Episode #26

The role of the saxophone in the big band, the sax coolness factor, a bit of shop talk on the subject of doublings and the formative musical role models are the topics of the “Zurich Jazz Talk” with two of our saxophonists.

Reto Anneler is the lead alto saxophonist and Toni Bechtold plays the first tenor saxophone in the Zurich Jazz Orchestra. But the two are much more than saxophonists: nowadays doublings are in demand, from soprano saxophone to bass clarinet and piccolo. In fact, there are concerts where Reto Anneler and Toni Bechtold don’t even take their saxophones out of their suitcases because they play clarinet or flute instead.

When instrumentalists play a second instrument, this is called doubling. This is an old tradition that was already practiced in Bach’s time. In the 20th century there was a large market for woodwind doublers due to television shows, film music, musical shows and dance orchestras. However, these specialists were rarely good improvisers and soloists. It was therefore common in big bands at the time for only the clarinet to be doubled. Things are very different today: An alto saxophonist today is also expected to be a soprano saxophonist, flutist, piccolo flutist, alto flutist and clarinettist at the same time. A tenor saxophonist should also be able to play bass clarinet or even tuba or contra-alto clarinet. In fact, there have already been concerts where Reto Anneler and Toni Bechtold didn’t even take their main instrument out of its case and played doublings instead.