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Saxophone Secrets
60 Performance Strategies for the Advanced Saxophonist

Tracy Lee Heavner

Scarecrow Press inc. 2013 £24:95 133 pp.

ISBN 978-0-8108-8465-6

Rowman and Littlefield Publishing, Plymouth, UK

Saxophone Secrets

The essence of the modernity of this handy small volume comes in secret item number 59: ‘Boarding Flights With a Saxophone’. I know of no other book which advises saxophonists to know the type and size of aircraft on which they will be travelling. One is told that: “Larger aircraft usually pose no problems for saxophonists choosing to carry on an instrument.” Even aircraft types are listed: Airbus A319, A320, A330, Boeing 737, 747, and so on. We are even told which types of smaller aircraft are best avoided by travelling saxophonists. Advice is given on selecting one’s seat, and about packing for travel. Biggest surprise comes in the specific advice given on how to board an aircraft. “The instrument should always be carried over the shoulder with a shoulder strap, or on the back using backpack straps, hiding as much of the case as possible [my italics]. Performers should never carry it by the handles at their side as this is easily seen.”  Clearly, Tracy Lee Heavner is a saxophonist with some air miles under his belt. Clear, too, is his belief that keeping your saxophone out of the sight of the cabin crew is a good idea!

The author teaches at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Guidance on matters of choice of mouthpiece and instrument is given, with acknowledgement of the hegemony of the Selmer Mark VI models, a trend which is now waning. To see a statement to the effect that ligature doesn’t affect tone was pleasing (if perhaps controversial), and interesting to see the author’s opinions concerning the effect of gold plating on tone. He says: “Saxophones finished in gold plating…will have the darkest tone with all other factors remaining equal.”

The use of Hydrogen Peroxide to revive old reeds is today almost a forgotten wrinkle, being an effective method used by old professionals to restore a favourite reed. Good to see it mentioned. I was disappointed to find little about the different embouchures favoured by jazz and straight players (most important), and surprised to see (on page 93) the incorrect melody for Mary Had A Little Lamb. What is written here is four bars from Merrily We Roll Along - a puzzling basic error.

However, these are minor critical carps about a most useful book, one which will be welcomed by all lively teachers.

John Robert Brown

Review first published in Jazz Journal. Used by kind permission, reproduction forbidden.

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