Brian Madden - saxophone

Brian Madden

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A TENOR RANT: 

I, Brian Madden, am not your average tenor player; I seldom practiced, nor ever had the devotion, dedication, determination, discipline, and desire, to make myself a musician. Even today, after more than 60 years, I call myself a player, not a musician. The distinction comes from the time I took a lesson from Lee Konitz. As I tuned up and ran a few scales in front of him, he said, “Aha, you’re a player.” I never asked what that meant, but I got the idea that I was not someone without any talent. 

I’ve sat in or worked with some of the great names of the most magical, mysterious, and magnificent music: jazz. Among them are two of Utica’s most worthy practitioners, “Jamesy” Wormworth, and son Jimmy. 

One of my heroes was JR Monterose, who was a marvelous and most talented tenor player. My big drag about JR was not having studied or played with him. We never seemed to be in the same area at the same time, but we did communicate by telephone. Sonny Rollins used to tell me how much he liked JR, and his playing. 

Another whiz with a reed was Sal Nistico, a Syracusan who dazzled with Count Basie, and Woody Herman among others. I knew Sal, and interviewed him, and sat in with him several times in NYC. He was very patient with me, for I was not, nor ever shall be, anywhere near the player he, or JR, was. 

In 1954, living in nearby Oneida, I bought my first tenor, and made my first public appearance in the 1955 High School musical, playing and singing, Rocket 69. Hmm. 

Since this century, Farmers Markets are my main hits, in Woodstock, Cooperstown, Rhinebeck, and soon, Millerton. Sometimes a restaurant gives in, and I tried the Other Side once, but nobody showed. Eh. 

Utica used to be replete with joints such as Dickie Frank’s Birdland; Ray Thompsons; Wang and Gene’s; Charley’s on the Square; and even Oneida had Jimmy Cavallo at Gussie’s on Saturday nights. Vic Circh used to sit in with Jimmy ; and Summertimes had action at Sylvan Beach, where I gigged with Tony Madonia. 

Those days were in the 1950s and 60’s, now, no such venues exist. Once in a while Tiny’s was jumping, when Sal Amico’s trumpet provided top-drawer performers, but those days don’t get around much anymore, if at all. 

The most recent scene here, had Devin Garramone’s tenor, with Bobby Hubbard, drums, and Jeff Palmer’s monstrous B3, at the Devereux (misprounced Dev Er Oh). It was the closest approach to the old days, except the audience was more into the funk sound. Arghh. 

Hopefully, this web site can inspire some activity acknowledging “4/4 and evermore,” as parsed by Phil Woods, a pretty fair alto player. 

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