Bristol has a strong contingent of alto saxophonists who play locally on a regular basis as well as touring further afield. Perhaps of the most well known are the two James's. James Morton was spotted by tenor player Andy Sheppard and further mentored by one of James Brown's horn section, Pee Wee Ellis. The links here are clear in Morton's saxophone
' target='_blank'>alto saxophone playing with many elements of fellow JB superstar Maceo Parker audible in his playing style. James Morton's alto saxophone has featured on recordings by artists such as The Herbaliser, Raphael Saadiq and Pendulum and has been described as firebrand sax playing.
James Gardiner-Bateman studied alto saxophone as a young boy in Manchester and returned to Bristol, rising to fame as the horn player in local African band, Helele. Now studying jazz at The Royal Academy, his alto saxophone playing is fast reaching a world standard level, and he has appeared with many famous artists including Jason Rubello, Will Vinson, and Dennis Rollins. Recently James has begun promoting, bringing well known top-draw acts to local venue, The Coronation Tap. This has provided the chance for Bristolians to hear his alto saxophone playing at its very best, supported by the finest musicians.
A less well known Bristol alto saxophonist, still worthy of a mention, is Kevin Figes. Defying the status quo for professional musicians, Figes did not begin learning until the age of 22. However it didn't take long for him to get up to speed and he was soon playing in Keith Tippett's Seedbed Orchestra. In addition to alto saxophone, Keith also plays baritone saxophone and flute. He has released several albums and tourned both in the UK and internationally.
The alto saxophone is a starting point for many players, owed in part to its size being easy to handle and also its relative cheapness compared to the larger tenor and baritone saxophones. Many players move on to study the tenor however for those willing to be patient, there are many rewards to be earned from mastering the alto saxophone. In particular the instrument has a rich altissimo tonal palette. It takes much practice to develop the control in embouchure and diaphragm required to play these notes. Perhaps counter intuitively, it actually helps to practice long tones at the bottom range of the saxophone in order to acquire the fitness needed to blow the altissimo register.
Young upcoming alto saxophonists in Bristol include Sophie Stockham, who plays with Dakhla, and Andrew Neil Hayes who features in a number of local outfits including Edenheight and Ruckus Collective. They continue Bristol's tradition for producing top quality musicians.
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