Alexis Cairns

Saxophonist and educator

Influences — January 27, 2015


(This was originally a separate page but decided to file it away with my blogs.)

I could just write a list of all those who have influenced me during my playing career, but there are a handful of musicians whom I feel I should acknowledge and explain why I like them so much.

Firstly, and most importantly, is the late Michael Brecker. The first recording I heard of him was the track “Some Skunk Funk” by the Brecker Brothers and I remember being hypnotised by his sound. He was a technical player but had soul and to this day he is still my number one saxophonist. I highly recommend checking out two of his albums: Tales from the Hudson and Two Blocks from the Edge. In the tune “Song for Bilbao” from the former album I love Brecker’s playing on it and I thought I would pay homage to him by playing it in my final year recital at Leeds College of Music. I was very sad to hear of his death in 2007; a friend of mine broke the news to me as if he was a distant relative who had passed away for he knew how much I admired him. Four-and-a-half years after his death I still turn to his albums for inspiration and motivation.

Blue Train was the first album I bought by John Coltrane. The title track never fails to bring a smile to my face when he begins his solo after playing the head. It is quite melodic to begin with but then he starts to play fast passages, which later on in his career he would be renowned for. Giant Steps is another great album I was constantly listening to throughout my studies at college. Absolutely stunning. Like Brecker, who claimed Coltrane was one of his idols, his playing can leave you dumbfounded at times because of the speed and accuracy in his solos but also in wonderment for the beauty of his ballads.

From a composers perspective, two musicians who I have turned to for inspiration are Joey Calderazzo and Pat Metheny. Calderazzo’s tunes appear on some of Brecker’s albums and they are just great to listen to because of their gorgeous harmonies and flowing melodies. Check out “Bye George”, “El Nino” and “Midnight Voyage” – I challenge you not to fall in love with the last tune! I mentioned “Song for Bilbao” earlier and that was composed by Metheny. Again it was the harmonies and melody that grabbed my attention when hearing this tune, especially the middle section when it goes from simple 4/4 time into compound 6/8 time then back again.

I cannot ignore all the other musicians I have found inspiration from so here are a select few in no particular order:

Bob Berg, Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter, Ravi Coltrane, Ingrid Laubrock, Pete Wareham, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Mike Stern and Steve Gadd.

I am keen to discover new musicians who I have missed under the radar, whether they are saxophonists or not. Let me know if there is someone I should be checking out.