Putting the Saxophone Together

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 30,416
    Expert Sax player Seth Kibel demonstrates how to assemble your saxophone.

    Seth Kibel

    Seth Kibel is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's premier saxophonists. His latest release, on Azalea City Recordings, is "The Great Pretender." On his first solo album, The Great Pretender, tenor saxophonist Seth Kibel brings his raucous, blues-drenched sound to 10 songs with support from some of the most skilled artists in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. Adding their talents to two of Seth’s original tunes and eight of his creative arrangements are European blues star Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges, boogie-woogie pianist Daryl Davis, blues diva Melanie Mason, D.C. guitar legend Dave Chappell, jazz pianist Sean Lane, rocker Billy Coulter, dobro-ist Dave Giegerich, bassist Sam Goodall, and drummers Mark Lucas and Joe Wells. The covers include dramatic re-interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Duke Ellington and The Kinks. '

    The album’s blues and roots rock sounds represent a new approach for the versatile performer and composer, known for his jazz and klezmer music and his leadership of the award-winning “alternative klezmer” band The Alexandria Kleztet. Seth has won 11 Washington Area Music Association Awards (Wammies) including Best Jazz Instrumentalist and Best World Music Instrumentalist.

    Seth began his career as a full-time professional musician in 1996, when he moved to the Washington/Baltimore area following his graduation from Cornell University with a double major in Music and American Studies. Since that time, he has been in demand as a sideman and as a bandleader performing in such diverse genres as jazz, rock, blues, swing, klezmer, dixieland, and classical music.

    Seth began his professional klezmer career in 1993 with Cayuga Klezmer Revival, upstate New York’s premier klezmer band. Their CD, Klezmology, is still sold nationally. Seth is currently the leader, clarinetist, and composer for The Alexandria Kleztet, an “alternative” klezmer band he founded in the Baltimore/Washington area. The band’s three albums, Y2Klezmer (1999), Delusions of Klezmer (2002), and Close Enough for Klezmer (2005) are all available internationally. All three albums received the Washington Area Music Association’s (WAMA) award for Best World Music Recording following their release. The Alexandria Kleztet was named "Best World Music Duo or Group" by WAMA for 2003, 2004, and 2006. Seth also received individual awards for "Best World Music Instrumentalist" in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, and was named "Best Jazz Instrumentalist" for 2005.

    In addition to his activities with the Kleztet, Seth has fronted a variety of swing and jazz groups, including Corner Pocket, Air Mail Special, The Bay Jazz Project, and Seth Kibel’s Dixieland All-Stars. In 2002, he was commissioned to write, perform, and record an original score for Dreams in the Golden Country, an original theatrical production at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. In January 2004, he released his first jazz CD, a joint album with violinist Susan Jones entitled Nuts and Bolts. And in late 2004, he produced A Chanukah Feast, an album for the DC-based charity Hungry for Music featuring both regional and national artists. In 2005, he was the recipient of an "ASCAPlus" grant, as well as a Silver Prize (2nd place) winner in the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, in the "jazz/blues/instrumental" division. In summer 2007, he released The Great Pretender, his first solo record for Azalea City Recordings. On the album, Seth brings his raucous, blues-drenched sound to 10 songs with support from some of the most skilled artists in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. Seth has performed with such notables as Sam Moore (Sam & Dave), Percy Sledge, The Coasters, and Johnnie Johnson. Additionally, he has appeared with many notable groups in the Baltimore/Washington area, including The Daryl Davis Band, Project Natale, Christian Josi, The Tom Cunningham Orchestra, The VanDangos, and The Hot Kugel Klezmer Band, just to name a few. He has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Carter Barron Amphitheatre, the Lowell Folk Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts, as well as on several European tours.

    Seth can be heard on recent CD releases by the Skyla Burrell Blues Band, the Swing States Road Show, folksinger John Simon, The Civil Air Patrol Band, American Song, The Hot Kugel Klezmer Band, guitarist David Kitchen, boogie-woogie pianist Daryl Davis, blues guitarist Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges, jazz vocalist Esther Haynes, and flamenco guitarist Gerard Moreno. Since 2002, he has been on the faculty of the ElderHostel program at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. He has also lectured extensively on klezmer, jazz, swing, the big band era, and other related musical topics at Peabody, Goucher College, and elsewhere.

    Seth's primary instruments are the clarinet, saxophone (alto, tenor, and baritone), and flute. He has, however, been known to make some noise on harmonica, recorder, guitar, piano, and accordion. In his eight years as a professional musician, Seth has performed for numerous private affairs, such as receptions, weddings, and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, all across the country. Whatever your affair, Seth will work with you to put together the right ensemble. References available upon request.

    Putting your saxophone together- The first step in putting together your saxophone is to take out your reed. Now, I am going to talk a lot more about reeds later but for now, suffice it to say is that the reed is the most important part of the saxophone; it is what makes the sound. You could go and get a blade of grass and put it between your fingers and make a buzzing sound. Now, well, if you had, you should go to that. The basic principle on which the saxophone operates it is the reed that makes the sound vibrating against the mouthpiece. Now, in order for it to vibrate, it has got to be wet. So, your first step in putting a saxophone together is to put the reed in your mouth and start moistening it up. I like to keep the reed in my mouth while I am putting together the saxophone. That way, when I am ready for it, it will be nice and wet. Of course, I am trying to talk to you, so I am not going to do that right now, but imagine, if you will; this entire time I have the reed in my mouth piece, getting nice and moist. Alright, I put the reed aside. Next thing that I want to do is to get the saxophone strap, put it around your neck. Again, we will talk more about this later but you want it to be ready. Pick up the main body of the saxophone and hook the saxophone strap right into that little doohickey right there. Make sure it is nice and secure, there are a lots of different sax straps but you want to make sure yours is hooked up in a way that you are not going to risk dropping your saxophone. Next, you take the neck of the saxophone. There is a bit of cork on the end of the neck. You got to make sure this cork does not get too dry because if it gets really dry, it will start to flake and crack which can be an expensive and annoying repair. So, if it is a little dry, take a little cork grease; smear it on there and mush it around with your fingers. You would not have to do that every time but once every week or every two weeks, you will probably going to have put some cork grease on there to keep it from drying out. Next, you take the mouthpiece and wiggle it on to the neck. You want the flat part of the mouthpiece to be facing the open hole on the bottom of the neck. Next, this is the most difficult part; we take that reed that again, has been in your mouth this whole time getting nice and moist, like that and you need to slip it into the mouthpiece under the ligature. Now, this is a difficult operation. This black thing, this is called the ligature; that is what holds the reed into place. So, we want to loosen it up. Different ligatures look different. Some have two screws, some have one. This just has one screw. Loosen it up and try to slip the reed in just so. Now, before tightening the ligature backup again, we want to move the reed around so that it aligns up perfectly with the tip of the mouthpiece. We want to make sure it is centered on the mouthpiece and as the tip of the mouthpiece aligns up with the tip of the reed. When we think, we have got into the good spot; we tighten the ligature pretty hard because we do not want that reed moving around there. Now, again, I will talk a little bit more about reeds later but for now, I do want to warn you, never touch the tip of the reed. You can touch the reed everywhere else but not on tip; very fragile. When you have got it all tightened up, you can put the neck into the body of the saxophone. Most saxophones have a neck screw as well. You can tighten that up and you are ready to play.