More or less known Martin players; Don Wise


Well-Known Member
The interesting reading about Martin sax players continues!! ;}

I had already heard him in the late 80’s when he played sax with Delbert McClinton Band. I love his tone and the way he plays. I think Delbert McClinton and Don Wise, among others, represent the real American music. Travelling all over America, and worldwide as well, year in and year out and spreading great music around. Don stayed with Delbert McClinton Band for over 23 years and became important for the sound of the band. Today Don is replaced by Dennis Taylor, who is another great saxplayer.

I think Don is bringing out the character and the sound of the Martin saxes in a fine way. He loves his Martin saxes and he lets them wail in a way that are special for Martins. His fingers are quick and I think a Martin has a fast action due to low-setted keys. So I think it’s a combination of fast fingers and fast key action. Don has also worked hard with his tone through the years.

He has made four CDs on his own; ”In Wise Hands”, ”On The Verge of Survival”, ”Genuine Snake” and ”Swing Up A Storm” (compilation). He is not just showing his ability as a honker by playing his sax non-stop from the very first minute to the last on his CDs, he also has some great guest vocalists like Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball, Teresa James and Gary Bonton among others. His fellow musicians are singing and playing very well. The bassplayer George Hawkins Jr (John Fogerty, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green, Delbert McClinton, Billy Burnette …. ) is an amazing bassplayer and singer. Wise got his idea about what kind of music he would like to have on his CDs after listening to the radio on his long carrides from his home in Tennesee to met up with the Delbert McClinton Band tour-bus in Nashville. Some songs are Dons own and some has his wife Pamela Smith Wise as co-writer.

During Wise long career, that started in 1956, his ”The Martin Tenor” has been his fellow companion since 1964. ” …. and I haven´t found an instrument that comes closer for me, to the sound I want" , Don says about his saxes. He is still playing his first ”The Martin Tenor” from the early 50’s. His sax is nowadays goldplated instead of goldlaquered. Neither Don or anyone else can hear any differnce!? He expanded his Martin performance horn collection the other year with a silverplated tenor from the late 40’s. He is blowing into an vintage Otto Link 7S metal mouthpiece customised by Doc Tenney.

When I´m writing about Don Wise it’s hard not to mention John Laughter (use to visit CS from time to time). In Laughters book ”Contemporary Saxophone” Don Wise is contributing with a few songs. After reading and listening to the CC/CD in the mid 90’s, I managed to get in touch with Don Wise. I had tried since the early 90’s. John and Don are good friends.

Videoclips with Don Wise performing:

”Shaky Ground” w Delbert McClinton Band. From Austin, TX. 1989. A classic rocksax song. I think this recording is the same as the Alligator CD ”Live From Austin”

”Let The Good Times Roll” w Ray Charles at the Espys -97.

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