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Featured Musician - May 2006

Name: David Valdez

Instrument: Alto and Tenor Saxophone

Early Years/Education: Grew up in Santa Cruz, California when the schools still had funding for music programs. I started on the alto at eight simply because it looked cool and had the most buttons. By the time I was in junior high I knew I wanted to be a musician.

My parents who are both artists were very supportive. My mom would take me to the local Kuumba Jazz Center on Monday nights to see live jazz, and we saw everybody. My high school had a very strong music program. We'd go to the Monterey Jazz Festival to perform and eventually toured as an all-star "Monterey" band.

We toured Japan and Europe; I probably had fifty big band gigs a year in those days. From high school I received a full scholarship in jazz performance from the Berklee College of Music in Boston from '86 - '89.

I've studied saxophone with Joseph Viola, Jimmy Mosher, George Garzone, Bob Mover and Paul Contos. Studied arranging and harmony with Ray Brown (saxophonist) at Cabrillo College '84-'89. I've played the alto for thirty years and picked up the tenor just last year.

Portland: Moved here from New York where I'd lived for four years. I hated the weather there and even though I was playing quite a bit it was always a trek to get to the gigs. What did it for me was playing a gig in Cannon Beach with tenorist Rob Scheps (who I knew from Boston), pianist Steve Christofferson, bassist Glen Moore, drummer Alan Jones and vocalist Nancy King. Every one of these players was not just smoking, but truly world class! Nancy, in particular, talked me into moving here.

Casa Valdez Blog: I post everything on my blog . . . it's multi-media. You can view TV shows I've done for Portland cable access, interviews or profiles of musicians I've worked with, live performances, etc. I started writing jazz improv lessons last July (which was when the blog started) and now I'm totally obsessed with it! You'll find articles about harmony, esoteric music philosophy, and interviews.

I also write for "NW Jazz Profiles" magazine based in Seattle. Some of those interviews are on the website. I get feedback from all over the world.

There are links on the IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators) web page to my blog. I use it to help my students. All my teaching materials are posted there. It's specialized for the college level/professional level student. It's also great to promote my gigs. The address is: http://davidvaldez.blogspot.com

Currently, I teach out of the Ethos Music Center, which is a non-profit music program in north Portland. I have a jazz combo and improv workshop there. This is an eight-week session and the workshop has a full rhythm section. The students get to put into practice what we're learning. The students are mostly adults, college age, but I'd love to have some younger ones.

Bands: I lead the Lawrence Williams Project, which is a quintet devoted to the music of Williams. Williams used to live here in Portland and is one of the finest jazz composers ever. He is a mentor to me now. His tunes are analyzed at Oberlin Conservatory in composition classes.

I also have a Latin-Jazz group with Randy Porter, Al Criado, Reinhardt Melz and Jeff Burres. Then there's the David Valdez Quartet with Mark Deflorio, Dan Gaynor and Dan Schulte. That's the same rhythm section as the LW Project.

Musical Influences: Bird, Cannonball, Trane, Charles Macpherson, Lee Konitz, Johnny Griffin, George Garzone, Phil Woods, Dick Oats, Frank Srozier, Gary Bartz, Joe Henderson, Warne Marsh, Stanley Turrentine, Bob Mover, Rich Perry, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Criss, Sonny Stitt, Steve Grossman, Jimmy Mosher, Johnny Hodges, Lenny Tristano and all the artists I saw at Kuumba Jazz Center growing up.

Most Satisfying Experience: Playing with Dave Holland, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Charlie Hunter, John Medeski and the Fringe have been a few of my most exciting jazz experiences. While living in Santa Fe I had the opportunity to perform and record with the master Flamenco guitarist Carlos Lomas. Carlos taught Tomatito and Ottmar Liebert. Playing with Carlos changed my entire concept of time and emotional expression.

Favorite Recordings: I've been listening to a lot of Rich Perry and George Garzone lately. Rich is a tenor player in the Monday night Village Vanguard Band and George is another tenor player who taught me at Berklee.

I also have 114 days of MP3s on my home computer. The only way for me to really dig into all of that is to use the random Party Shuffle mode. It always allows me to listen to great music that I wouldn't normally choose myself.

Discography: "Making Lunch" Ken Schaphorst Big Band (1989 Accurate Records), ‘Small Clubs Are Dead" Dred Scott (2004), Klezmocracy (2003), "Reasons to be Thankful" Art Lillard (2006 Summit Records), Dan Schulte Sextet w/Nancy King (2006), "Doggie-n-Cookie Unleashed! (2006) (Avant-garde duo CD with pianist/drummer Dred Scott). Dred is a Bay area musician who now lives in New York and works with Jay Collins.

Gigs: I'm leading a funky jazz jam session with Jo Janiga and Danny Meyer every Wednesday from 8-11 pm at the club formerly known as Billy Reed's.

We plan on starting on May 24th. I'm trying to make this session a little different by playing tunes that are less commonly performed. We've put together a big book of interesting charts for players to choose from. I wanted to stay away from tunes that you hear every time you go to a jam.

We'll focus on the groovier side of jazz, doing material from the hard bop era...Cannonball, Horace Silver, Stanley Turrentine, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, etc. The last Thursday of each month I play with Dan Schulte at the "Jazz Loft" on Alberta. It's a private loft they open to the public.

The last couple of performances are on my website. I'll be at Abou Karim on May 6th with Danny Meyer; and I'll be with Robert Moore at Cathedral Park Jazz Festival this July 15, 16.

Future: Recording an album with Art Lillard in July, writing a book on jazz improvisation, debuting my new Latin-Jazz quintet, composing for a Latin-Jazz album and learning the vibes.

Other: I love living here . . . you can drop into a fun jam and play with really great musicians, the scene is very cohesive.

Quote from alto saxophonist Warren Rand, "David has an unusual vocabulary with intricate phrasing...it's a joy to listen to."

-- Interviewed by Rita Rega

Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon