- Saxmen: The Aliquos
When a jazz musician blows into town and sits in with a band after only minimal preparation, it's a reminder of the music's inclusive quality. Next Tuesday's JazzLive concert, at Katz Plaza, Downtown, not only brings together a lifelong local veteran and an expatriate Pittsburgher -- it reunites a father-and-son saxophone duo for an all-too-rare session.
Don Aliquo Sr. is reluctant to reveal his age, but admits he's been a professional musician for almost 60 years. Many of his peers might be ready to scale back on performances, but the saxophonist can still be heard weekly around town. And while some musicians might reach a point where they trade a sense of adventure for a soloing style that feels more consistent or predictable, Aliquo feels he's still expanding on his strong melodic improvisation skills.
"I've improved over the past several years," he says. "I'm more confident about what I'm doing. I continually try to keep growing."
One person that has challenged Aliquo throughout the years is his son, Don Jr. Like his dad, he plays tenor saxophone and has evolved from an apprentice to full blown peer, equally adept at straight-ahead jazz or his own melodically challenging compositions. Once a fixture on the Pittsburgh jazz scene, he is beginning his 11th year at Middle Tennessee State University, where he serves as the school's director of jazz studies. He has also recorded several CDs, including one with internationally known bassist Rufus Reid and trumpeter Clay Jenkins.
Both Aliquos will perform with the Senior's regular band, which includes guitarist Eric Susoeff, bassist Mark Perna and drummer John Schmidt. The night before the performance, they plan to record a follow-up to their 1999 CD DNA, which straddled some especially feverish blowing with explorations of classic ballads.
When father and son play together, both admit that each expects a good deal from the other, performance-wise, and they push each other toward a higher level during solos. "In that respect, he's a great mentor," Don Jr. says of his dad. "There always is that aspect of jazz performance, especially when you put two players of the same instrument together. There's always a little bit of competition."
Pop agrees: "We don't take it easy on each other, let's put it that way."
Don Aliquo Sr. and Don Aliquo Jr. 5 p.m. Tue., Aug. 18. Agnes R. Katz Plaza, Downtown. Free. 412-456-6666