05 May Michael Segell

“For me, it was a thunderbolt, a lightning strike that instantly and permanently rearranged my brain chemistry. Not long before I met Branford, a friend of mine, Ortley, strapped his Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone around my neck and showed me where to rest my fingers and how to form my embouchure – the recruitment of several dozen facial muscles that support the lips, tongue and teeth around the mouthpiece. I took a long breath and blew. the horn responded with a rich, resonant, low E-flat. I blew again, extending the size of the note – my first long tone – and my whole body seemed to shape-shift into a musical instrument, my cells breaking down into their component atoms and gluons and reconstructing themselves with a unified mission: to produce a perfect tone. I noodled for another five minutes, found a simple three-note melody, and repeated it, now convinced that some long-dormant past-life musicianship had been unshackled.

Since that first long tone, I’ve been in the throes of an infatuation that grows deeper day by day. The object of the only obsession that has exceeded this one is now the mother of my children. Perhaps you’ve experienced the feeling: there’s a primitive recognition, it’s all so deeply familiar. i know you, this is not new, we go way back.

In the two years since my conversion, I’ve come a long way toward understanding why Adolphe Sax’s extraordinary creation, the most recent important musical instrument to have been invented, was so quickly embraced by the world, why millions of players and listeners have so willingly submitted to its spell – and why so many others, frightened by its diabolical charm, have tried to suppress it. After an innocent first kiss – a perfect long tone, say – its mysterious energy envelops and overwhelms you.”