Born: October 28, 1961 in San Francisco
Resides in: American Canyon by way of Tokyo
Favorite Food: Ribeye Steak at Celadon in Napa
Favorite Book: Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle
Relationship Status/Children: Married with two children
You were featured on Bela Fleck and the Flecktone's Grammy-winning album OUTBOUND back in 2000. Bela Fleck is well known for pushing the musical boundaries and possibilities of the banjo, tell us about your experience playing bassoon with Bela. Well, that was just such a fantastic gig! One of my mentors is Paul McCandless of the pioneering group Oregon with Ralph Towner and Glen Moore. Paul had heard of me thru a cassette of an album I had done with one of his band mates from another project. Paul has been instrumental since the time he heard me, as he organized a couple of career-changing events for me. One of those was getting me to sit in with Bela Fleck in San Francisco in 1998. One thing led to another and in 2000 I was told about his new record and touring and that he wanted me in the band. All those musicians are so top notch, and great people. I’ve been featured in a few places with other great musicians but I have to say that those days are always going to be very special. I played on and off with the band for 2-3 years after that.
What was your best moment on stage? I’ve had so, so many! But I think the best one was at a Bela Fleck and the Flecktones gig somewhere in the USA near the east coast. When people salute your bassoon solo with bic lighters in an arena, you know that’s pretty special. Having 10,000 people screaming for you after your bassoon solo, that’s pretty hard to top. Now there have been lots of others too but that’s probably near the top.
Your wife also plays bassoon, how did you meet? At Forrest’s Music in Berkeley, where I had been going all my life for reeds and supplies, and I found my wife there as well! It’s an awesome resource for oboists and bassoonists worldwide.
What do you listen to now? Everything I can. I like a wide variety. Since music is my life and there’s just so much out there, it’s hard to not like it all. I listen to like Herbie Hancock, P-Funk, Earth Wind and Fire, Hendrix, Pat Metheny Group, Oregon, Banda music on the radio because it’s so NOT like American pop music, the math metal band Meshuggah because they are unique, Kenny Garrett (the great sax player), John Scofield, Trevor Pinnock’s hugely important English Concert recordings of JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with period instruments, a bit of drum and bass music or Asian fusion music like Karsh Kale, things like that. I mean, I don’t discriminate. I make no effort to stick to one thing, but music I like has soul, fire, intellect, and stands the test of time.
You have your roots as an award-winning classical bassoonist and jazz saxophonist. How did you think up the idea of putting a pickup in your bassoon and making it electric? Now that is a long story … Back when I graduated high school, I had my mind blown by hearing Jimi Hendrix on some of his later albums such as Live at Berkeley Community Theatre, Cry of Love and Band of Gypsies. When you hear that open trio sound he got, the guitar has a lot of room to be either screaming the blues, playing low funky notes or just feedback and sounds. I found that I loved that wide range, the bassoon has a range similar to a guitar but just lower by about a 4th. The sax is pretty much set in whatever range it has depending on type, but the bassoon can play low, somewhat high and I found it had a great ability to bop back and forth between bass notes and higher notes, kind of like a guitar. And, when I stuck a microphone down my bassoon, I would get these really cool screaming distorted tones that really sounded like a rock electric guitar! Multiphonics on bassoon thru an amp sounded to me a lot like that Hendrix controlled feedback. Hendrix was my main inspiration for starting but I went to Conservatories to really learn how to play it properly and I was also interested in classical music.
You also play saxophone and have played with Eddie Money, Boz Scaggs, The Temptations and Tower of Power. Which came first, saxophone or bassoon? Saxophone came first by a few years. I’ve done a ton of sax playing. When I first worked for Cirque Du Soleil on the show Saltimbanco touring South America—I played soprano, alto and tenor sax, Electric Wind Instrument, keyboards, percussion and bassoon. I was the first bassoonist to play in a Cirque show.
After living in Japan for four years, you recently settled in American Canyon with your family. What brought you to the area? The earthquake of March 11, 2011 really did a lot to the tourist industry in Japan. I was playing electric bassoon with Cirque Du Soleil’s Zed at Tokyo Disney Resort over there when that earthquake happened. No one wanted to celebrate and have a good time after they lost nearly 20,000 people to the tsunami and quake. People did finally start to end their grieving and they came back to the park, but by that time the damage was done. We weren’t sure whether or not we’d go back to Berkeley or not. My wife knew of a friend who had a house to rent in American Canyon. As it turned out, we liked it in American Canyon. We like being nearer to nature and there’s a unique sense of newness, of a new town developing its personality.