Sunday, May 20, 2012

About Australia's saxophone superstar, Leo La Spina

Image: Watercolour design by Jenny Rumney.

KIDS growing up with the diverse mix of popular music styles since the birth of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s seem often to show great distaste for their dad's favourites.
As each 'brand' has taken over the airwaves after another, anything from the past has been strange and prehistoric to young devotees of the latest offerings.
My dad drove his kids to smirking and grimacing huddles behind closed doors when every so often in a celebratory mood he ramped up the volume on our old radiogram for his Hammond organ favourites.

IN those days that now seem so long ago, Dad's love of the dulcet tones had to stack up against his son's obsession with the hard rockers like Jimi Hendrix.
The cultural clash became a family joke; sometimes it was a bit overheated.
Such a division over musical tastes seems fairly common.
The invention of the 'walkman' cassette players with headphones a decade or so later was a godsend in family politics; finally the warring parties could retreat to their private musical heaven.
However, during the 1970s and '80s, at least one boy growing up in Capalaba was saying, "Dad, turn it up, please."

THE boy was Leo La Spina now living with his wife, Melissa, daughter Chiara, 10, and son John, 14, in Alexandra Hills.
Leo fondly recalls how, from a tender age, he shared his dad's love of jazz and later pestered his Ioana College music teacher to let him play the saxophone but had to be content with the "burp, burp, burp" of a bass clarinet.
Then came some breakthroughs: the loan of an "old silver alto sax" from the school's collection, and in 1988 a special moment in father-son relations.

"DAD said he'd buy me my own tenor sax if I learnt to play Aker Bilk's Stranger on the Shore," Leo says.
"So I did, and I am still using that same sax today."
Leo also concentrated on clarinet and had his first professional gig at age 16.
With a lifetime's involvement in the Redland band scene in big and small line-ups and as a solo performer, Leo now lists a repertoire of more than 400 songs across the spectrum of styles and genres.

HE says his greatest love, however, is for the music of the sax players he first heard, courtesy of his dad.
"I love my Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane and Stan Getz, the sounds I grew up with; I studied those guys," Leo says.
"But I play everything from dinner music to top 40 and Lady Gaga."
Leo features at the Icon Bar, Raby Bay, from 5pm to 9pm every Saturday. He teaches clarinet and saxophone, with his Training & Tuition notice specifying students need their own instruments.

Thanks for joining me in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

PS. I saw Leo's performance last night at the Icon. What a blast! He's not just a great reed player but a showman to boot! Don't miss the chance each Saturday to hear him play not only straight jazz but heaps of classics from Continental era to Sweet Alabama, giving new life and vigour to favourites, no matter from which category/era. Of course, you can see him online, eg

No comments:

Post a Comment