Derek Nash - Saxophone

“A combination of listening to a Sonny Stitt record that I had been lent by a friend of my dad’s and watching and listening to sax player Gary Cox recording ‘The Pink Panther Theme’ with the BBC NDO Big Band was what got me hooked on the sax.”

Nash’s father was a full time professional musician and an arranger for the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra. “My dad is essentially a piano player,” says Nash.

“He taught me all my arranging and sat down with me and went through scores and showed me what was wrong with what I’d done – that’s the best lesson you can have really.”

Nash junior’s musical experiences had started with piano lessons when he was six. “Then that sax really got to me and I started badgering my parents when I was about 10 or 11 – I finally got an instrument when I was 12.” His first alto was a Selmer Super Action, which is post-Balanced Action and pre Mk6. “My dad paid 50 quid for it”, he says excitedly.

Nash then sold that to buy what was then the top of the range Super 80 – one of the first and non-engraved, the one after the Mk 7. “What did I know, I just thought the latest has got to be the best. I wish I still had that Super Action.” However, he stuck with the Super 80 for quite some time, but needless to say, in the end it got sold.

“I bought a Mk6 off Snake Davis and also have a Grafton acrylic which was given to me by a Sax Appeal (one of Nash’s bands) fan who had it, but never played it and said that he would like to see it played every now and then. It comes out every so often on little bebop gigs – where you don’t have to play too loud – and it’s beautiful. Then there’s the old Conn “Chuberry” – 1930s/40s signature model – with its strange micro-tuning bit on the crook which you spin and it takes the mouthpiece in and out. I used that recently at a classical concert, because it produces such a lovely warm, round sound.”

Nash’s most recent acquisition is the Steve Goodson Sax Gourmet. “It’s really big and bright”, he enthuses, “but there’s a new Goodson coming out in the next couple of months called the Voodoo Rex, which is an all copper body. I shall be very interested in trying that – it could be the ultimate all-round horn.”

As for other horns that aren’t altos. “My first soprano was a really dodgy Borgani,” says Nash. “That didn’t last very long because it was so horribly out of tune! But I guess my first real soprano was a 21st birthday present from my parents, which was a Yamaha 62 – a straight soprano; I still have that and still play it. I also have a lovely little curly Buescher “truetone” from the 1920s. It has a fixed crook, so the saxophone is one bit of metal – it sounds like a high, warm alto – I bought that off Tim Garland.” Nash came to the tenor late.
“I got my first tenor when I was about 24 when I broke my leg. The tenor was lent to me just to keep me occupied, while I was stuck at home with my leg in plaster. That got me into the instrument and I went out and bought a Yamaha 62 to match my soprano.” As a result he started looking at more tenors. “There’s this great saxophone shop called Sounds Great in Heald Green where my parents live and I always drop in when I go up there. On this particular occasion there was this clapped-out old tenor sitting in the corner and I just thought, I’ll have a look at that. It hardly worked, but the notes that did work sounded fabulous. So I bought it. It’s an early Super Action with a wider neck.”

More recently Nash has been blowing a Steve Goodson tenor. “I tried one of their Sax Gourmet tenors for about three months and that was a really good ‘pop’ horn – great for my funk band territory like Protect the Beat. It had a lovely smooth jazz sound – Richard Elliot, Grover Washington Jnr thing. Unfortunately, it was the last one in the country and I had to give it back. So I’m waiting for another one of those to experiment with.” Nash also owns two Conn crossbar baritones.

“My soprano mouthpiece is a D star Selmer. It’s the one they gave me in the shop on the day I bought the instrument and I’ve never changed it. I use Rico Royal 3s and La-voz mediums. For the alto I use a Beechler S8S. Sadly they don’t make that model any more. It’s a cheap student mouthpiece which was given to me by an American player, and I love it. It allows me to play funk, bebop and ballads all on the same mouthpiece; it’s a 50 dollar plastic mouthpiece and I’m biting through it. Judy Beechler who now runs the company has had some sent over, but because they don’t make the S8S any more, they have sent 8s and I don’t like them. I’ve even had Bill Rothwell try to make a replacement copy in ebonite but that didn’t work either.

“Reedwise, I’ve been using Vandoren Javas as they are warmer and darker. I was initially using 31/2s, but when I started using the Sax Gourmet, I had to retreat to 21/2s. I never had that happen before with a horn. The Tenor has an Otto Link 7 star – it’s an old one once owned by Duncan Lamont. It’s been tinkered
with and opened up a bit inside, so it’s probably bigger than a 7 star but it just works. I use Vandoren Java 3 with 31/2s. For the baritone it’s an old Berg Larsen mouthpiece modelled on the Ronnie Ross mouthpiece on which I use Rico Royal 3s.”

When not playing in Sax Appeal or Protect the Beat, Nash is part of the Jools Holland band. “I’ve been with Jools for five years now. It’s like the old Basie band,” he enthuses. “About 70 per cent is charts and for the rest, the riffs have been developed by the band over the years and that’s what we play. He never tells you what you are going to play – he just starts playing something. We also get to play with some great artists. We did ‘Knock on Wood’ with Eddie Floyd – just unbelievable. I have to tell you, I’m very lucky. I have a wonderful life and it’s huge fun.”