Jazz it up

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playing the saxophone

Dr James Chiu of Burns Bay Dentistry in Lane Cove and Evergreen Dental in Chatswood, both in NSW, plays his saxophone to fit the mood, whether it’s loud and fun or soft and sexy.

“When I was about seven years old, all my friends were joining the school band so I decided it would be a fun thing to do. I clearly remember one of the band organisers saying, ‘You can try the saxophone; that’s the instrument Lisa plays on The Simpsons.’ I gave it a go and here I am, 25 years later, still playing the saxophone.

“Over the years, I’ve played in a few different bands including the University of Queensland Big Band with whom I did an overseas tour to the USA. Here, we played at some incredible venues including Disneyland, Carnegie Hall and numerous little jazz clubs. I also met some well-known jazz musicians, including Vincent Gardner. I saw him play again with the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House last September.

“I still play the saxophone regularly and it’s a great way to have a break from teeth. If I didn’t become a dentist, I probably would’ve become a jazz musician. At present, I’m playing with the Blue Riff Big Band where we rehearse weekly and do gigs at community events. I also occasionally go to jams at jazz bars across Sydney where I’ve made quite a few friends. Sometimes they will call me if they need a saxophonist at a gig.

“Jazz has a rich history and consequently, it has a lot of different styles and sub-genres. Uniquely, there’s also a heavy focus on improvisation and as a result, it’s a diverse way to express yourself. A jazz classic called ‘There Will Never Be Another You’ is one of my favourite songs to play. I love the saxophone because it’s such a versatile instrument. It can play all styles of music and there’s a sound for every mood.

“I’ll pick up my sax and play at home whenever the mood strikes me. My neighbours tell me that they like what they hear, which is nice. I’ve also played at some friends’ weddings and somehow, I’ve convinced my partner to like jazz as well. Occasionally I’ll record myself playing her favourite songs. She has a soft spot for ’80s love songs.

“I truly believe anyone can learn an instrument if they put their mind to it. It doesn’t matter how well you play as long as you enjoy it and have a way to express yourself. Of course, the one instrument everyone should try is the saxophone.” 

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