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
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!