The Stray Cats were a rockabilly band formed in 1980, but they have a timeless sound. Their song “Wild Saxophone” is actually their version of an older song called “That Mellow Saxophone,” but the Stray Cats have made if their own with their distinctive style.
In the beginning, the drums set the tempo, then the familiar bass and guitar come in. Lee Rocker on the bass is always fun to listen to because his sound is so percussive; he slaps the strings, pulls hard, and has precise articulations. On guitar, Brian Setzer can always be recognized for his rockabilly twang and use of chords that aren’t just straightforward major chords. It gives his sound more depth. Together, the three musicians produce their own unique sound.
The saxophones that come in with the guitar are unbelievably tight and have the perfect amount of darkness in their sound. Their articulations are strong and they hit each note together every time.
In part, the darker tone of this song that differs from most other Stray Cats tunes comes from the roughness of the saxophone on solo. The saxophone player blends low, growling notes with notes from higher octaves, keeping the solo interesting.
After the saxophone feature comes Setzer on guitar. The song drops in volume, and he comes in with just a few longer notes in the lower octave interspersed with some faster runs. It quickly builds to faster notes in both the higher and lower octaves. Mixing up the business of the solo keeps listeners gripped, not knowing what to expect but loving every note as it comes. It is this ability that makes Setzer such a great guitar player.
Though the Stray Cats are no longer a band, their music has lived on through the years. “Wild Saxophone” is a song that shows off the full potential of the band through their use of range in solos, their tight articulations, and their ability to keep true to their pure rockabilly style.
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