The sax is more than just another instrument. It's so much more than a vehicle for producing sound. It presents the highest level of complexity I have ever been presented with. Nuclear physics and quantum mechanics are noble pursuits and I must say that the two topics bested me in University, but the challenge they represent never consumed my entire soul the way that the never-ending study of this magnificent invention has.

It's so simple; a brass tube with a bunch of keys. All you have to do is blow into the end and out comes this wonderful sound. That's what you think. But then comes the day you pick it up and the first note that comes out squeals and screaches, removes paint from the walls and sends a small dog into fits of instanity. Immediately you start to wonder how the great saxophonists like John Coltrane and Michael Brecker take this hideously sounding hunk of metal and have it make music. I'm not talking about that pop "music" like Britney Spears or many of her little clones which is geared not towards the notes or the chord structure, or towards any complexity or imaginative thought but towards the video, the tits and ass designed to make men get hard and women get envious so they'll buy more exercise equipment. No, you wonder how these people can make music that climbs inside your head, your heart and your soul and paints the most incredible picture you've ever imagined.

If you're desperate enough and if it's grabbed hold of you hard enough, you study. You pick up that horn day after day after day, and you start to learn. Eventually you realize how the sax becomes an extension of yourself. You know that there will come a day when all you have to do is think your way through the horn and it will do anything you want it to. You learn that your breathing controls that sound. How your diaphragm exerts pressure is essential, how your larynx warps the airstream is vital, how the chamber in your mouth can manipulate the rate of reed vibration to get a darker or lighter tone, hit those altissimo notes or just make something sound weird. You learn what your lips do to make the pitch change, the reed to vibrate softer or harder. You start to realize that all of these things require decades to master and you haven't even started moving your fingers yet!

You practice your overtones, your scales, patterns, jumps, glides, pitch bends, intonation, experiment with warmth and growls -- your lips bleed but you don't notice until you look at the mouthpiece and realize that you've given more of yourself to the beast than you intended. But you didn't really give it -- the damned thing took it from you. It's become your obsession. You'll never be good enough! Once in a very rare moment you'll come across a day that works; everything happens for you. The licks come out, the ideas flow, the axe responds so beautifully that you can scarcely believe it hasn't been posessed by some sort of demon. The next day, the demon's gone. You're back to your old self, and the horn just doesn't shine the way it did the day before. Your old self is now a sieve, a shell. You've tasted greatness and you now find yourself lacking.

Much like the study of jazz the saxophone is the greatest thing in your life and, at the same time the most difficult and depressing piece of your existence. Nothing else, not even a woman takes me to the extremes of emotion like this beautiful and terrible instrument does.