of.

*edit* Found the Monday Night Football

You can see me briefly at 0:23 sec in the first. This was a very long shoot for a such a short promo. I believe they shot in excess of 60 hours of film per camera, and there were many cameras. Though I didn’t record the audio we did play the song about a hundred times.
Here’s a piece I did with a the artist Ms. Meka Nism. It’s a song called “Break” In this piece she wanted the bari sax to carry the bass line, while interspersed with short flute interludes. This was one of the most fun recording sessions I’d ever done. Tons of energy and in the end it was the two of us making music.

Lastly, Here I am performing with the “ska” band Teflon Don *Tef London Ska on a piece called “One for the drinkers”. 

As you can see I’m not a solo performer but I do spend a lot of time with my horn. I have had the privilege of working with many great musicians of all genres and look forward to sharing my opinion and hopefully getting yours along the way.

For those who care: for the song “Bedlam” the mouthpiece I was using was a 5* Otto Link Tone Edge. For the Monday night Football shoot I was playing a E. Rousseau JDX7. Lastly for the last video I was playing a Yamaha 5C with RJS 4S.

Linked from

If you are unfamiliar with the name Dan Oestreicher then perhaps you are familiar with the genre blending music of Trombone Shorty. Dan can be heard with Roger Lewis’ Baritone Saxophone choir, Trombone Shorty, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and on albums by Cee Lo Green, Zac Brown, and Rod Stewart.

This interview is much more of a friendly discussion between two great musician and great friends. It is candid and has colorful language. Dan doesn’t mince words when discussing the current state of music in New Orleans, source inspiration for Trombone Shorty’s sound, or music education. This interview is the kind of behind the scenes that most people outside of the immediate musical community does not get exposed to. Dan is passionate and inspired when he talks of his personal musical journey and it adds additional depth to the listening experience.

From a technical point of view the recordings are of good quality and both Jonathan and Dan are easily heard and understood. There are some background audio distractions ranging from a light clicking to the sound of driving, but otherwise they are easy to ignore.

TAKE AWAY: This snapshot of Dan Oestreicher is enjoyable to listen to and sheds a new light on his playing. He is a serious musician and a passionate observer of humanity.

Click here to visit Jonathan Freilich’s page and listen to his interview with Dan Oestreicher.

What do you get when you combine Downbeat magazine’s thrice winning Rising Star award winner Brian Landrus, a Selmer series II Bass saxophone and a microphone? You get a hauntingly wonderful moment of expression on an instrument usually known for its subtlety. This is not to be confused with the exotic sounds of Collin Stetson or the basso profondo of Adrian Rollini. Brian is a skilled baritone saxophonist and clarinetist. This track is from his fourth coming album due to out on June 25th 2013. If you have the ability to see him perform with Esperanza Spalding while on tour.

TAKE AWAY: I am looking forward to getting this album when it comes out.

What do you get when give the baritone sax and bass trombone players the chance to bring out the heavy metal? You get improvised solos which are lively, heavy, and as interesting as you might expect. Jay Mason’s  bass saxophone tone blends well with Bill Reichenbach’s tuba tone. The bass sax adds a welcome reediness and projection whereas the tuba’s characteristic round and full tone adds body to the over bass sound. This combo is one of my favorites now and I hope to hear more of it. Of course it goes without saying that the arrangement  by Frank Macchia is a great pleasure to hear and a wonderful way to show off these two great horns now rare to mainstream jazz music.

TAKE AWAY: This is a pleasure to hear and I’m glad to share it.

After that Carney sound? Maybe your vintage horn just hasn’t given you the sound you expected. Giant chamber, steep beak profile, and closed tip. What more could you want from a vintage mouthpiece as big as two modern metal pieces. This piece is an experience all its own and surprisingly not at all as horrible as I expected.

When it comes to baseline mouthpieces I usually go hard rubber and close tip openings for students new to the baritone. Usually a Yamaha 5C with a 2 to 3 1/2 reed depending on brand and student experience levels. I feel that the 5C offers enough variety that the player can reasonably cover most school genres of music all the way into college if needed. In fact I keep a 5C along with some Vandoren 4’s just in case I need to play in a holiday ensemble, though I don’t get those call as often as I used to. On a whim I bought this vintage piece of rubber.

The first thing that caught my attention when it arrived was how heavy it was. It weighed a few ounces more than my rubber Berg and Link. This was not a surprise as the piece is over 2.5″ in diameter. On close examination I identified a decidedly older design. The piece had: wide rails, scooped side walls, a deep baffle opening to a monster chamber, and a smallish shank. The internal volume of this piece looked to be 25% larger than that of my Berg but only 10 – 15% larger than the 5C.

This large volume made itself readily heard when I strapped a hard reed to the piece and began to play. On my YBS-61 I had to push piece nearly a centimeter beyond when I would place the 5C on the neck to make the piece play in tune. As you may have guessed, the large internal volume made the piece play very flat. After warming the horn up and tuning again I was able to get pretty close to in tune but I had a hard time keeping from falling flat on low notes in soft passages.

The tone was very much what I expected when I bought it. It has a warm, introspective tone that gets thin in the upper registers. The close tip opening didn’t help em either as the tip felt closer than my C*. If I had to guess it would be in the .70 – .85″ range. This piece is hard to put a lot of air through. Projection? As they say in New York, “Forget about it!” Perhaps for a very small venue this would work but on a modern horn and for modern uses its quiet limited.

TAKE AWAY:  Short of amplifying this piece the only way you can get it to the back of the audience is if you threw it. On a vintage Conn or Buescher this mouthpiece would likely be an amazing piece but on a modern horn it’s poorly suited and visually intimidating.

Sound samples on the way

That scrap reed is to keep ligature in lace


I love new sounds on the baritone and this video from NAMM is a clean easy to hear example of sound modification.  Sylvain Carton is a fantastic player and sound  innovator. His use of multi-effects and advanced techniques makes his tone one to remember. I am a firm believer in pushing the boundaries and keeping an otherwise purely acoustic instrument relevant in a modern music landscape. This has given me some new ideas

Sylvain Carton is a principle voice of the group Beats Antique. I will be reviewing some Beats Antique in the very near future.

Sylvain Carton’s equipment is:

Vandoren V16 (B9?) Mouthpiece with Pasoana pickup

MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay -> Bass Compressor -> Bass Octave Deluxe
MXR Bass Chorus -> MXR Bass Fuzz Delux -> MXR Bass Overdrive ->WahPedal

Supa-Pus Analog Delay -> Ring Worm Modulator
Bass Envelope Filter