Every musician has their own musical influences - early encounters with other artists that influenced their own course and approach to music.
I started out as a trumpet player, so one of my very first influences was the great Maynard Ferguson. It was my brother who actually turned me on to Maynard. My brother was a sax/clarinet player and two years older than me, so of course he was in on all the cool stuff! So one day he tells me about this album called "Conquistador" that had this really great trumpet player. I was like "cool" let's check it out, so we went off to the record store. Yes, I said "record" store - and used our saved cash to buy "Conquistador" - and after listening, I was completely blown away by Maynard's' chops and range and this began my long journey into jazz and big band. I saw Maynard live a few times when he came through town and he never disappointed:
Influences have a chain effect. So while I was getting into Maynard, I started checking out all his other songs, such as Give It One, and Chameleon (which lead me to Herbie Hancock later, but that's another story) and started listening to other instrumentalists, such as Bill Chase, and predominately horn bands such as Brick, Tower of Power and Chicago, of course the incredible Earth Wind and Fire! This opened me up to Rock, Soul, Fusion and so many styles. I have always loved all types of music as a result, but I seemed to really love jazz, Blues, Funk and soul the most.
Somewhere along the chain, I eventually stumbled across the great Grover Washington Jr. Probably the most soulful sax player of all time, I found myself drawn to his very fluid style, which was very jazzy and bluesy, but also funky! Grover somehow seamlessly blended my favorite genres together. His album Winelight remains one of my favorite albums of all time and I think over the years I collected most of Grover's earlier recordings. Mr. Magic remains the musician's "national anthem" and I have played it countless times in numerous bands:
All of these early influences lead to many other great musicians - too many to list in a blog post. But I always like to visit my early influences as a reminder of where and how I started out in my musical journey. Influences are what shape us and help lead us down that path. So I owe a great debt to the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Grover Washington Jr. and many others. Both Maynard and Grover are sadly gone now, but if I could go back in time, I would love to tell them "Thanks".
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