VanPort Jazz

Big Band Jazz

One time at band camp...

I always played low woodwinds. From 8th grade on I specialized in bass and contrabass clarinet. The theory was that I wasn't really good enough to ever challenge for first chair clarinet. Or fourth chair. But I was plenty good enough for bass clarinet, and later, contrabass clarinet. Then, after my sophomore year of high school, my band director approached me and said that he needed a baritone sax player in the fall in the stage band, and would I consider it? I had never played saxophone. We agreed that I would take the school bari home with me over the summer, and I taught myself to play it. And I got to be pretty good at it - I already had the lung capacity, and I learned pretty fast how to play in an excellent big band. After my junior year, I went (along with some of my band mates) to Sacramento to attend the Stan Kenton Jazz Orchestra in Residence week long camp. Essentially band camp for jazz nerds. It was quite the experience, an hour of theory each morning with one of the Kenton arrangers, then sectionals and rehearsals, a Kenton band concert each night, and a big concert to close out the week.

My band's sax sectionals were run by Roy Reynolds, then one of two bari players in the Kenton band. For a time in the early 70s the Kenton band had sax section with two bari saxes, which was unique in my knowledge. Roy was a grizzled old veteran who smoked like a 68 Buick, two or three packs a day. 

One day he and I got stuck in an elevator for a bit, and he took the opportunity to give me a pearl of wisdom. He said, "Kid, you play pretty well. You've got a good sound. What you need to do is this - always play louder than you think you should, until someone tells you to quiet down. The reason is that the low notes don't cut through as much and you need to play louder to balance the section and the rest of the band."

And anyone who has heard me play knows that I've very much taken that to heart.

Roy passed in 2010 - RIP.