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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Style Over Technical Facility

Andrew Hitz

Kenny G is an amazing saxophone player and I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever.  As a saxophone operator he is very accomplished.  But for my taste, he does not push any stylistic boundaries and in terms of interpretation "plays it safe" on just about everything. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the singer/songwriter Tom Waits.  Every time I hear his music (even at midnight in a 7-11 in Tokyo once!) he makes me think about what I'm bringing to the table musically.  He gets me away from thinking about lip trills and towards thinking about storytelling.  It is no surprise that Rex Martin introduced me to the music of Tom Waits since there are few better storytellers on any instrument in the brass world.

If you primarily listen to people on your instrument with great technical facility but who don't push the boundaries of style and interpretation your playing will reflect that.

(This post was inspired by listening to the Tom Waits album 'Swordfishtrombones' on headphones at 30,000 feet)