Bobby Porcelli: Alto Saxophonist Supreme!

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I first heard about Bobby from my first clarinet/saxophone teacher, Joseph Porcelli, who was Bobby’s father. Mr. Porcelli was a first-class gentleman who played the woodwinds beautifully and always conveyed his love of playing them in our weekly lessons. He was never one to ever boast about his abilities or accomplishments and was egoless. One day when my mother asked him how Bobby was doing and if he was good enough to survive in the music industry, he replied: “He’s REALLY good.” As I learned years later when I was able to study with Bobby and play with him, that was a huge understatement. That same sense of unassuming, quiet elegance that Mr. Porcelli manifested is present in Bobby. The ability to create a vibrant, singing saxophone sound that projected effortlessly when Mr. Porcelli played is clearly audible in Bobby’s alto sax sound. Bobby is revered by all of the musicians who know him and have worked with him. He has a totally recognizable, unique sound and style of soloing that reflects his deep knowledge of the Blues/bebop/post bebop languages; his years working with the greatest names in Latin music; and his reverence for saxophonists Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Jackie McLean and John Coltrane. For over 50 years he has been the Chairman of the Board of New York alto saxophonists—the one voice that everyone mentions when they talk about great alto players in NYC. He has stayed true to his craft by remaining a dedicated practicer of his instrument, always looking to play in rehearsal bands and willing to share his knowledge with younger players. He also has a deep understanding of classical music and can tell you which conductor did the best with Mahler’s 1st Symphony, which flutist’s rendition of a Mozart concerto is stylistically most accurate, etc. It was an honor for me to study with Bobby as a younger player and an even greater honor to afford him this forum so that others can get an inside perspective of this New York legend.

About the Artist: New York native Bobby Porcelli is one of Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz’s most accomplished alto saxophonists and flutists. An exciting soloist, Bobby’s alto has soared gracefully above the legendary percussive ensembles of Tito Rodriguez (1963), Machito (1965-1966), Mongo Santmaria (1987-1990), and Tito Puente (1966-2000). He has recorded with other great band-leaders including Eddie Palmieri, Chico O’Farrill, Sabu Martinez, Willie Colón, Arturo O’Farrill, Buddy Rich, Joe Henderson, Cedar Walton, George Benson, among many others. An original member of T.S. Monk’s Sextet as well as the Monk on Monk Tentet, he has demonstrated his ability to creatively interpret the idiosyncratic pianist’s unique compositions. Bobby has also been a member of The Mambo Legends Orchestra and the innovative Bronx Horns. In the early 1980s, he began touring Europe as a soloist, playing with local rhythm sections across the continent and performing at many festivals. That led to two recordings as a leader—Bursting (voted “Best Album of the Year” for 1986 by Cadence Magazine) and Rising—both on Splasch Records.


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