First WEDNESDAYS with Doug Webb

On June 6th, 2018, ASMAC members and guests were given the rare opportunity to enjoy seeing and hearing the extraordinary display of Doug Webb’s massive woodwind collection with a focus on the rarest and most interesting. This event took place in the Recital Hall at Valley College. The stage area was filled with a fantastic array of woodwind instruments that represented only 20% of Doug’s enormous collection.

When asked the question of what instruments are in his collection, Doug said that it is actually easier to list the instruments he does not have which can probably be counted on one hand. Find a list of woodwinds on Wikipedia to find a partial list of Doug’s arsenal.

After a warm welcome from ASMAC president Gayle Levant, Doug proceeded to demonstrate the various instruments. The challenge of dry reeds and changing embouchures did not slow down the presentation that went by far too fast. After an educated review of each instrument, along with a few notes played, it was on to the next instrument leaving the audience wanting to hear more of each sound.

Starting with a large suitcase filled full of American Indian flutes, the surface was scratched with a couple of beautiful sounding instruments, one that had 3 flutes, 2 that droned and 1 for playing the melody.

The next suitcase which was filled with bamboo flutes. One of these flutests plays a high G which is above the piccolo range. The demo continued with all sizes of recorders, including the beautiful sub-bass recorder made out of birch and stands more than 6 feet high. This instrument was actually taller than Doug.

He then spoke about his bamboo saxes, or duduks, ocarinas, double ocarinas, bass ocarinas, and a bass ocarina that is nicknamed “basketball” because of it’s appearance.

Doug then demonstrated the slide alto sax, which he actually played on the Smurfs. Next, he spoke about the Soprillo sax which is an octave higher than a soprano sax. The Octavin Conn-o-sax is a soprano sax that is folded in half. One audience member commented that it “looks like an aborted bassoon.” Later, Doug played the Sopralto sax which is a combination of an alto and a soprano sax fused together.

We learned that the Chinese Bawu Flute is made in 8 keys. Doug tried to order more of these flutes in the remaining 4 of the 12 keys, but the manufacturer replied that there are only 8 keys in music.

Other flutes include the gourd flute and an authentic Union Army fife Bb. Good to know that the Civil War was played in Bb. To top off the flute experience, we heard the contrabass flute.

Renaissance instruments included four sizes of crumhorns as seen in the bible and the cornamussen. In the 1800s, there was the family of sarrusophones with the fingering of a saxophone. This instrument was used in the film, Minions. We were treated to the one, and only,contrabass sarrusophone in the universe with a range that goes down to the lowest Bb on the piano keyboard.

Following a short break, the audience enjoyed an intimate jazz performance with Doug who was joined by pianist/arranger Charlie Ferguson and bassist Chris Conner.

The trio began with the jazz standard, Body and Soul, with solo demonstrations of the straight tenor sax compared to the regular tenor sax. Next up was G blues, with the unique sounding Conn-o-sax which has a ball on the end on the instrument. The Conn-o-sax is in the key of F with the same range as an English horn, but only 10 were ever sold. Then came Star Eyes with the straight alto sax and the regular alto sax. Afro Blue was performed on the G Mezzo Flute with a very distinct warm sound. In a Sentimental Mood was played on the tubax, or Eb contrabass sax, which is an octave below a bari sax.

Watch for Doug Webb’s rare woodwind demonstration video and enjoy other exciting ASMAC event videos at the members-only section of the ASMAC website.