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Meet Ladd McIntosh

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Mom and Dad were both influences, actually. My mother played classical piano. She taught me to read music before I went to kindergarten. She just turned 88, and she still wants to learn to improvise. I tell her some things, but she doesn't remember. She was always positive about my ambitons, told me to follow my heart. My father was a part-time jazz musician, played saxophone and clarinet and sang. He was into Coleman Hawkins, had an Otto Link mouthpiece, had a big sound like Hawkins. He transcribed Hawkins' "Body and Soul" solo when it came out in 1939. I'm sure Dad's the reason I play saxophone. He was very well known in the Akron, Ohio area, and I got to hear him in clubs. When I was five at a club called Welch's they got me up on the stage, and I sang "I'm Looking over a Four Leaf Clover." Everything stopped-the cooks came out of the kitchen, and the waitresses stopped waiting. I loved that. In a way Dad kind of terrified me. When I was fourteen I was in a solo contest, and he came to hear me. I had a school alto, a piece of crap. I was playing "Valse Impromptu" by Clyde Doerr. A key came off the horn and hit the floor. My dad was furious. He said, "Next year you're going to play 'Come to Jesus' in C!" He went out and grudgingly bought me a brand new alto, a Pan American, not a very good make. It eventually turned green from the acid in my system. The better I got at it the more he didn't want me to be a musician. There was a dance band in my high school, but all we did was play twice a year for the school plays. When I was 16 my Dad brought home some Kenton records, and I really started getting into them. I got a partial scholarship to Ohio State where Burdette Green, a wise man, was my saxophone teacher. When I was 20 he got me my first gig, a seven-piece band with four horns. I was the youngest guy in the band by ten years, and I played baritone. I worked my way through college mostly on baritone. Burdette is still teaching at 76. We saw him last summer. I played him the Temptation CD, and he was so proud.

Playing vs. bandleading

My master's degree is in woodwinds performance. I still play at the Mancini Institute just to let them know the old man knows what he's talking about. If something comes along I do it. I played a wedding reception a while ago for some good money with four pieces, some Frank Sinatra songs. I used to play soprano on certain tunes with my big band, but as time went on we didn't play those tunes any more. I would rather focus on the music, the performance and let these guys shine. That's one of the things they appreciate about me—I give them the opportunity to stretch out. When I was still teaching at Northridge I would do a few clinics and concerts at various places. I almost always played at those.

Classic American songwriters

I love their abilities to write great melodies: George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington. Gershwin's orchestrations were pretty lame, but Porgy and Bess —Oh man!

Bela Bartok

I always told my students music is three things: imagination, logic, and clarity. Bartok could take a flute and put it in the middle of an orchestra, and you could still hear that flute. His Concerto for Orchestra , the 1923 Dance Suite , The Miraculous Mandarin. He wrote a piece for antiphonal string orchestras (two separate string sections), percussion, and celesta in about 1936. It pre-dates stereophonic sound. I arranged two of the four movements for Zanzibar with jazz solos in the middle. That was really fun to conduct with a lot of odd meter stuff. I kept the antiphonal idea—my woodwinds and French horns became my other string section.

Claus Ogerman

I love his string writing. The stuff he did for Diana Krall on that Look of Love album. Gate of Dreams —he wrote it for a New York dance company in the 1970's with Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, and George Benson. Symbiosis with Bill Evans. The record he did with Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim-it's just a string section, a flute or two, and a trombone with a felt mute. I found a wonderful Gene Lees Jazzletter online that devoted the entire issue to Ogerman.

Oliver Nelson

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