I grew up in a pretty musical family. My parents and siblings were all amateur Musicians, with the exception of my brother Charles, who actually majored in Jazz theory in college and played in professional bands. He was the coolest cat I knew and I idolized him. He would come home everyday with more records and he'd retire to the basement to be inspired by the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Herbie Hancock and Thelonius Monk. His primary focus was percussion. I have fond memories of an old drum set that would be assembled in the alley in our neighborhood. Times were such that we could leave it set up in the alley and no one would dare steal them, not even the sticks because it would be like stealing from the neighborhood. We were a close knit community then. Local Musicians would come around and jam with each other and "Lil Charles"(my brother's nickname because he was short) would often be summoned to sit in on the drums for most of the sets and he never disappointed.
One Christmas, my parents bought me a snare drum with a cymbol attached and "Lil Charles" put on a show. I remember being very impressed with his ability. What I didn't know is that he wasn't the only drummer in the family. My sister, "Nay Nay"(short for Renee) stepped up to my Christmas present and played almost as well as Charles did. I was blown away. I had seen her play her knees or on a desk top like kids would do, but I had no idea my sister had this ability. Right away, I assumed it was something that we all had in the family. I commited to being a drummer, thinking that it would come naturally to me. Well, after realizing that there was nothing easy or even natural about making your hands and feet do four different things at once, it occured to me that if drums were a family gift, I was passed over. I found myself looking elsewhere for my musical identity.
One day, my brother Charles brought home Herbie Hancock's album "Maiden Voyage." I heard "Dolphin Dance" and I was forever changed.
After being mesmerized by this Herbie Hancock composition, a masterpiece in my eyes, I knew one of two things would have to happen; I would have to learn trumpet to play like Freddie Hubbard, or I would have to learn saxophone to play like George Coleman. After consulting with my father, an accomplished Pianist himself who only played by ear, he convinced me that I should pursue saxophone because it was believed at the time that the trumpet would eventually alter my lip, as it had both Miles Davis and Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. My Pops took great pride in the fact that my siblings were independent and had all earned their instruments themselves, whether by saving, shopping at the local pawn shop, bartering, whatever it took. I suddenly realized that I too would be responsible for purchasing my own instrument. Suddenly, the saxophone dream was put on hold. I would go on to learn to play guitar, because frankly, there was always one in the house to play with and also because it seemed all of the girls in my neighborhood loved guitar players.
So here I am, years later, happily married, with sons of my own, rife with the desire to learn jazz saxophone. Frankly, it's a pretty reasonable midlife crisis if you ask me. It could be worse.(Lucky for me I'm not at all into fast cars.)
In this exploration of what, in my opinion, is America's greatest contribution to the world of music, I will share my triumphs as well as challenges in developing myself into an Artist worthy of the title Jazz Musician. I plan to share insights in my own personal development as a well rounded Musician. I will, on ocassion, explore the other instruments that I own. My curiosity has lead to the acquisition of not only saxophones, but several guitars, a violin, a clarinet and my latest acquisition, "Petunia", my upright bass. Don't get me wrong, I dabble in a myriad of instruments and as much as I like to explore, I realize the saxophone is my soulmate.
You're all welcome to join me on my journey!