Saxophonists rate Bill Clinton's musical ability | EW.com

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Saxophonists rate Bill Clinton's musical ability

Saxophonists rate Bill Clinton's musical ability -- Stanley Turrentine, David Sandborn, and others discuss the presidential candidate's performance on ''The Arsenio Hall Show''

When Gov. Bill Clinton addressed the nation on The Arsenio Hall Show June 3, you might say he blew it — the tenor sax, that is. To better understand the Democratic presidential hopeful’s musical candidacy, Entertainment Weekly asked for appraisals from an all-star panel of sax players: David Sanborn, Stanley Turrentine, Phil Woods, and Jimmy Heath. This McLaughlin Group of jazzmen wasn’t afraid to take on the tough issues and deliver some tough answers:

How would you describe the Governor’s musical style?
TURRENTINE: You can stick him in the crack between jazz and rock. SANBORN: I’d call him eclectic. He seems to draw from a lot of influences, including Sonny Rollins and Curly of the Three Stooges. WOODS: He uses a reed but it’s not presidential timbre. It’s more presidential shingle.

What about his technique?
HEATH: His tone was a little harsh, but at least he has a concept of the way music should sound. I admire his courage for exposing himself. When you’re standing up and playing before an audience, you’re being scrutinized at every moment. TURRENTINE: He plays like a politician because everything was confusing. You couldn’t tell one note from the other. SANBORN: He doesn’t really play like a President. I think Lester Young — ”Pres” — had that covered. I think Clinton plays like a Governor of Arkansas.

Does he show room for improvement?
HEATH: He has some potential, but he needs some professional direction. TURRENTINE: I think he’s better off trying to obtain the presidency and then practicing on his tone. SANBORN: Tell him to keep his day job.

What about the sunglasses?
HEATH: The sunglasses are a stereotype. You don’t need sunglasses inside a building in the middle of the night. SANBORN: I think the sunglasses were a nice touch. They showed a kind of credibility.

Tips for improvement:
SANBORN: Tell him to inhale. WOODS: I think his sax soul needs some work. I think he should get with Ray Charles and get on the road. He should take a sabbatical with a band and learn how to go to the bathroom out the window of the bus at 80 miles per hour. That would help.

Is there a better show for him than Arsenio?
HEATH: He should try Face the Nation. TURRENTINE: The Gong Show. He wouldn’t last long. SANBORN: The Gong Show. I’d let him play.

What about his choice of material?
HEATH: Like a good politician, he was trying to reach a lot of people with the two tunes he did — purists with ”God Bless the Child,” which was a Billie Holiday song, and ”Heartbreak Hotel” for everyone who argues about which Elvis stamp is best. TURRENTINE: ”Heartbreak Hotel” was better because the band drowned him out more. SANBORN: I think he should add ”Whipping Post” to his repertoire, because that’s sort of what he’s been during the campaign.