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Take Five With Dave Schiff

Dave Schiff By

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Meet Dave Schiff:

Dave Schiff, a 20 year veteran of the Navy Band Jazz Ensemble "The Commodores," is a powerful and versatile woodwind jazz instrumentalist who has traveled the world working with top entertainers and jazz legends such as Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Don Menza, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Smooth jazz, straight ahead, funk... you name it... Dave can play it.

His expertise on all woodwinds has given him the opportunity to back great acts all over the country, including performers such as Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra Jr., Natalie Cole, and many more. When Dave is not on tour, he usually finds himself in the Theatres in the Philadelphia area playing Broadway shows.

Dave performs at jazz festivals and is an active clinician, working with young musicians in high schools and colleges. His passion for working with young people is credited to his father, Hal Schiff, who had a profound influence on many young musicians while an educator and district coordinator of music in the Brandywine School District in Delaware.


Dave's equipment includes: CannonBall tenor sax, Selmer MK VI tenor sax. Selmer Super Action 80 alto sax, Martin baritone sax, King soprano sax. Selmer 9 clarinet. Buffett bass clarinet. Kurt Gemeinhardt flute. Gemeinhardt piccolo. Sonare alto flute.

Teachers and/or influences? Throughout my career I've had the opportunity to study under jazz greats such as Pepper Adams, Don Menza, Boysie Lowrey (composition) and Sir Roland Hanna.

Also, as a young teen, my dad would put me on the train to New York City to go study improvisation with Pepper Adams. When I was 16, the day came when Pepper told me I was ready and asked me to play with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band at the Village Vanguard. I was scared...

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... my father said, "Here—here's a clarinet. You will like it." And I did.

Your sound and approach to music: I play all the woodwinds and am trained across a wide range of styles. Centered in jazz, I love mixing styles and approaches. But no matter what instruments or style I'm playing, I approach it with a full-bodied expressiveness that is frequently high energy.

Your dream band:

One that works. I always wanted to work with Elvis Presley—my brother got to. And I always wanted to work with Barbra Streisand. But in the end, if I can work with other talented, hardworking people— and there's work— I'm happy.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Anything can happen when you're on the road. You meet great people and share music. And you never know who you're going to meet, especially in the green room in Vegas. I've met entertainers such as Rich Little, Eddie Mekka (who played Carmine Ragusa on Lavern and Shirley), and Steve Rossi, half of the Allen and Rossi comedy team.

During a tour in South America, Antonio Carlos Jobim came to a concert. Afterwards we were invited to his home where we jammed with the Latin music master.

And then there are the stories you can't tell... what happens on the road stays on the road.

Favorite venue:

I always love playing Vegas. The energy of a Vegas show just has no equal. Small jazz rooms are great too because they allow for a special spontaneous interaction between performers, and allow a strong connection to develop between performers and the audience.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? I love "Rio Nights" on the new Schiff Brothers' Express album. It reminds me so much of my time in Rio, on Ipanema Beach. I just envision the stars in the sky and it brings back wonderful memories of the people and music.

I also love "When Kingdom Comes," also on Express, because it's about my Dad and his influence on so many young musicians, including my brother and me.

I also love the alto solo I did in the tune "Starless" on the Rocket Scientists' album, Hommage Symphonique. I had the opportunity to integrate jazz and prog.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Sonny Rollins' Sonny's Time." Rollins was one of my early influences. His were the first improvised solos that I transcribed.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I hope I'm not just helping keep the alive, but also helping to move it forward. This recent album, Express, is a whole new fusion of styles and approaches. When I previewed it to friends and asked them to define the style, they couldn't.

Did you know...


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