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Ernie Watts

"My background and my personal musical interest have always been leaning toward more spontaneous playing. I'm interested in having the control and flexibility on the instrument that allows me to be spontaneous. You have to be really prepared on the instrument.

I have a regular practice regimen, and I try to practice at least 2 hours per day. The things I practice are really pretty rudimental: Major and minor scales, arpeggios, along with diminished sequences, minor 11th stuff, patterns in fourths, triad pairs—all those basic things. Then, I usually work on classical etudes.

I like to play all over the horn. Part of that may be because I started on alto. There's an aspect of that upper end that I just naturally hear. I've transferred that to the tenor. I've developed my technique up there from playing for years, along with devising different exercises to help my facility up there.

There is an amazing range on the tenor (3-octave plus). True lows are available to the tenor that you can't play on the alto. There are also things that are available harmonically to the range of the instrument: Changes of color, nuances in sound, polyphonics, PLUS the ALTISSIMO or high end is also available. When you get it together you can play virtually everything on the tenor that you can on the alto."

About sound: "I do have a bright sound, but I try to have it as a full sound as well. My sound is not like the brightness you get from a high baffle. I think of it as being 'clear.'"

Communication: "When I play now, I just play. Whatever I play is all related to what I've heard and practiced. It's related to what I feel and things that happen. I don't think about what it is. I just let the music come out."

"I really love music, and I really love playing the saxophone—and to create something that other people will enjoy. It is nice to have people feel a little better when they leave my concert than when they got there."


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