To know Ron as a friend, colleague and former teacher is an honor. By relating our shared experiences, the hope is that other saxophonists may truly appreciate his gift and what he gives back in return. Ron Kerber has one of those charismatic personalities which many successful performers and educators possess. Spend one minute talking with him and you'll want to continue the conversation for hours. He sees the proverbial glass as being "half-full" and casts a positive influence on those around him.
I first heard of Ron when I moved to Atlantic City back in the early 80s. According to the local musicians, there were two brothers – ; Rick and Ron Kerber – ; who were doing a lot of session work. Not long after I settled into the A.C. scene, we met in the lounge I was working at Bally's Park Place on the Boardwalk. The band I played in was in the habit of performing an eclectic mix of contemporary jazz before the lead singer came on stage. The band would cover tunes by David Sanborn, the Yellowjackets, Chick Corea's Electric Band and even stuff by Bob Berg and Mike Stern. It was a great band to play with and many other musicians would come to listen to us on their breaks. On at least one occasion, Ron Kerber came by and we met. I could tell from that moment that he was a special person beyond being a great saxophonist.
After several years playing in the lounges of Atlantic City, I felt a need to finish the education I had started at Berklee College of Music back in 1980. On the advice of a friend, I decided to go to school in Philadelphia and keep the work contacts and gigs that were going well in the Atlantic City area. When I went to my first saxophone lesson, Ron Kerber was my teacher.
Knowing Ron from Atlantic City, I knew he was into David Sanborn and other R&B influenced players. I remember selecting my loudest, brightest and edgiest reed while warming up in the practice room, all the while anticipating the impression I might make on Ron as a student of his. Much to my surprise, Ron worked with me over the next couple of years to become a more "musical" saxophone player with finesse and agility as well as covering some of the traditional repertoire. He took my playing in another direction that changed it forever. For that, I will always be grateful.
In the years during and immediately following my matriculation at the University of the Arts, Ron and his brother Rick purposefully promoted my career. Recording dates, teaching jobs and showroom gigs came my way in no small way due to their help and recommendations. Through the years, I have had many opportunities to play along side Rick and Ron in sections. It has always been a great musical experience. Unfortunately, trumpeter Rick Kerber lost his battle with cancer two years ago and passed away. However, his influence remains part of the Philly music scene.
Interviewing Ron was an easy task. Like so many times before, we just talked at length about everything. From mouthpieces to family and back to the music business, the conversation twisted and turned. Ron Kerber's commentary in the following interview was expectedly interesting. His perception as a mentor and fellow saxophonist was most definitely enlightening. Enjoy!
Our conversation started with Ron Kerber and I talking about drumming. When we last worked together, I was working on some stuff on the drum set and finding myself rather addicted to drums and drumming as a break from my saxophone playing. Ron has a drum set at home as well and he is yet another saxophone player with a passion for drums, whether playing them or listening to them.
Man, I played with this drummer yesterday. Do you know John Ellis? He's a piano technician but he's a jazz trumpeter. His last two albums were really good. I played some horn parts and just section things on the first album but the soloists were Chris Potter and Michael Brecker. I was really flattered because he asked me to do this album, so I'm playing all the solos this time, so it's really a gas. Ronnie Barrage is the drummer and he lives in Pennsauken (outside Philly) Gerald Veasley, Ed Simon. Out of everybody, Ronnie Barrage just totally floored me. I would give everything to play drums like that-give up the horn, give up everything!
Yeah, it's always inspiring to play with a great drummer! That's probably why I started playing them in the first place. I just felt like I had hit a point where I needed some other creative outlet and the drums renewed my interest in the sax. I guess what it really came down to (laughs) is that I'd sit there and practice and practice the drums and get a little better, then pick up the sax and sound like a genius in comparison!
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
One of the things I feel strongly about is that everybody in college who has to take piano should also have to take drums as well. When I talk to Michael Brecker or Bob Berg or Robin Eubanks, they're all into drumming. They all sit down at the kit and sound great!
You're bringing up a subject that has been discussed before. There seems to be a correlation between good saxophone players and the ability to play drums. Someone should do a study on that.
…YOU CAN READ THIS COMPLETE INTERVIEW IN NOV/DEC 2002 ISSUE OF SAXOPHONE JOURNAL. Contact dornpub.com for subscription information.
Used by permission.
© 2002 by Dorn Publications, Inc.
Nov/Dec 2002, Vol. 27, No. 2