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Laura Dreyer
Laura Dreyer
SOTW columnist


Saxophonist/Flutist/Composer Laura Dreyer, who is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, has been a professional musician in New York City since 1982. She is stylistically very versatile and performs in many different musical situations from be-bop to Brazilian and R&B. Currently, she has own Brazilian -jazz group which features her compositions and arrangements.

Laura has a new CD out entitled "Mysterious Encounter" which is currently available at CDbaby.com as well as through www.lauradreyer.com.

Laura has performed with her band at the Syracuse Jazz Festival, the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center for the performing arts, as well as many of New York City's top Jazz clubs.

She was a member and contributing arranger of Diva for six years where she was featured on tenor and lead also sax. Laura has studied saxophone with Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano, composition with Lyle Mays and Jim McNeely and has been the recipient of three NEA grants. She is also a featured columnist in the magazine "Saxophone Journal".


Reed All About It

Book Review by Laura Dreyer

Bob Bernotas's new book "Reed All About It", a remarkable collection of his interviews and master classes with notable saxophonists, is an amazing journey into the inner lives of the musicians that create the music we love. Bernotas, who has spent many years writing for many top Jazz publications among other things, has compiled a vast body of work that spans the history of jazz in the 20th century as told from the perspective of the many saxophonists and woodwind players that he has interviewed over the of the years.

As a professional musician myself, I have read many biographies of famous saxophonists as well as articles that appear in Jazz publications. This type of information tends to be colored by the perspective of the writer and often doesn't reflect the true experience of the musician being profiled. This collection of interviews is un-tampered with and the information comes straight from the source: the musicians themselves. This is what makes "Reed All About It" unique. Bernotas, who is also a musician, has an incredible knack as an interviewer of being able to converse with musicians on their level. As you read the book, you feel as though you too are in a room with Bob, Benny Golson, Bobby Watson, or whomever, just having a good hang after a gig. Bob knows the right questions to ask, knows how to stay out of the way of the interviewee, and does not have any hidden agendas.

I particularly enjoyed the interviews with the older saxophonists. It was fascinating to hear Frank Foster recount his early years in the army when he visited San Francisco (my home town) and frequented the many jam sessions where he had the opportunity to hear and play with a young Dexter Gordon. Later, as he candidly reveals his musical triumphs and insecurities while in the Count Basie band, I couldn't help but empathize with him. It made me see Frank Foster as a real person, and not some mythological jazz legend. Benny Golson, who is a particularly good storyteller, describes in his interview the day he met John Coltrane as a teenager in Philadelphia. Golson humorously recounts the day that he and Coltrane went to hear Charlie Parker for the first time and were so floored by his performance that they waited to meet him after the gig. They then proceeded to follow him down the street asking to carry his horn while asking him a barrage of questions. It is anecdotes like these that I found most charming and inspiring.

While reading this book, I also learned about the many ups and downs in the lives of these incredible musicians. Saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera describes the pain of defecting from Cuba and having to leave his five year old son behind. Pharoah Saunders shockingly recounts his early years in New York City where he had to sleep in doorways and took a job washing dishes in a jazz club so that he could sleep on the floor. The sacrifices that these musicians made for the sake of their art are awe-inspiring. These interviews made me see the courage of the human spirit to endure and persevere in the face of conflict, and in turn gave me renewed hope that jazz will survive and continue to flourish despite the economy, the fledgling record industry, and the vacuousness of the American media.

Bob's interviewees seem to span a broad variety of age, stylistic preference, race and gender, which I found refreshing. Besides the elder statesmen like George Coleman and David "Fathead" Newman, you will find avant-garde saxophonists J.D. Parran and Douglas Ewart profiled, along with female saxophonists Sue Terry, Lily White, Virginia Mayhew and Jane Bunett. Younger straight-ahead saxophonists Bobby Watson and Don Braden round out the spectrum along with flautist Jamie Baum, and if that isn't enough, there is a selection of artist master classes at the end of the book that are geared more toward the readers who are serious saxophonists and woodwind players.

"Reed All About It" is engaging both on the historical and musical levels, as well as being highly entertaining reading. I highly recommend this book to all saxophonists, music students, jazz lovers, and music educators as well. Bob Bernotas has made a valuable contribution to the preservation and documentation of jazz history that comes straight from the source!

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Created: May 17, 2003
Update: July 26, 2008

©2003-8 Harri Rautiainen
and respective authors

"Reed All About It"
is published by Boptism Music Publishing www.boptism.com

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