An Irrational Fear of Single-Reeded Brass Instruments

Although, really, isn’t any fear of that particular thing completely warranted?

Our plans for Friday evening fell through, which opened up our calendars to attend a concert I’d been sorry to miss: Saxophobia. To quote the University’s promo materials for the concert:

Saxophobia brings to the stage a “Who’s Who” of sax gone wild. Artistic director Rob Verdi has accrued an impressive collection of rare saxophones (even an original 1880 Adolphe tenor sax) and offers an exciting musical celebration for audiences around the world. Saxophobia traces the history of the saxophone through words, music and humor while paying tribute to the great jazz legends who popularized the instrument and contributed to the development of America’s indigenous art form. Highly enlightening as well as thoroughly entertaining, Saxophobia is a unique opportunity to listen to some of the most unusual saxophones ever made, along with the classic melodies associated with each extraordinary instrument.

Verdi is an ASU graduate, a former junior high band teacher, and currently a performer at Disneyland. He travels to perform and teach clinics about saxophones, specifically his impressive and sometimes amusing collection of saxophones.

The thing that caught my eye initially was the fact that he toured with a contrabass saxophone. If you’re a band person, you know that the usual lineup of saxophones includes alto, tenor, baritone, and sometimes soprano. Bass saxophones are rare. Even more rare is the contrabass saxophone, an evolutionary misstep if there ever was one in the musical kingdom. They’re six and a half feet tall, which makes them instantly qualified to play on many college basketball teams.

I completely failed to keep a straight face while listening to Verdi play it. Well – not completely. I did okay until he hit the lowest notes. Then I giggled.

I also giggled when he played the slide saxophone, another woodwindy error in evolution. It’s a saxophone without any keys. So rare that GIS utterly fails to uncover any images thereof. I’ve been trying for a few minutes, but I just can’t come up with any words to describe the sheer awesomeness of “Mood Indigo” performed on slide saxophone. You’ll just have to hear it for yourself, which will involve a well-worth-it $1 investment.

Loved the 1950s-era plastic sax, the bizarrely beautiful Conn-o-sax, and hearing a pro play a C-melody. But my favorite had to be the curved sopranino saxophone (seen here being played by some other dude), which looked like a toy in his hands and melted my gooey little band nerd heart. I’ve got a new goal in life, and it’s to own a curved sopranino. So practical!

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend that you check them out if you like saxes, music history, a fun performance, or beautiful jazz.

2 thoughts on “An Irrational Fear of Single-Reeded Brass Instruments

  1. I’m reasonably certain I’ve seen him come to homecoming, on a couple of occasions

    In fact, after googling a picture, I’m absolutely certain I’ve run into him at homecoming a time or three

    …along with his fellow alumni Side Street Strutter, the tap dancing trumpet player.

    ASU. Designated foster home for unusual musical carnies everywhere, which makes me wonder what would have happened had I actually been there for a music degree 🙂

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