Monday, May 30, 2011

Tim Price Bloggin' For Rico- JOHN GROSS ! Innovative master.

JOHN GROSS- Innovative master saxophonist.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN GROSS...Thank you for the decades of inspiration.

An artist is a person who attempts to be in touch with the inner self in order to communicate in an abstract endeavor (i.e. music). An artist’s body of work is autobiographical and, at the same time, a means by which the artist communicates both individual and universal experiences that people will share. Of course there's your craft. So in essence it's a matter of balance mixed with control and freedom. The challenge is to use both aspects at the right moments. So in jazz, the art form itself says you're supposed to individualize it , that's the point . All that's understood, but your goal is not to repeat or to objectify this thing. It's to take it and have it be a living thing that you put your personality on.

I feel that the music speaks absolutely louder than any dogma, any words can speak at all. And in the end, the music is connected.It's about how music ties into the "realms" and everything like that. It's just an understood, it's a given.

In my thinking it is an artist's duty is to try to get in touch with that vibe through his work. It's the work and it's the art that will do. SO.. it's freedom, individual creativity.
It is obviously possible, and one of my hero's in this has always been saxophonist John Gross. I heard John on a Shelly Manne recordings-
  • Shelly Manne and His Men, “Outside”,
  • Shelly Manne and His Men, “Live in London”
  • Shelly Manne, “Mannekind”,

What struck me first about John was the inside-out way he was playing. One big difference though was he was melodic. He knew how to construct a solid melody. From there...anything could happen, and it always did. As I followed his playing, and really wondered why Miles Davis never hired this guy,I realized he had a multi-phonic thing going on. Very deeply controlled and really resonate with the music he was creating.

Aside from Bert Wilson in jazz, and of course Coltrane this was rare. To be done as a part of the inner workings of not only the solo but the tonality. As time passed I got to know John via the " net" and talking to him on the phone.

He's a very interesting guy, and one of my favorite players ever. In a class with anyone great you can mention. He's recorded with so many jazz legends during his Los Angeles period-Gross spent five years (1967–1972) as house band member at Shelly Manne's Hollywood club, “Shelly’s Manne-Hole,” playing opposite such jazz greats as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Abby Lincoln,Muddy Waters, Gary Barone, Mike Wofford, and Dave Parlato. He toured Europe with Manne in 1970 playing on “Alive in London” recorded during a fondly remembered residency at Ronnie Scott's club in London.

Gross spent four years (1979–1983) touring worldwide with Toshiko Akiyoshi’s big band, including a gig at Carnegie Hall. The Toshiko Akiyoshi – Lew Tabackin Big Band was known for its wild “tenor battles” between Gross and Toshiko’s husband Lew Tabackin.

Among the countless other musicians Gross has played, toured and/or recorded with are Earl Grant, Oliver Nelson, Don Ellis, Gerald Wilson, Bill Holman, Alan Jones Sextet, Piotr Wojtasik, and Gordon Lee.

He has also performed with Rosemary Clooney, Nancy King, Diana Krall, Freddie Hubbard, Larry Young, Donald Bailey, Drew Gress, Dave Holland, Russ Morgan, Kay Kyser, Lennon Sisters, Roger Williams, Ernie Andrews, Gladys Knight,Stevie Wonder, Brad Turner, Carol King, Belinda Underwood, Glen Moore, Gary Versace, Israel Annoh, Pat Coleman, Alain Jean-Marie, The Hitchens Consort, Larry Koonse,The Belmondo Brothers, and Francois Theberge.

Gross received a preliminary Grammy nomination (best jazz album and best jazz soloist) for his 1990 trio album Three Play with bassist Putter Smith and guitarist Larry Koonse. ( Thank you Wikipedia for the time link- and link to careers within. )

His book- Multiphonics for The Saxophone- A practical guide- should be in the hands and minds of every serious saxophone player. The book is a life work of one of the greatest and most creative players we have in this music.

Over 40 years ago- I picked up a record by Shelly Manne with John Gross on it and from there have been listening to him, and someday I want to take a Multiphonics lessons with him- and also play for a few hours/days with him and Billy Mintz the drummer. His music has touched me deeply- and he is a true artist and I feel it would be of paramount importance to get him playing in NYC a few times a year too. He'd blow peoples minds- and that's a fact! He also has a saxophone SOUND that is very powerful and loaded with evocativeness.

I included some YOU TUBE videos here as well.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN GROSS...Thank you for the decades of inspiration.

With respect- Tim Price


  1. Yea Tim! Man, can't believe I've never heard of him monster! I will be checking him out more deeply, for sure. Can't wait to see his book as well. Thanks for the post.

    Much respect,

    Nathan Bellott

  2. Another great under-appreciated master. Thanks, Tim.

  3. Definitely a great player and another great player based Pacific Northwest I believe? The multiphonics book is very clear and systematically broken down.

    Thanks, Tim.

  4. I have the pleasure of living in Portland and hearing Gross play occasionally. Every time he picks up his horn for a solo, all the musicians' ears perk up and they turn in his direction. When he's on a big band gig, the new charts coming into the band all seem to have solos written for his chair -- everyone wants to hear him play as much as possible. Worth the price of admission each time

  5. Man, I can always count on you to shine the light on fantastic players. You have such a deep knowledge of the saxophone brotherhood.

  6. I was fortunate enough to be a Saxophone student of John's for a while, and a life student of John's forever. He is not only one of the most unique and inventive musicians I have ever met, he is also one of the most genuine and kind philosophers in the world. In addition to his remarkable talent, he is a formidable intellectual, and an encouraging spirit.