Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog: Top-notch jazz players promise relaxing evening of music

There’s one main point I’d like to pass along about my talk with saxophonist Bob Sheppard, who will be in Hood River this weekend for the “All That Jazz” show at the arts center. He basically said that the concert won’t be too loud.

“It’s going to be a nice blend of arranged standards, a few originals from me and our pianist Dave Goldblatt. It will be jazz at it’s pure essence, it’s going to be interactive, and very acoustic. We’re not going to blow anyone’s ears off with any heavy amplification. I’m going to do my best to make it that way, because that’s what I like to do,” Sheppard said on the phone from L.A. recently.

Apparently, a lot of other folks in the music business like the way he presents his music, too, because he tours and has worked for bands and music icons like Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and Frank Sinatra, as well as contributing to studio session soundtracks for dozens of movies. He said that you’ve probably heard his music, without knowing it’s him.

Bob was excited about the lineup for this top-notch jazz band, mentioning that the members are longtime friends that he’s finally getting around to playing with, and the fact that they’ll be able to focus on creating what he calls a “real jazz show.” The band will feature drummer Michael Raynor, bassist Chris Higgins and pianist David Goldblatt.

“Hood River really fit in well with this tour, because we’ll also be in Bend and doing a show at Jimmy Mac’s, in Portland. So we’ll definitely be using the Hood River show to gear up for those,” Sheppard said.

Bob grew up in the Philadelphia area, and his father was a part-time saxophonist/clarinet player. By fifth grade, his father brought home a clarinet, and that was pretty much the beginning of his music career, although Bob said at first he wanted to play the drums.

“I started playing along with records that my dad had in the house, and I found out I was pretty adept at figuring out how these things worked. I started learning the music by ear, and nobody told me I wasn’t supposed to do that,” Sheppard said.

Bob said that growing up there were great music programs at school and teachers in the community which gave him the skills that he carries with him today.

“My music career has had many different pathways and branches that has led to me playing with some very famous people, and it’s something that early on I would never have thought would happen in a million years,” Sheppard said.

“When you’re working with bandleaders like Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, they’re hiring guys, men and women, to come and play the music as it’s written. We get to bring that (written) music on stage and that’s our job as professional musicians,” Sheppard said.

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