Featured Musician - August 2009

Name : Tim Willcox

Tim Willcox

Instrument:  saxophone

Early Years/Education: In middle school, in Eugene, I had a choice of being in the choir or being in the band or doing a sport or something like that. I chose band, and then I had to choose between the saxophone or the snare drum, the two instruments that were left. The saxophone looked inherently more interesting. Shortly after that I started playing and had a really great teacher named Joe Ingram. He was like the “Mr. Holland” of Eugene ... a really inspirational band director who was really into jazz. He had tons of records, and he'd loan them to me. My next big exposure to jazz was my saxophone teacher, Carl Woideck (University of Oregon professor and author). I started on the alto sax and switched to tenor my senior year in high school. I still play the alto, but the people I was really listening to back then -- Coltrane, Shorter, Brecker -- inspired me to switch to tenor. [Note: In high school Willcox received a Downbeat student musician award, was a Presidential Scholar of the Arts in 1993, and received a Stan Getz/Clifford Brown fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.] After high school I went to the University of Oregon for a year, but they didn't have a degree program for jazz performance at that time, so I transferred to William Patterson University in New Jersey, where I got a BA in jazz performance. 

Portland: Moved to Portland in 2002 and already knew a lot of people. Currently, I have my own quartet, but play in David Friesen's quintet with John Gross, Dan Balmer and Charlie Doggett. I really play with everybody in town: Bill Athens, Greg Goebel, Chris Mosley, Alan Jones, Dan Schulte, etc. There's not a lot of steady groups right now since there's not a lot of clubs open at the moment.  Portland as a straight-ahead town is changing. There are a lot of younger guys who are moving here and doing interesting things, but I like to do both. I like to play wedding gigs, for example, where you have to play super inside; but having that restriction forces you to be creative in that context. One of the good things about growing up in Oregon is being exposed to and learning the standards. I think it's an important part of the history of the music. I love Kurt Rosenwinkel and those guys, but a lot of the young players, particularly back East, are using that as a starting point instead of going back and listening to Charlie Parker or Louis Armstrong.

Teaching: I've always had students; even in college I was teaching at a local high school. I enjoy teaching, especially if the student is into it. It's fun to come up with exercises or devices to get them to improve, and it's gratifying to see if it works.

Musical Influences: Everyone ... Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, all the usual suspects, really. I especially love Warne Marsh, Seamus Blake (plays w/John Scofield), Chris Cheek, all tenor players.  And, of course, Carl Woideck whom I studied with for eight years.

Most Satisfying Experience: Some nights you feel like everybody's listening to each other and you feel free. You can rely on the other musicians no matter what you're playing. It happens rarely. Most gigs are a bunch of people thrown together, but on those special occasions when it really works, it's exhilarating. I usually think to myself, ‘I wish it could happen like that all the time...’; you kind of get into a zone.

Favorite Recordings: Miles Davis “The Complete 1964 Concert,” “My Funny Valentine” and “Four and More”; Keith Jarrett “Standards Live”; Elliott Smith “XO”; The Beatles “Revolver”; Charlie Parker “The Complete Savoy and Dial Recordings”; Peter Erskine Trio “Time Being”; Jan Garbarek “Dansere”; John Coltrane “A Love Supreme”; Ravel “Piano Concerto in G majo” (esp. the 2nd movement); Sonny Rollins “Way Out West”; Michael Brecker “Michael Brecker”; Lee Konitz “Motion.”

Discography: “Sound Architecture” (2008) Diatic Records: Tim Willcox Quartet with Toby Koenigsberg on piano, Chris Higgins on bass, and Randy Rollofson on drums. Other recordings Tim appears on include: Marcus Reynolds/Farnell Newton “Sense of Direction” Diatic Records; Chris Mosely Quartet “Outside Voices” Diatic Records; Francis Vaneck's “Zone” w/Randy Porter, Peter Erskine, Larry Grenadier and Ingrid Jensen; Gino Vannelli's “A Good Thing”; Anson Wright's “Eleven Daughters” w/Darrell Grant and Brian Menendez; and Shelly Rudolph's “In This World.”

Gigs: 8/6/09 Bridgeport Village, Tigard; 8/7/09 w/David Friesen and John Gross, Seattle; 8/8/09 the Portland Spirit; 8/13/09 Happy Valley Music Festival w/Karla Harris; 8/22/09 w/David Friesen Quintet, Jimmy Mak's; 8/28/09 w/Johnny Martin at the Heathman Hotel; 9/4/09 w/Dan Schulte Sextet, Jimmy Mak's.

Future Plans: I'm working on a new quartet album featuring David Goldblatt on piano, Bill Athens bass and Charlie Doggett on drums. I'm also writing lyrics and songs, and hopefully I'll have a group with a singer. I want to do more touring or playing outside of Portland.

Other Comments: It's really interesting working with David Friesen; his music is so unique you can't just play the stuff that falls under your fingers. He has his own harmonic and melodic scheme going on that nobody else does. You can't plug in what you're used to playing. It forces you to improvise all the time. It's really challenging.

-- by Rita Rega


Copyright 2009, Jazz Society of Oregon