Bobby Read – sax, horns and EWI

Si Twining

Bobby Read Official website:

Featured on: Hot House, Spirit Trail, Big Swing Face, Halcyon Days, Levitate

“Stuff like Funhouse is like falling off a log, always fun to play. Since I’ve been using the wind controller, I’ve been really in to exploring it as a solo instrument, so any of those tunes – Place under the Sun, Resting Place, Candy Mountain Run, there are so many that are fun to play.”

Bobby is an established recording artist in his own right, and runs the Small World Audio recording studio.

The Bobby Read Quartet plays regularly in Crozet, VA – you can hear much of their work, and free downloads from his tremendous debut CD “Monkfish”, at

His bio is on his official website.

Bobby Read talked to us in June 2006.


Is this your first solo project? (I know that you’ve done work with Modereko also). Who else have you played with?
This is my first solo project. Before I joined the Hornsby band I released CDs as a member of a couple of other bands. In the 80s I had a band called ‘However’ that was a prog rock band and released two albums (yes, vinyl) that eventually got re-released as CDs and have been available on Kinesis. That agreement recently ended so they are in the process of being re-re-released on a new label – watch my website for news of that.

Then in 1987-1993 I was a member of the eclectic ‘chamber folk’ group Trapezoid that had a CD called ‘Moon Run’ released on Narada, and in 1995 I made a duo CD called ‘Birth of a River’ with the guitar player from the group, Paul Reisler. This CD has six of my instrumental tunes on it and will be available on my website.

I then joined Bruce’s band in 1993 and since then the only other music project I’ve tried to do was Modereko with John Molo, John D’earth originally, Tim Kobza, and more recently with JT Thomas from Bruce’s band and Dan Conway on bass. We released a self-titled CD on the Verve Records subsidiary, Blue Thumb in 2001, and a second CD on Harmonized in 2003.

In addition to my work as a player, much of my life has been occupied with running my studio here in Virginia, now called Small World Audio, and over the years I’ve recorded and/or produced and played on over 100 records – check out the discography on my website. Mostly regional artists with a few standouts.

The Bobby Read Quartet

Bobby Read Can you tell us about the band you’ve put together for the Monkfish CD? They appear young and up-and-coming – is that deliberate, i.e. have you sought to mentor emerging talent in VA?
Yeah, these guys are all pretty young – the oldest is the drummer at 29. As far as is it deliberate, no I wouldn’t say I’m trying to mentor these guys – they are all just great musicians that I enjoy playing with.

Truthfully, part of it is that when you get to my age many people have dropped out of playing music, or at least playing local gigs, and these young guys still want to do it – more than I do in fact because playing local gigs can be pretty unrewarding in any local scene. But I love to play and wanted to pull something together that wouldn’t be too unwieldy to do locally, so these guys are the best players I could work with around here.

And part of being unwieldy meant that I didn’t want to do something that would take lots of rehearsing, so that meant playing with people well versed in jazz and playing tunes that are in the kind of jazz format, as opposed to the kind of highly arranged and detailed music that Modereko, or any of my previous bands did.

And you really put that CD together inside two days?!
Well, basically in that we rehearsed a total of 2 1/2 hours one day and recorded all the tunes the next two days. I then went back and did a little overdubbing and fixing myself, and added one of the guitar players on six tunes, but 98% of what we recorded those two days is on the CD. It was the easiest CD I’ve ever made, and this was intentional kind of as a reaction to recording the last Modereko CD that was incredibly detailed and work intensive. Nothing wrong with that, and that Modereko CD is great and the hard work really shows, but it’s exhausting to make records that way.

Electronic Wind Instrument

Bobby Read
Bobby Read. Photo Alan Hess

Can you talk us through the instrument that you’ve played the last few years – Bruce refers to it as the “EWI”?
Yes, the generic name is wind controller and the specific one I’m using is the Yamaha WX5. It’s key setup is like a saxophone with the addition of more octave keys for a total range of 7 octaves. It makes no noise by itself, but creates midi events that you use to trigger synthesizers or samplers. My setup is one of the synth modules Yamaha makes to go with the instrument, plus my laptop running three programs – Live, Reason and Reaktor.

The main components of the sounds I use come from the laptop. Since I’ve only been using it for three years now, I feel like there’s still a lot to explore, and a lot of uncharted territory. This CD, ‘Monkfish’ has this instrument as the primary lead sound throughout – that was my goal with the CD – to see how it worked using the wind controller in this way.

Who would you call your influences, and who do you listen to more recently?
That’s tough because I really love a broad range of music – classical, jazz, rock, folk, electronic, traditional music from around the world, and I’ve listened to a lot of each. So all that stuff sort of filters into the music I do on my own – I’m working on two other projects right now – a jazz quartet CD and a collection of stuff I’ve been working on with the wind controller and the looping program ‘Live’. Because I’m so busy recording stuff – my own as well as lots of projects here in the studio, I don’t listen to nearly as much music as I once did.

But the music I gravitate towards these days either has to have a strong performance component or interesting compositional elements – jazz (Dave Douglas, Coltrane, Miles, some John Zorn…), world music (a lot of great Finnish stuff – Maria Kalaniemi, Vartina, things on the Real World label), classical (Ives, Prokofiev, Cage, Brahms..), some of the ambient electronic stuff people are doing these days, interesting or classic rock (Eno, Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Beck, Jack Bruce), funk (Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly). Really too many things to mention. Beck has been getting a lot of plays lately.

Do you have a favourite Hornsby song to play live?
That’s tough too, because there are so many great songs and playing with this band is always such an adventure. Stuff like Funhouse is like falling off a log, always fun to play. Since I’ve been using the wind controller, I’ve been really in to exploring it as a solo instrument, so any of those tunes – Place under the Sun, Resting Place, Candy Mountain Run, there are so many that are fun to play.

Thanks to Bobby Read for taking the time to chat. His new CD “Monkfish” comes highly recommended.

His new website is now open at