How to do it
I’m not sure if this is the official term for this effect – it could just as easily have been called the Curtis tremolo – it was used by the great bebop and soul alto player Cannonball Adderley, but also King Curtis and many other players, especially in the
Texas style of R & B. I used to be asked to do it quite frequently on rock & roll recording sessions, producers would normally ask
can you do that thing King Curtis does?. In this example it is in the key of G on the tenor, which works very well but it can also be played in Ab and A quite successfully. You need to trill (or more correctly tremolo) the top E key while fingering (G), B, C C# and D.
The secret is to bend up to each note, this is the bit that takes practice to get it sounding good.
In order to bend up, you must of course first bend down (unlike with a guitar, a bend on a saxophone is much easier to do downwards in pitch by relaxing or slackening the lower jaw). So for this effect you either need to start the first note with a very relaxed embouchure or approach it normally and then do a quick bend down at the beginning of the each note, followed be a slower bend up throughout the note. The combination of the upward bend and tremolo effect of the top E causes a blurring of the actual notes involved.
Tip: I like to use the side of my RH thumb to do the top E tremolo.