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.

First Album Review (woop!) — May 28, 2013

First Album Review (woop!)

Hello all, I hope things are good with you.

About a month ago I was approached by the website Jazz Goes to Leeds to discuss my album, This is New to Me. I met up with one of the writers, Mark Beirne Smith, on a sunny yet windy afternoon in Ilkley to discuss my influences and how the album came to be. Before this meeting I had sent one of my CDs to another writer for the website, John Toolan, who kindly wrote a review that was published a couple of weeks ago. Please click on the link to read it, plus my interview and other articles on the site. I am pleased to say I was rather chuffed. Thank you, Mark and John!

Bye for now!


A little help from my friends/blog readers…..? — January 20, 2013

A little help from my friends/blog readers…..?

Hello to you all on this cold, snowy Sunday evening 🙂

So, how are those new year resolutions coming along? Have you quit smoking? Joined a gym? Consumed less alcohol? I bet you had the best intentions to be good for the next twelve months but for some reason they have fallen at the wayside. The challenge I set myself for 2013 is slowly turning into the equivalent of joining a gym and not going to it, so I have decided to do something to change that.

At Christmas I came up with the idea to compose more but wondered how I would go about doing this alongside teaching. I thought about writing a tune for each month of the year, to spread out the huge task of writing brand new material, but even then it is not quite going the way I had planned it. I do admit I have a lazy streak in me but I do not think that is the reason I am not reaching for the manuscript paper and jotting musical ideas down. It is because, just like everyone else with their resolutions, I am finding it difficult to get started. When I was at school and university I was made to write music as part of my course otherwise I would fail, but in the real world there are no deadlines and no one to show all my work to so the urge to do something disappears. I do not want to go down the path to find when 31 December comes around I have not one single tune I could happily take into a studio to record. So now I am asking for some help and advice, just like anyone who needs help to stop smoking or get fit:

How do you go about writing a tune?

Do you sit at a piano and play around with some chords? Do you have a motif running around your head? Is it all working on a bass riff you came up with by accident? I will be interested to see what answers I get because everyone will have a different method the next person. Please leave a comment below on your methods of music writing and I hope there is one out there that suits me (please note I cannot play the piano; is that the reason for all the above?!)

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your responses.


A new year, a new challenge — January 1, 2013

A new year, a new challenge

Happy new year!

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and managed not to overindulge on the mince pies and sherry. I spent the festive season at home in Newcastle with my family and caught up with some old friends as well. As I write this I am still in the north east but heading back to Leeds tomorrow to prepare for Matt and Phred’s in Manchester on the 3rd of this month (9pm start, see you there!).

Throughout 2012 I set myself the challenge of taking a photo every day and I am pleased to say I did it! 366 photos uploaded to Flickr and for a limited time you can have a look at each one of them, with a short description, by clicking here:

Day 1

Having committed to something for twelve months I decided I wanted to try something else. It’s in the early stages of what I plan to do but I will be updating this blog every month with what I have done. What I have in mind is bigger than a photo a day but I hope by 31 December 2013 I’ll be happy with what I achieve.

I hope 2013 brings you success and happiness. In the words of my dad, “Make it happen!”


Newsflash!! — February 3, 2012