Vha Fha Vha vs. Pinched Whiny Nasal

I’m prejudiced against the smaller saxophones. Compared to the tenor sax, the smaller version just do not live up to the expectation. Let me show you what I mean.

Here is my friend Monty Sanders illustrating the beautiful warmth and tone of the jazz tenor sax:

Show Me Your Ways from The Brooks Brothers Quintet, Almost Live

And here is a clip of an alto sax. Now, so you don’t think I’m stacking the deck here, I’ve chosen one of the premiere alto saxophonists of our generation, playing very recently under very good recording circumstances (tv studio). Can you hear the pinched, nasal whine of this instrument? It is not at all like the “Vha Fha Vha” sexy sound of the tenor sax!

David Sanborn

Next, we have the ever popular curved soprano sax. One of the best tones and players out there is a guy named Dave Koz. His tone is not necessarily brash or harsh, but after a short time of hearing this sound, my ears feel fatigued. Do yours?

But by far the worst offender is the Kenny G “straight soprano” sound. It’s tone is an ice pick in my eardrum. I never want to hear this sound ever again.

What do you think?

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4 Comments on “Vha Fha Vha vs. Pinched Whiny Nasal”

  1. Tyrannasaurus Retz Says:

    I see a flaw with your comparison. Monty’s play is low and slow, the others are upbeat and fast. Of course his is going to sound sexier than the others. He’s playing Marvin Gaye and the rest are playing Britanny Spears…#truthbomb

    BTW – It’s fun to play them all at the same time, and mix your own Sax-party. I paused the most annoying ones one at a time (from worst to first) and was left with Monty’s, but….I still don’t think it was a fair comparison.

  2. John C Says:

    Well, Koz and Sanborn have two of the brighter sounds on alto and soprano. And of course, Kenny G is Kenny G. (a lot has to do with how he mics his horn – bell only – he’d get a warmer sound micing it over the keys and the bell, like Wayne Shorter or Eric Marienthal do (as do I!) But he certainly has a bright sound to begin with. Tenor is certainly the darker horn and timbre, much like male voice is always going to be different than soprano or alto voice. But I think if you compare alto sounds such as Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges, Marshall Royal, or Wayne Shorter on soprano, you’ll find lots of “vah-vah” – but still not as dark as “vah-vah” tenor! (or as I prefer to call it “foo-foo-foo” tenor!)

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