VanPort Jazz

Big Band Jazz

Les gray - Tenor Saxophone


I discovered music and my desire to play it during my grade school years. My first band was in the 6th or 7th grade. We were called the Noblemen. We progressed into high school, changed a few members of the band and the name to Winds of Change. We played dances and private parties and a Putt Putt Golf course. The highlight was a dance at Portland State University held at the parking structure outdoors.  After high school I started playing bass guitar and started a band called Rainbow. We played funk and R & B and became pretty popular in Portland. It was while I was in this band I started playing sax and eventually would play sax full time. I moved to Santa Cruz, CA, and lived there for 6 years. I took sax lessons from Paul Contos and continued to develop my sax playing while playing in several Bay area bands.


I moved back to Portland and became a full time sax player and played in various bands including big bands (PCC, Beacock Music Swing Band and a few others) where I developed my sight reading and sax soloing skills. I should mention a band I was very proud of and I started playing Bari sax while in that group. It was called Perfect 10 and it featured a 5 piece horn section and ex lead singer from Tower of Power Eddie MaGee. We were together for a couple of years in the early 90’s but unfortunately it broke up and I was on to my next project.  I went to College at Clackamas Community (I was 40 something years old) and started playing in the CCC Jazz band under the direction of Tom Wakeling.

After college I continued playing and started a band that ended up recording 2 all original CD’s. That band was Portland Groove Collective and lasted about 5 years. All the while I was also playing in the Beacock Swing Band. After our guitar player moved back to Santa Rosa, CA I started a salsa band and named it Salsanova. This band has been going for over 4 years now and is becoming very popular in the local salsa scene in Portland. We’ve performed at the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival, opened for Grupo Niche, and are regulars at the salsa dance clubs in Vancouver, Portland, Albany, and Eugene.  I’m playing Bari, Tenor, Alto sax, flute and enjoy this style of music very much.  The VanPort Jazz Big Band and Salsanova are my 2 main bands now and I’m very active in music going on about 50 straight years.  

Les plays a vintage Selmer Mark VI with an RPC mouthpiece.