Warren and I met several years ago backstage in Atlantic City. I was playing in Natalie Cole’s 35-piece orchestra when her Unforgettable Tour came to the Taj Mahal. Warren Hill was her opening act. We spoke briefly about our experiences at Berklee and studying with Joe Viola. The meeting lasted only a few minutes but that weekend left an indelible impression on this saxophonist.
Playing for Natalie Cole at that time was very special. It was the first name act I had worked with in Atlantic City and she was approaching the pinnacle of her success. The book was very demanding and very musical. There was an unusually large number of doubles to be played for that show. We were playing arrangements by Michel Legrand and Bill Holman among other great arrangers. At the time I knew it was special but sharing the stage with Warren Hill made that weekend truly memorable.
After the four-hour rehearsal we broke for dinner and returned for the show later in the evening. When I entered the front of concert hall to take my place back stage, Warren Hill was on stage SCREAMIN’ on the alto sax. The band was slammin’, he had an incredible stage presence and the crowd was right with him. As cool as Natalie Cole’s show was going to be, his playing was equally inspiring.
My wife was in the audience for that performance. She and I both have been Warren Hill fans ever since. Although I listen to all types of jazz, my wife has a select few recordings that are featured at our house. These include Steely Dan, James Taylor, Don Henley and Warren Hill!
Warren and I spoke one evening while he was relaxing at his home in Boulder, Colorado.
We did first meet in Atlantic City back in ’92 when you opened for Natalie Cole and I was in the orchestra backing her up.
Wow! We were young then.
Would you agree that this was about the time that things really took off for you – the beginning of what has turned out to be a very good career so far?
Oh without a doubt. Basically Kiss Under the Moon came out and it shot up to the top of the charts. That was the first realization that I was doing the right thing. The next thing I knew I was being offered that spot opening up for Natalie. My record had been out a few months and that just kind of came up. I fought tooth and nail to get that tour. It certainly wasn’t easy because everyone wanted to be on it.
She had a huge set-up and a huge production. They always wanted me to set up in front of the curtains. That way, when the curtains opened up everyone saw this beautiful, lush backdrop for her. In some instances we probably had five feet of stage. (laughs) I don’t even know how we got the drums set up. I would literally tip toe around the drum set so that I could actually move from one part of the stage to the other. That was part of the problem. I took out a seven-piece band with that thing. They didn’t want me to do that yet and I didn’t want to do any sequencing. I wanted everything to be live. It was kind of a constant struggle. We finally worked it out and I got to do 42 cities or something like that.
….YOU CAN READ THIS COMPLETE INTERVIEW IN SEPT/OCT 2003 ISSUE OF SAXOPHONE JOURNAL. Contact dornpub.com for subscription information.
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© 2003 by Dorn Publications, Inc.
Sept/Oct 2003, Vol. 28, No. 1