Frequently Asked Questions
What is your setup on the saxophone?
Santee Saxophones 'M27 Pro-Fusion' phosphorus brass alloy tenor saxophones
Dave Guardala New Yorker series
Alto and Tenor Saxes. Selmer Mark VI Soprano Sax.
Mouthpieces: Alto Sax - Beechler 7
Tenor Sax - Guardala Silver Studio
Soprano - Selmer Hard Rubber H
Reeds: Alto, Ten., Sop., - Medium Hard LaVoz
also Alto - Rico Jazz Select #3 soft filed
What type of microphones do you use?
I use The Shure dual wireless system w/ a 98 clip on microphone.
Who were some of your major influences?
Grover Washington Jr., Dextor Gordon, John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Garret to name a few.
How much did you practice , and do you still continue to practice just as much?
When I was younger it seemed like I always had the horn in my mouth. I practiced constantly. Heck, I had nothing else to do. Today I practice as often as my schedule lets me. But I try to practice at least 4 days out of the week. Around 3 hrs a day.
What do you practice?
I practice scales and ideas that interest me. Sometimes some real boring stuff, but it pays off in the long run. I learn (take off) solos from other artist cd's still. I find this as one of the better ways to increase your solo vocabulary. I'll sit at the piano and play a chord, then I practice over that particular chord until I have it figured out. Then finally, I still practice with Jamey Abersold cds. These are cds of bands recording jazz songs without the lead instrument. Leaving you to be the lead. I've used these since I was in grade school.
What is the long, rectangular, electric instrument you play that has a flute like sound to it?
The EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) is of course one of my favorites. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it is the squared off piece of metal that I play that sounds wonderfully warm and melodious. That is if I'm playing it well.*lol* It is a wind blown synthesizer. The air that I blow into it does not actually go into the instrument, but instead escapes out of the side of my mouth. This allows me to use as much, or as little wind pressure as I need to trigger the sounds. The harder, or stronger I want the sound to be, the harder I have to blow, while letting less air escape. The softer I want the sound to be, the softer I blow, while letting more air escape, and the sound is softer, warmer, and fuller.
How did you get your recording contract, and how do I go about getting one myself?
Well I was very fortunate. I came along at a time where there weren't quite as many artist as there are now, and the music was a bit different. I didn't really have to do the obligatory pounding the pavement. I was offered the deal through George Duke who had hired me for the sax position with Anita Baker. He asked me to record with a group he had put together for a recording for Capitol Records called 101N. The record came out and did alright, but Blue Note Records (a subsidiary of Capitol Records) head, Bruce Lundval, heard the cd and signed me right away. God was truly good to me! Now, since you know how I got my deal, I can't really tell you from experience the traditional way to go about it, but what I have heard consistently is that you have to get those demos made, and try to get them into an A & R guys hands. But I believe the best way is to keep practicing, and playing. Things tend to happen when you are on your game. Always be prepared. You never know who is out there listening. Releasing something regionally yourself is not a bad idea either. Try to build up a touring sercuit, and following, in your region. Sell your own cds as you go. Record companies always look at this as a head start and less work for them to do. It makes you even more attractive to them. Plus, they see you putting their money into your pocket. They hate that! *Ha Ha*!
What music do you listen to now?
I listen to a lot of old stuff, but I do like some of the contemporary artist out there. I still listen to my favorites, but I try not to listen too much to the players who heavily influenced. I'm trying really hard to keep my individuality, and when I listen to some of these players I can't help but want to play like them. I still like just about anything Kenny Garret does. There's still Michael Brecker, The Yellow Jackets (with Bob Mintzer), Branford Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, the soundtrack to O' Brother Where Art Thou, Eric Marienthal, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Kenny Loggins, all the old Grover Washington cds. As for songwriting I've been liking James Taylor, Carol King, Stephen Bishop, Don Grolnick, Babyface, George Duke, and Johnathan Butler.
I notice you never talk about any "Smooth Jazz" artist when you talk about the music you listen to.
*clearing throat* Well, The fact that I don't talk about "Smooth Jazz " performers doesn't mean I don't like them. I think there are a lot really good players in the genre, which by the way I just happen to be a part of. I believe "Smooth Jazz" has it's place in the music world. It is a valid form of musical expression. I would say it is a lighter form of the contemporary jazz I loved so much in the late 70's, all of the 80's, and into the early 90's. After the early 90's it became more about the song as opposed to the player and his artistry. Actually it seems the less artistry you had the better off you were. Well that's not the jazz I knew and loved. Even the contemporary jazz of the 70's, 80's, and early 90's showed the skills, heart and soul of the artist. Each artist was able to bring his / her own uniqueness to the music. I think this is still true today, but to a much lesser extent. There are some who definitely stand out, but the genre has created a situation where there is less demand on the players to actually play, and I mean really dig in and create. I think sexy, cute, sassy, and melodic all have a place, but I also feel the need to hear someone create something that makes me go Hmmm!!!. The genre seems to be mostly about the song, and clever or cute hooks, than it is about the player. I'll be the first to admit that a great song / hook is extremely important, but my chief complaint about the genre is that I hear the same songs over and over again, but with different players. There is so much redundancy in the genre that it makes it hard to grow as a player. So much so that I find myself unmotivated at times. I have to look to the forgotten ones (at radio) who got us here, The Herbies, The Dukes, Joe Samples, Jarreau (and the music he did early on), McFerrin, Harvey Mason, Tom Scott, Brecker Brothers, Yellow Jackets, Chuck Mangione, Sanborn, Grover, and many others who seem to have been systematically removed from our ears, for inspiration. I know that in life everything evolves, but how do we get to the point where jazz, which is suppose to be about the players, becomes less and less so. So my desire to listen remains with the guys that are truly speaking through their instruments, and that have shown respect to the lineage which has afforded them their very livelihoods. Being true to the music we love and striving to create and influence the younger audience and players just as we were influenced. When I was growing up we never said "Hey, I want to practice to get just good enough". We always wanted to be great like the players we heard on the radio. Whether or not it was possible to achieve greatness was never the question. Well I feel we are at a creative "stand still", and that there will be no greatness without the freedom of expression. And as long as certain factions dictate to artist how to create, without actually having musical knowledge, we are in for more of the musical regurgitation that we often hear.
For me greatness is something I seek, but because of my drive to be perfect it will never be attained. That's why I keep practicing. I'll repeat, there are a lot of really good players in the smooth jazz genre, and it definitely has its place, but I'm an old jazz head. I want to hear cats really get off. And as long as what is offered to me out there is more about pretty songs, than players, I will lean towards the old stuff. I love Jazz!