PARMA Recordings is proud to announce a re-release of David Tanner’s 1988 album THE ELOQUENT SAXOPHONE. This is Tanner’s first full length album and his third with PARMA. Comprised of performances of repertoire for piano and saxophone, the moving, expressive melodies have a timeless quality that makes each composition feel modern even 30 years later.

Today, David is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to learn what Disney cartoon changed David’s life…

What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

So many stories to tell! Playing “new music” concerts, I did the Canadian premiere of an unaccompanied piece by a Finnish composer. It had some unusual notations that I didn’t understand, and there was nobody to ask, so I guessed. I learned afterward that I got some of them dead wrong, though only the composer knew – he came to Toronto for the concert.

The funniest thing happened to me during a performance was when I was playing for an outdoor wedding reception. I fell into the swimming pool, in my black tux. Much laughter!

Who was your first favorite artist growing up?

My family appreciated the arts but didn’t participate, so I was influenced mostly by friends and by radio and TV. When I was about seven I saw a Disney cartoon called Music Land, which featured saxophones “laughing” and other effects. I was captivated. Right then and there I became a saxophonist in my heart.


I had to wait, though. My parents and teachers thought I should choose a more dignified instrument, so I got flute lessons at age 11, then clarinet once I reached high school. Finally, in grade 10, I got my hands on an alto sax and there was no looking back. That’s my true voice, although as a woodwind doubler I play a lot of flute and clarinet as well as all the saxophones.

In high school I adored Paul Desmond and Cannonball Adderley. They were almost the only sax players I had ever heard when I arrived at the Berklee College of Music in 1968, where sax teacher Joe Viola taught me about playing the instrument. Later, at the University of Toronto, I learned about dynamic, expressive music-making from Ezra Schabas, who was mainly a clarinet teacher. Along the way I became a classical sax fan and an orchestral player.

What is your guilty pleasure?

No guilt, no snobbery! One of the most wonderful things about music is that you don’t have to be faithful to one genre or style. I like any kind of music if it is done well: symphonies, opera, ballet, Broadway musicals, jazz, rock, country, ethnic music, and lots more.

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when wedding bands were still busy, it gave me great pleasure to play Jewish horas and Italian tarantellas as well as dinner music and current hits for dancing. These days I enjoy composing and adapting all kinds of music as well as playing flute for the town band where I live. I’ve written more than fifty things for them in a range of styles.

What would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody knows?

As a performer, and as a composer, I truly believe that music should be for enjoyment. A piece is successful when performers enjoy playing it and they pass on that enthusiasm to an audience. Many performers focus so intently on “the composer’s intentions,” that they sometimes turn in a stiff, uncomfortable performance – I think they are missing the point!

With my music, I encourage players to put their own creativity and artistry into it. This makes an engaging, authentic performance and is much more valuable than merely executing a piece according to instructions. Tempo markings, dynamics and articulations are things that can change if the composer re-edits a score. Therefore, my wish is that players should perform my music in a way that helps them enjoy it. That is how I approach other composers’ music myself. I play it the way I like it.

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

I had done some multi-tracking in my home studio over the years, but never anything as ambitious as Serenade comique or La Blues, the two sax quartets on THE ELOQUENT SAXOPHONE. I hoped they would be okay, but I had to prove to myself that I could do them seamlessly and with musical sense. I’m very pleased with the result, which is not to say that these are my two favorite pieces. Actually, I think each piece on the album is a gem. Each one is my favorite in its own way, but the quartets are truly special.

What does this album mean to you personally?

I’ve never wished to be famous, but here is something to show that I roamed this planet once upon a time. I put this album together wanting to create an example. Having heard most of these pieces on other recordings, I wanted to do them justice in my own way. I wanted to demonstrate imaginative, interpretive playing for my students and other sax players. It was a learning experience that demanded imagination, focus and discipline. And, to be honest, I confess that it was a great opportunity for me to show off!


THE ELOQUENT SAXOPHONE is now available through Navona Records for streaming or purchase. Click here to explore this new album.