Art of the Saxophone Vol. 1 The Tunnel Recordings

by Krauss Briggan

supported by
John Cratchley
John Cratchley thumbnail
John Cratchley 56. Lu/The Wanderer
"Acts of small kindness serve an outsider well, do not impose, learn to appreciate solitude."
(I sometimes cast an I-Ching reading whilst listening).
I've listened to Briggan's work for many a long year (Sex Mob days)...hope the rest of the pieces he recorded are forthcoming...soon!
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Included in New York City Jazz Record's Top 10 Albums of 2016 list.

Thank you for checking out my music.

This album is being made available as a high quality download free of charge or you may pay as you wish.

Should you choose to make a financial contribution I sincerely thank you in advance for your support.

The Concept

The idea of making a solo saxophone project began as challenge put to me by Seattle based tenor saxophonist Skerik in April of 2012 after a playing a series of shows with Wayne Horvitz's Zony Mash Plus Horns at The Royal Room in Seattle, WA. These fantastic shows were recorded and later released as a live double CD in December of that year. Skerik thought there should be a document of some of the unique things I do on the saxophone and he offered to produce a solo saxophone record for me. I was flattered and honored by his idea and decided to accept the challenge.

Skerik and I arranged a day to do the recording with engineer Randall Dunn in Seattle on January 2nd 2013. Skerik's idea was to record some music in the gigantic I-90 bike and pedestrian tunnel and also to record some music in his studio in South Seattle. All of the music on this Vol. 1 release is from the tunnel recordings. The studio material may be released separately in the future on subsequent volumes. Many thanks go out to Randall for making a great sounding recording and to Skerik for his generous support, encouragement and inspiration.

The Tunnel

The I-90 pedestrian and bike tunnel is simply massive and features extremely long reverb and other strange acoustic characteristics. I had recorded some music with Wayne Horvitz the prior year in the underground cistern at Fort Warden in Port Townsend, Washington which was initially made famous (to my knowledge) as a music recording space by Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening Band with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis in the late 1980’s. Playing in the cistern at Fort Warden was a really amazing experience and I thought that this recording in the I-90 bike tunnel might have some similar quality as the cistern. I was not at all disappointed. The unique character of the tunnel’s reverb, subtle ambient environmental sounds and even the quietly ubiquitous buzz from the tunnel lighting lend a special feeling of “place” to this recording.

In preparation for this recording I turned to many short compositions that I had written as a way to get myself playing solo music. I felt that approaching these improvisations as deliberately short poems or haikus, rather than as major compositions, allowed me to approach them in a more lighthearted and playful way.

Our remote recording rig included a laptop, interface, nice stereo mic, mic stand and small stool for me to sit on. We had only occasional pauses for passing pedestrians and cyclists who for the most part politely ignored us - this was Seattle after all! Most of the music recorded in the tunnel was open (no mute) saxophone although I did do a few pieces with the towel mute and muting with my leg. Having Skerik and Randall there served as enough of an audience for me to feel like I was actually performing.

So What’s a Towel Mute?

The towel mute is exactly what it sounds like it is - a rolled up bit of fabric which was initially a cotton cloth which has gotten so threadbare over the years that I've taken to adding other bits of fabric to it. This is folded and rolled up to make something that looks like a large hockey puck. It is dense enough that when placed in the bell and a low B-flat is fingered (i.e. all the holes in the horn closed thus making a complete tube) hardly any air can escape.

The towel mute is an invention of mine which was born one day not long after moving to Brooklyn in 1994. I was living in a brownstone apartment with guitarist Brad Shepik and drummer Mike Sarin. Sometimes the only place I could practice was a tiny closet in the basement of the building which Mike had made into a little drum room. This room was really small. The walls were so close that playing the saxophone in there was simply too loud. I tried playing while wearing earplugs and even headphones but these didn't work. Finally one day in desperation I reached down and grabbed this thick cotton cloth that I kept in my saxophone case for padding and stuffed it in the bell of my horn. To my pleasant surprise it did cut down on the volume a bit depending on what notes I played but more importantly, it allowed me to make some very amazing and un-saxophone like sounds which were immediately interesting to me. It was like instantly having a completely different instrument in my hands. Over the more than twenty years since then I have developed a wide range of techniques involving the use the towel which have become a regular and important feature of my playing.

Many Thanks

Again, many thanks go to Randall Dunn for making a great sounding recording and also to Skerik for his generous support, encouragement and inspiration.

I greatly and sincerely appreciate your financial support for this work should you choose to give it but mostly I hope that you enjoy these saxophone sounds from (literally) the underground.


released February 7, 2016

Briggan Krauss - alto saxophone

Recording session produced by Skerik and engineered by Randall Dunn January 2nd 2013 in Seattle, WA.

Mixed etc. by Briggan Krauss at Object Studios Brooklyn, NY.

All music Ⓒ Needle Blunts The Sun Music BMI.



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Krauss Briggan Brooklyn, New York

Saxophonist, guitarist, composer and sound artist Briggan Krauss has been a strong presence on the New York creative music scene since 1994. He is a founding member of the band Sexmob, has played on Grammy Award winning and nominated recordings, and leads several of his own projects as well as collaborating with many other improvisers, composers and artists in New York City and around the world. ... more

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