Dave Fisk uses his father’s sax to build playing, teaching career

Fisk is primarily a bebop player, and that’s what his quartet leans toward in their performances. He

The first time Dave Fisk ever played his father’s Selmer Mark VI saxophone, it landed him face to face with the head band teacher at his middle school.

At the time, Fisk, an alto and tenor player, had just begun playing and had been using a rented student saxophone for his music classes. One day in band class, a key fell off the horn. “No horseplay; it fell off,” he said.

While the rental was being fixed, Fisk’s father let him borrow his horn — a much nicer instrument than what the other students were using. Halfway through the day, he was called down to the music office.

“The older music teacher, the band teacher there, called me to his office,” Fisk said. “I didn’t have him yet, and we were all terrified of him. And he asked me, ‘Where did you get this?’ I said, ‘It’s my father’s.’ And he said, ‘Well, never bring it here again; it will get trashed.’ Something along those words. And he said, ‘If you have to, don’t leave it with the other school kids’ school instruments; put it in my office.’ ”

Dave Fisk Quartet

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Where: 9 Maple Avenue, Saratoga Springs

How Much: $2

More Info: 583-2582, www.9mapleavenue.com

Making it his own

A few years later, when Fisk was in high school, his father gave him the Selmer. It’s been his main instrument ever since, seeing him through his studies at the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York in Potsdam, his teaching career and his performing work with Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble, The Joey Thomas Big Band and his own jazz quartet. He’ll lead his quartet at 9 Maple Avenue on Friday night.

It’s appropriate that Fisk still plays his father’s instrument. His father introduced him to jazz, blues and rock ’n’ roll at an early age through his record collection, and Fisk has been obsessed ever since.

“A lot of my original influences came from his record collection — listening to players like Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane,” he said. “When I’m in a rut, I’ll play one of those older records and I’ll remember exactly why I can’t stop. So it’s my father’s fault.”

Today, Fisk is primarily a bebop player, and that’s what his quartet leans toward in their performances. The band — which on Friday will feature longtime collaborators Dave Shoudy on bass and Andy Hearn on drums, along with guitarist Mark Kleinhaut — will mostly stick to standards such as “Stella by Starlight” (“I could play that every day,” Fisk said).

Back to standards

“I’m kind of going back through a lot of the old standards, and I’m kind of approaching tunes in harmony and theory slightly differently than I used to,” he said. “I’ve kind of rediscovered a lot of the older tunes that I used to play, and playing them completely differently because I think of them differently.”

Fisk, who also plays guitar and dabbles in piano, has always been attracted to music, and instruments. He grew up in Delmar surrounded by music, from his father as well as others.

“Very early on as a kid, I just loved the music class,” he said. “My sister had a friend who had a piano, and I’d just go to the piano, and I would have to be called by my mother on the phone to leave, to come home for dinner. We got a piano shortly thereafter.”

In high school, he was more focused on guitar, drawing inspiration from blues players and Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys. He was inspired to devote his life to music, especially saxophone, in college, where he first met Pray and fellow local saxophonist Lee Russo.

“It wasn’t until I went to school and I met lots of other people like Keith . . . that I realized that you could actually — that you could do it,” Fisk said. “It was kind of like Brer Rabbit, or whatever, being in front of the briar patch or whatever. I didn’t really think you could actually do this. ‘This can actually be my major, really? All right, that’s pretty cool.’ I had no idea.”

Original material

While Fisk also composes his own songs, he doesn’t gig with his original material — at least not at the moment. An original project with Hearn, who also composes, may be on the way in the near future.

“I’m awfully shy about it, so I haven’t done much recently,” Fisk said. “I would like to get back in, especially into writing for big band, because I actually really enjoy that.”

In addition to gigging around the Capital Region and the occasional New York City show, Fisk is the director of the high-school jazz ensembles and concert band at Niskayuna Central Schools. For Fisk, performing and teaching go hand in hand.

“They inspire one another, but mostly the playing inspires the teaching because, well, I’m really passionate about playing, and to be able to share that is a real treat,” he said.

Categories: Life and Arts

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