I love Theo’s Mouthpieces!, they make me want to play my sax all the time!
Jim’s musical talents have provided woodwind backups for performers such as Solomon Burke, The Platters, The Drifter & Coster Shows (with the real guys), Dick Dale & the Del Tones, Blvd Knights, Manzanita, The Yard Dogs, The Chi-lites, The Del Airs, 3 Feet Deep, and Neil Werner’s All Star Bull Frogg Blues Band, The Bishop California Big Band, Lorena Macky & the Hi-Lites, The Groove Committee and The Boomers.
Jim Scimonetti also performs and supports The Lancaster an Palmdale Community Orchestra programs in the Antelope Valley.
Why did you choose to become a musician?
I don't think I had much of a choice in becoming a musician. It was more like a spiritual recruitment. When I was a little 5th grade kid, I was introduced to the voice of the saxophone by my uncle Sal Mota. He was a huge Earl Bostic fan. When I heard those old Earl Bostic records I was hooked and hopelessly in love with the saxophone sound. As a young 5th grader I knew the ability to play the saxophone well was going to be my life's pursuit. At first, my parents couldn't afford to buy a sax for me. The only woodwind available was a school band clarinet. My music teacher kept me on the clarinet for two years and he wouldn't let me near a saxophone during that time, but I listened intently to anybody who played the alto, tenor or bari saxophone, because I just loved the sound.
What is your experience when you feel connected into the music?
Knowing the music so well actually I have it memorized gives me my intimate connection to the music. For me there is no bigger thrill then LIVE PERFORMANCE. Man, that is where I find my big adrenaline rush. I like studio work too, but live performers can't hide stuff like bad intonation, bad technique or poor instrumental proficiency. We perform without a safety net when it's LIVE. There's no fixing or editing mistakes or "poor choice" (as Prof. Jamey Abersol calls it), not when you are playing LIVE.
What is your experience of when you don't feel connected to your music?
That is a very good question! Sax players work as session players and side-men, so we don't play "our music" a lot of times. We are working for other people and so we are hired to play everyone else's music - like it or not.
It is my professional job to CONNECT with their music and make THEIR music MY music. We all know the feeling of being on a gig that nobody wants to be at. When we are not "connected to the music" we are not fooling anyone. The audience feels it just as much as the musicians do. The result is devastating for the performer and most of all - for the listener in the audience. Fortunately, good preparation keeps this bad experience to a minimum. As long as I am prepared I can always nail it. It's like taking a test in school. It's a only huge deal if you don't know the answers to the questions. As long as you know what you are doing, you simply put down what they want to hear.
Where does your inspiration comes from? What does it feel like?
My inspiration comes from many sources and influences in my life. but my main source seems to come form my wife Lois and our kids. They have always inspired and motivated me in everything I've done. It is good to have honest feedback from those you trust.
Having nice equipment helps too. It’s hard to get inspired when you play on a horn that is fighting you because it leaks or is hard to play because you have the wrong mouthpiece set- up. The mouthpiece creations from Theo Wanne are so good the make me want to play all the time. The Theo Wanne Durga’s I use blow so free and full of sweet sound it makes inspiration come easy. The instrument isn't getting in the way of what I want to say through music.
What is your experience while improvising? Does it relate to any spirituality you may practice in your life?
My answer to this question YES of course. Once you get to the point you can play expressively and tell the story with your sax, the stuff you play becomes an outward expression of an internal reality. Music is God's gift to man. Nothing else God created digs music except mankind (and the angels). Music is a spiritual expression for every human in one way or the other.
Where does your inspiration while composing come from? What is your experience of that inspiration like?
Composing just comes from disciplining yourself to just sit down and do it. It is born out of LIFE's experience.
If you are sitting in jail, because you just shot your no good cheating wife, you can come up with some amazing blues songs! Or if your inspiration comes simply by sitting at the piano practicing chromatic scales, you can come up with a song like Midnight Sun.
It seems to be a matter of writing about what you are doing and what is in your heart. Like they say, "Publish or die!" So write it down or sing it over a recorder. Keep it as a sketch, you can alway work the thought over later.
Do you have any fun stories of inspirational moments to share?
Yes - I have two stories. The two stories are kind of related.
I worked for a friend of mine in his music store for awhile fixing his horns. One day a high school band-mom walk in his music store (on my day off), and she was very mad at me! I was told this gal called me every name in the book for charging her daughter $150.00 for rather extensive a bari sax repair. She claimed the horn didn't play after I fixed it.
When I come to work the next day the boss told me about the incident and I was shocked! I asked him, "Are you kidding me? It played perfect when I finished it."
So I opened the case - and low and behold, some guy in her band class jammed a one quart water bottle down her Low A bell as a prank. I simply pulled the bottle out and the bari played perfect (again). The band-mom apologized for making a scene, and for accusing my parents of not being married when they had me.
All is well and it became a happy ending.
One evening my tenor sax was playing horrible all night at a gig. It was driving me nuts. So the next afternoon I put my sax on the bench to have a look at it. I discovered the reason it played so horrible was because the audience was using my tenor sax as a tip jar! As soon as I pulled the nice wad of cash out of the bell it played great again.
THE CONCLUSION - SAX REPAIR LESSON 101:
• Before you grab a screwdriver or leak light, start by looking down the bell FIRST.
• Look down the bell regularly.