Local jazz fans remember saxophonist Nathan Collins from his high school days as a member of Gilbert Castellanos’ Young Lions movement, before he left for USC. Collins had every intention of furthering his jazz studies, but he switched majors last year, opting instead for a degree in popular music performance.
“I think you get a more global view than the jazz department offers,” says the 21-year-old Collins, who is looking to graduate next year. “I switched because I felt more at home in a pop, r&b horn section type vibe.”
The results have been palpable.
“Almost immediately, I started getting these incredible opportunities. I did three gigs with Solange Knowles, playing at two big festivals, plus a show at the Hollywood Bowl. Gigs all over the Sunset Strip. Then one of my professors recommended me for this tour with John Fogerty.”
Since May, Collins has been on the road with Fogerty and ZZ Top’s “Blues and Bayous Tour,” already logging in more than 20 shows across the U.S. “I’ve had to learn to be nomadic. It took me a minute to adjust to living on a bus, waking up in a different city for another show in another state, going three days on, then getting a day off. I had to acclimate myself to that.
“In the beginning, I was terrified. [ZZ Top bassist] Dusty Hill came off the stage, introduced himself, and said I was going to be great. That really put me at ease, even though I was kind of star-struck by him.”
He’s enjoying the performances more now. “Onstage, I get to do a couple of saxophone solos during our set. At first, I was very nervous, trying to do them exactly as they were on the record, John Fogerty actually played the solos himself, but John told me I was playing them way better than him, and that allowed me to have fun with it. He seems to dig what I’m doing.”
The Fogerty band includes drum session ace Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, Jon Bon Jovi) and bassist James LoMenzo (Megadeth, Snakepit) and Collins is determined to absorb as much information from them as possible.
“I’ve learned a lot about tour life and music in general. They could have chosen to shine me on as a 21-year-old kid, but everyone has been cool about giving me pointers on how to survive.”