W0039. RUDY WIEDOEFT - The Kreisler of the Saxophone. (E.U.) Clarinet Classics 0018, recorded 1914-27, w.elaborate 30pp. brochure. - 5023581001827
"Following the overwhelming public response to the publication of Marcel Mule - ‘Le Patron of the Saxophone’ [W0004], Clarinet Classics now presents a programme from an even earlier period, and from the other side of the Atlantic.
In his short life, Rudy Wiedoeft recorded over 300 record sides for all the major labels - many being his own compositions - and imparted his own unique style to everything he did, influencing generations of saxophonists after him.
Rudy Wiedoeft's legacy to the musical world was not just a collection of compelling compositions and recordings, but the distinction of having introduced the saxophone as a serious voice in a truly innovative way and gaining for it a tremendous following."
- Clarinet Classics
“It has often been put forward that the popularity of the Saxophone was a direct result of its use in Jazz music at the beginning of the 20th century. When one examines the historical evidence, the opposite appears to be true: the great popularity of the saxophone in the early 20th century led to its role in Jazz and other popular music. During the period from 1900 to 1930 in America, there was a saxophone craze which made the electric guitar phenomenon of the 1960s look like nothing in comparison. The one person who best personifies this period is perhaps the biggest musical star of the 1920s, Rudy Wiedoeft. The fact that Wiedoeft is almost forgotten now takes nothing away from his essential role in establishing the saxophone in the public mind. When one looks at the facts, it seems quite evident that everything that happened after Wiedoeft would have been much more difficult if he had not lived. In establishing Wiedoeft as a figure of popular culture, one forgets that it was Wiedoeft who organized the first concert in America devoted entirely to the classical saxophone in the Aeolian hall in New York on April 17, 1926. The concert, which was also broadcast to a million people on the radio featured classical transcriptions by Bach and Tchaikovsky as well as original works composed for the occasion. It is not entirely fair to dismiss Wiedoeft’s musical career as that of a vaudeville artist.
As a young man Rudy Wiedoeft discovered the saxophone and in 1918 he came to New York in the pit orchestra of the musical CANARY COTTAGE where his playing was very favorably recieved by both the public and the critics. At this time, he began the long series of recordings with the Edison company which lead to his world-wide fame. One of these recordings, ‘Sax-o-phobia’, written in 1918, became the largest selling solo in the history of the Saxophone.
Most of these recordings were composed of novelty solos which Wiedoeft wrote for himself in the post-ragtime ‘Tin-Pan Alley’ style of the 1920s (thus named for the sound of all of the badly tuned pianos one heard on this street!). These works, which were designed to display Wiedoeft’s beautiful singing tone, incredible technical brillance and strong musical sense, also frequently use effects such as slap-tonguing, ‘Laughing’ and chock tones, which Wiedoeft uses to underline the humorous elements of the saxophone. Wiedoeft’s compositions, in spite of formal convention, are extremely well concieved for the saxophone and full of surprising harmonic freshness. The effects seen in this light are simply embellishments which do not take away from the inherent compositional strength. Wiedoeft obviously had a strong sense of humour. Perhaps it might be more interesting to look at these works not in the first degree, but as elaborate musical puns?
Wiedoeft's career brought him fame throughout the US and in Europe, and lead to publishing activities, tours of theatres and vaudeville houses and also activities as the first important teacher of the Saxophone in the US. Always close to the Selmer Company, his association with that firm became exceptionally close after his European tour of 1926, where he was invited by the Selmers to spend a weekend in the Swiss Alps. Wiedoeft and his wife enjoyed the affluent lifestyle which his sucess allowed them to pursue. It was this affluent lifestyle and especially his prominent hipflask which was to lead to his early death. After the Stock Market crash of 1929 made his happy-go-lucky style seem rather inappropriate to the hard times of the Depression in America, he moved to Paris for a year where he toured the European capitals where his music was still highly appreciated by the public.
Following his time in Europe, Wiedoeft decided to invest what money that he had remaining from his great success in the 1920s in a Gold Mine in Death Valley, California. While the idea was indeed romantic (and completely in charactor for Wiedoeft who loved to dress as a cowboy, complete with ten gallon hat and boots), the mine proved to be empty and Wiedoeft had to let his men go and continue working alone. Even after moving back East, he continued to return to continue his search for gold.
As his fortune disappeared, his relationship with his wife, Mary Murphy Wiedoeft, also suffered. This relationship, which had always been rocky, came to what appeared to be a violent end on March 24, 1937 when Mrs. Wiedoeft stabbed her husband with a butcher knife in a domestic dispute about money. Wiedoeft recovered, however, and the couple were reconciled. Wiedoeft, except for one brief appearance on the Phil Spitalney Radio Show, never performed in public again. Rudy Wiedoeft died on February 18, 1940 of cirrhosis of the liver at his home in Flushing, New York.”