For more than four decades, jazz saxophonist Bob Sheppard has performed with jazz giants Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Dianne Reeves, as well as renowned artists from other genres.
Producer Woody Wilson, a longtime civic leader of Tempe and Don Carlos Humanitarian of the Year 2020, brings this art to the valley on November 20 when Sheppard and his quintet perform a 7:30 p.m. concert, presented by Wilson’s Lakeshore Music at Ravenscroft Hall in North Scottsdale.
“Bob Sheppard is truly in a class of his own,” said Wilson, founder, president and executive producer of Lakeshore Music. “He’s the A-list session player in Los Angeles when you absolutely have to have a dazzling reed player. He worked with the legends.
“Our show on November 20 is going to be something wonderful. Along with Bob Sheppard, acclaimed guitarist Larry Koonse is part of the group, along with Otmaro Ruiz on piano, bassist Luca Alemano and drummer Mark Ferber. It’s a monster group, exactly the kind of ensemble Ravenscroft Hall was built to present. It will be a spectacular show in a world class venue.
Wilson first met Sheppard, who is also a flute and clarinet virtuoso, eight years ago, while he was producing a concert with Los Angeles pianist John Proulx. Sheppard was in the group.
“He literally blew the audience away with his tenor saxophone and almost stole the show,” Wilson said of Sheppard. “People would come to me after the concert and ask me, ‘Who is this guy?’
“The same thing happened a few years later when we introduced West Coast singer Denise Donatelli. She included Bob in her group and our audience remembered it. That’s when I knew we had to bring Bob back to headline his own show, but the schedules always got in the way.
Sheppard found concerts accompanying Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., the 5th dimension and a stable place with the Chuck Mangione orchestra. He has also performed with Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Queen Latifah, Elvis Costello, Natalie Cole, Randy Newman, Rickie Lee Jones and Boz Scaggs.
He received these calls primarily because of his improvisational and performing skills and, of course, his unique sound.
“Playing with the best of the best is huge. It allows me to play better, ”said Sheppard. “All these top 40 and 70s funk bands were jazz concerts for me. They taught me styles, how to hear myself through music, how to play in brass sections with singers.
“The pop tunes of the 70s and 80s had great harmonies and shapes that left a lot of room for individuality and expression.”
From the start, it was jazz that attracted Sheppard.
“When I was a kid there was jazz everywhere on TV and radio,” he said. “I really didn’t need to look for jazz. It was all around me. I really liked the idea of finding melodies and the freedom to explore the sounds on my horn. I was constantly knotting and experimenting. I never waited for my teacher to tell me what to practice. Playing with all the music I heard was a huge factor in how I learned to use my ear, identify harmony and develop relative high pitch, and play in tune.
Sheppard became a leading musician who could be relied on to bring new ideas to a recording session or a live concert.
“I have learned to operate in so many environments,” Sheppard said. “Knowing how to react and relate stylistically to become a musical mind reader and deliver what is needed is always fun for me. The cumulative effect of the experience is invaluable education.
Bob Sheppard Quintet
Saturday November 20, 7:30 p.m.
8445 E. Hartford Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona 85255
Reserved spaces: $ 55 on lakeshoremusic.org
Students 50% discount (must present a student card)