Welcome to the alto sax review section.
The alto sax is arguably the most popular sax on the planet. This isn't
so much to do with the fact that more people choose it over the other
horns in the range, but more perhaps that it's the smallest and cheapest
of the 'common' saxes - and can be handled with ease by the average teenager.
Even without that statistical advantage it remains one of the most popular
in Eb, the alto is capable of being more lyrical and plaintive than its
larger brother, the tenor - and is often the choice of what the average
heavy-metal fan would call a 'speed-freak'.
That's not to say that you can't play fast on a tenor - just that the
higher pitch and enhanced clarity lend the alto a little more definition
when the going gets frantic.
As always though, there are extremes, and you can hear both ends of the
spectrum by listening to Charlie Parker for the lyrical swiftness of the
horn, and Earl Bostik for the gutsy exuberance the alto is capable of.
Most players though tend to fit somewhere inbetween these two, and whilst
the alto can stand unashamedly on any jazz platform it seems to have carved
its very own niche in the soul/funk genre - where its combination of cut,
clarity and heart-wrenching soulfulness ( and the ability to ride over
the noise of half a dozen other musicians knocking seven bells out of
a variety of instruments ) make it the undisputed champion.
It's also made significant inroads into the world of pop - and many a
fine chart-topper has featured an alto sax solo ( such as Gerry Rafferty's
"Baker Street", Hazel O' Connor's "Will You" and Billy
Joel's "Don't Go Changing" ).
All that's not to say that the alto can't smooch it with the big boys
- whilst it lacks the sonority of the tenor it still oozes its own sinuous
sensuality and wistful, ethereal charm...a quality much used by Paul Desmond...and,
surprisingly, the scriptwriters for the "Carry On" series of
films ( just have a good listen every time the 'love interest' makes an
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