When I was in high school, I went to either before or after school rehearsals every day, in addition I spent literally 50% of my time during school hours either in band or music classes. Music was my life, and even in my “off” hours I listened to music, especially bands that featured the sax.
During this time, the 80s band Quarterflash was on the Billboard charts with hits such as Harden My Heart, Find Another Fool, Take Me To Heart, Take Another Picture, & Talk To Me. BTW, it was a great walk down memory lane this AM searching out these videos on YouTube . That coupled with getting an email through Facebook from someone I went to elementary and junior high with. Wow! Talk about reliving one’s youth…Where’s that Pepsi when you need it… 😉
With its heavy sax-laden sound, the pop/rock band immediately struck a chord with me. I was hooked. ( I wasn’t into jazz, not even then. I was already a rocker.) While on one hand it wasn’t really all that new, sax players had been performing in rock bands since the beginning of rock and roll, but the sax players had been always been men (or at least all those that I knew of). What made Quarterflash different was two things: 1. The sax was prominent in the band, and 2. The sax was being played by a woman.
That woman behind the sax and vocals in Quarterflash was Rindy Ross.
Having had the opportunity to listen to Rindy Ross, during arguably perhaps my most “formative years” as a sax player, I gravitated to her more than to others. While other horn players may have been able to outplay her, her unique style coupled with her position in the band, appeared to give her a great deal of confidence. She was one of the band’s founding members, sang lead vocals, played the horn lines & solos, co-wrote some of their music, and was, and still is, married to the band’s guitar player, Marv Ross.
Although Rindy Ross played alto sax, and I played tenor, I listened carefully to her licks and riffs and I internalized them. I wanted to emulate her playing style. What I really loved about her playing, that I hadn’t heard before with a sax in a rock band, was how the horn played its solo with a seamless transition to the guitar.
This seamless transition was aided through an “edge” that can best be described as an “attitude” that shone through in her playing. She played the sax as if it were a true rock and roll instrument. In the YouTube clip Find Another Fool, the trading 4s between the sax and guitar that sets up the song’s powerful unified ending exemplifies what I mean. The solos start at 3:30 in the song. The solos and ending in this live concert version are somewhat different, and I would say better, than the original studio recording that appears on the CDs.
But you know what they say…All good things…
Quarterflash will be remembered as one of the quintessential 80s bands. Their music helped define a decade and as such, their place in popular music history is assured.
Interestingly enough, while doing some research on “what ever happened to”, I came across this Quarterflash site. I had read somewhere that they were releasing a new album in June ’08. Apparently it is out. If you’re interested in finding out more, I also ran across their MySpace.com page that also has some recordings from their new album on it.
Any musician will tell you, we are truly a collection of everyone we have listened to and worked with over the years. That includes not only musicians who play our type of instrument, but all instruments. Over the years I have worked with a number of high caliber guitar and bass guitar players, and I have learned a great deal from all of them. Therefore, my work as a rock and electric blues sax player has been heavily influenced by not only the saxophone players that I have listened to, but by these musicians as well.
When I met Art Panchishin from Deception, and sat down with him to jam for the first time, we had an instant musical chemistry. I think we both felt it about the same time. It was enough for him to ask me to come and sit in with his trio. I did, and we’ve been a quartet ever since.
In the 3 years I’ve been with Deception, Art and I have developed such a musical understanding of each other, that I know exactly where he is going, and he knows exactly where I’m going with my lines. Art’s and my solos now flow seamlessly back and forth, and we can duel improvise live on a festival stage with no worries. Although I don’t use pedals for distortion effects, only my throat and embouchure, I have no problem matching his effects and setting up for his guitar solos or his vocals. It seems to be working out flawlessly.
So 27 years ago, when Rindy Ross first hit my radar screen while I was in high school, I had no idea she would become a seminal influence in my work as a sax player. So if I ever get a chance to meet her, I will have to say “thanks” for the inspiration. She really did teach me a lot: not only the riffs & licks, those I could have picked up anywhere. But the bigger lesson: Yes a woman can play rock sax. It is possible. It just takes Attitude. Thanks Rindy ❗
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