National Saxophone Day is celebrated annually on November 6, the birthday of British instrument maker, Adolphe Sax who was the inventor of the saxophone, one of the main instruments in jazz music. Absolutely no idea who started this particular day, but it’s all about relaxing and listening to some good jazz music, so who really cares.
I attempted to doodlewash a saxophone and realized that this is a ridiculously complex object. While I can marvel at the complexity as a casual viewer, as a doodlewasher, I wanted to throw down my brush and run screaming into the street. So apologies to Adolphe, but I simplified his contraption somewhat. If anyone actually plays the sax, please don’t judge or attempt to play this one. It’s missing a few key elements and is, after all, only an illustration.
Jazz has always been a big part of the history of my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Jazz greats like Count Basie were discovered while playing here and a saxophone player named Charlie “Bird” Parker began his path to stardom right here as well. Hope wherever he is, he’s celebrating his day today.
While I enjoy some jazz music, I wouldn’t be what you would call a fan. But it’s nice to have in the background, as I do right now while writing this. It is strangely relaxing even though currently someone is having an epileptic seizure while playing a piano. Wait, it looks like that has passed and they are now back to something that sounds like a melody.
I think jazz is a lot like abstract art to me. I appreciate it tremendously, but it’s not something I myself have figured out how to participate in. Oh wait, the pianist has really lost themselves now and I’m not sure if they’re going to make it. Ah, that was just a finale, sort of like the musical equivalent of a fireworks display. Jazz often confuses me.
When I was a kid I had one of those Casio keyboards that you could press a button and it would start playing a tinny version of a be-bop or swing sound so you could play along. I tried to make up something to play along with it, but would get frustrated and return to Chopsticks, a stupidly simple song that is often the first and last anyone every learns to play on piano.
Eventually I did move to a real piano and learned to come up with songs of my own, but they all had melodies. I was never able to jam and create a “sound” as I always wanted to create a song, something that told a story everyone could easily understand. Not debate the meaning of later over cigarettes and whiskey.
And yet as the music plays in the background, I’m captured by the sound. This one is calmer and brings up memories that I can’t quite hold onto, but I’m glad to know they’re still there. But I’ll always be more drawn to jazz artists who sing songs that tell stories like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald . I don’t mind if the piano player wants to go crazy then, as long as Ella comes back to explain things.
But it’s Saxophone Day, so grab a bottle of wine (not required, but seemed like a good addition) and turn on the sax. Anything you like! I have to say I prefer the oldies vs. Kenny G, though I guess he’s old now too, and likely still getting mistaken for “Weird Al” Yankovic. But the beauty of jazz is that you don’t have to understand it to enjoy it. So play the music and let your mind wander. You never quite know where that saxophone will take you next.