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Take Five With Charley Langer

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Charley Langer:

Intelligent smooth jazz. Think "Phil Woods meets Boney James." So far, the reviews are very positive:

"Charley Langer doesn't waste these tracks. If you take the time to listen, each one reveals a different side of his musical personality... What we see here is a jazz musician as jack of all trades, and a darn good one, to boot."—Dan MacIntosh,; critic for CMJ, Paste, and Spin.

A classically-trained saxophonist, Charley developed his technique under such masters of the instrument as Vincent Gnojek, Douglas Masek, and Laura Hunter. His experience includes numerous live venues, television, and radio; as well as performances with notables Morton Gould, John Adams, Zita Carno, the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, and others. During a temporary relocation to Hawaii, Charley worked as a sideman for several local entertainers, including island chart- topper Jon Basebase ("Suddenly"), the Bobby King Royal Combo, and the Willie Barton Orchestra.

Charley has played and/or recorded with contemporary Christian artists Annie Herring, Julie Meyer, Chris DuPre, Pablo Perez, Gregg Stone, and others. He has been a contributing performer on numerous independent recordings. Produced by Ron Wikso, Charley's new solo CD, Never the Same, features world-class jazz musicians Alphonso Johnson, Wally Minko, and Michito Sanchez.


Saxophone, wind synthesizer.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: Vincent Gnojek, Douglas Masek, Laura Hunter.

Influences: Too many to name. The first three that come to mind are Paul Desmond, Phil Woods, and The Yellowjackets.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

...I was in the fifth grade. My parents bought me my first alto saxophone. I still remember the feel and smell of it. I slept with it under my bed so I could reach down and touch the case.

Your sound and approach to music:

I play contemporary/smooth jazz with a traditional approach to the saxophone. Drum machine not included. I call it "intelligent smooth jazz."

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

I had just performed in a live radio concert, a tribute to Halsey Stevens, with Zita Carno, former pianist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Zita is a very fun person, and an incredible musician. The performance went splendidly, and I was enjoying the after-glow.

The host of the show tugged on my sleeve and asked if he could do a live broadcast interview with me before I left. I reluctantly agreed. He sat me in front of a microphone and said something like, "You just performed "Dittico" by Halsey Stevens—why did you pick *that* piece?"

I could not come up with an answer. I felt like asking him why he liked chocolate ice cream. Maybe he wanted me to talk about theme development, harmony, color—I don't really know. It was the shortest interview I've ever done.

Favorite venue:

JB's Lounge in Sacramento has excellent acoustics, and intimate atmosphere, wonderful staff, and owners who truly support the arts. And I get to play there a lot!

The first Jazz album I bought was:

I think the first one I ever paid for with my own money was Richie Cole: Alto Madness. I was in the seventh grade. I wore that one out and read the liner notes over and over until I had them memorized. I still remember much of what was written on the inside after 25 years.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Honesty. I play music that I want to listen to. While I think that's common with the straight-ahead jazz guys, I don't see that it's a common trait in the "smooth jazz" genre. Somebody told me today, "You play 'post-modern smooth jazz.'" I think that's a fair assessment. I call it "intelligent smooth jazz."

Desert Island picks:

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue(Columbia);

Michael Brecker, Pilgrimage (Heads Up);

Weather Report, Heavy Weather (Columbia);

Yellowjackets, The Best of Yellowjackets (Warner Bros).

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

The obvious answer—to me anyway—is education of the younger generations. Frankly, I don't think we're doing a very good job of that.

What is in the near future?

Now that my CD has been released, I've gone from composer/arranger/recording artist to marketing ninja! I was interviewed on KXJZ on Tuesday, December 15, 2009. I'm practicing my horn. And I'm putting together a band to promote the album.

By Day:

Environmental regulator.


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