Saturday, September 04, 2021

The Lowest of the Low

A Josef Škvorecký novella set in wartime Czechoslovakia led me to this droll 1985 BBC documentary about the bass saxophone and its players, who seem a genial lot, comfortable with the humorous effect the instrument tends to have on people but also very much in earnest in their devotion to it. Škvorecký himself appears as one of the interviewees.

One of the masters of the bass saxophone was the multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Adrian Rollini (1903-1956), who can be heard below leading a lively combo that includes a young Buddy Rich.

Rollini largely abandoned the instrument in his later career. He opened a hotel in the Florida Keys and died in a hospital in ghastly circumstances, apparently after having run afoul of the mob. Ate van Delden's Adrian Rollini: The Life and Music of a Jazz Rambler is the definitive biography.


Michael Leddy said...

That was a tonic, or they both were. I was happy to see Spencer Clark mentioned -- he played in Joe Venuti’s 1970s Blue Four.

It would have taken the documentary into completely different territory, but AACM musicians made/make great use of the bass and (contrabass) saxes. I think of the Art Ensemble of Chicago stage setup, sometimes with two bass saxophones (and baritones, tenors, and more).

Chris said...

It seems like an instrument that would be adaptable to the avant-garde.