“Saxophone players get all the girls.”
Of all Dad’s fatherly advice, this unconventional wisdom is the only bit I followed with blind faith.
At the start of my lifelong band geek career, I wanted to play drums, maybe trombone. But for some reason, 11-year old Cody heard these six words and spent over a decade trying to prove it true. (It’s not, if you’re curious.)
Growing up, jazz blended into the soundtrack of our life in San Francisco. Dad listened to a little bit of everything: Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, The Allman Brothers, Bill Evans, Captain Beefhart, Oscar Peterson, Jaco Pastorius, and thousands of hours of bootleg Grateful Dead shows spinning on our Teac reel to reel. We watched Josh Redman and Joe Henderson burn down the house at the SF Jazz Festival. On our first trip to New York City, the only must-visit destination was the Village Vanguard.
When I switched from clarinet to sax in middle school, Dad gave me a Verve Jazz Masters compilation.
One track hit me like a lightning bolt: “Diminuendo in Blue and Blow by Blow” performed by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra on July 26, 1966 in Cote D’Azur.
I listened to that eight minute masterpiece dozens of times a week for months. Hearing it now, I can still hum along with every note of Paul Gonsalves’ 27-chorus solo. By the end of the song, the hair on my neck stands up straight, ready to riot with the audience. Ellington’s show-stopper became my gateway to the world of jazz that had been hidden in plain sight my whole life.
While the promise of “all the girls” never materialized, I got my fill of Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Cannonball Adderly. After two decades and thousands of chipped reeds, I’m eternally grateful that my Dad decided to share his love of jazz with me.
This is part of a series about how CapRadio staff fell in love with the artform of jazz.
We're inviting you to share your story of how you came to love jazz, in 200 words or less. Email your essay to [email protected] before February 14. We’ll read the top submissions on air and award several prizes.