Looking back on my nearly 40 years of life, its strange to think that for only 5.5 years of it did I regularly play in a jazz ensemble. To put that in perspective, I sang in choirs for probably ~18 years. I played in concert band for 6 years. I was forced to play marching band for 5 years. I even did three awful years in pep band. But of all those years, the jazz years are the ones that have had the most impact on me musically in my life.
I don’t listen to chamber or orchestral music, but I still occasionally pop on some jazz and remember those awesome years in which I made this kind of music. Yet within those 5.5 years, only for 1.5 of them was I playing my favorite instrument, the baritone sax. And for only 1 year was I actually playing the baritone sax part (the other half year I was doubling a trombone part). For one amazing year, I played the instrument that I think feels the most like a part of who I am.
One of the biggest compliments that an instructor ever paid to me was when he referred to me as the “most honkin’ berry sax player” he had ever conducted. I wasn’t that good (and I know I wasn’t that good), but I think he was referring to the passion for which I held the instrument. I still remember how he told us we should be heard, with the lead Alto player first, the baritone sax player just below that then far below those was the rest of the band. I took up that challenge every single session and absolutely played my heart out.
For all that, I never really practiced as I should have done. I do think I was missing the talent I would have needed to be a truly great session player and I definitely didn’t have the discipline to make up for it with skill. Education just isn’t my thing, so teaching the next generation wouldn’t be a happy place for me either. In the end, music just wasn’t my calling, as much as I once wished it to be.
I still look back fondly on these days as a musician, knowing that those passions are still down inside me somewhere, even if they’re now only a tiny, flickering flame.