Finally Sharing Some Live Saxophone

It's been a really long time since I had a moment like the one above.  Every fledgling jazz saxophonist has to come face to face with Coltrane and Brecker at some point.  When you do, you realize right there that you will never reach those heights.  But there is the most exotic and intense rush of inspiration, energy and joy, and it sets you on fire for the rest of your life.  You go on and develop your sound, your music, you churn and grow.   BUT, you keep that feeling inside, and every once in a while, over the course of decades with the horn and in the music, there is a moment when you are closer than you've ever been to your heroes because of no particular reason.  Today was one of those days for me.  Just another tour coming up.  Haven't really been on the horn too much.  Feeling uncomfortable, too mental, reeds sucking ass, headache, not enough sleep...  but I listened to Michael Brecker on the way to work (rehearsal) and his intensity hit me.  He NEVER turned it off.  When he was playing the most delicate and giving tones, he still had the core intensity of someone who knows their meaning and purpose in this lifetime. He lived it.   Coltrane ... forget it.  Beyond anything.  So I told myself I'll try to follow through with all that time and heart I've poured into my instrument late at night, early in the morning, and just because I want to feel this life deep.  So this was a strong solo.  My friends were in the room and it made me happy.  I didn't mind going way over the top.  The greatest part was feeling the space, hearing my instrument play, listening to what was happening in front of me.  It was the real zone that only comes occasionally.  Meditation, a dream, a conversation, deepest laughter, love, nature... that kind.  Just another solo though.  

Solo Summer Session

Oh boy, was this ever a lovely summer.  My first summer in the Midwest.  I explored the fields and glens of Illinois and Missouri, found great calm in the clean air, old, fertile soil and timeless streams.  I especially loved my first visits to the Mark Twain National Forest and in particular, Johnson Shut-ins State Park.  What an unexpected and unusual place.  That's where the suite below was recorded.  Set the old iPhone on my car, pulled out the horn and wandered around playing from a very specific.. quite sad and dissociated emotional place.  Life is occasionally rough when you seek the source of happiness and can't accept consensus reality as it is generally given.  So this moody piece... thank God for music.  Great echo and interaction with the birds.  The last part was actually recorded miles away at an old abandoned mining facility, but the mood of the day wove everything together.  

Jazz Nightclub Scene

Below.. some solos from gigs at the semi-famous and much loved San Antonio jazz landmark, Carmen's De La Calle.  Pretty sure my man Kyle Thompson is on drums, Dennis Lambert on piano, and probably pankey on bass.  More examples of my simultaneously informed and yet uninformed style.


I'd been hunting for the perfect forever mouthpiece for all of my saxophones for 2 years when I recorded this.  I've found them since this was recorded.  I had fun doing this, and It is a nice documentation of of exactly how nerdy this whole mouthpiece hunting process was.  Also, I was really ... still am really.. trying to get some inside "Jazz" things together because I really blew that stuff off in college and I always felt like I wanted to be able to go to any city in the world, head to a jazz club and sit in, and just have some fun playing this music I love so much.  Welp, behold the soprano mouthpiece shootout buffet!

I spend a lot of practice time doing things like you will hear in the sample below.  I embraced this personal practice technique when I was pulling 10 hour sessions on the Carnival Cruise Line's fantasy class cruise ship "Ecstasy".   My 5 part routine at that time consisted of "the 3 Ts" ( 1) tone 2) technique 3) transcription),  4) melodic language and jazz vocabulary studies (based off of what I was transcribing and applied to tunes),  and 5) free playing.   The  4th part of the session would usually interpolate into the 5th part, and before I knew it, it was time to go watch the sunrise over the Caribbean.  

The essence of the exercise is to stick close metronomically and harmonically to what you are working on, be it tune, key center, tempo, or other, and to strive to play what you are hearing, both literally and conceptually.  Pausing to try to get something from mind to fingers, breaking away from form and tempo, taking shortcuts or scenic routes, and errors are all encouraged and necessary.  But the main thing is to never stop; keep playing, develop flow, and work with mistakes.  This has myriad benefits if done often.  It can really highlight what you want to play  but don't have under your fingers, it can tell you what chords and tempos you can't keep track of, and most importantly, it will give you clues to what you are naturally hearing and trying to execute on your instrument.  If you record these sessions and listen back critically, make notes and write ideas down, you will advance very quickly (provided you do something with the notes!).  One of my favorite teachers tells me that what you hear and like when you listen back to your practice recordings is what you need to be practicing and developing into your own style and sound.  Another not so obvious side effect of this technique is that as you consciously strive for sounds, chord tones, lines, ideas and tempos, you will be missing things, and this will be a sort of natural editing process which will leave intact unusual melodies, rhythms and sequences.  I have composed quite a few tunes, patterns and cells based on these incomplete ideas. 

In this one there are little pieces of Chris Potter, Bob Mintzer, and Coltrane coming out.  At least that's what I remember thinking when I was playing.