Last weekend the Miami Saxophone Quartet headlined at BYU-Idaho’s Jazz Festival. The group has been playing together for 20 years. Gary Keller, Gary Lindsay, Ed Calle, and Mike Brignola have all known each other for double that amount of time though.
“We’ve known each other for a very, very long time,” Keller said. “I had been pestering my colleague here Gary Lindsey, about 20 years ago to write an arrangement of giant steps for a saxophone quartet because one didn’t exist. I finally got him to write it and then we realized we needed a band to play it.”
They all got together and played the piece. They realized for a concert they would need more than one song, so Lindsay created another piece for them to play. They put on the concert and it was a huge success!
They went on to record their songs from there and 20 years later they’ve produced five CDs and performed all over.
“Most of the music is written by Ed and myself, either composed or arranged,” Lindsay said.
Along with all the original songs they play, they also play a lot of covers of jazz artists they love.
“We’re pretty efficient in rehearsing because we all have been playing for so long… we can get a lot done in a couple hours of rehearsal,” said Brignola.
Outside of their performing lives they all teach music in some capacity. Lindsay and Keller both teach at the University of Miami, Calle teaches at Miami Dade College and Brignola does some private teaching.
Each of them has been involved with music since they were young.
“Mine was by accident,” Calle said. His dad asked him if he’d like to join the band in his school. When he was asked what instrument he wanted to play he said he didn’t know. His father suggested the saxophone and the rest is history.
All of them, except Calle, said they never thought about quitting music because it is too much a part of them. Calle was interested in math and started pursuing it until a fellow musician told him, “Do us all a favor and just play music.”
He said God sent him a message.
With all this experience under their belts they have plenty of well-earned advice to give to up-and-coming musicians.
“Learn to play piano even if you’re not a pianist,” Lindsay said.
“Just persevere, if it’s in you and want to do it you can learn to do it. Just keep pushing and studying and you’ll get your break,” said Keller.
“You never stop learning,” Calle said.
“If you ever think you’ve arrived…. You haven’t arrived,” said Lindsay.
They assure all musicians that you can never stop getting better.