Woodwind Studio Legends Roundtable

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This video is also available as a podcast.

Interview with Studio Legends

The interviews that have appeared as part of the Woodwind Legacy Series to date have all taken place in New York City. However, I realized that there were a number of musicians on the west coast whose careers and achievements were important to present. During August of 2019, I traveled to Los Angeles to conduct video interviews with several of these artists. Gary, Gene, Ronnie & Don were kind enough to make this roundtable interview possible. Having the opportunity to spend time with four of my musical heroes made this interview a memorable moment for me. Thanks guys.

I first met Gary Foster through our mutual friend, Ron Janelli, in 2004. I invited Gary to my university to be a guest artist with my woodwind doubling students and jazz ensemble. We became fast friends and my respect for Gary as a musician, educator and friend has only deepened since that initial encounter. During these past 15 years, Gary has been the most generous colleague one can imagine–sharing music, recordings, stories and views on life with me and always offering encouragement. It’s as if we had been friends for our entire life and I am eternally grateful. Gary’s devotion to his craft is unmatched and serves as an inspiration for all of us.

Gene Cipriano was a name I had known about for many years. I first heard the renowned NY reed player Harvey Estrin speak glowingly about Gene in the 1970s. When I finally got a chance to meet him in 2009 while in Los Angeles, I understood why Gene is beloved by everyone. He loves life, music and his colleagues. Having the opportunity to sit and talk with Cip is something I wish every woodwind instrumentalist could do—he’ll give you an honest assessment of the music business and you’ll come away with the feeling that devoting your life to music is worth it. He continues to amaze all of us with his musical excellence at age 90! Yo Cip!

Ronnie Lang has been an alto sax hero of mine as well as many others for generations. I had never met Ronnie in person until this interview but had spoken with him via phone several times. During these conversations, it quickly became clear to me that he was full of energy and life and loved talking about music, the industry and golf! Ronnie is like the energizer bunny—able to provide instant excitement to any conversation as well as musical scenario. His in-depth knowledge of the industry and uncanny memory are on clear display during this interview.

The reason I decided to devote my life to multi-woodwind instrumental performance was largely due to the late-night TV big bands that I grew up hearing. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was the #1 show in that time frame for 30 years and during that time, the sax section members were among my role models. Don Ashworth was one of two saxophonists who remained with the band when the show permanently moved to L.A. in 1973. (Tommy Newsom was the other.) I remember Don always providing funny moments on the Show, either during the “Stump the Band” segments or watching his clarinet come apart while playing the Rhapsody in Blue clarinet solo. The annual holiday TV specials that the Tonight Show Band often featured Don’s beautiful oboe/English horn playing and the foundation that he laid down on baritone sax for the sax section was always stellar. It was a privilege to finally meet him during this interview.

*Editors Note: The audio track at the opening is Ronnie Lang playing alto saxophone on the theme from “Taxi Driver.” The audio track at the very end of the interview is Gary Foster playing alto saxophone on “A Beautiful Friendship.”