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Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: Jazz Aphorisms

Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: Jazz Aphorisms
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For artists who express themselves in a non-verbal medium, jazz instrumentalists have come up with a bundle of choice aphorisms.

Here are four attributed to, or about, tenor saxophonists, which were coined too late for inclusion in Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff's Hear Me Talkin' to Ya (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1955).

If you feel like sharing some favorites of your own, you can post in the comment box below.

Frank Foster

One afternoon in the early 1970s, Frank Foster
Frank Foster
Frank Foster
1928 - 2011
saxophone
was directing an outreach performance in a Harlem street with the Jazzmobile program. All welcome. Foster called for a blues in B flat. An aspiring tenor player, with more enthusiasm than musicality, launched into a wild "energy" solo in no discernible key, let alone B flat, swamping everyone else onstage.

Foster stopped playing. "What are you doing?" he asked.

"Just playing what I feel."

"Well, feel something in B flat, motherfucker," said Foster.

Coleman Hawkins

At another jam session, sometime in the 1960s, another young saxophonist found himself onstage with Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
. He acquitted himself pretty well.

Later, a friend asked how it had felt.

"It was OK, but Hawkins scared the shit out of me."

"Coleman Hawkins is meant to scare the shit out of you," said the friend.

Ronnie Scott

One evening in London around 1950, pioneering British bopper Ronnie Scott
Ronnie Scott
Ronnie Scott
1927 - 1996
sax, tenor
was earning a crust in a strict tempo dance band, possibly the one led by Bert Ambrose
Bert Ambrose
b.1896
. In the middle of some typically mickey mouse arrangement, Scott launched into fierce bop solo.

"What's he doing?" asked Ambrose (if it was he) of the alto player sitting next to Scott.

"Shhh!" came the reply. "Ronnie's got the message."

"Give him a message from me," said Ambrose: "he's fired."

John Coltrane

Sometime around 1957, trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
(pictured above) became exasperated by the multi-chorus solos which were becoming the norm for his saxophonist, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
. Davis thought a less is more approach would be preferable, and asked Coltrane why he couldn't exercise some restraint.

"Once I've got going," said Coltrane, "I don't know how to stop."

"Try taking the horn out of your mouth," said Davis.

Photo Credit

Courtesy Columbia Records

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