By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — In his more than five decades of work as a professional jazz musician, Buffalo native Bobby Militello has been driven less by the end product and more by the "joy of getting there."
In playing jazz, an art form known for its freestyle nature, the renowned alto saxophonist says the real satisfaction comes from engaging the audience as he attempts to achieve that "perfect" performance he recognizes as truly unattainable.
"It's one of the reasons we do what we do," said Militello, who will be headlining this weekend's 12th annual Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival. "When you are on stage and people are into what you're doing, it is just a ridiculous feeling."
Militello has been at the forefront of the local jazz scene for years. His musical career has included tours in the early 1970s with the Maynard Ferguson Band and work as a member of the touring group featuring Doc Severinson of the "The Tonight Show" band. He joined the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1982 and continued playing with the group until Brubeck's death in December.
These days, Militello, a who confessed to loving the road life so much that he thought he'd literally "die in a hotel room," is working closer to home with a quartet of his own featuring Jim Colmon on upright bass, John Bacon Jr. on drums and Bobby Jones on piano. On Friday, jazz festival goers will get a chance to see Militello as part of a unique double bill where he will perform as part of a quintet featuring Mississippi jazz pianist George Caldwell from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. followed by a performance with the members of his own quartet from 9 to 10:30 p.m.
Militello said he's looking forward to the opportunity to play with Caldwell's New York City-style jazz quintet and said he loves the challenge of being on stage in general, especially now that he is no longer playing on the road. During the jazz festival, organizers will honor Militello with the first WNY Jazz Ambassador of the Year Award.
"I just love to play for different audiences all the time," he said. "I love to play. It's not just a thing I do for money. It's a passion. It's what I was born to do."
More than 100 musicians are scheduled to perform on five different stages along Center Street as part of this year's festival.
Festivities kick off at 5 p.m. Friday and continue through 10:30 p.m. at outdoor venues. On Saturday, the festival opens at noon and continues through 10 p.m. at outdoor venues. Seating is extremely limited so festival attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. For a complete list of performances and activities, visit www.LewistonJazz.com.