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Clinton blows away the blues

WASHINGTON - If this city's political pundits are to be believed, Bill Clinton has not covered himself in glory by his first 10 days in power. But in one offbeat quarter he's getting rave reviews - the US saxophone industry, writes Rupert Cornwell.

The economy may be struggling out of recession, but since the night First Saxman blew his horn at five of the eleven inaugural balls, US sales of his favourite instrument, costing between dollars 700 ( pounds 460) and dollars 2,200, have rocketed.

'In the old days, people were quite interested, but the price would put them off,' says a spokesman for Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center, which modestly bills itself as The World's Largest Music Store. 'But since the inauguration, our sales have doubled.'

In fact, the saxophone's popularity has been rising for a few years now, thanks to a rediscovered interest in jazz, and the success of the pop saxophonist Kenny G and rock bands which feature the saxophone. Over the last five years, industry specialists reckon, world-wide sales of the woodwind invented by the Belgian Antoine Sax in the 1850s have doubled to 400,000.

And that was before the 42nd President of the United States bared his unsuspected talent to the world on a late-night television show in June. Indeed, that endlessly replayed rendition of 'Heartbreak Hotel' was arguably the turning point of his election campaign.

Now, all US music stands to benefit. Opinions are mixed on Mr Clinton's technique (Democrats understandably take a more benign view than Republicans). But 'what's important is that we have a President that plays the blues, rhythm and blues and jazz', insists Quint Davis, who produced Mr Clinton's musical gala on Washington Mall. 'It will cause a focus on traditional American music that will be tremendous.'