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As in last year's Top Brass, Bob Bernotas brings us both the big names and relative newcomers, all with fascinating stories and perspectives. Compiled from articles which appeared throughout the '90's in Saxophone Journal, Wind Player and Jazz Player, this book includes 9 profiles, 17 interviews and l6 "master classes". Most of the 36 artists are saxophonists, but another eight are clarinetists, bass clarinetists or flutists. One has even invented a bamboo sax! For history you certainly can't beat (then 96 year old) Benny Waters, Frank Foster, Jerome Richardson, James Moody or George Coleman (who started as B.B. King's alto player in 1952!).
Some controversial opinions are advanced: that many North American musicians approach Latin music superficially, that you don't have to go to school to play jazz, that equipment doesn't matter ("Your sound comes from inside"). You'll also hear some of these artists' perspectives on chronic problems in jazz: the highly respected veteran performer without a record label, lack of music in the schools and the absence of support for great music. The Master Classes section addresses some very specific skills (e.g. doubling, multiphonics, flute articulation) and equipment (reeds, ligatures), but also offers broader topics such as Rene McLean's "Developing Your Musical Personality" and Steve Slagle's "Developing a Strong Sense of Time".
As in his previous book, Top Brass, Bernotas' questions reflect an impressive understanding of the artists, their sounds and approaches and musical trends within and beyond jazz. Finally, Bernotas has satisfied one of my pet peeves by including a thorough index of all the people named in the book.
Reed All About It: Interviews and Master Classes with Jazz's Leading Reed Players Bob Bernotas Boptism Music Publishing (2002) 324 pages ISBN: 0972618503