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Bob Reynolds: Communication Is Key

R.J. DeLuke By

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Reynolds has known Gwizdala for over 20 years, going back to the Berklee School of Music they attended. I've been playing with him for over 20 years. Gwizdala knew Sirota from Berklee. Horton has played for about a decade with Reynolds in LA.

The previous CD, Hindsight, had Rogers on bass, Goldberg on piano and Calvaire on drums "Great band. The only time we played together as a band was the two days in the studio when we recorded that album. That's the norm. You go in the studio and get the best guys you can for one day; if you're lucky two days. I'm proud of that album," says Reynolds. "But it's a different animal. There are certain things that are not going to happen until you're playing music with people, repetitively, over time. The chance to build that unspoken vocabulary is a rare thing."

The group did a tour of Europe early this year, to great acclaim. All of this surrounding a band that many people—especially in the booking and promoting end—were not particularly aware of. Reynolds used his social media acumen to turn it into a mostly sold-out tour.

"That was incredible. Over half of it was sold out. We played the Bimhuis [in Amsterdam, Holland. Listen to the show]. Four hundred people packed. People sitting on the floor, on the stairs. What people were responding to after every show ... I talked to so many people ... I don't remember one person saying, 'What an amazing saxophone solo' or 'What an amazing piano solo.' What people were moved by was the band chemistry. That's what we thrive on."

"It started with one person who wanted to bring me over to headline the London Saxophone Festival. That started the ball rolling," but their was a lack of big-time recognition that makes promoters balk at taking any risk. "So I made a bunch of YouTube videos and put out stuff to my email list and social media and I told people—Don't email me and ask 'When are you coming to Berlin? When are you coming to Madrid? Here's the booking agency. Here's their Facebook page. Their email. Their website. Tell them.' And people just blew it up. They got inundated with requests and that's why they booked the tour."

Something Lester Young could not have done.

In Germany, the promoter told Reynolds he could have booked a bigger venue and sold many more tickets, had he known more. He wasn't well known in Rotterdam, Holland, but left with a connection to possibly play next year's North Sea Jazz Festival. "I have a connection to the audience, but none of the in-between people have any idea who I am," says the bandleader.

In the U.S., he says, its a tougher task. Promoters stick to the top names and what hot CDs might be out. Nightclubs are the same. Reynolds is looking at a possible east coast tour, maybe midwest, but the logistics are difficult. It is also hard too fill in enough smaller gigs between major cities. He spent a considerable up-front money to pay the band, hotel bills, air fares and the like for the European tour.

The life of a musician is more blood, sweat and tears than glamour. "You do what you can. You play with other people and try to save up a bank to be spent on doing your own thing."

The journey to "his own thing" started at age 13. He was living in Jacksonville, Fla., having moved from his native New Jersey. Reynolds wanted to join the band to learn an instrument—not necessarily saxophone—and learn how to write music. He was interested in film music. He decided on clarinet, but his family couldn't afford it. He ended up getting a saxophone from a neighbor that was not being used. He began playing it on his own. "Somewhere I got a hold of a book that had a blues scale. I remember playing the blues scale and going, 'Oh. This sounds cool.' That was the beginning."

He says the first saxophone he remembers hearing was Kenny G, who was on the VH-1 music video station. Then he moved to Grover Washington and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. "Then at the arts school I was with young guys who showed me things like Sonny Stitt. It became like, 'Oh my gosh.' It kept going deeper and deeper. My biggest influences became Joe Henderson and Stan Getz. Two huge early influences because of their sounds." He listened to Coltrane's earlier period and also Stanley Turrentine, Gene Ammons, King Curtis and Ben Webster. Of more current players, Joshua Redman and Chris Potter made a strong impact. His listening expands today to Kenny Garrett, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker and Kirk Whalum.

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