The musical theater is the major employer of woodwind doublers in today’s music industry. As a result, I feel that doublers and all woodwind players need to know as much as possible about the musical environment that surrounds any show. This led me to consider an interview with the musical team involved with Anastasia, the show with which I’m currently playing. During my career, I have been involved in many Broadway productions and been witness to the ups and downs of a steady Broadway gig. Often, egos and industry politics can dominate the environment and make coming to work anything but a musical experience. However, during the run of Anastasia, I have experienced first-hand how positive an experience a show can be Continue reading
I first heard Steve “live” while he was subbing on the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and subsequently started listening to him. It was clear that he was the real deal—an improviser who had studied the music and his instrument with great thoroughness. Steve has his own voice on saxophone while reflecting the influences of many of the great masters. In this interview, Steve talks about his musical beginnings and the influences of saxophonists Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker, David Sanborn, Eddie Harris, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Phil Woods, Johnny Hodges, etc. as well as drummers on his musical evolution. He also reflects on his development as a multi-instrumentalist, sideman, bandleader, and jazz educator. Finally, Steve provides an inside look at his approach to practicing and mastering a tune when he dissects Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma.” I hope you have as much fun with this video interview as I had interacting with Steve.
Growing up in New York and having lived in the city my entire life, I had a chance to see and hear Stanley Drucker play hundreds of times. He was our hometown kid who made good and always seemed to succeed regardless of any musical challenges he faced. His musical commitment, confidence, passion, personality and energy were ever present and you could always count on him to deliver an inspired performance. His love for the clarinet and music is still apparent, nine years after retiring from his job with the Philharmonic. Stanley continues to practice and perform throughout the world and be involved with his instrument on a daily basis. He goes to concerts and stays abreast of clarinet happenings by attending Continue reading
I first heard about Bobby from my first clarinet/saxophone teacher, Joseph Porcelli, who was Bobby’s father. Mr. Porcelli was a first-class gentleman who played the woodwinds beautifully and always conveyed his love of playing them in our weekly lessons. He was never one to ever boast about his abilities or accomplishments and was egoless. One day when my mother asked him how Bobby was doing and if he was good enough to survive in the music industry, he replied: “He’s REALLY good.” As I learned years later when I was able to study with Bobby and play with him, that was a huge understatement. That same sense of unassuming, quiet elegance that Mr. Porcelli manifested is present in Bobby. Continue reading
I first heard of Eddie Daniels when I began my woodwind studies with Joe Allard in 1971. Joe recommended that I go to hear Eddie play with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Village Vanguard on a Monday night when he realized my desire to play jazz on clarinet. Hearing that band up close and listening to Eddie play jazz clarinet were life-changing experiences. Subsequently, I heard him featured on tenor sax nightly with the Dick Cavett Show big band on ABC and decided that I wanted to follow that career path-that of a studio musician. When I began studying with him, I soon realized the very high level of musicianship that was required to succeed as a multiple woodwind specialist. It was also clear that Eddie not only possessed a huge talent but also was the most dedicated instrument-practicer I had ever met, obsessed with improving and mastering his instruments. He was very clear and honest as a teacher and had the ability to immediately recognize and solve whatever musical or instrumental problems I was experiencing. The levels of excellence that he performed with on saxophone/clarinet/flute raised the bar for all doublers. Continue reading
I first met Paul when I was an undergraduate at Queens College, CUNY. I was a saxophone/clarinet player who had recently become interested in learning the flute and had been impressed by the performances of Paul as well as his students. I had about one year’s worth of experience playing the flute when he agreed to accept me. It changed my life. He introduced me to the Maquarre Studies, Telemann Methodical Sonatas, Anderson etudes, etc. as well as making me aware of Rampal, Baker, Galway, Kincaid, Larrieu, Nicolet, etc. He spent a Saturday morning at a Manhattan music store picking out a new flute for me and wouldn’t accept any payment for his time. Continue reading
I have always been a fan of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, attending their performances in New York, Boston and at Tanglewood as well as owning many of their recordings. As a woodwind player, I was particularly attracted to the sophisticated elegance of the woodwind sections in that orchestra throughout my adult life and in particular, clarinetist Harold Wright. When Harold passed away in 1993, it was hard to imagine who would be able to fill those shoes. It was to my delight that William Hudgins has emerged as his worthy successor. As you will hear in this interview, he exudes a sense of humility and respect for those players that came before him and a deep desire to keep alive the French concept of resonance in the tone. His continuing search for color in the sound along with greater expressivity is expressed throughout our interview and serves as a model Continue reading
I first listened intently to Ron Odrich when I purchased a Music Minus One recording, “Wood on Wood,” in the 1970s that had copies of his solos transcribed by Buddy DeFranco. Already infatuated by DeFranco, Goodman, Shaw & Eddie Daniels’ jazz clarinet playing, I quickly became acquainted with the good doctor’s performances and have remained a fan for the past 40 years. He has become a personal friend and neighbor as well over the past decade and I treasure his knowledge and input on musical and worldly issues–even when we disagree! His commitment to seek improvement in his music making continues to inspire all who know him. His deep understanding of the physiological forces that influence air and tone production that he shares with us in this interview are sure to provide many with a new perspective for playing wind instruments. Continue reading
I have known Ted for many years and always regarded him as one of the finest musical talents of my generation. His ability to use various disciplines to inspire his music (art, literary contexts, speeches, etc.) reflects his continuing interest in the world and our society. I have had the opportunity to play with him in commercial situations and always respected his humble, positive attitude and prodigious talent. I have also seen Ted in music education scenarios and he is equally committed to helping young players develop and carry on the tradition of superlative music making that he and his family have given us through the years. Quite simply, Ted is a musician’s musician. Please check out more information about this unique artist on his website at tednash.com. Continue reading
I first heard Lew Tabackin play on an album called “Introducing Duke Pearson’s Big Band,” released in 1967. Lew took an extended tenor solo on New Girl that remains to this day one of my favorite sax solos within the context of a big band. Since that experience, I have purchased many albums with Lew as a sideman and as a leader and have never been disappointed. Lew is a virtuoso saxophonist and flutist who continues to probe the possibilities of varied expressions on both instruments. He is also deeply committed to preserving the musical identities of some of the greatest tenor players in history—Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Don Byas, Al Cohn, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. He has absorbed elements of their playing into his own unique voice and style. On the flute, he displays the same type of reverence for many of the classical giants he Continue reading
In this video interview, clarinet mouthpiece maker Brad Behn discusses his innovative mouthpiece designs along with his new barrels and bells. I first met Brad a little over 10 years ago when a former teacher of mine, Ron Reuben of the Philadelphia Orchestra, introduced me to his work. Brad’s desire to create a mouthpiece using the best technology available (Computer Numeric Control) along with top-of-the-line proprietary rod rubber material that so many of the great mouthpieces of past generations contained has led him down his current path. While finding vintage mouthpieces in excellent condition by clarinet mouthpiece makers such as Chedeville, Lelandais, Bettoney, Leroy, Kaspar, Robert, etc., would be akin to winning the lottery, Behn mouthpieces come the closest in my opinion to being able to replicate the sound and response characteristics of those vintage mouthpieces. Brad has spent a great deal of money and time searching for the correct Continue reading
I had heard about Joe Soldo from my saxophone/clarinet teacher, Joe Allard, some 40 years ago. Soldo was Allard’s dear friend and favorite pupil—a term Mr. Allard liked to use. When I finally met Joe Soldo 12 years ago, I understood why Joe Allard liked him so much. It wasn’t just that Joe Soldo played magnificent lead alto; or played flute with a beautiful “classical” approach; or that he was simply the best musical contractor one could ever hope to work for. It was that Joe Soldo lives for music, is still passionate about music at 91 years of age, and is as honest as they come. Ask Joe a question about anything that he has knowledge of and he will give you a straight answer with no holds barred! You’ll hear that in this video. I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know Joe and he reaffirms why Continue reading
Expert woodwind repairmen are among the most important professional associations for any performing artist. They often are the difference between having a good performance or a great one and allow us to achieve our potential. In this video, we examine the careers and artistry of four of the most respected woodwind repair technicians in the business—Mark Jacobi, Bill Singer, Tomoji Hirakata & Tony Salimbene. For anyone pursuing a career in woodwind performance, these repairmen should be familiar names. They come together here for the first time to share their insights and secrets in an inspiring roundtable discussion of their profession. Continue Reading →
This video is a behind-the-scenes look into the world of the players who are the foundation of any full reed section—whether in a pit band, big band, movie soundtrack, or a symphonic setting. The low reeds set the pitch center and help determine the overall volume, balance and rhythmical stability of any woodwind ensemble. The players of this “chair” also must have the type of personality that allows them to be flexible when working with lead players of a woodwind section in order to mimic their pitch, phrasing and rhythmic feeling. These are three of the best artists at all of these responsibilities that I have met in my career. This video allows the viewer to understand the levels of excellence and versatility that Reed V players must demonstrate on the baritone saxophone, bassoon and bass clarinet—the instruments that orchestrators tend to emphasize when writing for Reed V.
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Also available as a podcast. During the 35-year period that I have worked in musical theater, I have encountered a few conductors who carried forth their responsibilities with not only great talent and integrity but also created a positive feeling within the orchestra and cast. The three gentlemen interviewed here represent that type of individual and this interview provides great insight into the conductor’s world. While their backgrounds are varied, they have all succeeded in finding a way to bring forth the best results and have a good time. I first met David Chase during the run of Damn Yankees in 1994 when he took over conducting the show shortly after it opened. He made going to work every night a joy and was respected by everyone in the band and cast. He gave each musician every cue, every night! I met Constantine Kitsopoulos while subbing at the show Cyrano-The Continue reading
Also available as a podcast. This video interview with Rick Heckman & Dan Willis offers rare insight into the world of the double reed doubler. Rick & Dan discuss the nature of what today’s oboe doublers encounter on the job and offer solutions to performance problems. They also describe what they emphasize in their practice routines and demonstrate how they warm-up the oboe. Brief audio examples of their oboe & saxophone abilities are provided before and after the interview. I met Rick in the early 1980s when we played together in a chamber group. Like myself, he had been a saxophone student of Joe Allard and was a serious student of his woodwind doubles. We became friends instantly and have remained so for over 30 years. His affinity and gift for oboe/English horn has enabled him to become a first-call doubler both on Broadway and in the studios. He is Continue reading
Also available as a podcast. I met Larry Guy a number of years ago while freelancing around New York. Larry was always a colleague in the truest sense of the word—a team player and positive influence in the section whether playing principal, second or auxiliary clarinet. His sense of elegance in playing and professionalism on the job was gleaned from his years of study with some of the great woodwind/musical minds of the 20th Century—Robert Marcellus, Anthony Gigliotti, Kalmen Opperman, Alan Balter, and Marcel Moyse. Larry is the perpetual student—always interested in finding out more and willing to explore new avenues both for himself and his students. If there’s an important clarinet recital, clinic, masterclass, or conference being offered, expect to see Larry there! In this video, he talks about his career development, the changing world of orchestral auditions, equipment, and the fundamentals of air usage and tonguing. I hope Continue reading
Also available as a podcast. In this video segment, Keith Underwood provides invaluable information on historical flutes, recordings, exercises and a variety of other topics. He plays several of his historical instruments, including flutes previously owned by Tom Nyfenger and Albert Tipton. He also references recordings/videos by some of his favorite players (Rampal, Baker, Kincaid, Nyfenger, Glenn Gould) as a means for improving one’s musicality. Keith’s demonstrations of these players and their techniques will serve as an endless source of inspiration. Finally, his explanations of his breathing technique and breathing exercises are brilliant and should be seriously studied by all wind players.
Also available as a podcast. I first met Keith when both he and I were studying flute with Tom Nyfenger in the late 1970s. He was one of Tom Nyfenger’s prized students and would sub for Tom on gigs, often with little upfront notice. Nyfenger recognized Keith’s tremendous technical prowess and ability to handle almost any situation without fuss or fanfare. As luck would have it, Keith and I were roommates on a Steve Reich tour in the early 1980s. It was during this tour that he shared some of his thoughts with me on breathing and developing greater resonance in the tone as a result of improving one’s breathing efficiency. His concepts have proven to be invaluable and have helped me as a performer and teacher. Keith continues to evolve in both disciplines and is always seeking new ways to improve the art of wind playing. As a result Continue reading
Also available as a podcast. Jerry Dodgion was the first great lead alto saxophonist I experienced in a live setting when he headed the formidable saxophone section of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra beginning in the early 1970s. He made it all seem so easy and fun at the same time and I’ve never heard a better saxophone section for blend, balance and swing. Admired universally by all generations of musicians for his sophisticated and elegant approach to jazz improvisation, Jerry is also known as a great team player, colleague, multi-woodwind recording artist, and raconteur of stories. He has performed with seemingly every major player—from Louis Armstrong to Herbie Hancock–in addition to being a member of some of the most important big bands of the last 60 years. I’m thrilled to offer Jerry’s insights into woodwinds, the music business and life. I think you’ll find it very helpful and Continue reading
Also available as a podcast. Charles McPherson has been a musical hero of mine for decades. The fact that we have become good friends over the past 15 years has only enhanced my respect for Charles as a musician and as a human being. He is a self-effacing individual who manifests integrity in everything he does and is always available to help others. He cares deeply about his family, jazz, and the world in which we live. All of this infuses his music with a sense of love and profundity not commonly found. He has been a role model to generations of jazz fans and alto saxophonists and is still exploring new avenues of expression within the bebop/post bebop tradition. I think you’ll find this interview enlightening and inspiring. I’m honored to present one of the true legends of jazz and saxophone as part of the Woodwind Legacy Series. For Continue reading
I’ve known Lawrence Feldman since the mid-1970s, having played in a sax quartet with him for a number of years and worked with him on gigs in New York for close to 40 years. Lawrence is one of those rare birds whose love for music and desire to find new techniques to employ on his instruments has continued to grow after a lifetime of success in the music industry. Whether playing the lead alto chair for the Bob Mintzer Big Band, a classically inspired flute solo on a Tony Bennett record, or a vintage swing clarinet style for a jingle, Lawrence always seems to capture the perfect musical expression. Coupled with a Catskill-like sense of humor, he always brings a unique enthusiasm to any rehearsal or performance. Continue reading
Lawrence Feldman has the rare ability to imitate diverse musical styles on all of his woodwinds with great accuracy. His ability to capture the musical voices of renowned artists such as Dave Sanborn, Johnny Hodges, Michael Brecker, Les Robinson, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, etc. has allowed him to remain a mainstay in the NY recording industry for over 40 years. Lawrence discusses this aspect of his talent and demonstrates on saxophone and clarinet the chameleon-like ability of a first-call studio musician. Continue reading