In middle school, and early on in high school, I remember loving Saturday Night Live… which, for me, means “classic” SNL which, because I was born in 1974, means John Lovitz, Phil Hartman, Dennis Miller, Victoria Jackson (sigh) Jan Hooks, and Dana Carvey, mainly. But a highlight of the show–and what I always wished they’d include more of–was seeing (or at least hearing) Lenny Pickett wail on the tenor saxophone, as he did on the closing tune, week after week:
I’d wait through the R.E.M. and Randy Travis and Linda Ronstadt for those little clips of the house band… they were almost always the best band on the show. And every night, during their closing song, I remember hearing that screaming altissimo of Pickett’s and wondering, “How does he do that?” and wishing I could, too.
I wished that in middle school, in high school, and when I was in college. I even caught an episode of SNL shortly after I came to Korea, and joined a rock band (i.e. I’d started playing again) and though the comedy kind of bored me, Pickett’s upper register was still as solid as ever, a thing of beauty to be envied and adored… and wondered at.
Well, I still think it’s phenomenal how he uses it–and that’s the bottom line–but I ain’t wondering quite so hard anymore about the mechanics of hitting those notes, at least.