The ancient Hammond organ that occupies one corner of Ken Sawyer’s lesson room at Union Music on Southbridge Street is now merely a “hip table” on which CD disks, album covers and other music paraphernalia sit.
“It is a good organ,” explained Sawyer, who has been teaching music for more than 32 years, both here and at Gordon Music in Southbridge.
“But a big gigantic tube burnt out on it that I never got around to replacing, mainly because there are so many things you can do on the keyboards these days.”
That is the difference between musicians and musical instruments. The latter can be replaced, but the former, at least the good ones, tend to live forever.
And at 76 years old, Sawyer is still the young man who, spurred by listening to his dad’s Woody Herman music collection, took up the clarinet and then the saxophone; still the young man who was awed and guided by Boots Mussulli, the legendary Milford saxophonist, who in the late-40s was viewed as being second only to the great Charlie Parker on the sax.
“I was lucky to have had the No. 1 saxophone teacher in the country just 20 minutes away from me,” said Sawyer, who lived in Medway at the time.
“Boots was such a good teacher and I was having so much fun that I had a little trio of my own when I was about 15, playing weekends at the VFW in Upton, and playing Fridays and Saturdays and having a good time and saying, ‘Gee, I would like to do this all the time,’ and so I kept at it.
“I studied everything from Boots. I studied saxophone and clarinet, studied arranging with him, and composing, everything.”
The experience threw him into the midst of the local jazz scene of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80.
“That was a great period for music,” he said.
“You had musicians like Bunny Price, Reggie Walley, Howie Jefferson … all of us were doing six nights a week.”
He and his wife, Mary Lou, and their daughter, Tisha,…