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How about that Bob Mintzer guy?

August 20th, 2008 · No Comments

One fellow tenorman I should have written about a long time ago is Bob Mintzer. He is mostly known for holding down the tenor chair for the band “The Yellowjackets” for the last 15 years.

What some may not know is he is an award winning big band leader, writer and arranger. Check out his latest big band release “Swing Out.”

You should check out his web site at www.bobmintzer.com/

There is something about the dry, dark, secco spicatto tone he gets from his tenor. I love the raspy, dirty  sound he gets in his altissimo register. I gotta figure out how to do that one of these days.

I was playing at a Crawdad Festival in Isleton, Ca. of all places, and I met his Cousin. My brush with greatness. 😉

So, here are a few Bob Mintzer videos you should check out.

This a tune called “Even Song.” Jimmy Haslip describes this offering as “a song about church”.

This is from the “Politics” album, released in 1988.

Here is Bob live at the Krizanke Theatre, Slovenia, July 2006 supporting the Yellowjackets. Bob Mintzer guesting with SaxAssault here live – he is also guesting on this track for SaxAssaults new album due out spring 2007 with special guests Bob Mintzer, Jonny Hayes and Gwilym Simcock.

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Jerry Bergonzi

April 27th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Jerry Bergonzi is one of the great unsung heroes of jazz tenor players. He is very well known in the jazz world but he should have a much broader audience. I love his dry, dark tone. I really like his gritty altissimo register. He has a total command of his horn along with a formidable technique. He is an author of many books on jazz improvisation. Check out his website here. Also, go to my jukebox in the lower right side and listen to a couple of cuts by Jerry. I will add more later.

Jerry Bergonzi

With the Hal Galper Trio –

Some great embouchure advice –

Jerry Bergonzi-sax, Bruce Gertz-bass
Gabriel Guerrero-piano, Bob Kaufman-drums, live at Sahara Club, MA in 2005 –

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Michael Brecker

April 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

Michael Brecker was absolutely the most influential saxophone player for the last thirty five years. That is saying a lot but I think it’s definitely still an understatement. He was on top of his artistry and constantly improving and moving forward when in a concert in Japan in 2004 he experienced a great pain in his back. Shortly thereafter in 2005, he was diagnosed with the blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Despite a widely-publicized worldwide search, Brecker was unable to find a matching stem cell donor. In late 2005, he was the recipient of an experimental partial matching stem cell transplant. As of late 2006 he was recovering, but it proved not to be a cure for him. Brecker made his final public performance on June 23rd 2006, playing with Herbie Hancock at Carnegie Hall. Sadly, he passed away in January of 2007 from leukemia.

When I first heard Michael it was the early 70’s and the album was the first Brecker Brothers album. I thought I had died and gone to heaven because for the first time here was a tenor player who, like myself, did not grow up listening to be bop or jazz in general. What I heard was what I heard in my head, jazz being played on the tenor sax that reflected a musical upbringing that was R&B, Rock & Roll. I was totally stoked, not only did I get that from Michael but also on that same record was a young alto player named David Sanborn. Wow!

I love Michael’s whole approach to his music, his sound, which was totally unique, his technique which is unparalleled to this day.

Do yourself a favor and listen to anything Michael ever recorded. Go to YouTube and type in his name. Be prepared for greatness!

All musicians, not just saxophone players, will be learning from him for many years to come.

R.I.P. Michael Brecker

Here is a clip from his quindectet in Japan

He was totally and completely ridiculous! I mean that in a good way. I can’t help but laugh when I hear him play. He was unbelievable! Be sure to check out his last album, Pilgrimage.

Here he is playing “Delta Blues” all by himself. Let me assure you, the multi phonic sounds he gets out of his horn are difficult as all hell to pull off and they are completely intentional. Those sounds are basically, playing chords on the saxophone. To be able to play those at will is one small indicator of the control this man had over his horn. Totally awesome!

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Chris Potter

April 6th, 2008 · No Comments

Have you all heard about Chris Potter? If you haven’t, you’re missing quite possibly the best tenor player walking the planet these days. I first saw him many years ago while I was watching a film on television on the South Carolina Jazz Festival. Chris was with the Red Rodney Band. Red was the trumpet player (the “albino” member of the band) with Charlie Parker for a while. Anyway, I’m watching this and all of a sudden Chris comes walking up and proceeds to blow everyone off the stage! He was quite young but he already had a very firm grasp on how to speak jazz tenor. At the end of the concert he and Eddie Daniels played together on a B flat blues, I think it was “Tenor Madness.” Man, the sparks were flying between these two!

Last year I went to see Chris perform at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square in Oakland, Ca. I was absolutely riveted! He does things on the tenor that don’t seem possible. His technique is truly awesome and he uses it in a very unique style. Definitely go see him if you ever get the chance.

I have followed Chris’ career ever since and he is one of my all time favorite tenor players. His latest album “Follow the Red Line, Live from the Village Vanguard” is one of the finest recordings I have ever heard. He is with the same band as the “Underground” album, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, Adam Rogers on Guitar and Nate Smith on Drums. These guys are all on a different page and together they make some of the most exciting and freshest music these old ears have heard in a long time. After the show I walked up to him and shook his hand and introduced myself and he was a genuinely nice guy.

Chris Potter

Chris Potter

Here’s a clip of the Chris Potter Quartet, featuring the band from the “Underground” album.

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Wow, I just have to share this

March 14th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Hey all, I finally made the big time! I am on iTunes! A few years back I did some recording for a fellow named Ron Rougeau. Apparently he has that album up on iTunes. So, if you have iTunes, you can do a search for Ron Rougeau and bingo, there it is. It’s called The Resting Place on the Moon. I’m the sax/flute player on three of the cuts. Way cool!
If you like it, you could even buy it! Then I would get rich because of all the great points I got when I signed the contract! ….NOT!

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Tomales Bay, Ca.

March 14th, 2008 · No Comments

Donna and I went for a little drive today out to the town of Marshall on Tomales Bay. We went to the only restaurant in town called Nick’s Cove. As it happens, I teach the owner/chef’s son the saxophone. He was not there today however, so no free meals for us. Here are a few photos from our trip.

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Last week’s Gig at DiRosa Preserve

March 14th, 2008 · No Comments

Well, here we go once again. I got a call a few months ago from an agency out here. They are real big time and so I figure that anyone who is calling them for wedding music is loaded. So, I highballed my price, you can always negotiate down. So the agent sent them to our page on his web site so they could look at us and listen to the sound files, and the client still went ahead and hired us! Amazing!
The gig was at this real nice piece of property in the Carneros region of the Napa valley. It’s called the Di Rosa Preserve. This area is right at the tip of the San Francisco bay, real windy! This link will give you an idea of the place: http://www.circlepix.com/tour.htm?id=362255&mls_tour=1
This rich geezer bought the place years ago and it has one of the largest private collections of art in California. It really is something to see. Here’s a picture of the lake on the property. Not only do California cows talk, they also walk on water!


So, there we are playing the usual wedding stuff, Pachebel’s Canon in D, Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring and a couple of sappy love songs they requested.
Have you ever tried to play flute in a gale storm? Let me tell you it ain’t easy! The wind comes up and your air stream takes a 90 degree turn and takes the note along with it! This is not what you would call a relaxing environment.
The music they wanted for the processional was “The Wedding” from The Legends of the Fall. I had that sheet music nailed down at every corner,….except one. Well, guess what, right when we are getting towards the end, yup, you got it, a giant gust of wind comes across the music stand reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina and whoosh, up goes the corner that wasn’t glued down!!! I hate when that happens! Well, I’m a pretty good jazz player and improviser, but jamming on a wedding processional piece is not something I’m accustomed to. But, improvise I did.
But, you know what? No one even suspected I made up the last eight bars! They loved it. They, the bride and groom, approached me afterward and said they thought it was just beautiful and they were very pleased. Unbelievable! I just thanked them, I wasn’t about to tell them.
There you have it, another reason why I love doing what I do. It’s hardly ever boring. Well, sometimes it is, …never mind, that’s another blog entry.
Later everyone!

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Jim Pepper

March 14th, 2008 · No Comments

To say that Jim Pepper was a unique voice in jazz would be an understatement. I got turned on to Jim’s music when I heard him play his signature tune that he left the jazz community, “Witchi Tai To.” This song has been covered by no fewer than fifty artists. It is from a ritual peyote chant that Jim learned in his childhood. He was part Kaw and part Creek native American.

His characteristic incisive, penetrating tone and soulful delivery was unique for its time. His sound was emulated by players like Jan Garbarek, Michael Brecker, and David Sanborn. He seemed to skip all the usual bull sh*t that most sax players go through and he went right to the heart of the matter.

Here are some videos I found:

Here is one of the first versions of “Witchi Tai To

His story:

Part 2

Here’s Jim doing a bit of Witchi-Tai-To live. Watch him think about what he’s playing. This is what I meant about cutting through all the BS and getting right to the heart of the matter.

Here is an excellent studio version of “Witchi Tai To:

http://saxlessons.com/Jim Pepper/Witchi Tai To (Excellent Studio Vers.mp3

Go here for more on Jim Pepper:


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As long as we’re talking about great tenor players…

March 9th, 2008 · No Comments

Bob Berg is one of my all time favorite tenor players. The first time I heard him was in 1973 when I listened to Horace Silver’s album “Silver and Brass.” His solos on Barbara, Mysticism and The Sophisticated Hippie were like something I had never heard before. He had such an unusual way of phrasing he caught a lot of flack from the critics. They said things like his style was “awkward and gangly. Indeed. That is exactly what I liked about him. His tone was also very different from anyone else, then and now. His technique was formidable, it seemed as though there was nothing he couldn’t wrestle out of that horn. When he came to San Francisco in 1973 at the Keystone Corner, I of course, went to check him out. Wow! What a show! The front line was Tom Harrell on trumpet and Mr. Berg on tenor. Horace came out in a bright red jacket with a white blouse kind of a shirt with ruffles and flowing cuffs. He was quite resplendent. That was a very memorable performance, for sure. Bob was about 21 or 22, very young. I loved going to the Keystone Corner, I saw so many great players there. You could sit up close and really get an education.

Jumping ahead, in 2002 I sat down at my computer and in my email I see an email from Bob Berg. I’m thinking, yeh, right! Someone is yanking my chain. He wrote me to tell me of his new soprano so I could update my players setups page. He also had good things to say about the site in general. Well, I still wasn’t buying this so I wrote him back and told him I was a huge fan and mentioned the time I saw him and bought him a drink at a gig in San Francisco in 1973. Well, he wrote back and filled in the details I left out. He said, “yeh, that was a great gig at the Keystone Corner with Horace Silver. WOW! You could have knocked me over with a feather! It was really him! Believe it or not (I did save the emails) we started emailing each other talking about stuff sax players talk about. He told me he found a Mark VI that was literally never played. He said he didn’t care about the appearance of the horn but he told me this horn was a real player. We also discovered that we were both fisherman. He sent me a few pics of him surf casting on Long Island and I sent him a few pics of me fly fishing. I just could not believe that here I was talking with one of my all time favorite musicians on this planet like we were pals or something.

One day during this exchange I tuned in to the sax newsgroup and saw a header that said” Bad news about Bob Berg,” It was like getting punched in the gut, I just knew this wasn’t going to be good. I then learned he died in a car crash in Long Island. He was hit by a truck that skidded out of control in the ice and snow. The driver of the truck was, sadly, a friend of Bob’s. I was totally grief struck. Just when life is getting good for him and he is on top of his game. Life really is not fair sometimes.

If you are not familiar with Bob’s extensive discography, you should really check him out. He is one of the all time great tenor players.

His website can be found here: http://www.bobberg.com/

Here are just a couple of YouTube videos I found.

Here is a master class on how to play in a quartet setting. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Chick Corea – Piano
Eddie Gomez – Bass
Steve Gadd – Drums
Bob Berg – Tenor Sax

Here is Bob playing one of his own tunes, “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” with guitarist Mike Stern.

Sheer genius.

Here’s one more worth checking out.

The real pity is that most people who see this will never realize what is really happening here. This is sheer genius. Most people will never know.

Bob Berg will live on.

Bob Berg
1951- 2002

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Emanuele Cisi

March 8th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Wow! I don’t get real excited about too many musicians these days but I must say when I heard Emanuele playing his lovely ballad” Children Heart” I was knocked out! This guy has it all. Great tone, expression, emotion, and just plain old chops. Like a lot of Italian players he is saying something new. I don’t hear very much be-bop influence, and I must say, I like that. He marches to a different drummer. Emanuele is one of the new generation of players coming out of Europe that I find very exciting and great to listen to. Check out his myspace site here:


Here are some pics of Emanuele:

I have been talking to Emanuele via email and during those chats he said he would send me some CD’s that I would have a hard time getting. Well, lo and behold, he did send me three CD’s of some of his previous work. This speaks volumes as to the kind of person he is. I am thoroughly enjoying listening to these recordings. Emanuele is really something else! A real monster!

Emanuele is one of the real true artists coming out of Italy. We need to pay attention to him, I think he is going to become one of the real masters of the tenor saxophone. Actually, I think he is there already!


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