Weekend Extra: The Art Of The Held Note

From the Wikipedia entry about the saxophonist known as Kenny G:

In 1997, Kenny G earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone. Kenny G held an E-flat for forty five minutes and 47 seconds in the Hopkins-Bright Auditorium (named after his two friends) at J&R Music World in New York City.

What a treat that must have been.
We’ll have to settle for a minute and twenty seconds of A-flat from Harry Carney.

The interested onlooker was Johnny Hodges, so fascinated that he almost forgot to join the ensemble for the big finish.
Have a good weekend.

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  1. John Birchard says

    What a nice way to wake up on a rainy Saturday morning! Washington, DC’s favorite son E.K. Ellington, the baritone saxophone’s Rock of
    Gibraltar Harry Carney and a look at the Sphinx, Johnny Hodges. I always wondered what Hodges was thinking when he surveyed the crowd. Was it the brunette in the third row? His impenetrable mask never revealed the answer, at least to me.
    Thanks, Doug, for the perfect antidote for a case of the Kenny G’s.

  2. Dick McGarvin says

    “Kenny G held an E-flat for forty five minutes and 47 seconds….”
    Perhaps he couldn’t remember what the next note was.
    By comparison, Harry Carney’s one minute twenty second Ab proves once again that less is more. Beautiful.

  3. Bill Crow says

    Clark Terry had developed the circular breathing technique when I was with the quintet that he and Bob Brookmeyer often led at the Half Note in NYC. After a break, Clark would go back to the bandstand, grab his flugelhorn, and begin holding a nice fat G. The rest of the group would finish their drinks and conversations and take their time getting back on the bandstand, knowing that the longer Clark held the note, the better the effect. When we were all finally in place, Clark, still holding the note, would give a downbeat with his horn and we would all go into “Lullaby of the Leaves.”

  4. Freund says

    By the way: The longest tone, played on a wind instrument without circular breathing – what Harry Carney executed – was Buster Bailey’s high “G” on “St. Louis Blues”: exactly 45 seconds, until he joined the rest of the gang for a short showdown.

  5. Ken Dryden says

    I’ve got a friend who automatically removes all Kenny G CDs from the jazz section of any record store she visits, which is appropriate. The Clown Prince of Soprano Sax can hardly get much shallower than his note holding gimmick. Give me the circular breathing technique of Clark Terry, Harry Carney, Rashaan Roland Kirk or any real jazz musicians. The funny thing is that so many of his CD titles set up punch lines for reviewers, like ‘Silhouette’: “Calling this a jazz CD is like hanging a Da Vinci painting next to a silhouette and calling both masterpieces” or ‘Breathless’…”I wish he were.”