(I don’t remember this but apparently I wrote it in 2017)
The massive, incredibly rare instrument is over 11 feet tall with a range so deep it goes lower than humans can hear.
Octobass Atlas Obscura
Notes not above but below our hearing. Groovy. It won’t make the dogs howl, but it might piss off the pachyderms. Indeed, Jimmy Garrison began A Love Supreme on the octobass and before Trane could blow a single three hour solo a herd of crazed elephants charged into the studio and pulverized Elvin’s kit into something like Rashied Ali. They were trumpeting and roaring and stomping and Ascension was recorded then and there. Remember hearing Jimmy Garrison’s side long bass solo? Of course you don’t, it was on the octobass. He later repeated John Cage’s favorite parts on a jazzed up 4’33. It was the only time in jazz history that the people at the bar shut up during the bass solo. No one could hear a thing from the bass but Moby Dick said he whaled.
I saw Monk at the Five Spot he said. He saw Trane at some little dive too. I remember walking down the street in Harlem, he said, and there was a piece of paper in a bar room window with a hand written George Benson in letters almost too small to read. Went inside for a beer and heard this young cat just burning on guitar. He was playing jazz back then. I can’t remember who was on the B3. I remember seeing Lee Morgan at the Lighthouse, the other guy said. Bennie Maupin was on tenor. The same band on the LP that’s playing now, listen. I listened: Bennie was cooking, then in comes Lee, solid. I remember the music was so good, he said, and Lee so right on and I was so happy and before I knew it I was drunk. I mean drunk. My ride had split, they were sweeping the floor and stacking the chairs and I had to walk home from Hermosa Beach to Inglewood. Damn man, how far was that? It was twenty miles. Hangover hit me about halfway there. He shook his head at the memory. But man, Lee Morgan sounded so good.
[from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly, c 2009]
We dig saxophone. Sometimes more than anything. Saxophones are sooo jazz. Almost iconic of the whole music. Trumpets were once, a long time ago, and clarinets had their sweet little run too. But Coleman Hawkins, big solid hard blowing Hawk, he put the sax up there in a spot no one has really been able to bounce it from for any serious stretch of time. Lester Young came in right after that, so spooky and perfect and lackadaisically gorgeous…if Coleman Hawkins put that boot down solid then Prez just kinda slid in like a man in his socks on a smoothly waxed floor. Then Bird just turned everything inside out with his bebop thing, stepping here and there and everywhere at once almost. You try to follow those footsteps. Just listen to a solo and try to follow it. Try. Was that work or what? Your eyes crossed, huh? And then Trane? Oh man. You put Trane’s thing on top of Bird’s thing on top of Hawk’s things and all around Prez’s thing I mean, man…..you got harmonics gone nuts, fingers going crazy, you got all that forced air rushing through that crazy saxophone (and it is crazy…look at one close up) and notes and chords flying free from that bell, making crazy patterns, and if you could see them, if the notes were different colors, they’d be filling rooms, filling whole night clubs, all squiggly flatted fifths and minor sevenths and whole bars of chords piling up everywhere. Piling up like fluff or soap bubbles, wonderful notes everywhere, just pouring out of a saxophone like some kind of crazy fountain. Think of that next time you’re sitting there in some jazz joint, the sax man blowing his ass off. Imagine all those notes. Not even the piano emits as many notes (and those would be neatly stacked or maybe scattered across the floor like shards of a glass enclosure.) Nope, it’s the sax that makes the most sound in jazz. There’s just more jazz to be heard coming out of it. Music theory this ain’t. It’s just that we dig the sax.
Coleman Hawkins blowing, Bird listening.