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Youngbloods: Saxophonist Sarah Hanahan

Photo: Jimmy Katz, Graphics: Amna Ijaz
Jimmy Katz
Photo: Jimmy Katz, Graphics: Amna Ijaz

In the third episode of our Youngbloods miniseries, we're putting the spotlight on Sarah Hanahan, a young alto saxophonist who has always been sure of her connection to the instrument. "I remember playing it for the first time," she says. "I never like, squeaked and squawked on it. I always had a sound; I always had a tone. I was a kid, but I found it right away."

Hanahan developed that sound with some help from her dad, a drummer who passed down his passion for music. She'd tag along to his gigs and practice sessions, quietly absorbing the richness of the pit orchestra. Weekends were for leisure and hours of live music via DVD – Buddy Rich, Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival was on heavy rotation in the Hanahan household, but it was the legendary drummer's saxophone section that Hanahan noticed above all else, inspiring her to pick up the instrument at 7 years old. It's been a union ever since.

Hanahan honed her skills at the Jackie McLean Institute at the University of Hartford. While there Hanahan devoured McLean's recordings, emulating his sound and experimenting with making them her own. "I feel Jackie every day."

This episode, we'll hear highlights from Hanahan's burning set at the Caramoor Jazz Festival in Katonah, NY, and some personal anecdotes from her former professor, the saxophonist Abraham Burton.

Musicians: Sarah Hanahan, alto saxophone; Miki Yamanaka, piano; Barry Stephenson, bass; Jonathan Barber, drums .

Set List:

  • I Want to Talk About You (Billy Eckstine) 
  • Appointment In Ghana (Jackie McLean)
  • Dance Little Mandisa (Rene McLean)
  • Embark in Central Park (Sarah Hanahan) 
  • We Bop (Hanahan)
  • Credits:

    Writer and Producers: Alex Ariff, Sarah Geledi; Assistant Producers: Camilo Garzón, Donelle Wedderburn and Scout Opatut; Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Trevor Smith; Recording Engineer: Corey Goldberg, assisted by Anthony Nieves; Consulting Editor: Katie Simon; Episode mix: Ron Scalzo; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Vice President of Visuals and Strategy at NPR Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.

    Special thanks to Timothy Coffey and Valerie Whitney.

    The Youngbloods theme was produced by Raydar Ellis.

    Copyright 2022 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Donelle Wedderburn
    Camilo Garzón
    Alex Ariff