Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Stern, Bobby (Robert Allen), saxophonist, wind synthesist (EWI), producer, educator; b. Rochester, NY, 13 October 1952. Family relocated to NYC in 1955. His father Maurice and mother Barbara were opera singers, who met in Rochester while attending an Eastman School of Music opera workshop. Siblings include younger brother, Stephen, singer / guitarist and sister Heidi (better known as the pop singer Jennifer Rush). Parents divorced in 1962 and father remarried in 1965 to singer / pianist Rita Loving, who later became head voice coach at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany.
Bobby attended the High School of Music and Art in NYC, 1966-70, during which time he began studying tenor saxophone with Joe Allard, and also began gigging as a blues harp player / singer in various teenage blues bands. Long time Muddy Waters harmonica player Little Walter Jacobs was his primary influence at the time, as he memorized and played most of his recorded solos. At the same time he was exposed to the music of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, along with the music which was eventually known as salsa, which was to be heard everywhere in NYC at the time. In 1969, after his junior year, he moved with his family to Flensburg, Germany, where his father was engaged at the Flensburg Opera. A year later he attended the Norddeutsche Musik Hochschule were he studied clarinet, but spent most of his time practicing saxophone, teaching himself the jazz vocabulary. In 1971, his family moved to Wiesbaden where Bobby began playing in US military clubs with Soul / R&B Bands. In 1973 he joined the local jazz fusion band "Virgo", heavily inspired by early Weather Report and in 1974 the group appeared at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival newcomer matinee, was critically acclaimed and was awarded a one shot recording deal with Phonogram. The band performed extensively throughout Germany in 1975, the year in which Bobby relocated to Munich. In Jan. 1976 he recorded his first solo album, which led to the formation of the group Head, Heart & Hands, with co-founders Roy & Elmer Louis, et al, the style of which could be classified as Afro Caribbean Jazz Fusion. The group recorded an album in 1978 for Metronome and one for Mood in 1979. During that period he was much in demand as a soloist in Munich's burgeoning recording & film studios.
At the end of 1980 H, H & H disbanded and the quartet "The Bobby Stern-Larry Porter Manifestation" was formed, dedicated to playing standard straight ahead repertoire plus originals, co-led by fellow American, pianist Larry Porter along with bassist Roy Louis and drummer Aldo Caviglia. The group toured Germany and Spain, playing clubs and small festivals, and giving workshops under the direction of the great Thad Jones, but never released a recording. Still living in Munich, which was a fertile environment for jazz at that time, Bobby had the chance to see, hear and sit in with many jazz greats (including Sonny Stitt, Freddie Hubbard & George Coleman), who appeared on a weekly basis at the Domicil, one of Europe's premier jazz clubs at the time. In 1982 Bobby was offered a tuition scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He spent one semester at the school and in Oct. 1983, moved back home to NYC. He sat in on many sessions, frequently with Cuban saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera's group, and worked with various salsa bands, but steady work in the jazz field was not forthcoming. Gradually, his musical attention turned to composing & producing more commercially accepted styles of music, and with the advent of MIDI and computer sequencing, playing saxophone began to take a back seat for a while. He attended the Institute of Audio Research in 1985-86, and completed the program for recording engineers. In 1987 he received a National Endowment of the Arts Grant to study with saxophonist David Liebman. That same year, Bobby toured Europe with singer Jennifer Rush, his sister, who was riding the success of her hit "Power of Love", among others. At this time, Bobby began playing the AKAI EWI (Electronic Woodwind Instrument), formerly known as the Steinerphone, after it's inventor, Niles Steiner. He eventually pressed 1000 copies of "Ten to 2" a CD of his own music featuring the EWI in a totally electronic environment. In 1988, Bobby toured Germany with German pop singer Peter Maffay, with whom he continued to work on and off until 1996. In 1992, he settled in Cologne, Germany, where he continued to perform and produce in a wide variety of contexts, including a close association with rapper Eric "XL" Singleton, throughout the 1990's, as work in those years was relatively steady. In 2001, he was offered a temporary teaching position with the Jazz Dept. of the Johannes Gutenberg University Music School in Mainz, Germany. Bobby found teaching to be a very rewarding experience and brought him full circle back into the jazz realm, where he remains today. In August, 2002, Bobby moved to South Florida, where he performed in groups with bassist Don Miller, drummer Jonathan Joseph, pianist Felix Gomez as well as pianoless trios featuring drummers Larry Marshall or Oscar Salas as well as bassist Rick Doll.
In 2004, following a suggestion of NY guitarist/educator Bruce Arnold, Bobby began working on "The Melodic Minor Handbook, A Jazz Player's Perspective" which was published by Mr. Arnold's Muse-Eek Publishing Co. in March 2005. The book deals, as the title suggests, with melodic minor harmony in a jazz context, and is one of less than a handful of methods which currently do so. It was initially distributed, among others, by Jamey Aebersold Jazz and in December 2006, Aebersold took over the publishing. Examples of the book can be viewed at http://www.jazzbooks.com/ and heard at the MySpace link below.
Bobby Stern is currently based in Mallorca, Spain.
Virgo; Bobby Stern and Head, Heart & Hands: Libra; Head, Heart & Hands; Head, Heart & Hands: Flor di Anglo; Bobby Stern: Ten to 2
Joe Gallardo: Latino Blue; Marvin Gaye: Midnight Love; Jennifer Rush: Passion; Jennifer Rush: Wings of Desire; Connexion Latina: Mambo 2000