I’ve played tenor sax for over 15 years and currently play with a jazzy trio (voice, sax and guitar) and a six-piece blues/soul band.
I had no musical aspirations whatsoever and picked up the sax in my twenties, when a chance encounter with someone who was learning, provided me with the opportunity to have a try. It was like I had found my voice and every time I pick up one of my saxes, I think how bless’d I am to have found this gift.
The sax is a very expensive and unforgiving instrument but I was smitten and desperately wanted to learn how to play it well: to sing oh so sweetly, to purr, to shout n’ holler, to scream even! But for that chance meeting with someone who practically twisted my arm to put the sling around my neck, hook the sax onto it and place my fingers carefully on those shiny keys, I would never have known I had it in me. Life … is a thin thread indeed!
1. Top three (or more) tips for new and emerging talent to stay afloat and last long term.
Don’t neglect the rudiments: get comfortable playing in any key, practice on your own and rehearse with others. You’ll appreciate the preparation when you perform.
Listen to a wide range of music, not just what you like.
2. What has been one of the toughest music related experiences you’ve faced?
A friend and colleague who plays a mean lead guitar invited me to sit in with his band one day. I accepted enthusiastically until I thought about how I would fit in. His band played rock and blues and my natural playing style is subtle/jazzy/soulful.
3. How did you get through or deal with it?
Come the day, I was bricking it. I’d never rehearsed or played with this outfit before and we were about to do TWO 1-hour sets of predominantly rocky tunes. Unfortunately, I never learned how to read the dots, not that it would have helped me on this occasion but I was blessed with a good ear.
The bandleader just whispered the name of the track and the key and we started. I was flying by the seat of my pants, listening closely, composing ‘fills’ in real time and taking improvised solos when I found the groove. Improvising is what I do best!
4. What did you learn?
I was SO out of my comfort zone, playing tunes I’d never played before and soloing over unfamiliar chord progressions. Nevertheless, I learned that despite the challenges, as long as I relax, really listen until I can FEEL the music, then I would be able to make my contribution.
I discovered that when I get in the ‘zone’ my contribution could make the band sound significantly better. That turned out to be one of the best gigs I ever did. I surprised myself, had a lot of fun, learned heaps and the crowd really appreciated us! More importantly, in the months following that gig, my playing has stepped up to a new level and I’ve never looked back!