The New Jazz Age: Musicians and Their Instruments

Anthony Dominic
Bobby Floyd pictured with a Steinway baby grand piano

The relationship between a musician and his or her instrument is-as most Columbus players will tell you-beyond words. We asked three of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra's most accomplished instrumentalists to take us back to when they first picked up their instruments and why, decades later, they are still driven to hone their craft.

Bobby Floyd

Age: 59

Lives in: Pickerington

Instrument: Piano

Pictured with: Steinway baby grand piano

Started playing at: 2 years old

Member of the CJO for: 10 years

I tried playing other instruments. I kind of got into playing saxophone, and I tried to play bass when I was little. But I was so at home on the piano; I would always go back to it. And there are other things in life that I enjoy doing, but I felt like I couldn't master those things like I'd mastered the piano.

Chris Berg

Age: 60

Lives in: Oakwood, Ohio

Instrument: Bass

Pictured with: Hornsteiner double bass

Started playing at: 16 years old

Member of the CJO for: Nine years

My bass was given to me; it's a 180-year-old German bass. It's worth a lot of money. I could never buy it. But the guy who owned it played with the Cincinnati symphony, and he retired-he was in his 90s-and he followed me around whenever I was playing in Cincinnati. He'd be in the audience, and he'd come up and say, "I've got a bass for you!" And one day I called him up and said, "What's this about this bass?" It took me like five years. He gave me his card dozens of times. He just thought I should not be playing the bass I was playing; I should play this bass. So I went to this little shop in Cincinnati. It turned out he had like 20 basses there. It was a violin-bass repair shop. He said, "You tell me which one is the one I thought should be yours." So I played all 20 basses, and I kept coming back to this one that I have. And I said, "I think this one." And he said, "That's the one I wanted to give you." And I said, "Give me? No, I'll have to buy this." And he said, "No, no-just whenever you record, give me a CD of your recording." And I did that until he died.

Michael Cox

Age: 54

Lives in: Berwick

Instrument: Saxophone

Pictured with: Selmer Paris Reference 54 tenor saxophone

Started playing at: 12 years old

Member of the CJO for: 23 years

I'm always running. I teach anywhere from three or four to six or eight lessons in a day, so I'm either going from one lesson to the next or going from a lesson to a rehearsal to a gig, so I'm a little bit low maintenance when it comes to things like reeds and mouthpieces. But I have a system that's real consistent for me. I just always want to be able to pick up my instrument and know exactly how it's going to play every time I play it. So I don't change a lot of things. I don't change reeds a lot. I don't change mouthpieces very many times. Things like that that saxophone players love to do and they love to talk about-I do that less than anybody else that I know. I guess I'm a little conservative.