Featured Musician - August 2006
Name: Bryan Dickerson
Instrument: Tenor, alto, bari and soprano saxophones; flute and clarinet.
Early Years/Education: Born in Columbia, South Carolina but grew up mostly in Alaska. Went to high school in Fairbanks. My Dad was a preacher and my Mom was a teacher and a nurse who studied music in college.
I grew up in the church and my earliest musical memories involved singing harmony in the church. My first desire to play came when I heard a friend play piano. I remember hearing the Pink Panther theme being played by a classmate; then I heard the original and was blown away and at that point (age ten), I desired to play the saxophone.
I went into band and they gave me the clarinet. I just couldn't connect with it. I kept up with the piano but the sound of the tenor stuck with me. After moving to Fairbanks, I wanted to try the sax again and again they gave me the clarinet but this time I was into it.
I moved up chairs on clarinet but by the 11th grade, I switched to sax and they gave me a bari to start. My high school was near the University of Alaska and the community around the college had some very talented kids and it motivated me.
One person who I'd met at this time was another older student who played trombone and became quite an influence on me. He was Leonard Neidhold. He had an amazing jazz record collection ...Basie, Oregon, the Brecker Bros.etc. He showed me so much. He actually asked me to play in a jazz club with him and some older guys at a place called "Chapter 11" because it kept going out of business. This was my first professional gig. I was nineteen. (Neidhold went on to become an educator and currently directs the University of Nevada jazz band at the Reno campus.)
A lot of us went from the University of Alaska to North Texas State and that's where I got my BA. I did want to mention the outstanding summer camps I attended in Fairbanks put on by a woman named Jo Scott. She'd bring in famous educators like John La Porta and follow the camp with a jazz festival so the kids could back up famous players like Clark Terry and Cab Calloway.
After Texas I moved to Boston to study with Jerry Bergonzi. And from there I became a member of the Glen Miller Orchestra and played tenor and clarinet for them for three years.
I then moved back to Alaska and started my own band playing jazz, roots, and soul music. In '92 , my wife and I decided to move to Portland. We'd heard about the similarities between the people in Fairbanks and Portland and decided to give it a try.
Bands: Since moving to Portland, I've played with Patrick Lamb, Carlton Jackson-Dave Mills big band, The Kicks Band, Duffy Bishop, Lilly Wilde, Art Abrams, Pete Peterson, and "Soul Vaccination." In Seattle, I play with drummer Greg Williamson, and the Double Sax Quintet. In 1999, I started doing tributes at the Kennedy School like the Coltrane tribute on his birthday, September 23; I did a Cannonball tribute and an evening paying homage to the trumpet masters.
Mt. Hood Festival: The festival asked Jeff Uusitalo, Darrell Grant and myself to put together a few bands that feature some of the best young players side by side with the older jazz musicians. Jeff will bring students from Clark College, Darrell will have students from PSU and I'll have Mt Hood students.
Farming: My wife and I have a farm called Dancing Roots Farm. This is what people used to call a "truck farm". We're part of a coalition of Portland-area CSA's (community supported agriculture). We grow everything and sell directly to certain restaurants and our shareholders. Portland has such a great food scene! We try and educate people to where their food comes from ...eat more veggies, eat locally.
Musical Influences: I've always been really eclectic. As a kid my dream was to play with Basie, Earth, Wind and Fire or Tower of Power. It would be fun to play with Sting too.
Other influences include: Cannonball Adderly, Jerry Bergonzi, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Plas Johnson, Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Billy Strayhorn, Don Grolnick, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis arranging.
I love good big band music ...the balance of ensemble and solo and all of the colors that are available in a big band when they're utilized well like the Kenny Clark-Francie Boland Big Band.
Other influences include, Tommy Flanagan, Chick Corea, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Brown, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Philly Jo Jones, Brian Blade, Michael Brecker (when I was a young man) and Dave Sandborn.
Most Satisfying Experience: Backing Mel Tormé when I was in the Glenn Miller Band; playing with Buddy de Franco and Cab Calloway in college; having Leroy Vinnegar call me up after a Gordon Lee jam session and asking me to play.
Playing with Sweet Baby James at one of Ron Steen's jam sessions ...that was the real deal! And I've had lots of fun playing with Pete Peterson and Art Abrams groups and the wonderful Big Bad Groove Society out of Seattle.
Favorite Recordings: Pepper Adams/Nick Brignola - Baritone Madness; Cannonball Adderly - Cannonball with Nancy Wilson, Them Dirty Blues; Chet Baker - Once Upon a Summertime; Count Basie - Atomic Basie; Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers - Caravan; The Brecker Brothers- Heavy Metal Be-bop; Michael Brecker - Don't Try This At Home; Pete Christlieb/Warne Marsh - Apogee; George Coleman - Live at Yoshi's; John Coltrane - John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, Crescent.
Chick Corea - Three Quartets; Miles Davis - Round About Midnight, My Funny Valentine, Tutu; Kenny Clark/Francy Boland Big Band - At Her Majesty's Pleasure; Maynard Ferguson - Live at Jimmy's; Dizzy Gillespie - Sonny Side Up; Dexter Gordon - Manhattan Symphony; Johnny Griffin - Return of the Griffin; Don Grolnick - Hearts and Numbers; Joe Henderson - Mode for Joe, Mirror Mirror; Plas Johnson - The Pink Panther Theme; Hank Jones/Charlie Haden - Steal Away; Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra - Blue Note Compilation; Bobby McFerrin - Bang-Zoom. Pat Metheney - 80-81; Charles Mingus - Ah Um; Thelonius Monk - With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall; Oliver Nelson - Blues and the Abstract Truth; Charlie Parker - Complete Verve; Jaco Pastorius - Invitation; Sonny Rollins - Newk's Time, Saxophone Colossus; John Scofield - Au Go Go; Wayne Shorter - Footprints Live, Speak No Evil; Horace Silver - Horacescope.
Stanley Turrentine - In Memory Of; Weather Report - Heavy Weather, 8:30; Phil Woods - Live at the Steamboat; Ray Charles - 50th Anniversary Collection; Earth Wind and Fire - I am; Tower of Power - Urban Renewal; Steely Dan - Aja, Two Against Nature.
Discography: I'm on two of Art Abrams recordings, "Art Attack" and "Children of the Night;" there's two CDs with Greg Williamson and the Big Bad Groove Society; one recording with the Double Sax Quintet; with Lilly Wilde and the Jumping Jubilee Orchestra we did a recording called "Insect Ball;" there's "Fly the Rocket" with the Duffy Bishop group; and with Pete Peterson's Pork Pie group we did something called "Hats Off. "
Gigs: Friday August 4, at the Café Delirium as part of the Mt Hood Festival of Jazz. We'll play from 5 to 7 pm with the MHCC all-stars in down town Gresham. I'll be with the group Soul Vaccination on August 5 in Hillsboro, August 13 at Unthank Park, at the Quay August 18 and 19, in Vancouver at Lloyd's Grill in Battle Ground, August 25, at Bacchus in Vancouver, August 26.
Future: Would like to record someday and pull together all the eclectic influences in my life into a cohesive whole. That's a goal with no date on it. I'd also like to go on the road someday with a top-notch outfit.
Other: I'd love to see musicians use their talent to affect positive change in people. Can an instrumental have such an effect on our culture? That's kind of a dream of mine.
When I'm teaching I'd like to pass onto my students more than the technicalities of the music. I'd like to help them be a better, more confident person as a whole. It's a way to expose them to a concept of excellence and how to attain it. And to pursue whatever they do with integrity.
-- Interviewed by Rita Rega