When Eddie Baccus Jr. was in high school, he gave no indication that he would become a musician. But the saxophonist and Mitchellville, Md., resident is now studying for his master's in music education at the University of the District of Columbia and in the process has worked with a plethora of artists, such as Lester Bowie, George Duke and Grover Washington Jr.
He'll appear with his band Straight to the Point at the Holiday Inn in Oakland tonight for Club Duo's monthly "Smooth Jazz Friday" event.
Despite his pedigree as the namesake son of the Cleveland-based organist, Baccus didn't take to music as a child. At one point a teacher "told my parents, 'Don't worry about your son playing anything -- he has no musical talent.' "
He would return to the music in the fall of 1988, when he needed an art credit to graduate from high school and tried playing the oboe. As fortune would have it, another student took the oboe home during Christmas break and broke it, so Baccus had to choose another instrument -- in this case, the alto saxophone -- and immediately felt the connection. "I knew once I started playing it, I was like, 'Wow, I really want to do this.' "
So much so that he auditioned to the Berklee School of Music just three months later, which astonished the auditioner.
"When I went there, he [said], 'OK, how long have you been playing?' " When told since January, he responded "Of what year?" Baccus ended up being placed in a 12-week summer program before being admitted.
- Where: Oakland Holiday Inn
- When: 9 p.m. tonight
- Admission: $10
- More information: 412-567-2084
Upon graduating from Berklee with a dual degree in performance and education, Baccus began playing with a number of bands in his hometown.
His big break came in 1995, when Hub's Groove, the band he was playing with at the time, opened for Pieces of a Dream at Peabody's Down Under. Later that night they met at a jam session, and Baccus recalls pianist James Lloyd telling him, "We're going to bring you on board and let our horn player go on vacation for a little bit."
That horn player has remained on vacation, as Baccus tours and records with the group to this day.
His current group, based in Cleveland, includes vocalists Sherena Wynn and Stephen Fowler, who also plays keyboards and earlier this year was a semifinalist on "American Idol." Bassist Walter Barnes and drummer Robert Hubbard Jr. -- Hub's Groove is named for him -- round out the ensemble.
In the D.C. area Baccus plays with the 76 Degrees West Band, an R&B group he says recalls Earth, Wind & Fire and is best known for a cover of the Average White Band's "School Boy Crush."
Rick Nowlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3871.