I spoke with Dino from his home outside L.A. in The Valley. The west coast native spoke candidly with me about showmanship, musicianship and the unique path he has taken in a crazy business. We spoke at length about the music business – both parts that is – 1) Music and 2) Business.
Dino, I came to know you as a player and performer after seeing you on the Fourth of July Special live from Philadelphia. Seeing you move around the stage with your signature pork pie hat and hearing you honk on that tenor made me want to find out more about you. I googled “sax with Lionel Richie” and similar phrases until “Dino Soldo”came up in the search results. I thought this has got to be him. A couple pictures posted on your website confirmed it. That’s how I found you. Do you remember much about that televised gig? It was outdoors and rained as I recall.
Yes, I remember it well. It rained right after we stopped playing. We thought it was going to pour that night but it held off until we were done – which was cool.
Lionel gives you a lot of leeway to play different instruments and add different colors. You played chromatic harmonica, tenor sax, keys, and sang as I recall. At one point you even got down on one knee to take a solo out front! You have been characterized as “Keatonesque.” I have seen the clip on myspace.com. That looks hard to pull off!
If you look up my account on myspace.com, you can actually see a stop motion image of me actually doing a flip while I was playing. (Laughs) It’s a roll! I saw the Letterman band do it with their guitars. They got on their back and then they rolled over as they were playing. I thought, “There’s got to be a way I can do that!” So I spent a little time and got it. It’s somewhere between a flip, a roll or even a Jack Palance on-handed push up! I can’t really tell. (Laughs) He did that at the Academy Awards and people still remember that. I LOVE Buster Keaton on a non-musical level. I think his physicality a visual form of music. Anything I can do to bring that kind of old-world vaudeville type sauce back – I love doing that stuff. It’s fun.
Do you always wear the hat? Is that kind of your signature?
Sometimes I do. It’s awfully hot out here in California. (Laughs) It is my signature to a point. I like wearing hats and I’m bald. It’s also a practical matter where you have to have something to cover your head in the sun. Nobody wears a traditional pork pie hat anymore. Everybody wears the store-bought deals. I love Buster Keaton and Lester Young. It only seems to makes sense.
Do you have a haberdasher?
I do have a haberdasher. World Hat Mart in Pasadena gives me the stock Stetson. I picked up how to make them from an old Buster Keaton article entitled “How to Make a Pork Pie Hat.” I went through the ABC’s of how to do it and I learned from the master. It’s an interesting process. You take a sprayer bottle full of water infused with a hefty amount of sugar and spray the inside of the hat. You pull it out so it is round like a derby so it no longer looks like a Stetson. Next you spray the hole inside and fold it in on itself. Then you put the hat upside down so it’s flat and you get it right to the size that you need. Hopefully that size is going to be really close to the band. You just take the crown and tap it down, tap it down and tap it down. Then fold it over on the inside and straighten it out. Use clothespins to clip it all the way around and wait till it dries.
Then you have a pork pie hat.
I’ve got that famous poster or Dexter Gordon in a pork pie hat. You know the one where he’s smoking.
I teach a lot of younger kids in my private studio. They see that poster when they walk in and often comment about the sax player who is smoking. It was just the norm back then.
Oh yeah! It’s a canvas hat that he tweaked on his on. That’s a Herman Leonard photograph. God, the smoke that comes out of his mouth is unreal. I can’t believe one person made that amount of smoke because it’s all fresh smoke. I think that’s the clincher of that picture. I can remember thinking, “Holy cow. He can play like that and he can smoke like that!”
Buster used to take scissors to clip the outside folding brim so it would be paper-thin. I don’t take it that far as the sweat from my brow usually destroys the hat faster anyway.
I was wondering if you have destroyed your horn, rolling around like that! Is that an old Mark VI you’re holding as you are rolling around in that clip?
(Laughs) That’s my Oleg horn. You know what? I’ve never owned a Mark VI tenor. I had a Mark VI soprano for a long time. I loved it but I finally gave up that horn.
….YOU CAN READ THIS COMPLETE INTERVIEW IN MARCH/APRIL 2007 ISSUE OF SAXOPHONE JOURNAL. Contact dornpub.com for subscription information.
Used by permission.
© 2007 by Dorn Publications, Inc.
March/April 2007 , Volume 31, No. 4