Saxophonist Alex Harding Stuns Audience

by Elizabeth Hoover    /  October 20, 2010  / No comments

Musicians of the 2010 Jazz Poetry Concert

Video production and editing by Glen Wood

According to baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, if you want to know jazz, you must first know the blues.  “The blues is what this music is about. Period,” he said during rehearsal for City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s 2010 Jazz Poetry festival.

Harding was born in 1967 in Detroit and grew up during a time when Motown, R&B, and the blues blared from every radio and jukebox. He first learned the drums, but made the switch to sax after hearing Grover Washington, Jr., a saxophonist from Buffalo known for his funk and soul inflected jazz.

Harding said that he still “thinks conceptually” as a drummer, which explains the propulsive and rhythmic quality of his solos. According to Jazz Times, Harding plays with “steamroller momentum and uncommon ferocity…it was sheer fireworks.”

While Harding pulls from many different traditions and influences, his sound is unique and innovative.  His dynamic and soulful solo on Oliver Lake’s arrangement “Lonnie’s Lament” by John Coltrane stunned audience members at this year’s Jazz Poetry.

In addition to working regularly with Lake, Harding has performed with artists  such as the Sun Ra All Star Project, David Lee Roth, Lester Bowie’s Hip-Hop Philharmonic, Roy Hargrove, and Aretha Franklin.

In this video, Harding explains how the sound of the sax emanates from the same place as the human voice and reflects on the rich jazz legacy of rust belt cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Hoover earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University, where she received a Project on African Expressive Traditions grant and the Won-Joon Yon Scholarship for Racial Tolerance. She has written for American Heritage, Life, and Poets and Writers. Her criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She has published poetry in The Adirondack Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and the Atlanta Review. Recently, New Letters nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. Hoover is a former associate editor at Sampsonia Way.

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