Deric Dyer
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Deric Dyer

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Sax machines
Local luminaries Deric Dyer and Paul Ahlstrand

By: TED DROZDOWSKI
8/29/2006 4:17:49 PM

SATURDAY-NIGHT SOUNDTRACK: Star sideman Dyer plays plenty on his own disc.
In our guitar-centric culture it’s easy to forget that the first rock-and-roll instrument was the saxophone. Check out some vintage doo-wop or Louis Jordan for a reminder. Or listen to Deric Dyer and Paul Ahlstrand, Boston-based sax players who’ve kept rock’s fiery spirit alive.
Both are MVPs, though they operate at different levels. Dyer, a native of Bermuda who’s lived in Medford for 14 years, has spent much of his career touring with Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Bryan Ferry, Andrea Bocelli, and Al Jarreau, among others. Ahlstrand has toured and recorded with a plethora of national blues club and festival acts including Ronnie Earl, Mighty Sam McClain, the Love Dogs, Nicole Nelson, Susan Tedeschi, and Toni Lynn Washington, but he also plays with local rock artists the Rudds, the Family Jewels, and David Johnston. He’s even turned up on the occasional Bourbon Princess gig.

Both Dyer and Ahlstrand have new albums reflecting aspects of their musicianship that their roles as sidemen often conceal. No One’s Sleeping (Del Boy) is Dyer’s second disc, a versatile excursion through rock, soul, smooth jazz, and fusion. The Sunday Hang (Gibraltar), Ahlstrand’s debut as a leader, is a jazz session reminiscent of the late-’50s unhurried “cool” sound tailored by Miles Davis and Chet Baker. Both are playful recordings, though Dyer’s disc is a Saturday-night soundtrack whereas Ahlstrand’s is perfect for Sunday-afternoon cocktails.

Dyer explains that “the goal of No One’s Sleeping is to leave my own stamp on something. When you’re working for different people, wonderful opportunities come your way, but you’re always working toward the betterment of somebody else’s career. So it was time to put out a CD that realizes my own vision.” He’s being modest. Although it’s true that a sideman’s job is making a star look good, his inventive, edgy soloing has always pushed him into the limelight, and that in turn has not only kept him working on A-level tours but made him the envy of plenty of other players.

His first album was far removed from the bright lights of his show-biz world. Never formally released, Heart and Soul was a set of duets with former Tower of Power pianist Nick Milo. Some tracks can be heard at www.dericdyer.com, where No One’s Sleeping is also available.

It might not have been divine intervention, but Dyer was handed his first saxophone by Sister Joseph Anthony of Mount St. Agnes Academy, which needed a saxist in the school band. Over the years he assimilated the playing of heroes like King Curtis, David Sanborn, Junior Walker, Red Psysock, Tom Scott, and Wilton Felder — a who’s who of cool, breathy R&B-infused saxophonists with modernist leanings — into his own fluid style. His musician father also fueled his interest. By age 16 he was playing in Bermuda clubs seven nights a week. In the early ’70s the Boston band American Standard toured in Bermuda, and it recruited him; in ’77 they became Cocker’s backing group. A decade later Dyer survived the most difficult audition of his career and found himself standing on the world’s biggest stages next to Tina Turner. “She’s by far the most exciting artist I’ve seen on stage, let alone been fortunate enough to play with. She can be tough, but there were times watching her perform that I’d become so enthralled I’d almost forget to play.”

He plays plenty on No One’s Sleeping, putting a deep, warm tone in the service of the melody of the soul nugget “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination,” and he spars briefly with guitarist Kevin Barry before getting to the heart of an instrumental version of Al Green’s “I’m Glad You’re Mine.” His variation on “Nessun dorma,” which he first heard Aretha Franklin perform, is the centerpiece; it’s followed by the up-tempo R&B chestnut “Use Me” and then “Pocket Change.” The latter is the first of his own compositions that he’s recorded, and it fits comfortably with the rest of the set’s soulful vibe.

“I’ve been very lucky in my career, and there are some very basic rules that have always served me well. Talk to people and try to connect with them not because of what they can do for you but in a genuine way. Just be honest and fair. And don’t be afraid to move on. I’ve been in situations where I’ve moved on from a band and it wasn’t in my best interest financially, but it closed one door so another could open. As I said, there’s a lot of luck involved, and living this way helps prepare you to receive it when it comes.”

Like a 1950s session for Blue Note, Ahlstrand’s The Sunday Hang was recorded in one day, live in Brookline’s Rear Window Studios. Six of its eight tunes are Ahlstrand originals, and like a good old-school bandleader he gives plenty of solos to pianist Ryan Claunch and bassist Jesse Williams, and drummer Dave Mattacks gets opportuniti - Boston Phoenix


MUSIC PREVIEW: Dyer makes musical statement at Scullers show Tuesday Deric Dyer will play Scullers Jazz Club in Boston onTuesday. (Courtesy photo) By CHAD BERNDTSON For The Patriot Ledger

Deric Dyer is old school to the bone. The Medford saxophonist’s career and outlook seems of an entirely different era - one of seasoned and versatile players who build their resumes through numerous associations and stand-out gigs, and out last the malaise of meteoric popstars, because they worry more about whether an audience is left tapping its toes than about digital revolution this and Web log exposure that.

Having worked with countless artists since his arrival in the Boston area in the mid-1970s, Dyer is best known for his long stints as lead saxophonist with Tina Turner and Joe Cocker. He’s also logged time with Elton John, Al Jarreau, Bryan Ferry, Supertramp’s Rodger Hudson, Andrea Bocelli, Christopher Cross and a range of others enormous stadium stages and the blinding lights of bigtime productions are as familiar to him as intimate jazz lounges.

Dyer has a new album out, "No One’s Sleeping" and brings his crackling R&B ensemble to Scullers Jazz Club on Tuesday evening: bass (David Hull), guitar (Kevin Barry), drums/tambourine (Marty Richards), keyboards/guitar/vocals (Mitch Chakor) and a three-piecehorn section.

Originally from Ireland, Dyer actually grew up in Bermuda, the son of musician parents. He cut his teeth not through lessons but from seven nights a week blowing his horn in local Bermuda clubs, as well as dabbling in guitar, keyboards, and congas.

"I took very few lessons, and learned on the job," he said." You stole a little from all different places, and sometimes you were unaware of it. " Dyer took his cues from the greats, notably King Curtis, Motown legend Junior Walker, and the Jazz Crusaders’ Wilton Felder. Sessions greats like Bobby Keys and Nicky Hopkins were inspirations and later, friends.

By 16, Dyer was a Bermuda scene regular, and by 19, a band leader. It was the Boston group American Standard that first brought him to Massachusetts. That area crew would play with Dyer’s guys as the opening act. A quick friend ship and an invitation led to grungy basement living in Worcester - Dyer’s first digs, and, for a young musician, The Life.

American Standard became Joe Cocker’s backing band in 1978, and after a few years of regular tours, Dyer returned to Cambridge and became a scene staple for the rest of the early ’80s, playing with the Reflectors, the White Walls, and the beloved Farrenheit.

His biggest break was in January 1987: Tina Turner was auditioning lead saxophonists in preparation for her Break Every Rule World Tour, and, as the story goes, the notoriously temperamental Turner was frustrated that no one could "cut her stuff.
Connections helped Dyer get a foot in the door, but according to Dyer’s bio, he nearly didn’t make it: Murphy’s Law took hold on the day of his audition and he missed a connection en-route to Los Angeles. After much hemming and hawing, first with air traffic control staff in Denver and then with Turner’s road manager, Dyer got his audience with Turner. "Typical Male" was his audition tune and after a grueling hour-and-a-half of tough love from his soon-to-be-employer, he was dispatched to a hotel to wait out a decision. He was moving out of his Boston home and headed off on tour with in weeks.

Later, in 1987, Cocker would come back into the fold,too, and Dyer would become his principal saxman, and later, his band leader, on into the early 1990s. Dyer is all over Cocker’s epic "Joe Cocker Live," recorded at Lowell’s Memorial Auditorium in 1989.

"He’s a gentleman, and he really cared about his bands. He was very unassuming, Dyer said. Dyer has continued to gig with Cocker into the present decade, but it was in recent years that he’s decided to focus on his own music, too. The year 2001 saw his debut release, "Heart & Soul," on Del-Boy Records. "No One’s Sleeping" makes him two-for-two. Dyer recalls his solo shows around the release of "Heart & Soul," and how he decided at the time he would record "live" in the studio i.e. playing as it sounds, with no studio trickery or excessive tinkering, like most jazz mendo - for his next album.

"When we played live, a whole other world opened up, "he said. " I really wanted to have that human element. I like to play with guys who bring a lot to the table, and let them do what they know how to do.

" The band gets right and dirty, to say the least - Dyer’s "Pocket Change" is a high, as are wholly agreeable takes on Bill Withers’ "Use Me" and Al Green’s "I’m Glad Your Mine. " Most curious in a gospel-toned rendering of Puccini’s "Nessun Dorma" (from Turandot), which Dyer said he was inspired to do after watching Aretha Franklin perform the piece in Luciano Pavarotti’s place at the Grammy Awards. Dyer also notes the album title, "No One’s Sleeping," is the English translation of " - The Patriot Ledger


Discography

Heart & Soul was my first CD, You & I my second which is just piano and Sax, First Kiss my third and has had lots of play on MusicNet and Rapsody, also it has been down loaded on itunes, Napster and many others. Deric's NEW EP (No One's Sleeping) is now available at cdbaby.com and itunes. This is his first recording with the band! If you enjoy real songs with real musicians you will enjoy this CD.

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Bio

In January of 1987, soulful tenor saxman Deric Dyer ran into a friend with an inside connection to the Tina Turner band and the friend had a hot tip.

There was an opening for a sax player for Tina's impending Break Every Rule World Tour and the 31-year-old Dyer had a shot at an audition. Tina had already auditioned most of L.A.'s sax players and another batch from London, and no one could "cut her stuff." Within one day's notice came Dyer's chance to play for the great R&B rock queen, the one and only, Tina. And Dyer was ready.

But ten degree weather messed up his flights to Los Angeles. He missed a connection in Denver and Dyer was freaking out. Now, he was going to be late for the coveted audition in L.A. Being in the right place at the right time was important! Dyer remembers screaming at the airport staff, "You don't understand! I have to get on this plane since I'm auditioning for Tina Turner!"

"Yeah right" was the answer.

Meanwhile, Tina's office was screaming that Tina was fuming about Deric being late and further, she wanted to go home. Finally after much haggling and fighting with the airline staff, he got on a plane and landed in L.A. Tina's road manager was waiting and with blood pressure rising, he grabbed Dyer, ignoring any luggage and tearing up the highway in a frightening race from LAX to Burbank where Tina, her nine piece band, lights and crew were impatiently waiting. Don't mess with the Tina!

Dyer walked in and Tina said, "We're gonna teach this guy a lesson since he is LATE!"

And then she turned to Dyer, "What tune would you like to play?"

Dyer said, "well what tune would YOU like to do?"

"This is YOUR audition, what would YOU like to play?" she snapped back.

Dyer mentioned a tune. "Great, we just did that one, let's see what you can do!" she said.

So then the band, Deric and Tina launched into "Typical Male". Dyer performed for about 90 minutes with the 40-something goddess Tina shouting and singing in his ears and dancing all around the 31 year old sax player, teasing him and giving him a hard time. She wanted to know if he could D-E-A-L. She wanted MORE.

But, she liked him. She liked him a LOT. Dyer had that edge, that sound that she liked . . .

Her managers watched Dyer closely for a few days to see "if he had any bad habits," and they put him up in a hotel over in the Valley for a few nights after the audition. He was there all alone, not knowing anyone and still basking in the glow of the great Tina, his mind churning. Dyer describes these nights as "a little surreal." Alone in a restaurant he decided to chat with a waitress and he told her that he'd just auditioned for Tina Turner's Band and that he'd gotten the gig.

"Yeah right," was the response.

He DID get the gig! He flew back to Boston, raced around to pack his stuff, then quickly shot back to L.A. and immediately launched into a month of rehearsals in L.A., two weeks of high tech production in Munich and then it was out on the road to play for over 5 million people and 250 plus concerts worldwide! Talk about going from thirty to ninety miles an hour! This was a HUGE tour, linked to her Break Every Rule album release; they played Wembly Arena in London for 13 amazing nights in a row and more continuous shows in Europe than any artist at the time had ever performed. They played in front of a record-breaking crowd of 200,000 screaming fans in Brazil, a killer concert that also aired live on HBO's landmark television special Tina Turner, Live From Rio in 1988. They recorded Tina Live. While in Europe they taped MTV's Tina Turner in Europe. The world belonged to Tina's band that year and Dyer was definitely on a roll.

"Tina is the best entertainer I've ever seen" says Dyer, still in awe of his whirlwind experiences on the road with her.

The Bermuda Triangle . . .

Dyer, originally born in Ireland in 1955 and raised on the stunning island of Bermuda as a child, was handed a saxophone [he had been playing clarinet] by Sister Joseph Anthony while playing in the band at Mount St. Agnes Academy. Since then, the music world has opened its arms to him. By age 16 he was already playing seven nights a week in night clubs! Both his parents were musicians, so perhaps it was "genetic"! He picked up technique and musical study in bits and pieces here and there--but his playing was truly natural. It was in his blood; give Dyer a stage, and he'd just take care of business. By 19, Deric had his own band and was already performing regularly around the island on tenor sax, keyboards, congas and vocals!

America beckons . . .

In the early '70s, a Boston rock band called American Standard happened to be in Bermuda for some dates in sync with Spring Break. They were knocked out when they heard Dyer play so they invited him to move to Boston to work with their band. Dyer took a chance, packed up and moved to Beantown and soo