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A couple years ago, I was on the verge of buying a baritone sax. Then, unexpectedly my sister wanted to know if I wanted my grandfather's fiddle. I got it from my grandfather's estate back in 1970, had a shop fix it up, then she played it in JH orchestra rather unsuccessfully, then held onto it ever since. I got over feeling burned that she had it, mostly forgot she had it. I was eager to get it back when she offered.
It was built by my grandfather's brother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1928. The old wood sounds pretty good but the action is a little high. I was able to figure out some scales. Thought to myself at the time how ingenious it is to have stings tuned a fifth a part. I started taking lessons locally and really progressed. I was a pleasant surprise to my teacher because in contrast to most of his students, I am an adult, a willing student, and already a musician.
Then fate struck. One day I was passing through the music store to my fiddle lesson, and I was pulled off course as if by a powerful force field to a tenor sax offered on consignment. $500! A little scratched up on the back as if something had been rattling around in the case for a while, but all the keys seemed to work. The front and bell looked fine. Thought about it all night, so next day I rushed back to the store and bought it.
After working so hard on fiddle and piano (my wife has me taking piano lessons too), I'm amazed that after thirty, maybe forty, years of ignoring the sax, (have an alto), I can still play so effortlessly. Like a duck to water. It's like a native tongue to me, I suppose. Just had to adjust to playing in B flat.There's so little space between what I want to hear and what I play, while with the fiddle I'm just getting to where I can play by ear. I played flute and whistle more recently than sax so that's helped retain some skills.
I'm also amazed that there's so little overlap in repertoire, bands, friends, and acquaintances between sax and fiddle. It's two different worlds. Sometimes when I'm at Old Time Fiddler events, I look around and it's so white I could be a Klan rally. With the recent loss of Joe Thompson, rural black fiddling is almost lost. The late Gatemouth Brown wanted to fiddle more than his management let him. The other significant exception to the color divide is the late Papa John Creach.
Sure, there's violin jazz like Reinhardt and Grapelli, but that doesn't really overlap the sax repertoire. Besides, I can't touch that yet on the fiddle. Some of that stuff Grisman plays you can almost image a fiddle and sax both on the same song.
I took the new sax to a local jazz jam and belted out "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" to the amazement of the locals who have only seen me carrying a fiddle case around to my lessons. The band and the crowd were a mix of white, black, and Chinese. Then someone called "Fly me to the Moon", and I was thinking, "I've played that on the fiddle. Would I dare get up? Didn't bring it so I'm off the hook".
The saxophone is more of a problem for maintaining domestic bliss. One evening I was trying to learn the horn parts of some old Afrobeat songs (https://discussions.apple.com/message/19714049#19714049). I had the iPad output going through Airport to the house speakers, but at 9:30 Norma started yelling, "Enough, enough, I won't be able to calm down now to go to sleep! How often is this going to be happening? Am I going to have to get ear plugs?" I was planning to stop at 9:30. Maybe I should use headphones instead of Airport. With the fiddle I can use a heavy metal mute, and no one hears me in the next room. There are sax mutes but they're big expensive fiberglass things that enclose the whole horn.
The tenor sax was my back-up when I started violin. I did not own a tenor sax, it was just my "go-to" if I messed up on the violin.
After many years I realize that I still have a passion for the sax. A few bars of Stan Getz doing Bossa Nova and I'm mush. But I really don't think of the violin and sax as competitors. Each do different things better.
So I wonder if the tenor sax of my dreams (metallic blue) is still hanging on the wall at Sam Ash with my name on it.
On the other hand, I am now suffering a brutal thrashing trying to learn violin 5th position. (Does the sax play by itself?)
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
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