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Saxophone Lessons Learned
Mean Advice

Used by permission from Greg Vail .com :: Written by Greg Vail

Go Home and Practice

Many know of my long tenure with Pianist Rob Mullins but few have ever heard the story of when we first meet.

Rob was new to LA and working a Jazz room in Orange County. Rob was a sideman on the gig; I think Tony Guerrero was the boss; I was a friend of the boss and came in to sit in with the band.

A Few disclaimers are necessary here. This was more than 10 years ago. We always argue about how long ago because Rob and I both drank a lot back then so memories suffer. Rob had recently moved to LA after receiving a Grammy nomination and was pretty hot. Rob has absolutely no recollection of this event and will probably deny it if asked.

I sat in with the band on the last set that night. I thought I did pretty good, although I remember it being a little more “Jazz” than I was used to.

I had seen Rob before, but don’t think I had ever talked to him. I said Hi and Rob looked at me, said I sucked and that I needed to go home and practice, and then walked away. I was so freaked out. The first and only words from this REALLY GOOD JAZZ GUY and he trashed me.

I went home and practiced. It was 4-5 weeks later. I showed up to that same gig and sat in on the last set again. I was so scared Rob would hate me again but I had to try.

We finished the set and Rob walks up and says, “You that guy from a couple of weeks ago?” I said, “Yea.”

Rob asked, “What happened? What did you do?” I said, “Practiced; like you told me to.”

Rob said, “You sound better, Do it some more.”

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He was just as abrupt or rude as the first time and he turned walked away.

This was a turning point for me. No one had ever been that negative and that clear in communicating it before; and this from a really great player that I wanted to play with again.

That 5 weeks (as I remember it?) were really intense. I threw myself at Jazz with the goal of making guys like Rob accept me. I think I ditched work, school and everything else I was doing at that time to DIVE IN. I can’t tell you what the outcome would be if Rob totally trashed me again.

I can tell you that Rob gave me just a little notice of improvement and I kept on trying to get his attention after that. I found out which sax players he liked, who had worked with him and then bought his CDs and the Sax Players he liked CD’s.

In 1995 I hired Rob as my original bands first call guy on keys. Some where, around this same time, Rob started calling me to sub for his band gig that had started pumping at some little Japanese Restaurant in Huntington Beach, CA. that we still call home today.

I really don’t know when it all started, but to date; Rob and I have been thru a couple a Jazz rooms, toured quite a bit, played in each others bands and on each others CDs for a long time now – 10 Years?

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I have learned from Rob, we have grown up together, got older together (not the same thing) and Robbie is like a bro to me now. Thanks for the ongoing lessons and salary each week!!!!

(c) Copyright 2004 Greg Vail Music

Greg Vail is an active recording and performing Saxophonist in the Jazz and Gospel Music genres, out spoken writer and webmaster providing help and support to the Saxophone Community.

MORE Saxophone Lessons

UPDATE :: JULY 30, 2005

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