A Bari Sax can *Never* be too LOUD?

I was talking to Greg Cagle, a friend of mine and a woodwind doubler who can often be heard tootin’ on a bari sax like in this number:

Can you hear this bari?

I luv his sound styling and you should hear him on the contrabass clarinet too! The topic du Jour was my complaint that one of the bands he played in didn’t mic him so that his crazy good lines could be heard. He then told me this way cool story from his past.


              Stan Kenton’s first band in 1941 ~ Jazz Connection Mag

Summer of 1974. Stan Kenton “Jazz Orchestra in Residence” at Cal State Sacramento. This was one of the last ones before Stan passed away. The band was not what it had once been, but still awesome to a high school kid. This was the version of the band that had two bari saxes, one at each end of the line, and only one alto. If you see a Kenton chart (like Minor Booze) that has two bari sax parts, that’s why.

I got seeded into one of the mid level bands; I guess there were auditions involved but I don’t really remember anything about that. I remember that we did one of Hank Levy’s odd time signature charts called “Indra”, which had a soprano sax solo in the bari sax part, which I played. I had the luxury of playing a brand new Mark VI soprano that I borrowed from a friend. I had never played soprano before. As I remember it my solo was, well, a little scary.

Anyway, we were there for five days; each day started out with an hour of theory at 8 am MJB2010with one of Kenton arrangers. Too bad I’ve forgotten most of it! I think I’ve still got the study book somewhere though. Then we had full band rehearsals, then sectionals. Each night there was a full concert by the Kenton band. Our sectionals were run by Roy Reynolds, one of the bari players in the Kenton band. I think Greg Smith was the other one at that point.

Roy seemed like a grizzled old veteran to me – he was probably 40 at the time. SmileIt amazed me how he could play, given the vast number of cigarettes he smoked. He always had one going.  I was surprised he had any lungs left. But he had been around the block many times, and was able to share many tips and nuggets of wisdom.

I was the recipient of one of those nuggets personally, late in the week. He and I got stuck in the elevator for a short period one afternoon, so we made some conversation. The part I remember went like this: “Kid, you have great tone and pretty good technique. I like the way you play. I’ll just give you the one piece of advice I’ve always followed – on bari sax,

“Always play louder than you think you need to, until somebody tells you to quiet down.”

And then he coughed a few times, the elevator started, and that was that. I’ve always followed that same rule, and pass it along to every bari player I meet.

~ Greg Cagle

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra), and enjoy time with family and friends.
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2 Responses to A Bari Sax can *Never* be too LOUD?

  1. Tina says:

    I played bari under Roy Cummings in UW Jazz I in the 90’s. He was of the same philosophy. He told me on more than one occasion, to play as load as possible – that he’d let me know if I was ever too loud. It took many, many months of ‘blaring’ as loud as I could on my bari parts to stop getting the ‘scowl’ from Roy with comments about still not being loud enough. He always asked for more, of course, but at least it was without ‘the scowl’.

    Love the video with Greg – awesome sound!

    PS – I also studied under Greg Metcalf in HS. A former Kenton Bari player. But at that point, I was playing tenor.

  2. Gandalfe says:

    I vacillate between thinking the lead alto and the bari sax are the most important instruments in the front row. I might go with a less talented 2d alto or tenor, but my bari, lead alto, and solo tenor have to have chops for me to be happy with the front row.

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