If you ever met someone who had never heard of Michael Brecker, what's the one thing you'd want to say about Brecker and his music, and how it's affected you?
I was first drawn in by his sound. To this day, I can identify him on a record within just a few notes. It is one of the most distinct tenor tones I know of, and one that I really connected with. Hearing that sound made me want to dedicate my life to the saxophone. The more I learned about him, I realized that he was the ultimate musical chameleon, able to fit in to any musical surrounding, which is truly an incredible and invaluable trait. I won't even get into his technical proficiency on the horn, which still leaves me breathless.
What was it like going from College of Saint Rose -- where you did your undergraduate work -- to Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music? Also, what was it like going from a relatively small town like Albany to a city like Cincinnati?
It was a bit overwhelming. While Saint Rose was perfect for me at the time, the level of musicianship I encountered in Cincinnati was substantially higher. Needless to say, I did a lot of shedding while I was there, so much so that I didn't really get much time to enjoy the city. I've been a lifelong Cincinnati Bengals fan, and I didn't even make it to one game. I'm still kicking myself for that one.
After you finished at Cincinnati, was there pressure to do the New York thing -- go to the big city, seek your musical fame and fortune?
Not that I was aware of. As far as I know the only person that would have put that pressure on me, was me, and at that point of my life, all I wanted to do was digest the last five years of education I had received. I was fortunate enough to integrate myself into the music scene here in Albany, and take what I had learned in the classroom and apply it to real life situations on the bandstand.
What's been more of an education -- your time in the conservatory, or playing at venues like the Montreal Jazz Festival?
I don't think I value one over the other. I wouldn't be the musician I am today without both my formal education and the education I've received while performing.