Friday, June 8, 2012

A Very Saxy Interlude

When it came time for Excitable to select an instrument to learn at school this year, his initially mentioned an interest in the flute.

This would have been awesome if he had previously shown any interest in my dusty stack of Jetho Tull vinyl in the corner of our basement, or at least in this key scene in one of my all-time favorite movies:

Truth be told, his only interest came from knowing his sister had played flute in elementary school and that she might be able to help him fake his way through it.

Well, as long as it wasn’t the screech of the violin, I could live with it. However, I thought I’d drop one sly hint on someone else’s behalf.

“Your mom,” I said, “would LOVE it if you tried to learn the saxophone.”

As long as I’ve known My Love, which is bordering on half my life now, I’ve known about her weakness for sax players. Doesn’t matter if they are Fabio lookalikes like that dude from Tina Turner’s old band:sax_1

Or ancient, torn-up and beer-gutted like Stones’ sideman Bobby Keys:


It’s always the same.

“Mmmm. That sax is sooo hot,” My Love would say.

Of course, My Love is not exactly known for her musical taste. When we first met, the radio in her duct-taped Toyota Corolla was permanently set to the strains of the local “smooth jazz” radio station which was essentially a 24-hour loop of Kenny G outtakes. The Federal Highway Administration eventually shut them down for contributing to a local spike in drowsy-driving accidents.

Still I agreed with her that the sax would be a good choice because it would offer far more tasty musical possibilities in his future. Rock. Blues. Soul. And no classical. You see sax players performing Handel or at chamber recitals as often as you see me listening to Handel or chamber recitals.

Excitable agreed with little hesitation, and for months I’d hear him in the basement make an occasional honk or bleat. Then one day, it came wafting up through the floor boards.

I sensed a warm feeling of recognition in my ear canal that slide steadily and thickly like melting candle wax down through my normally panicky soul.

I opened the basement door. There it was again, louder and more intense.

I crept down the stairs so as not to disturb to fragile sound waves filling the air around me. I reached the bottom and Excitable turned around.

“Hey,” I said, “are you playing ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple?”

He smiled and nodded.

And last night, at the school’s band concert, Excitable and his band mates rocked it. excitable-on-sax2

At least for 90 seconds or so until the inevitable grade-school muddle ups.

I really wished I had a lighter.

Or at least a smartphone with a lighter app.

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Congrats to Tom Ryan and gmmerrell who won the White Collar and Burn Notice DVD sets, respectively, in last week’s giveaway. Email me your address and I’ll get them out to you ASAP.


  1. That band performance brought tears to my eyes. On multiple levels.

    Btw: HUGE props to your school for having a band teacher with enough of a sense of humor to teach them that song. Outstanding.

    1. Almost as cool, they had the 5th grade band do both "Eye of the Tiger" AND "Gonna Fly Now."

  2. I never understood my band teacher when I was a kid. I also played sax (alto, then tenor), and I did what all my friends did: Sat at home trying to figure out how to play music we liked (I remember trying to learn the intro to the Beatles Got To Get You Into My Life). Then we'd get to school and the band teacher would have us play something ancient and really slow, and no one was into it at all.

    So good for a band teacher who knows that the FIRST song you learn is ALWAYS Smoke on the Water.

    1. The music teachers there are really good with kids. They had Li'l Diva's class do a 30-minute Beatles medley in choir last year that brought down the house. And got her to ask me to download all my Beatles stuff onto her iPod. Wins all around.

  3. The only thing that saves a band concert, at any grade, is recognizable songs like that!!! AWESOME!!!! My son is the only one who did band in our family. It's amazing how much cooler the kids think it is than when we were that age. Esp. love it when marching band plays songs like 'Crazy Train!'

    Sax is a fine choice. Should get him some women by about 10th grade.

    1. You and I are so in sync, and I don't mean the boy band.

  4. Awwww! Yay! Good for him! That's awesome!

    1. He also had a duet In Grand Old Flag, but I totally miss it.

  5. Aw, that is so great! I have known several saxophone players, and they are all amazing, brilliant, interesting people. I think there's something to it.

    1. Now that comment is just going to go straight to the boy's head. I'm going to have to buy him new hats and widen the doorways.

  6. The saxophone is sort of like the bass guitar. At least in my musically minded head. Common enough to not suck, but different enough to be cool.

    1. I really need to start playing my bass again.

  7. Clarence Clemons. Enough said.

    Excitable may have put the Cool back into the Uncools.

    1. There is an opening in the E Street Band these days ... and Lord, Excitable is definitely a Big Man for age 10.

  8. That was fantastic!

    Mom of 2 and I are on the same wavelength. The Big Man.



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