The “bari” is by no means the largest of Adolph Sax’s family of instruments but the even larger ones look as though they would fit nicely into an oil refinery. The baritone, which is itself quite a hefty instrument, first became a regular element in jazz music when it became the must-have anchor for the lower register harmonies in the big band era, before which it had been something of a novelty. Baritone players today are a select bunch, far outnumbered by their peers who play tenor or alto, although many musicians today like to collect the set, or a good part of it, and double on a range of saxes.
Hot Box 26 is by no means exhaustive but tries to give a quick summary of the sound of the baritone, from Harry Carney, through to the light-toned but immensely popular Gerry Mulligan, to today’s masters such as Gary Smulyan and Claire Daly. Keen observers will spot the Irish contingent of players, both Mulligan (historically), and Claire Daly today who flaunt their Irish roots.