Falling in love with the saxophone

I started playing the tenor saxophone in 1975, at the age of twenty, while studying French and German at Trinity College, Oxford, having been inspired by hearing John Coltrane. What started as a hobby soon turned into a dream of becoming a professional musician.

When I graduated I took part-time jobs and spent most of my free time practicing. At first I was largely self-taught, but in the summer of 1976 I started to have lessons with Don Rendell, a great British tenor player who I had met at the Barry Summer School.

Don encouraged me in my ambitions and persuaded me to take up the clarinet and flute. A year after starting to play I joined my first group, a soul band called The Black Diamonds.


By 1980 I had progressed to playing my first jazz gigs and was able to make a living playing and teaching in the Oxford area. I also took lessons in improvisation from Peter Ind, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, all of whom had been students of the great teacher and pianist Lennie Tristano. In 1985 I moved to London, where I was lucky enough to meet and play with some of the finest musicians on the jazz scene.

The responsibilities of fatherhood led me gradually to focus more on teaching and writing, and in 1991 my first book, The Jazz Method for Saxophone, was published by Schott. It has been followed by several others. These days I practise and teach at my home in North London, near Alexandra Park, and still play in public from time to time.