Monday, January 7, 2013

Tim Price Bloggin' For Rico - Remembering the masters; JOE VIOLA, CHARLIE MARIANO. Players, educators that influenced thousands.

~ I got to admit...There's not a day goes by that I don't think of Joe Viola or Charlie Mariano. Those guys were some of the ones. The ones meaning educators that we really players...with a life of experience in the music. Joe Viola was Charlie Mariano's teacher, as well as decades upon decades of others. Names like Richie Cole, Arnie Krackowsky,Vinnie Penella, Jane Ira Bloom, Claire Daly, Billy Drews, Lovano, Sal Spicola,George Garzone, Jimmy Mosher, Kurt Mcgetrick,Bennie Wallace, Gary Anderson,David Woodford, Jerry Bergonzi, David S. Ware, Ted Cashier,Billy Pierce, Eddie Alex, Percy Marion to mention a just a few from my generational scope. Just ask Quincy Jones about the ensembles and classes he had with Joe Viola when he was a Berklee student. With memory's, educational chops, playing skills and a love of all things saxophone.Charlie and Joe were much more than just teachers; they are a part of history. Being in their presence was always riveting,for many of us a few words from Joe, or hearing Charlie play in the ensemble with us was a life-saving action.They were the province of the innovations and knowledge never imagined- they pointed the way because they lived it. Their guidance marked a pivotal point in which the foundations became within reach. Charlie was a innovative master known for his signature style, his playing was the true road to freedom. Charlie was in a league with the masters as Coltrane or Miles.Very remarkable men, buoyant in their celebration of a subject they have spent a lifetime thinking/practicing about. Being in their time and place forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. To be blunt, the saxophone would not be the same in today's popular culture without these men educating students as they did.
~ I got the above article references from my friend Vinnie Penella Facebook page.The inspirational vibe that has existed for decades among those who knew Joe and Charlie is not only inspiring but far reaching. I was thinking as I saw this of the vast amount of players,it's something special. In the midst of seeing this on Vinnie's page, I was thinking of the recent passing of David S. Ware as well. Who- was one of the people we all knew and loved in that era. In 1969- David had the seeds to a style of his own. I still remember hearing him play " Django" in Joe Violas office with Joe on piano. Remarkable! As a matter of fact- that was 1969, seems like yesterday. As Arnie Krakowsky recently said on master saxophonist Vinnie Penella's FB page-" We need these guys around more than ever!!!!"
~ Whenever I get a new outstanding CD or a unique solution to something my first inclination is to call Joe Viola. Joe and Charlie Mariano became life long friends of mine as I was developing as a student. On my 18th birthday, Charlie sold me his spare Nadaswaram. Memory's like that, hearing Joe or Charlie play everyday set the stage. Those remarkable me changed my life! TO BE BLUNT- Joe Viola was the man who told the editor at SAXOPHONE JOURNAL over two plus decades ago...when they wanted to do a feature on Charlie Mariano to get in touch with me ASAP to do it, as that would be the right thing to do.So on that tip, a writing career of doing articles, CD reviews and much more ensued at Saxophone Journal because of Joe. That was years after I graduated from Berklee. Joe always was talking to me about writing, as he knew I was into reading and poetry. He instigated a lot with me to from that to telling me to keep on using amplification with my bassoon, he was a free spirit in the biggest way.I'll never forget turning Joe on to Bunky Green- he got his wallet out and gave me the money for the record " Testifying Time"...and within a week had played that for every saxophone student in school. Another time I played him Edgar Winters record "Entrance". He loved it! He talked for an entire lesson about the dexterity Edgar had in his playing. He had us all practicing out of oboe books on saxophone to get a higher skill level. David S. Ware showed me the photo copy pages he still had from Joe's lessons, and was still playing that Joe gave him from the " Singer" oboe books. You'd see Joe chilling in the old Jazz Workshop on Boylston St listening to George Coleman or at Lennie's on the Turnpike checking out Duke Ellington.
Gentlemen- Thank you- we all love you both madly.
~ I urge all former students to write into this RICO BLOG and share story's about Joe and Charlie. It would be insightful to the people today to know YOUR experiences and inspirations. Please take the time to add thoughts! TILL NEXT WEEK- Tim Price


  1. stories ?
    too many to tell in one or even one hundred sittings.
    ok .. Charlie Mariano was our instructor in one of my first semester classes that met at 8:30 in the morning in the basement of the Newbury building.. arranging 101 ! Too early for anyone to learn voicing techniques for four horns so the class of 15 or so always started across the street at the coffee shop.
    Berklee has always been about having everything you write played in class and Charlie's class was no exception.
    One morning, early in the semester, we were playing down a student chart written for trumpet, trombone, alto sax and tenor sax when the trombone player in the group stopped the music and questioned his part. The trombone part was written in treble clef in a range challenging to even a trumpet player. Charlie turned to the aspiring arranger and speculated that maybe he was not familiar with the trombone range and clef. Assuming the writer was a drummer or other instrument quite removed from the trombone, Charlie asked; "what instrument do you play?"
    The newbie scribe sheepishly said; "trombone",
    to which Charlie replied; "Oh man, I gotta hear you play!"

    Gary Anderson ('69)

  2. Tim: As I did not go to Berklee I do not have first hand stories. But I did study w/you so I guess I got some of Charlie's and Joe's stuff from you. I also bought and practiced out of Joe Viola's Berklee Sax Method Books, especially Volume 2 & 3. They were and are a big help to me.

    On another note. I was at the Saxophone Symposium at George Mason University this weekend. I had a nice discussion with Kristen at the Rico booth. I also saw Chris Vadala who remembered me from when he did a concert w/my Navy Band. Chris and I talked for about an hour on a variety of subjects which included reeds, horns, education, Chuck Mangione, teaching, band teachers who won't let their kids use Rico Reeds etc. I told him my experiences with that. How I put kids on Rico Reeds despite what their Band teacher tells them. Then lo and behold the Band teacher tells the kid how much better he/she sounds.
    Anyway Chris was very nice.

    The featured artist was alto/soprano sax player Steve Wilson. During his master class he put out some good information. Stuff like know the lyrics to the songs you play, learn tunes from the Great American Songbook, try to play melodicaly, listen to Frank Sinatra sing to learn how to phrase and interrupt songs. After all thats what Miles Davis did.

    Anyway Steve sounded great on his concert as did the Navy Jazz Commodores who backed him up. He had a great sound, sound, technique and melodic ideas. As usual it was a great event and Rico was well represented by Kristen, Chris Vadala and others.