Veteran alto saxophonist Dick Oatts will be in his element in Albuquerque: He gets to play and he gets to teach.
“Mentoring and performing are of equal importance. You can’t do one without the other,” Oatts said in a phone interview from his home in Nyack, N.Y.
“I play so they can hear you and I teach so they can understand (the playing). You can play real good but sometimes you need an explanation about what’s behind it. I don’t want to leave them with anything unexplained.”
Oatts is the featured soloist in the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra concert Saturday, Feb. 16. The concert wraps up the Albuquerque Jazz Festival at Eldorado High School, an event aimed at high school and middle school students.
According to Glenn Kostur, the orchestra’s music director, Oatts and the 17-piece ensemble will play some of Oatts’ own compositions, including “Gumbo G” and “Barbarian,” which were arranged for a project Oatts did with the WDR Big Band of Cologne, Germany.
They’ll also play Hoagy Carmichael’s ballad “Skylark,” and Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child.”
The AJO opens the concert with John Clayton’s “Nice to Meet You,” Ray Brown’s “When You Go” and the standard “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”
On weekends, Oatts leaves his teaching job at Temple University to share his music and his knowledge around the globe. In recent weeks, he’s taught and played at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute in Los Angeles. Sometimes Oatts takes longer trips; for the last 15 years he has been the artist-in-residence at a music conservatory in Amsterdam.