Leo Potts, saxophone instructor at Cal State Long Beach. Outstanding teacher. Changed my approach to the saxophone. His tonal concepts are with me always. Charlie Shoemake, Jazz improvisation teacher. Clarified jazz harmony for me.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I heard Chuck Mangione and his band play in Maui during one summer vacation.
Your sound and approach to music:
I have a melodic approach to playing and let the sound of the sax ring as freely as possible. This allows the tone to be full and expressive.
Your teaching approach:
I try to make things simple and straightforward for all of my students. I spent years being a confused student of jazz harmony, until it was explained to me in very organized and simplified terms at Berklee College of Music. I have developed methods to break down complex harmonic concepts into easy step by step lessons for players at every level.
Your dream band:
I would like to play with Brian Blade on drums, Marcus Miller on bass, Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitar, George Duke on keys, and Vince Mendoza doing orchestral and brass section arrangements. That would be musical heaven!
Anecdote from the road:
When The Rippingtons were in Michigan and the power went out. Russ and I entertained the crowd for the second half of the show by playing acoustically while our crew pointed flashlights at us!
It is now closed, but the old Rockefellers in Houston, TX, had a great sound and wonderfully energetic crowds. They made us feel like rock stars!
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My favorite recording is the latest project Play. I feel that the playing and writing is the best that it has ever been. There is a good energy to this recording.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I contribute genuine passion and enthusiasm to the music I perform.
Did you know... ...That I like to cook? I like to watch all the cooking shows and pick up tips.
How do you use the internet to help your career?
The internet is quite simply the most important tool next to the saxophone! I use it to co-write music, record music, and promote music. It is the fastest way to communicate with fellow musicians. We use it to send MP3 demos and PDF charts to one another so that we can learn each other's music. I can't imagine working without it!
CDs you are listening to now:
John Mayer, Continuum (Aware/Columbia)
Kenny Garrett, Song Book (Warner Bros.)
Four80East, En Route (Native Language)
Desert Island picks:
Steely Dan, Aja (MCA)
Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue (Columbia)
Earth Wind and Fire, Faces (Sony)
James Taylor, Greatest Hits (Warner Bros.)
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Jazz is what it has always been: continually changing. Smooth jazz was in for a while, but now there is a return (at least in my heart) to real playing with real musicians.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
The most important requirements to keep jazz growing are passion and authenticity. As artists, we must be brave enough to reveal how we truly feel with each performance. Then and only then does our music have resonance and longevity with the listener.
What is in the near future?
I will be on tour for the spring and summer of 2007. During the downtime between performances I will be writing and recording new material for the Sax Pack (featuring myself, Steve Cole and Kim Waters). I will also be formulating educational material for an instructional book and DVD series.
Father to my three-year-old daughter Catalina, husband to my wife Chaunte.
I love jazz because it gives me freedom of expression.
I was first exposed to jazz from the minute I was aware of my surroundings.
I met Harry Connick, Jr.
The best show I ever attended was Tony Bennett.
The first jazz record I bought was Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out.
My advice to new listeners: never stop expanding your horizons.
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