‘Horn stars’ stand out

Whangarei Report - - MUSIC - By Brian Kelly

We have a lot to thank a 32-year-old Bel­gium mu­si­cian and mu­si­cal in­stru­ment de­signer by the name of Adolphe Sax for. In Novem­ber of 1846, he patented the sax­o­phone.

On my Coast Break­fast Show re­cently I fea­tured three hit sin­gles that the sax­o­phone high­lights promi­nently in. Dur­ing my re­search for my programme it made me re­alise how im­por­tant a role ses­sion mu­si­cians play in mak­ing hit sin­gles.

Take for in­stance Gerry Raf­ferty’s Baker Street. That song was writ­ten by Gerry, who was the for­mer lead singer of the band Steal­ers Wheel.

It hit No 1 on the cash­box charts in 1978 and No 2 on billboard. The hit fea­tures a strong sax solo through­out. There is quite a story be­hind the mu­si­cian who played the sax on that song.

Raphael Raven­stock was the name of the man on the sax! He had fea­tured as a back­ing mu­si­cian for the likes of Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Abba and many oth­ers. The pro­ducer of Baker Street thought a sax solo would work for Gerry’s song … and it sure did.

The as­ton­ish­ing thing is Rave­stock was only paid £27 for his con­tri­bu­tion. Not only that, the cheque he re­ceived bounced! He had it framed and hung it on his solic­i­tor’s wall.

An­other not so fa­mous back­ing sax­o­phon­ist is Steve Gre­gory. He be­gan his mu­sic ca­reer play­ing the sax for The Alan Price Set and was in great de­mand at the time for ses­sion work. He played back­ing for the likes of Fleet­wood Mac, Ginger Baker’s Air Force and fea­tured on sax on the 1969 hit Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones.

It’s Steve’s wail­ing sax solo that you hear at the begin­ning of Ge­orge Michael’s hit Care­less Whis­pers.

To­day he oc­ca­sion­ally per­forms with the jazz band Pas­tiche.

There are many fa­mous sax play­ers that fea­ture on stage with bands. One that comes to mind is the late Clarence Cle­mons of Bruce Spring­steen’s E Street Band.

Clarence has to be my favourite sax­o­phone player in rock ‘n’ roll. He played on many of the band’s hits in­clud­ing Born to Run. Sadly the ‘Big Man’, as Bruce re­ferred to him, passed away in June of 2011, but his legacy con­tin­ues with the band, with his nephew Jake Cle­mons tak­ing over in the band and play­ing his un­cle’s tenor sax.

An­other leg­endary sax player that comes to mind is Bobby Keys, who played a huge roll in many of the Rolling Stones hits. He per­formed on ev­ery Stones al­bum from 1969 till 1974 and has per­formed on all Stones tours since 1970.

My ar­ti­cle would not be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing Rod Ste­wart’s sax player. If you have been to his con­certs or have any DVDS of his, you will no­tice the tall blond who first came to my at­ten­tion at the mis­sion con­cert Rod played a few years ago.

Her name is Katja Rieck­mann. She has been tour­ing with Rod for many years and first fea­tured on his Song­book Vol 1 al­bum.

She was born in a small town in Ger­many but moved to Cal­i­for­nia where she found fame and for­tune. She sure plays a mean sax and in her own words she is a “Horn Star” like all in this ar­ti­cle.

It made me re­alise how im­por­tant a role ses­sion mu­si­cians play in mak­ing hit sin­gles.

Bruce Spring­steen and the E Street Band.

Brian Kelly is a host on Coast Break­fast ra­dio.

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