Celebrating Black Music Month with Saxman Damon Rentie

Jazz N LA — By on June 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Photo by Kim Webster

Damon Rentie describes the saxophone as “more than an auditory experience, the saxophone actually touches you to the core of your soul.”  Damon grew up in Compton, CA and began playing the sax at ten years old.  “ I started in the Compton Unified School District,”  said Damon Rentie. “They sent paperwork home asking my parents to fill it out.  My mom asked me what I wanted to play. I said trumpet, at first; then my dad said no, he should play the saxophone.”  Damon was one of ten children and despite limited resources, his parents managed to get him a cheap sax and a few private lessons. “I just basically taught myself and having band class every year at school helped.”

Rentie’s early musical experience allowed him to appear with a musical legend.  “ I was fortunate enough to go on my first tour with a guy named Willie Hutch and recorded with him in 1977, said  Rentie of the late Willie Hutch, a notable musician, producer, and songwriter, famous for such  movie soundtracks as “The Mackand “Foxy Brown.”   “I remember going to  Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and back south to Atlanta GA, Burmingham AL,  Macon, GA  Augusta,  Jacksonville and Miami FL. Needless to say, I had never been on an airplane before. That was quite a summer to remember, I was twenty and having the time of my life!”   On his return to California, he began rehearsing with the New York band Atlantic Starr.  He worked with them on their first two albums during 1977 – 1980, and moved to New York in 1978.

In 1980, Damon moved  to Long Beach CA and began studying at Long Beach City College where he met music professor Dr George Shaw.   “In 1982, I toured with  Patrice Rushen and in 1984 I toured with  Teena Marie on the “Starchild Tour,” said Rentie.  Dr  Shaw called him in 1985 to work with him on a production deal with Palo Alto Records.   “I did three records with Palo Alto Records; ‘Designated  Hitter,’ ‘Don’t Look Back” and ‘Skyline’ that charted in the top ten jazz charts on Billboard.”   After touring with his band in Canada, Damon returned to the states and toured with Billy Ocean during 1986-87 and Miki Howard in 1988.  After the 1988 tour he decided a change was necessary in his life.  “I had to walk away from music for a while; I got a divorce and had to restructure my life; sometimes you have to start over again,” he reflected. Damon began playing gospel music at Faithful Central Church in Los Angeles and Church on the Way in the valley.   “I remarried and started writing a lot of original music with my now wife Melique Berger-Rentie,” said the outstanding musician. They have two young sons and Melique teaches evening classes.  Her beautiful voice is on Damon’s latest CD Day Ahh, available at World Famous VIP Records in Long Beach CA.  All songs are original with the exception of  Stevie Wonder’s “Visions.” “It’s one of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs,” he said with a smile. He and his live band musicians are working on a new CD targeted for release in 2011.

Damon and Melique will be at the Lynwood Jazz Festival July 4 and the Gardena Jazz Festival on  August 22.  Every 3rd Saturday of the month, fans can enjoy the sax experience of Damon Rentie at Cat Man Blue in downtown Long Beach.

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