|Written by Skip Spratt|
Saxophonist and multi instrumentalist Dino Soldo is first and foermost an entertainer. Not content to fade into the background while on stage, the energetic performer can be found along side pop-great Lionel Richie kneeling, jumping or even rolling around the stage adorned in his trademark pork pie hat. Despite his showmanship and outbursts on stage, Dino is a force to be reckoned with on the saxophone. His critics may cynically refer to him as “Superstar” but this largely self-taught saxophonist is truly worthy of more attention. If you’re not familiar with Dino Soldo, you just haven’t been paying attention. In his own words, “ I’m the guy that most people call when they want to do a TV promo. If they want to go on to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, they give me a call. If they want to hire a quick sax player for any daytime show like Wayne Brady, Sinbad, Martin Short or Rosie O’Donnell, usually my phone will ring.
Soldo’s newest offering, Balance, is an all instrumental album. It follows his first two vocal releases, Strange and Beautiful and Thread. Balance, as the title implies features both his funky, soulful saxophone playing as well as the hypnotic sound of his chromatic harmonica.” I think it’s the first saxophone and chromatic harmonica album. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s the first one that has ever been done. “
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
(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.
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