Connor was playing out in the new daylight savings time evening in the spring of '03 when he heard someone practicing jazz on the sax. It was coming from a house a few doors up the hill behind our house. Connor went nuts. It was like the calling of the pied piper. He was running in semi circles through the trees and bushes trying to get closer. So I told him to go up the path to the next street and knock on the door of the brown house across the street from his friend Stephen's house.
He asked if it was OK.
Yeah I said. If there is any house in America where a kid interested in music can knock on the door and ask to listen it is this one.
Welcome he was, for the next six weeks, every Tuesday Connor would go listen to the guy play. His name is Willard, and he would visit his parents and play every week.
We booked Connor into Sax lesson for the summer and the first thing he did was go show Willard & his dad sax. At the end of the summer we switched him over to the school program. Connor was ticked, he liked the teacher but not the school's instrument.
Come mid October we hear a knock on the door and there is Willard and a bedraggled old sax case. He said that when he was at band practice this old thing was sitting around and someone asked if anyone knew someone who could use an alto sax. "Yeah," Will thought, "I do." So he brought it over to Connor.
It was a moldy old case and the horn didn't have a neck but Will said he knew a guy who could tell if it was worth the effort fix it up without ripping us off. Cool.
Connor got a call from one of his friends while Willard was there. He looks at Willard and asks, "How old are you?"
Next we hear, "I gotta go, one of my 41 year old friends is over." Like he has a ton of 41 year old friends and they are over all the time.
Even in it's musty old box and without a neck the sax looked alive. I looked it up on the internet. Turns out that a nice horn, a 1941 Buescher Aristocrat.
So we take it in to get fixed up and the guy is concerned that it is gonna run into a little money and for about the same amount he can sell me a new student Yamaha.
No thanks I'll fix up the old one. I am investing in the kid and a horn from his 41 year old jazz friend is gonna get a lot more play.
So it turns out the guy had a Buesher neck in silver and can fix it up after his vacation. Cool that will work.
Connor was hoping to use it for a elementary school cabaret. He had learned how to play Chim Chimmeny from Mary Poppins. Unfortunately it wouldn't be ready. The night of the show we went out to dinner. Connor was not himself. Was drinking loads and had an upset stomach. We figured it was nerves.
He did great.
So when we got him out of the hospital Connor and I went down to pick up his horn. It sounded good and worked a lot better than the school sax. It was a great home coming treat.
Fast Forward 10 months.
The Willard's family band have family music gig going and guess who is invited to sit in for a song? After three smoking tunes they ask Connor to make his début on stage in their rendition of the classic Route 66. Willard has shown him a few things about an hour before but Connor looked a little nervous and small next to Willard but he put his heart into it and did great. The band gave him wonderful support and he did a little solo. It was awesome.
Connor is in sax heaven.
Here is Connor with the band. (Willard and siblings are in white.)
Connor and Willard blow their horns
and share a smile.
So thanks Willard & Family you are a big inspiration.