Meet Norman Frank. If you live in the Atlanta area you have either bumped into him at some art show or seen him headline at some major music festivals around the area.
Norman started playing sax when he was about 12 years old. His first woodwind was a clarinet, which he started a year prior because his band director said “they had too many sax players already, so get in line” but with much determination Norman stuck with the alto sax until he was about to get out of high school and then he switched to tenor. Norman gravitated towards the Blues scene, and most of his mentors over the years suggested it. Once he entered music school, he started becoming proficient on all the saxes, as well as flute and clarinet but he is still married to the tenor sax and has a strong loyalty that remains with its sound.
Norman loves big ensembles and that have a lot of harmony. He wanted to be a part of that ensemble from a young child. He felt the sax was a way to be a part of a group but to still have and develop a way to have his own personality through it’s musical structure. As a kid, he felt the saxophone was just different, it looked cool with all the keys, curves, and that distinctive bell sound. As you might know, saxes are very unique within their construction; they’re the only woodwind instrument that’s made of metal, and that gives them a sound that is so expressive and yet, so human. Norman feels like sax players can really sound so personal, when compared with other wind instruments and has been known to say, “I feel like even a beginning listener can tell the difference between one player and another because every horn and every player can be so unique with a sax in their hands.”
One big inspiration to Norman is King Curtis and during the interview Norman called him by his complete name, “THE sax player“. If you heard a tenor sax solo on a pop recording from the mid 1950s up until about 1970, it was probably King Curtis. Everything about his sound, his phrasing, his style; is the classic sound of the American saxophone. He’s the guy who brought it to the world. He played with everybody from Aretha Franklin to John Lennon, which was a huge expanse of style to cover back in those days. Curtis was also a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and arranger. You can say…he did it all.
We asked Norman what got him into music, he responded with a humble reply, “There’s just something about watching things grow. Whether it’s a solo, a song, an album, a career…everything in music is about growth and play. Songs always start with such simple ideas. Maybe just a turn of a phrase, or a little fragment of a melody. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling you’ve had. The more you meditate on it, and play with it, the more other ideas start to come to you, and pretty soon you’ve got this amazing thing called a song that can be shared with other people. This can happen in the moment with a solo or improvisation, or it can happen in the quiet of your own mind with a pen and paper in hand, or it can happen collaboratively…it just depends. But I guess I just like watching things grow. I like seeing where things will go. I like seeing what they will become and I like seeing what I will become because of it.”
Norman plays a 1968 Selmer Saxophone:
Henri SELMER Paris company is a French-based international family-owned enterprise, manufacturer of musical instruments based at Mantes-la-Ville near Paris, France. Founded in 1885, it is known as a producer of professional-grade woodwind and brass instruments, especially saxophones, clarinets and trumpets.
The SELMER Paris brand has been used by many well-known saxophonists such as Marcel Mule, Claude Delangle, Frederick Hemke, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, Herschel Evans, Zoot Sims, Michael Brecker, Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins. Among famous Selmer Clarinet players is Benny Goodman in his early career.