Top of the Morning, March 19, 2014

Top of the Morning, March 19, 2014


With a record 1,300 saxophonists due in town Thursday, we better brush up on our favorite woodwind instrument. Coming to the rescue in advance of the North American Saxophone Alliance conference at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts: Chip McNeill, the Grammy-winning head of the UI’s jazz department, and conference co-host J. Michael Holmes, who were kind enough to answer our emails.

In the Instrument Top 25, where does the sax rank?

McNeill: Well, in terms of popularity with the general public in the last 100 years, I would say it follows closely behind the piano and guitar.

Holmes: That is easy: No. 1.

Kenny G is ...

McNeill: A saxophonist, pilot.

Holmes: Probably a very nice person.

Your favorite saxophonist is ...

McNeill: Anyone who studies and plays the instrument to a very high level.

Holmes: Well, my wife is a saxophonist as well, so I guess I have to say “my wife.”

Does Springstreen become famous without Clarence Clemons?

McNeill: Hard to say. Not familiar with Springsteen! lol

Holmes: Well, Springsteen is Springsteen, so yes; but having a saxophonist only makes him better!”

What was performing alongside Frank Sinatra like?

McNeill: Wonderful, although it was only a few times in Miami years ago. He was still a true professional even at his advanced age. Just always loved his sense of swing and his phrasing of any lyric.

Learning to play the sax requires ...
McNeill: As with anything you want to do well, a lifetime and enjoyment of every minute you spend doing it. At timesit is the most frustrating of endeavors but hopefully most of the time it is the happiest time of your life!

What happens when 1,000 saxophonists get together for a weekend?

Holmes: We have a great time surrounded by great music!


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