I’m sitting near gate 33 B at LAX, getting ready to head home to NY after three days in Los Angeles. This place used to be my home, a million years ago. But whenever I walk in the front door of the house I grew up in, the one my family has had since 1963, I am transported back to a time when I was discovering so much. The thing so apparently missing now when I walk in that door is my mother, who passed away about two years ago.
I got a lot done in a short amount of time. The primary reasons for my trip were to 1) master my new CD, and 2) work on designs at my mouthpiece manufacturer’s factory. In addition to this I set aside time to catch up with my old friend Scott, who produced my CD. All of this was accomplished and still there was time to eat some good food, sit in at a club, and of course get stuck in traffic. By the way - Los Angeles road rage is not a myth...
Day One: the mastering studio of my long time friend Doug Schwartz. Doug is the son of one of the great studio saxophone doublers Wilbur Schwartz. Claim to fame: he played lead clarinet with Glenn Miller, and provided the syrupy alto sax theme for “My Three Sons.” And he was a world-class prankster. Before he opened his mastering business Doug was a busy studio engineer - worked with Blondie, Suzi Quatro, Motely Crew, etc. Started Mulholland Music many years ago and has been very successful. He bought the old Cherokee Studios, where many rock records were recorded in the 70s (Steely Dan, David Bowie etc.). It is a beautiful ranch in Chatsworth, a stone’s throw from the Santa Susana Mountains. Doug mastered my recording “Rhyme and Reason.” Great working and hanging with him, as always.
Day two: the Beechler factory. I have been playing a Beechler alto mouthpiece since I was 17. I have changed facings over the years, but am still with them. My visit had three objectives: 1) find a good student model for “Project Student Horn,” which I will get off the ground as soon as these mouthpieces are finished (see an earlier post); 2) make a copy of my current mouthpiece in a hard rubber material; and 3) try more tenor mouthpieces. For many years I have been using a metal Wolfe Tayne (AD facing) on tenor. I have always felt comfortable playing it, but it often sounds brighter on recordings than I think I actually sound.
Beechler recently sent me a hard rubber tenor mouthpiece, a Custom Jazz, which I respectfully set on my music stand. Two weeks later, “just for fun,” I tried it and was completely surprised! It was dark and yet very projecting, with a lot of color. The next day I was flying to Cincinnati to premier my commission “Suite Ivette” at the Constella Festival. For three days I played only this mouthpiece, and at the end of my Ohio visit I had been converted. Yesterday, at the factory, I tried another similar model called a 110+, and it was even better: warm, dark and projecting. I am very excited. It was also great working with Judy and Mark at the factory. Very cool and knowledgeable.
The last evening was spent at The Out Take Bistro in Studio City, where Gene Cipriano, a great studio sax/doubler (“the most recorded musician of all time”) was playing an informal gig with Cat Conner (vocals) and Jim Fox (guitar). Cip, as he is affectionately known, was my dad’s roommate on the road with The Tex Beneke band (they also shared a room with Mel Lewis). They spent decades in the studios together.
I hooked up with my producer/friend Scott, joining my dad and Shelly Balloon (her real name - she legally changed it years ago because of her party/balloon business) and had some very good food and drink. Cip sounded great! His tenor playing had strong touches of Getz and Prez, and was very personal. I grew up playing football with his family every thanksgiving but don’t think I ever heard him play live.
My dad and I ended up sitting in on a few tunes, and I’m glad we did. It was a very informal, warm vibe. Of course, playing with my dad is always special. And there’s something about a father and son doing their thing together that people are moved by. Even if we mess up the changes.
My friend Scott had a couple-too many apple martinis and I was forced to drive his 12 cylinder, 500 hp Mercedes SL600 back to his house where I left my dad’s Prius. Things your friends make you do for them...