Rudy Wiedoeft

Pre-jazz & Silent Movies

In 1908, a young American professional clarinetist, Rudy Wiedoeft (1893-1940), decided he would do something with a saxophone he had seen in a pawn shop…

Wiedoeft said:

“I thought there could be a lot of money in the novelty. This revolutionary move on my part was not well received by friends, relatives and colleagues.”

Rudy Wiedoeft

The saxophone was an unusual instrument in his time, but being a first-rate clarinetist, he gradually began to earn a reputation as a virtuoso saxophonist. Rudy Wiedoeft, as Elise Hall, is one of those historical figures, who seriously contributed to the popularization of the instrument. He was well known in the United States and Europe. He published methods and composed works that have been part of the saxophone repertoire for over a century.

Historians speak of him as one of the most important musicians of the pre-jazz, or ragtime era.  His style is linked to vaudeville music, a theater genre that is a precursor to Broadway musicals and the film industry. His music was common in silent films. In our times Rudy Wiedoeft would be the equivalent of a renowned soundtrack composer.

It must be kept in mind that the recordings we have of Rudy Wiedoeft were made with rudimentary equipment. He couldn’t repair anything he recorded, something that can easily be done today with the audio editors that anyone reading this can install on his device. Rudy could not put rever, delay, autotune, any effect on his recordings, he could not cut or paste as he pleased, nor record the same passage over and over again. He is an example of musical honesty.

If videos and audios did not exist, it would be difficult to believe that a century ago, when Sidney Bechet or Marcel Mule began their superstar careers, Rudy Wiedoeft had already reached the top. It was even the sound that gave prestige to saxophone brands. He recorded with saxophone bands, a precursor to the saxophone section characteristic of the swing era.

One of his recommendations is: you should study one thing at a time and until it is completely mastered. In short: he tells us to practice, to take action, to talk less and play more. He reminds us with his music that it is practice that makes perfect.