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Some More Pt. II
Zappa Story # 7
Interview with Albert Wing, 1998
(Written by Fred Banta; submitted by poodle)
FB: First, I just wanted to say, as a Zappa fan, I know you through the 1988 tour. And looking into your background, I see youíve been a session musician for a good number of other popular artists. That is, you probably are the only Albert Wing...
AW: Probably (laughs)
FB: Could you tell me about any formal training youíve had?
AW: Well, I started out at the age of 9 on clarinet, then switched to saxophone when I was about 13. From there, at around 18, I went to Cerritos Junior College in Norwalk. At 19, I went to Salt Lake City where I met the Fowler brothers. And I met their dad, Bill Fowler; he helped me out and got me some scholarships to go to school.
FB: Oh? Right on! (Dad Bill!)
AW: So I went there for a couple of years and we kind of formed a little group. It was the Fowler brothers and me, and a couple of other guys from the University. We gigged around town...
FB: Is this Airpocket?
AW: This was before Airpocket. Yeah, then this group became Airpocket later on, when we moved to LA.
FB: I had never heard of Airpocket before Ike (Willis) started talking about them from the stage (at a Banned From Utopia gig in North Hollywood on 1/31/98, where he spotted in the audience some fans from long-ago Airpocket gigs in Salt Lake City).
AW: Oh... Airpocket?
FB: Yeah, but Iím anxious to listen. Do you guys have CDís?
AW: We have "Breakfast for Dinosaurs" and ah...
FB: And "The Hunter". (Note: Iíd thought these were Fowler Brother records)
AW: And a very obscure album called "Fly On", which is not even available anymore. It was recorded when we first moved to LA - I believe in í73, maybe í74.
FB: Okay, letís go back to your musical training... Who are your influences?
AW: Well, I listened to a lot of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane...a lot of the artists from the Bebop days. And then... I checked out some Yakety Sax stuff just for fun. Boots Randolph, he was kind of cool (laughs).
FB: Iím not familiar with that.
AW: Yeah, he was Mr. Yakety Sax. I checked out a lot of groups like Spike Jones...just comedy too.
FB: Speaking of Coltrane - Iím not really a jazz guy, just stuff that Iíve picked up - but Milt Jackson, the vibraphonist, is going to play down at Union Station in a few weeks. He played on the 1959 Atlantic recording of Coltrane and his band is going to be playing inside Union Station - so it should be kind of an interesting ambient concert...
AW: Yeah itís pretty cool, man. I've played there.
FB: Oh you have?
AW: Yeah, pretty out-there.
FB: What did you play?
AW: Letís see... What did I do?
FB: Was it with the Da Camera Society?
AW: No, it was casual. I donít know...very obscure, you know? I do those too.
FB: Iím a volunteer for the Da Camera Society. Iíve been an usher for a Milt Jackson concert, and a couple of other concerts this season that have been very good. One notably was Pancho Sanchez - saw them at the Mayan Theater...
AW: Oh, Panchoís great!
FB: It was so good, it really reminded me - I really thought of Frankís í88 band when I saw them, because they were really tight. The music wasnít nearly as complex, you know, as Zappa (in fact it was downright conservative in comparison), but it was really fun. It was great to listen toÖ So was your family influential on your musical upbringing?
AW: Yeah, kind of. I had an older brother that played trumpet and another little brother that played trombone. My brother that played trumpet, we played in a bunch of different... various groups together, all the way until I left for college. Then after that, he kind of went his way and I kind of went my way. I occasionally played with him when I got back, then after that I basically was into a different scene. Musically, we kind of went our different ways. Plus, he was doing really good, and I was still in college scuffling, you know? Then I moved back to LA, and started scuffling here for a while. About í76, I started a few road gigs here and there. Then in í77, it got a little better. It kept getting progressively better and better.
FB: I know, it takes time... Do you prefer soprano or tenor sax?
AW: I like them all. Actually, in college I played a lot of baritone sax. Right now I donít play quite as much; I play mainly tenor and soprano, and then occasionally Iíll pick up my alto. I have equal facility on a lot of my instruments; itís just that I kind of prefer tenor and soprano.
FB: Do you teach at all?
AW: Very rarely (laughs). If I see some promise in somebody that wants to learn something, then Iíll take them on and go "yeah, Iíd like to see them develop". But, as far as a total beginner... Itíd be hard for me to take that on because, I mean, where do you start?