Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Recently my mind's been occupied with the thought of a peculiar dichotomy, the crucial choice between trumpet and saxophone. The question of allegiance to one of these instruments has consumed me but also opened up virgin space in my thoughts and I'm unable to hear either without it feeding back to the dichotomy. I guess this really stands for a broader brass/woodwind conflict, but this is neater and has greater symbolic value. I'm hoping for insight from somewhere within these newly boosted ranks. Can I get a hell yeah? This is definitely a fake dichotomy, can I get a hell yeah anyway?

As I gradually got used to working with this notion, I came to respect the balance between the two but was soon ready to declare myself for trumpets everywhere. A saxophone was personal and had a distinct power, beauty and truth, but, fuck, a trumpet was bigger, united, it spoke as a we, it was the sound of crowds, of parties, it had a martial, Iberian sound. A saxophone was for conversation but a trumpet was for action, for yes-saying and solidarity. The trumpet blowing means reinforcements; its the sound of the cavalry.

Saxophones, thinking uncharitably using an older Duncanian binary opposition, are at bottom emo. For an enterprising modern romantic, they offer an unlimited scope for whining. Jan Garbarek whined back at a more collected past through the Hilliard Ensemble. Kaoru Abe whined at every other 20th century soul unlucky enough to be alive by blowing it out with the traffic from a motorway bridge. Whine against whichever form of the man best crystallizes your alienation.

But trumpets are totally rock. Young Jeezy knows a trumpet can carry even the most heavyweight voice. The Goldeneye Facility sound! That cold and sinister muffled trumpet, the perfect fucking sound for post-Cold War Russia, the sleeping dragon. Increasingly there's a lot of trumpets in rap that come from outside the jazz idiom, and your mom and I bet computer games have something to do with that. I'm wondering if jazz trumpet fucks up this picture as its sound went from danceable to conversational. Miles Davis had one of the iciest sounds going, but a different kind of cold, the sound of the arsehole-older-brother (Ro yr saying that's copyright now?). Definitely less emo than someone contemplating their humanity on the edge of the abyss though. So come on, if any of you shitheels read this, where's yr allegiance?

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