I had the pleasure of meeting Sal Lozano back in 2008. I was in the Los Angeles area and he invited me to sit in on a recording session for Disney. No, I wasn't playing, just sitting back and listening to him and other great woodwind players Dan Higgins and Chris Bleth. Afterwords, Sal and I ate dinner with Dan before I got to watch them perform with the Wayne Bergeron Big Band. Over the course of that evening, Sal and I had lots of good conversations about music, big bands, and "doubling." Unfortunately, I wasn't recording the conversations, but I found it very interesting that those same topics, and more, appeared when Gordon Goodwin interviewed Sal for his podcast The Big Phat Chat. I highly encourage everyone to subscribe to that podcast. I know Gordon is extremely busy, but maybe he'll produce more episodes if he sees a spike in subscribers. Every episode features great "inside baseball" on what's happening in the music scene in LA as well as an interview with a member of the Big Phat Band. You should go back and listen to every episode, but I think Sal's interview covers lots of good topics musicians both young and old can benefit from listening to.
Big Phat Chat, episode 6 (featuring Sal Lozano Part 1)
Topics in Episode 6 include:
- Musicianship in playing 2nd parts
- Matching pitch and style with Lead Alto
- The chain of command in big band playing
- Section playing
- Stories of working with other great woodwind players in big bands
Being 2nd alto in the All-Star SUPERband I could really relate. Whether you are playing 2nd alto, 2nd tenor, 3rd trumpet, etcetera, it is important to of course know your part but to also be listening to how the lead player is playing, and play up to but not over them. If they're playing soft you have to play underneath them. If the line is unison, don't get too excited and over blow. If soprano is leading the section, don't push their volume. Notice how all of these tips involve playing softer and listening.
Here is the youtube video Sal referenced of the That Jones/Mel Lewis big band playing Groove Merchant. Listen to how the soprano playing of Jerry Dodgion sits on top of the section but isn't over-powering.
Big Phat Chat, episode 7 (featuring Sal Lozano Part 2)
- Being a "woodwind player" instead of a "doubler"
- Having a practice regimen, setting goals
- Long tones and scales
- Playing for TV shows (recorded and live) and musicals
- Developing an ear
- Are big bands back?
In this episode, Sal describes how every woodwind player should approach playing the instrument. I vividly remember having this exact same conversation and I agree with the philosophy 100%. The term "doubler" can be very misleading. It can imply that you can sort of play the instrument, but that it's not your main focus. Rather one's approach should be to practice each instrument as if it is the only instrument you play. The goal is to sound like a flute player plays flute, not a saxophone player playing flute. Looking back, I had to pick my secondary and tertiary instruments, but even using those terms implies clarinet and bassoon are less important than the saxophone, which was not how I felt. Sal also mentions how important it is to set up a practice regimen. This is important whether you are a just starting out on your first instrument or a seasoned woodwind player. Having goals for your practice sessions can be the key to success at any level. In the interview, Sal stresses long tones and scales, and if you're a student in my studio you've heard me say that a thousand times.
Sal also references a youtube video of Michael Brecker giving a lecture at North Texas State University. Here is part 1 of 4; I encourage all of you to listen to all 4 parts as well check out many other videos of Michael Brecker on youtube. Brecker is number one in my book as far as jazz saxophonists go. Youtube is a great place to find music and discover some great performances by a wide variety of artists from way back, but I also hope you will support music as a whole and purchase the artists' music, either in CD or MP3 format.