Photos of readers

Today’s reader is Tom MacPherson (presumably no relation to Diana MacPherson). His explanation is below:

Here is a photo of me doing what I should be doing right now. I had a lot of fun as an amateur musician in my youth, but experienced a 40-year hiatus due to marriage, children and gainful employment. My wife discovered a group offering an opportunity for folks of a certain age who used to play to get back into it, and I have really been enjoying my second go-round. However, like everything else, this is also on hold for the foreseeable future, so the sax is once again gathering dust in the basement. Hopefully it won’t be for 40 years this time.


  1. GBJames
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I should find an old clarinet somewhere?

    Nice pic!

  2. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    That is one huge sax! This must be a different variety that I haven’t seen before.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! I googled and wonder if it could it be a baritone saxophone?

      And can you play a sub contrabass saxophone? Those look bigger than the people who play them.

      • Tom MacPherson
        Posted June 27, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        I started on alto, tried tenor, and ended up on baritone, mainly because the school band at the time didn’t have anyone playing baritone and the conductor asked for volunteers to switch to baritone. I have never tried the larger saxes like the bass and contrabass but would love to. There are some great YouTube videos out there showing them in action. Unfortunately, they are scarcer than hen’s teeth, very expensive, and not much music is written for them.

    • Tom MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2020 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      That is a baritone sax. It’s heavier and not quite as cool as an alto or tenor, but the parts are easier.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 26, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        The horn the cool-jazz cat Gerry Mulligan, who played with Miles and with Chet Baker’s quartet, blew, IIRC.

      • Posted June 27, 2020 at 2:44 am | Permalink

        I used to play the bari too, in a “big band”. Great fun. I envy you. My favorite player, tho, is not Gerry Mulligan, but the great Harry Carney.

  3. BobTerrace
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink


  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know, looks like a lot of work. Nice photo. Many of us have had that 40 or 50 year hiatus but have forgotten what it was from.

  5. Posted June 26, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Same with me. Started back on Trumpet after 30 years. Band meets in a school, so no practice until……

  6. BobTerrace
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    My accordion has been gone for about 55 years (age 14)

  7. alexander
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Tom, you don’t have to put your sax in the basement! We have the Internet! See:


  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Awesome pic

    I’m hearing Too Many Zoos for some reason…

    “presumably no relation to Diana MacPherson”

    WEIT level : pro

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      No, if he was related to me he’d probably have no musical talent but all the physical requirements. For example, I have long fingers but no ability to play piano (granted I’ve never really tried but I can’t learn to play music – reading music is a struggle for me).

  9. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:05 pm | Permalink


    No need to cover the sax with dust – get some play along recordings – the usual channels have them. (Don’t want to advertise any in particular)

  10. Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Same experience. Started up on trumpet after 30 years. Band meets in a school, so cancelled until……

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    … experienced a 40-year hiatus due to marriage, children and gainful employment.

    That stuff’ll cramp one’s style, no doubt about it, Tom.

    • jezgrove
      Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink


  12. darrelle
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Baritone sax? Decades age I played alto. I stopped just about the time I was getting pretty good at it. Later in life it has become a regret of mine.

    My daughter played bari sax for a couple of years (and alto and cello and guitar) and I once picked it up and gave it a try. The embouchure part of it came right back to me, I could make it sound like it’s supposed to sound. But I could’t make music anymore. I’d forgotten too much.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 26, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      “There’s no such thing as a wrong note.”

      — Art Tatum

      • darrelle
        Posted June 26, 2020 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        A very generous man!

      • Mark R.
        Posted June 26, 2020 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        What about too many notes? In Amadeus I remember that a was a criticism of the Maestro, don’t know the veracity of it in reality. I still think about it and don’t really understand what ‘too many notes’ means, but Mozart broke barriers. There’s 12 notes to fool around with; it seems, like with food, their are millions of flavors.

        • prinzler
          Posted June 27, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          I think “too many notes” states one side of the distinction between technical display and emotional expressiveness. Do you want to dazzle the listener with so many notes they are overwhelmed (in a good way), or do want to make one note speak volumes by how it is articulated, placed in time, etc.

      • prinzler
        Posted June 27, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        “I made the wrong mistake.” – Thelonious Monk

      • prinzler
        Posted June 27, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        Actually, I think that was Miles Davis. Not sure, but it feels like an odd thing for Tatum to say, given his music.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 27, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

          I thought it was Miles, too. But when I looked it up, it was credited to Tatum.

          Miles gets credit for, “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.”

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 27, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

            I recall hearing Herbie Hancock tell a story about, when he was with Miles’s second great quintet, Herbie ended a piano solo on the absolute wrong note. Without missing a beat, Miles took over, changed keys, and made it the right note.

            So that quote sounds like Miles alright.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted June 27, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink


              He recounts the story on his Masterclass ad. The lesson was that Herbie judged himself – Miles didn’t.

              There’s another story from Herbie himself about the butter notes :

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted June 27, 2020 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

                That piece is fascinating. It loses me in terms of music theory early on, before it ever gets to Herbie and the “butter notes,” but I found the whole thing fascinating anyway. Thanks for the link, TP.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted June 28, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

                Cool, thanks.

                Since I last commented … or maybe earlier… YouTube’s AI has pinpointed another interesting video of Herbie in similar conversation – detailing the “butter notes” with Trey Anastasio :

          • prinzler
            Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:38 am | Permalink

            Can you give me a citation for that? And for Miles talking about the note afterwards, the specific example of that precisely is the beginning of the second chorus on his solo on “Four” (the original version). He tries a high note, flubs it, and then repeats (vaguely) the same thing in order to try to make it into something.

    • Mark R.
      Posted June 26, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      I played guitar for 20 years or so before I decided I would never be as good as I “wanted” to be. No ear, slow at scales…I turned to other activities that I was naturally talented at. I still have a couple nice guitars. I’ll stick to what I’m better at though, art of a different sort.

    • Tom MacPherson
      Posted June 27, 2020 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      The toughest part for me was that I had to think about everything. Nothing was automatic anymore. I looked at the note on the page, figured out it was an F, thought about the required fingering for an F, moved the appropriate fingers and successfully played the F, but by then I was two bars behind. It took a few weeks of daily practice to re-establish or re-awaken those old neural pathways. But no one else minded, they had all been through their own re-learning curve, and I was having a great time.

      I am playing in both a concert band and a jazz band. In the jazz band, there are very few “wrong notes”, but sometimes there is some “improvisation” or “artistic expression”.

      I had no idea, but apparently there is quite a network of these types of bands out there, usually associated with large musical instrument stores. If you still have the itch, give it a try. No one expects anything near perfection, but everyone is having fun. You can also get some revenge on your kids. Force them to come to your Christmas concert like you went to their’s!

      • darrelle
        Posted June 29, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Love that last part! In the same vein, get revenge on them by practicing at home for hours. It was such a relief when my daughter finally started getting good.

        When I was playing I was OK at reading music, but I was never one of those people that could read new material and play it well right off the bat. But I was very good at playing by ear. Just about anything I listened to, any instrument or even vocals, I could quickly reproduce a good facsimile of it on the sax.

  13. Frank Bath
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Man that is some sax. I once found a dusty old bass sax in the basement of a place I rented and I was getting on well with it until a previous renter came back when I was out and retrieved it. Not happy.

  14. rickflick
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Stay in practice so when the pandemic subsides, you can make a big comeback!

  15. Posted June 26, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Great shot! Glad to hear you’re playing again. Bari sax, man, very cool!

    I only started playing (guitar) at age 36; but I haven’t looked back.

    (I can highly recommend to Jerry’s readers the book Making Music for the Joy of It by Stephanie Judy, about learning to play as an adult.)

  16. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Good on you for dusting off the bari sax. Even though your group is on hold, you could keep practising while waiting for it to re-convene. My concert band has just started up again. We have an approved Covid-safe plan –1.5 m between players, no more than 38 people in the rehearsal room, hand sanitiser etc. It is great to get together to make music again. In this context I play bass clarinet. Still waiting for orchestra to start again (where I play standard A and B-flat clarinets).

  17. Posted June 26, 2020 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Very cool, Tom!

  18. Mark R.
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    That’s one cool sax! Hope you’re playing during the lockdown…with music (like working out and many other activities) use it or lose it.

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