A LITTLE HISTORY
My passion for the saxophone first took root when I became captivated by the sax sounds that were an integral part of early rock ‘n’ roll. Bands like Bill Haley and the Comets, Duane Eddy, and Johnny and the Hurricanes all featured saxophonists in their line-ups. I think it must have been the deep rock ‘n’ roll growl of the tenor that stirred something elemental in me. I was hooked. I can’t quite remember how old I was (probably 11 or 12) when my dad bought me my first horn (an Olds Ambassador tenor) and arranged for me to take lessons. My career, so to speak, was launched.
Then one evening, my good friend – a drummer, who lived next door – came over and said, “You gotta hear this!” He turned on my old record player and proceeded to play a brand new 45 rpm single entitled Yakety Sax by some guy named Boots Randolph. I was dumbstruck. I bought all his records after that. I learned his licks and tried to emulate his style.
However, Boots turned out to be only the first of several role models. One night when I should have been asleep, I was in bed listening to my transistor radio. While turning the dial, I landed on a Detroit station I had never heard before. The show featured the mesmerizing dark baritone voice of a DJ who called himself Le Baron (or something close to it). That night, I discovered jazz. Le Baron introduced me to the likes of Dave Brubeck, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Rollins, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Miles Davis.
Once again, I was dumbstruck. I started buying LPs by John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson and Chet Baker while listening religiously to Le Baron, ready to absorb anything new he might throw my way. On one of his shows, he played a tune from a new LP featuring Brazilian music, called Bossa Nova. The tune was Desafinado and the featured artists were Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz. I loved this stuff at once and was particularly drawn to the warm silken expressive style of Stan Getz. I then proceeded to eat up all the Stan Getz recordings I could find and his bust went up on the mantle beside Boots’.
I had never considered music as a career and as I got older, I put my horn away and concentrated on the serious task of carving out a career in a “legitimate” field of endeavour. That process took several years, during which I remained an avid music listener. But the horn? It remained in its case.
Then in my final year as a graduate student, I was approached by one of my colleagues who was also a singer. He asked me to sit in with his band and I accepted. This turned out to be another of those crucial events – very crucial in this instance since it prompted me to change completely my life’s direction. I put my newly acquired Masters degree in my drawer and took my horn out of its case, which is where it has been ever since. I moved back to Toronto and enrolled in the jazz program at Humber College where I remained for three years, studying saxophone, theory and composition. Then, armed with a little knowledge and virtually zero experience, I entered the music business. I began performing with a variety of bands, spent a lot of time on the road, and finally settled near Ottawa where I perform, teach music and compose.
A LITTLE PHILOSOPHY
Over the years, a certain philosophy of music has taken root and grown inside me. It has influenced the way I play, the way I compose and the way I teach. For me, music has to create a mood, a mood that is strongly emotional that will move the listener. To do that, I usually have some idea or person or situation in mind that I want to write about. Then I try to give the piece a specific quality or character that reflects that idea. And then when I improvise, I try to play a solo that enhances that character or emotional quality. Further, as a composer, I find that the best way to move the listener is to write music that moves me.