“I run my saxophone through a pedal board that has a bunch of delay effects, some pitch modulation, distortion and fuzz, so it ends up being this really gritty, heavy sounding instrument,” Tickle said. “I’m sure there are people who are really good jazz players who would just be horrified by the way I play saxophone because I break all the rules.”
On stage, Tickle shouts into the bell of her saxophone where a mic is lodged and this frees her to jump around.
“I’m not a big person, but I come out with a lot of energy and people love it,” she explains. “People have this love for saxophone – they either find it really sexy or really corny, but they still like it either way.”
Other Australian bands getting on the sax wagon include Sydney’s Donny Benét, Melbourne’s
Divide and Dissolve and Queensland nu-wave brass band Bullhorn, which has not one, but two
Acclaimed Australian saxophonist Mark Taylor, who has toured with the likes of Michael Bublé and Barry White, said the sax never disappeared – it’s just recovering from ’80s saturation.
“It was everywhere, in pop and TV themes,” he said. “Now with technological changes people are starting to experiment with pedals and electronics.
“Some people are turned off the saxophone in jazz because they feel a bit battered over the head with it. When it’s done in a cooler, sexier way, it’s more palatable and a different style to the ’80s saxophone, and doesn’t feel as daggy and cliche.”
Many modern sax players, Taylor and Tickle included, attribute a large part of the instrument’s resurgence to US jazz musician and composer Kamasi Washington, as well as indie act Bon Iver, which features the work of Canadian-American bass saxophonist Colin Stetson.
Diana Tolmie, senior lecturer at the Queensland Conservatorium, points out the saxophone’s versatility, which she says lends it to a wider range of sounds and genres.
“The saxophone is a really diverse instrument and is in many ways more sustainable than others purely because of its diversity. I think people are starting to recognise that,” she said. “Plus you’ve got the four main types of saxophone – soprano, alto, tenor and baritone – and all the different styles they can produce.”
Tolmie said the saxophone’s reputation had suffered from being the butt of music jokes and parodies – the Sexy Sax Man Careless Whisper prank video on YouTube has racked up more than 41 million views – but it’s definitely making a comeback.
“I think we might see more of it in the future,” she said, “particularly as people are in isolation, listening to music more, and developing more discerning tastes and wanting a richer, deeper experience – rather than something that’s just peripheral or in the background.”
Kate is an experienced journalist who writes about new property developments for Domain