116: Rick Margitza
As a boy in Detroit, Michigan, Rick Margitza’s mother asked him “do you want to hear a recording of your grandfather playing cello”? Then she put on the Charlie Parker with Strings album. After hearing Charlie Parker play, Rick knew immediately that he wanted to be a jazz saxophone player.
Margitza’s paternal grandfather, a Hungarian Gypsy violinist, taught him to play the violin at the age of four. His father also played violin with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (and recorded on classic Motown sessions). So it was almost inevitable that Rick would be a musician, and he was drawn to jazz.
He loved the sound of what he calls “the white Jewish tenor player” school of playing: Michael Brecker, Steve Grossman, Dave Liebman, Bob Berg and (apparent honorary Jew) Jerry Bergonzi.
Songs related to or discussed in Episode 116 of The Third Story Podcast
Rick bounced around from music school to music school in his 20s, and ended up in New Orleans playing on the local scene and finishing school. He was thinking about moving to New York and wondering if it was already too late for that. His childhood friend and future record producer Matt Pierson (see Episode 5) encouraged Rick to make a demo tape before making the move, Rick obliged.
That demo tape ended up moving a lot of history. Pierson played the tape for the president of Blue Note records, Bruce Lundvall, who signed Rick to a contract based on what he heard on the tape. Pierson also played the tape for Tommy LiPuma (see Episodes 33 and 69) who in turn played it for Miles Davis over the phone, and Miles hired Margitza on the spot based on what he heard on the tape.
What was on that tape?
Here Rick tells the story of what happened next, what it was like to be thrust into the jazz limelight overnight, working with Miles, moving to France, playing the appropriate thing in every situation, dividing the octave and choosing the right note.