Anita Brown


Anita's Blog

The Leading Edge: Dick Oatts, Unedited


Who were your top three earliest influences as a lead player before you turned thirty?

Dick Oatts:

            Marshall Royal had a great commanding sound, time, and style of his own. I felt his section followed him well because of his consistency and leadership. He seemed to make every phrase musical whether it was a sax soli or not.

            Wayne Lage was from Iowa and I played second under him as a teenager. He was very stern about matching breathing, articulation, blend, sound, styles, dynamics, and phrasing. Wayne was a dentist but had worked in a lot of territory bands in the mid-west. He was a great sight-reader and demanded that section mates listen and play at the same time. He taught me what to expect as a  lead player and how to get it. He was both demanding and musical.     

            I worked with Gerry Niewood for over 20 years. He was totally amazing in his determination and musical consistency. He was so easy to breathe with because we heard things the same way. We listened to the same players and were both tenor players as well. We liked a heftier approach on alto sounds. He was also a great doubler and very dedicated to play the best he had in him at all times.

            I had the incredible opportunity to play under Jerry Dodgion  for a year and a half while playing with Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He will always be one of the most natural lead players I have every played with. He sounded like a jazz player soloing when he played lead. Jerry could carry a section based on his own passion for the music. He never said much but had an amazing ability to inspire you to follow him. His sound was deep and rich, not edgy and hard. His beat was wide and he had the warmth of Johnny Hodges. What made Jerry a great lead player is that he knew how to play second alto so supportive as well. He was my biggest influence and will always be my personal favorite.

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