Studio visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Melissa Merli chats with saxophonist Clark Gibson.
Q: You seem really accomplished for your age. When did you start playing the sax?
A: When I was 12. I was kind of fascinated with the saxophone. It's kind of interesting because a couple of years after I started playing, I found out my great-grandfather also was a professional saxophone player. He made his kids play saxophone. They had a family saxophone quintet. I think his wife played baritone sax.
Q: Do you play the alto?
A: I play all the saxophones, but alto is my favorite.
Q: I read in your bio (http://www.clarkgibson.com) that you started performing in bars in Denver when you were in high school.
A: My private teacher at the time, Rich Chiaraluce, who's a professional saxophone player, basically started getting me into the clubs. The clubs started to get to know me and would let me come in and play. Then I started working for an entertainment company, doing weddings on the weekends and jobs of that nature.
Q: Did you go to college to study music after you graduated from high school?
A: I actually never graduated high school. I got my GED and worked as a professional musician in Denver until I was 21. Then I went on the road with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
Q: How long were you with them — and what did you do afterward?
A: I was with them maybe six months. It was a great experience. They were really formative to my playing. They really taught me how to swing. Then I came back to Denver and recorded my first CD, "The Offering," which I released independently.
When I was 24, I took a job working for Princess Cruises. I did that for two years, and then I moved to Seattle, worked as a professional musician and decided to go to college when I was 27, to the Cornish School of the Arts.
Then I ended up here to work on my master's. This past fall, I started working on my DMA in jazz studies. Somewhere in there, I recorded another CD, "Iapetus," under the label Pony Boy Records.
Q: You've worked with a lot of famous musicians. Any highlights?
A: I've been very fortunate to work with a lot of good people. Edgar Winter, Dianne Reeves, Phil Urso, Joe Bonner. I did some work with The Temptations and The Four Tops. Tito Puente Jr. I used to play a lot of salsa music, and we would do halftime shows at pro football games.
Q: One of your fans here says you play in the style of Charlie Parker.
A: I'm definitely a bebop guy. I love Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley. My favorite musician might be Miles Davis. I don't know; there are so many great ones. I might have listened to more Miles than anyone else, but my playing is not influenced as much by Miles as it is by Charlie Parker.
Q: You also seem like a leader.
A: I like working as a sideman, but sometimes you have to create your own scene. The group you heard last night (July 8) is called the Old Style Sextet; I co-lead it with Mike Fenoglio and Euan Edmonds. That particular group won an award from Downbeat magazine two months ago for outstanding graduate student group.
Q: What other awards have you received?
A: Two years ago, I received awards from Downbeat for graduate college outstanding composition and outstanding soloist.
Q: You're teaching at Illinois Summer Youth Music this summer. Do you still have private students, too?
A: Yes, I teach out of my house right now.
Q: How much longer will you be here?
A: I hope to finish my coursework this year, and I'm starting to work on my new album that I will record in the spring. After I get my DMA, I'm looking to teach at the college level. And, absolutely, I will continue to perform a lot.
Editor's note: The Old Style Sextet, which plays original compositions, will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. July 30 at The Iron Post, 120 S. Race St., U, and at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at Buvons Wine Bar, 203 N. Vine St., U.