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American Saxophonist Bob Reynolds Q&A
"The saxophone is such a vocal instrument and I'm trying to sing through it" - Bob Reynolds gets ready for the London Saxophone Festival 2018 – he's on stage at the Cadogan Hall on May 26
Thank you for speaking with us Bob! First of all, where are you from in the States?
I live in Los Angeles, California.
How did you first get into music, and in particular playing the saxophone?
When I was 12 years old I was interested in making movies and thought I wanted to be a film director. I wanted to write music for the home movies I made, so I signed up for band in junior high school. I chose the clarinet but we couldn't afford to rent one. My mom mentioned that to our neighbor who offered me her daughter's old alto saxophone, which I accepted and promptly put together and started trying to figure out how to play — so I could get on with the business of composing music for my videos. Along the way I got more excited about playing the saxophone. I was accepted to a performing arts high school in Jacksonville, Florida and that’s where I set my sights on a career doing this.
The sax is a really versatile instrument and blends so well with a variety of different styles of music - what styles do you particularly like to play?
Style doesn’t cross my mind. I just liked to play good music. I realize “good” is a subjective term, but music that speaks to me is what I want to play. Most of the time it tends to fall in some offshoot of bebop, swing, R&B, soul, funk or blues-based music. I gravitate to things where there tends to be a high degree of musicianship, a lot of groove, and most of the time, a certain level of harmonic sophistication. Those are the things I tend to be drawn to. For instance, the time I spent playing in John Mayer's band, you know, that was a pop and rock band with a sort of blues underpinning. The point is the music was top notch. It was fun to play and be a part of and I'm just always looking to be a melodic and rhythmic communicator through music.
You'll be performing as part of the inaugural London Saxophone Festival, appearing at the Cadogan Hall on May 26. How did you get involved in the Festival?
I got a call from Snarky Puppy's manager, Mike Chadwick, asking if I would like to perform at the festival.
You'll be performing on the same night as another star of the sax, Casey Benjamin. The Cadogan Hall website describes you both as "pushing the boundaries" of the instrument - what do you think the future is for the saxophone and its unique sound?
Well that’s very kind but I wouldn't pretend to make that prediction and I don't know that I'm pushing any boundaries. I'm merely trying to get to a place where the saxophone disappears and it feels like I'm able to communicate my thoughts, emotions, and instincts spontaneously through music, in any setting at any time. That's my goal. The saxophone is such a vocal instrument and I'm trying to sing through it.
As much as I come from jazz roots and continue to study and practice the jazz repertoire and vernacular, I also am deeply rooted in pop and rock and soul, so as far as what I'm trying to bring together, it's some sort of marriage of those worlds. I think instrumental songwriter is a better fit for me than composer.
As well as a regular performer, you also vlog via Youtube (@BobReynolds) - do you feel like an Ambassador for the saxophone, and how important is it to excite and educate younger generations about playing the Sax?
Obviously I am a saxophone player, but to me it’s just a tool for expression and communication. I think what I'm trying to communicate through the Youtube videos is the process. I'm a big fan of process and I'm always curious about other people's processes in all sorts of genres and industries. I'm fascinated by how people who do great things get those accomplished. From athletes to artists to finance to science. It doesn't really matter. I'm interested in how people hack the 24 hours we all get in a day to achieve great things over time and I do my best through the Youtube channel to share my ever-evolving process and the struggles I encounter along the way. Hopefully through sharing that journey, I’m able to help and inspire others.
Do you tour the UK a lot?
This is my first UK/European tour as a bandleader in 40 years. ;)
When you're in the UK, aside from performing, what else do you like to get up to?
Ham and pickle chips.
What do you hope visitors to your concert this May and the London Saxophone Festival will take away from the experience?
A positive emotional connection and good feelings. I hope they feel excited about life.
Finally, what's the best thing about being Bob Reynolds?
My wife and two children. I have an wonderful family. Outside of that, I get to live in a beautiful place, practice a craft I love, and share it with people around the world through modern technology. I also get to travel, perform, and connect with people through music. It's amazing. I am extremely fortunate.