Teodross Avery: His Equipment and Ideas on Keeping Your Solos Fresh

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Tenor Saxophone Playing

Hi I’m Teodross Avery, I’m a tenor saxophonist as well as soprano saxophone. I play jazz and other styles as well. I’m happy to be here to talk to you about playing music.

I play the V16 T6 metal mouthpiece with a medium chamber, the Optimum ligatures, and also the size 3 Green Box of the Vandoren JAVA reeds. I’ve been playing Vandoren products for quite a long time. I’ve been playing the reeds since I was about 17 years old and without you really knowing how old I am, thats a long time (chuckles). I love the Vandoren JAVA reeds because they are consistent and they are strong reeds. I’ve played other reeds where I played it and by the end of the night the reed was all busted up and I’ve gone through maybe two reeds in a night. With these JAVA’s, they’re very sturdy and very consistent. The tones that I can get are very consistent and they can take a beating. I can play jazz and I can play very soft on the saxophone, and then I can play with electric bands where I have to play very hard. I have to play very strong because I’m competing with guitars, keyboards, and amplifiers. The JAVA’s can withstand the pressure and also give me the sensitivity that I need when I’m playing acoustic music. I love this mouthpiece, it’s very sensitive. I can play very soft or I can play very loud and still achieve a really universal sound on my horn. I don’t have to get another mouthpiece, put it on, and say, “Okay now I’m going to play this style of music.” It (the mouthpiece) can really function in all styles and it’s a sensitive mouthpiece. I can whisper on it, or I can scream loudly on it and it can really put the sound out there to the listener in any situation. These ligatures right here are really great, they come with three plates so if you are playing and you want to achieve a different tonality to your sound you can just slip a plate in and get to that, without dismantling your whole system. A lot of times cats, when they want a different type of sound, they have to get a whole new mouthpiece or a whole new ligature or a different type of reed. I don’t have to do that, I can just take this ligature, slap on another piece of metal, achieve a different resonance from my mouthpiece and my horn, and get another sound happening, and they’re all very consistent. The thing for me is when I’m out here gigging or I’m doing any kind of shows; I need consistency, I really don’t need to haggle with a mouthpiece or with a ligature or reed, I really don’t have time for that. What I also don’t have time to do is soak reeds, I’m not one of those guys. I like to just moisten it, put it on, and see if it works. This setup is perfect for that, I don’t have to dig around to try and achieve it, it’s right here.


Tenor Saxophone Playing

All right, so what I was just trying to show you now was how you can take a piece of a composition that you’re playing, and make it a part of your solo. This is just a different approach, sometimes we don’t want to play anything related to the song at all and just make it our own expression. But sometimes it’s good to take pieces of the composition and make that a part of your solo. I was just playing Footprints by Wayne Shorter. There’s a motive that he writes in the song, and at the end, the very last phrase is: (Tenor Saxophone Playing). So you could take that phrase, and you could play it in different keys in your solo. So if you say: (Tenor Saxophone Playing) that kind of thing. So you can move it around, this kind of playing is really coming from a compositional approach.

There are people like Herbie Hancock and Wayne, people who just move these phrases around, definitely not a bebop thing but more a classical music approach to playing in jazz. It’s a way to always quote the song and make your song related to what the composer meant, it’s just another approach. I wouldn’t do this on a song like Giant Steps, it’s a little different because that kind of song is made for you to showcase how well you can play the chord changes. So yeah (smiles), that’s just a little idea I have, hopefully it will help you while you’re soloing on a song.

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