The baritone sax or bari sax, as it is most often called, is the lowest pitched saxophone that is most commonly seen in modern ensembles. In terms of design, it is set apart from all its other smaller counterparts by the extra loop, which is situated near its mouthpiece that helps to keep the instrument at a height that is practical.
Despite the fact that some musicians believe it to be too heavy, big, and cumbersome to use, because of its great tone on lower register notes, its use has gained prominence in popular music genres such as jazz and ska. The following paragraphs will feature some of the best bari sax musicians from the two genres, whom you should hear to truly appreciate.
Gerry Mulligan. Gerry Mulligan is first and foremost known as a master of the baritone sax due to his ability to play the heavy instrument in a light and airy tone in the style of cool jazz. He performed with numerous bands and collaborated with many artists, namely Miles Davis, Kai Winding, and Chubby Jackson. Aside from this, however, he also gained fame and accolades through the ingenious solo improvisations that he played.
John Surman. The expansion of the international horizons of jazz were fueled in part by this expert of the bari sax, John Surman. Beginning his career at an early age, Surman’s performances span numerous decades and countries, working with musical greats from all across Europe and the United States. What makes him unique and a very special baritone saxophonist is his ability to fuse acoustic tunes, electronic music, orchestral textures, and intense sax improvisation to create a smoothly blended rhythm.
Lee Jay Thompson. Lee Jay Thompson is a name synonymous to the ska revival in Britain. He is also well known for playing the baritone sax in numerous records of his band, Madness.
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. Despite being a musical group from Asia, the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra or TSPO has been very influential on the international music scene as a whole through their unique sound that blends traditional ska, jazz, and rock. The baritone sax plays a very significant role in the creation of their distinct sound and when discussing how the instrument has shaped ska music, this group of artists is definitely worthy of mention.
The bari sax may not be as common as its alto or tenor counterpart and it may be challenging to play because of its size and weight. But it has made waves in the music genres of ska and jazz. Its haunting, low pitch affords the music it makes a rich overall tone. Something that should not be taken lightly by aspiring saxophonists making the choice of which sax to play.