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The Short Story Of Rob

Music began for me, as with many others, in the school system. When I was in the fourth grade, I wanted to play trumpet, but my family already owned a clarinet. So, no matter the protest, I would not be rewarded with a trumpet rental. 

I hated the clarinet. From the start, it felt like a brutally uncaring instrument, with open key holes and abundant squawks and squeaks. As I learned, I'm quite certain my family may have regretted the decision- certainly my brother and sisters must have.

I soon found solace through private lessons from a local hard working musician, Jeff Sanford, who played all the woodwinds. Though I desperately wanted to play a "cool" instrument, like the saxophone, it was not until a few years later, until I had made some marked progress with the clarinet,  that I was allowed to pick up the sax. 

It was also at this point when I was introduced to Black American Music (BAM), aka "jazz". Then I discovered the true power of the clarinet, listening to Sidney Bechet, and became fascinated with early recordings of BAM. The way Bechet operatically flew over the top of the entire ensemble. . . how the?. . .what the? . . . Yes.

While in high school, I met Clint Baker. I would hang out at Clint's house, listening to recordings of early BAM, and started futzing around, learning songs and taking up the Albert's System clarinet- anything I could do to get that deep dark woody sound of Bechet, Omer Simeon, Willie Humphrey and many others. 

Learning by ear and winging it, I was soon part of a band, namely Clint Baker's New Orleans Jazz Band, and making more money throughout high school than any normal part time job I could've had at the time. We were all over the Bay Area, up and down the peninsula, to the city, and along the coast, playing gigs and festivals. It was while playing with Clint's band that I got to know Dr. Michael White, who was friends with and a close musical colleague of Wynton Marsalis.

After playing the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival in 1992, I accepted an invite from Dr. White to meet with Wynton Marsalis. Somehow I wound up on the same stage with Wynton, playing a few shows here and there, with musicians that I revered and idolized. I was young, raw and untrained, but ready for anything.

After that, I spent a number of years accompanying the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra around the United States and abroad, augmenting the band with a New Orleans clarinet sound that was ever changing. Standing on stage and hanging out on the road with that caliber of musician changed me. My thoughts on music and life evolved past simply imitation of the music to a more holistic view of music, and how it shaped life's soundtrack. 

Raising two young beautiful humans saw me settling down in the San Francisco Bay Area and cutting back performances. Life and parenthood took over for a while, but I still played music through it all, and I've been privileged to work alongside some of the best in the region through the past couple of decades. I've played with Marcus Shelby's Jazz Orchestra, Lavay Smith & Red Hot Skillet Lickers, Eaton-Barics Quintet, 8 Legged Monster, Lucky 7, as well as many local gigs with other local musicians and groups who love to play.

Currently, I work with Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers and with the Olmos-Barics Quintet, partnering with local trumpet legend Mike Olmos, and my own group of rotating characters in my smaller quartets and trios. You'll also see me around town doing pickup work and subbing for other great local acts. 

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I currently live in the small East Bay city of Alameda.

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