Joe Lovano and Tim Price Share Musical Wisdom and Talk Straight Tenors

(Left: Tim Price, Middle: Roberto Romeo, Right: Joe Lovano)

Introduction

Since reviewing the Sax Dakota Straight tenor and alto saxophones (Sax Dakota Straights) about a year ago, I recently read a press release that Joe Lovano, after 10 years of playing his L.A. Sax straight tenor and alto met up with Peter LaPlaca (Owner of Sax Dakota), Tim Price and Roberto at Roberto’s Woodwinds in N.Y.C to test play the new and updated Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophones.

After just a few hours going back and forth play testing between the L.A. Sax and the Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophones, Joe decided to trade in his original L.A. Sax straight saxophones and pick up the Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophone. I am fortunate enough today that Joe Lovano and Tim Price (saxophonist & educator) have agreed to an interview to discuss their thoughts on the Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto saxophone as well as share some advice around areas to focus on if you want to become a better musician musically as well as professionally.

LOVANO SAX DAKOTA PRESS RELEASE

Q: What do you find is different about being a musician today than it was years ago?

Tim Price: When I was growing up, I was interested in many different instruments that were played around the world but relied on records and live shows. Today, you can go to YouTube and listen to musicians who play the Nadaswaram for instance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qy8zxmhLrAo) and find these players and a sound that I never would have had access to until years later. Listening was imperative as Joe and I were growing up as players and still is today. Those local artists that we grew up with in our local town were the bridges towards major artists such as John Coltrane and Jimmy Heath and this was imperative to helping me grow as a musician.

Joe Lovano: I completely agree with what Tim said with local artists being the bridge to major artists. For example, master Don Byas, Johnny Griffin was a bridge to Don Byas and Griffin is a master himself. A lot of local cats  were bridges to the major players. My dad was a great player in the Cleveland area but never had a big career or went to New York City but he played at a jam session with John Coltrane. My dad was a bridge for not just me but for other players in the Cleveland area. Today there is a larger library with more sounds and spirits. There is more to listen to than previous years of players on every instrument. When listening becomes part of your approach, you start to deal with how you are playing and playing with other musicians. It is all about ideas and your journey in music, is going to be different depending on who you listen to, who you play with, and who you encounter. When people start listening to you, you go back into the woodshed to define your concept of music. An instrument I have been checking out is the Tárogató which is a Hungarian folk instrument in the soprano range (Bb) but put together like a clarinet with open holes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIwPmgd0Hvs).

Q: What exercises have you been working on recently and why?

JL: I have been working on spontaneous harmonic structures and how keys relate to each other. Putting ideas together in all keys and how these keys relate to each other and how you can create harmony with melody and apply a rhythmic approach. Coming from the roots of music (Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker) I apply these principals or fundamental to every music I approach. These ideas are always swirling when I am playing with different groups. Put pieces of music together that have a spiritual quality to them. I am working to express my personal feelings, and have only scratched the surface.

TP: People transcribe a solo and I have done a lot of transcriptions myself as well as work on transcribing with my students. The biggest thing after transcribing that many players miss is to pay attention to the phrasing and all the different dynamics. When I practice, I pay attention to the dynamics. I listen to a person’s shape and understand how they shape a phrase especially from such players as Coleman Hawkins to Dexter Gordon to Joe Henderson etc.

Q: How did Joe and you meet?

TP: I have known Joe since the 70’s when we were both studying at Berklee. I don’t remember why we were waiting in line but that day, Joe came up to me and said, “did you hear that Schizophrenia record by Wayne Shorter and there is no trumpet there.” From that point on, we talked for months and did not know each other’s names.

JL: I met Tim my first semester and many of the musicians I met at Berklee, we still play together and all moved to New York City in the mid 70’s.

Q: As you look at some young saxophonist today who are staying active in the music scene, what qualities do they embody which you think has made them successful?

JL: Today, it’s harder for young cats on the scene to be heard and develop a reputation. There are no big record producers like Blue Note for jazz musicians as there used to be. I was fortunate enough to make my own records but had the record company behind me and promoting me as an artist. I feel a lot of young players have an opportunity to get themselves out there but many are spending a lot of time on the computer rather than heading back to the woodshed and getting things together. A lot of amazing players that play great but sound terrible at the same time. I really want young players to take their time and realize that things don’t happen overnight. Players need to focus on who they are listening to, where that player came from, and how old they were on that recording. I address these issues a lot during my master classes. Coming up through the ranks and playing with a lot of different musicians is important and Mark Turner and Chris Potter are great examples of this because they played with a lot of different folks.

TP: There are some of these players that sound great on YouTube but in a club, it’s a different story. The only way you can grow is playing with various musicians and creating music for yourself. You can stick to just online playing and video’s but you will miss out on the organic growth factor. Music is changing and playing with people and creating situations together is how you will develop or create a congregation of folks that want to listen to what you are doing musically.

Q: What concepts did you practice to help you become the musician you are today?

JL: The more you play, the more you will say. You need to listen to yourself and listen to your inner idea’s to realize the range of your sound. You need to embrace and try to express your whole feeling and how you can play your horn. Focus on how you play a note instead of just focusing on what you play. Playing in Duet sessions is very important. When you start playing together you begin to create a dialogue. When you play a tune like “All The Things You Are,” remember to not just play the tune but also play the title.

TP: How you approach a note. Do not treat it like an exercise. Practice with people where you can feel where it is naturally and where you are struggling. I practiced with a lot of drummers and you will find the area’s you need to work on. Listen to an artist you like and how they play with different musicians.

Q: Many of us know, practicing is going to provide the greatest results in improvement in sound, technique, rhythm, etc. Do you believe there is a piece of equipment today that many musicians overlook?

JL: Vintage horns hold up better. I try to help Borgani make a horn with the right springs, rods, and certain metals. I appreciate the different chambers and tip openings on mouthpieces today, the various rings on some neck-straps is important because it vibrates differently. I find the angle of the saxophone neck more and more will affect how you play into the horn which is something I have experimented more by playing on Kim Bock’s necks which are great.

TP: Today there is a different palate for all times of equipment. The idea in terms of how the mouthpieces are being made today by quality mouthpiece makers is great. Mouthpieces seem to project better today than back when Joe and I were growing up.

Q: Why did you decide to make the switch from your current L.A. Straight Alto and Tenor Saxophone and what do you like most about the straight model saxophones?

JL: Rahsaan Roland Kirk had a bunch of straight saxophones and I listened to him as a teen. In the mid 1990’s, I hooked up with Pete at L.A. Sax who was making these straight saxophones. I played the straight tenor on my record Celebrating Sinatra (Celebrating Sinatra), a duet recording with Flying colors (straight tenor), and played straight alto on my album called “Trio Fascination”. The sound had a whole different flowing quality and speed of air affected what you got out of the horn. The power of your breath and the speed of the air in which you play and phrase. I focused on how to play through different saxophones and to develop a sound is about your free flowing approach.

In Cleveland, I recently stopped at the repair shop, Academy Music, and Tom Ianni who is the main guy, was talking about straight saxophones. Tom hooked me up with Sal Cardello who works with Pete, and I just called Pete and got reacquainted.

Pete mentioned his new straight Sax Dakota alto and tenor saxophones and wanted me to check them out. I had rehearsal at Michiko Studios at Roberto’s Winds in N.Y.C to rehearse for Saxophone Summit. I co-lead this group with Dave Liebman. It worked out that Pete sent the horns to Roberto’s and we met up. The horns have a different tightness to play. Francois Louis mouthpiece silver model on the straight tenor (same model as the one that Bob Berg played on). When playing the straight tenor and alto saxophone, the room the way you mic these instruments gives it a real different quality and you can hear difference.

TP: I found the Sax Dakota straight tenor and alto compared to other straight tenor and alto saxophones to be a much more modern vehicle for the straight tenor and alto situation. Some changes to the tubing made it have a much more resonant sound. The Rods are anchored better than the older model specifically when it comes to the tenor. The sound on both is very sweet and powerful and I find on the alto the upper register has a real sweetness to it. The tonal center on both horns are easier to achieve and become accustom to with the tonal center being right there when you play it.

Equipment

JL:

Saxophone(s): Mid 1990’s Borgani, two Selmer balanced actions 35,xxx (main horns). Borgani’s since 99, Conn Chu-Berry’s and Buescher tenor’s to name a few.

Mouthpiece(s): Originally a 10 Link* 1975-1985 and then switched to Francois Louis mouthpieces. Wooden and Silver model (Bob Berg and Ronnie Cuber played this one).

Ligature: Francois Louis or Flexitone Ligatures

Necks: KB Saxophone Necks (hand-hammered copper necks)

Reed: Alexander Superial and N.Y. cut. Reed strength from 3 to 4+.

TP:

Saxophone(s): Selmer Saxophones & Sax Dakota Straight Tenor and Alto saxophone

Mouthpiece(s): Fred Lamberson saxophone mouthpieces. On straight tenor specifically a Fred Lamberson custom 8dd mouthpiece.

Ligature(s): SaxWorks Ligatures

Reed(s): D’Addario Woodwind Reeds