Brandon Wozniak’s expressive sound

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If given his first choice of an instrument, Brandon Wozniak might be a violin player today.

After a teacher announced that his school would be provide violins to students who were interested, he badgered my parents to take him to school that night for one.

“Unfortunately they had no more violins by the time we got there and I was devastated,” Wozniak recalled. “I have no idea why since we have no musicians in our family and I don’t remember giving it any serious thought before that day. The next day we were brought in to the gym where they had many different instruments set up for us to try. I tried the trumpet first and couldn’t make a sound so I moved on to the saxophone and I’ve been playing it ever since.”

That’s good news for jazz fans in the Twin Cities, who have a chance to regularly hear Wozniak play the saxophone in a number of ensembles, among them the Atlantis Quartet, the Bryan Nichols Quintet and the Zacc Harris Group.

The instrument has also been good for Wozniak, who appreciates its rich and varied tone.

“I think I would have played anything they told me to but as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown to appreciate the saxophone for its obvious blending and voice like qualities to its sound,” he said. “Think about all the different saxophone sounds throughout the years, no other instrument affords the player as wide a range of personal sound and expression in my opinion.”

That said, Wozniak’s favorite instrument isn’t the saxophone. Instead, if he could he’d play the drums. It’s too late for him to pick them up seriously, but the saxophonist can do the next best thing: play with an incredible drummer.

He’ll have the chance to do so Saturday at St. Paul’s Artists’ Quarter, when he performs with bassist Adam Linz and drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt.

Wozniak is particularly enthusiastic about the show as it will be the first time he has performed with Gravatt, a spectacular musician who has recorded with Joe Henderson and McCoy Tyner – and powered some of the early Weather Report recordings in the 1970s.

“Eric brings a lot of experience and musicality,” Wozniak said. “He’s someone I’ve wanted to play with for a long time.”

The two musicians also will share a stage on June 30 during the Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

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