The Fringe originally formed back in 1971 by tenor-saxophonist George Garzone, bassist Richard Appleman, and drummer Bob Gullotti as an outlet for their free jazz improvisations, The Fringe have entertained and enlightened Boston area jazz audiences for over 35 years. Bassist Appleman left the band in 1985 to become Chairman of the Bass Department at Berklee College and was replaced by veteran bassist John Lockwood.

Along with their impressive tenure with The Fringe, Gullotti, Garzone, and Lockwood are in great demand as session players and have played with many of the greats of contemporary jazz. Along with keeping up with a busy performance schedule, each of them are well-respected educators helping to inspire the jazz musicians of tomorrow.

 
     
     
     
     
 

 

   I've been playing professionally since I was 15. I was 17 when I went to Berklee and got the bug for jazz, and I've been pursuing that ever since. The Fringe started our senior year, and we've been going ever since. The chairman of the Bass Department, Rich Appleman, was the original bassist, and in 1984 we switched to John Lockwood, with George Garzone and myself, and we're still going.

I think that with the way the economy is, if you're a good player and you've got a good attitude on the bandstand and knowledge of what you're playing, it's as stable as any other industry. I think it's just a matter of getting the concentration and the discipline and the repertoire down and having a good attitude and showing up on time and just being a pro. If you hang with it, you can hack out a living. It can be just as stable as anything else. If you make it big, great. If you just earn a living and survive, then you are successful. I've been able to make a living playing my instrument, and that's what I'm most proud of and happy about.

 
   

 

 
 

 

   I basically learned on the bandstand. I got called for these gigs that I shouldn't have taken, I suppose, looking back. People just proceeded to shout and scream at me, and that's how I learned. Piecing things together. So when I teach it's the same thing. A student walks in, I teach them the tune, andóbangówe're off. It's pretty much playing all the time. Once we get into it there's sheets and things like that, but it's mainly playing and then talking about concepts. To me, it's the best kind of learning. You learn fast.

 I want them out there working and playing actively, the sooner the better. If they have problems, they can always come back to me with them. But my goal, more than showing them a lot of different stuff, is to get there out there so they can experience performing in a professional setting. I never think it's too soon to do that. You're never really ready. You've just got to dive in and hope for the best. You're going to sweat; you're going to get scared, but you don't learn if you're playing with people who are less than you. I've been thrust into situationsóI don't even know how I got into themóthat were way above me. But that kind of pulls you up. You sink or swim.

 When I'm on the road, a lot of my students come to my gigs. We hang out; it's kind of loose. The great thing is that they're pretty flexible, so I can make up lessons at any time. Even twelve o'clock at night sometimes. It's crazy, but it works. Some want more structure, but some like the off-the-wall stuff.

 
   

 

 
 

 

   I think tradition is something I learned here at Berklee when I was a student. I think the tradition is responsible for how you play, no matter how far out you go. But at the same time, my job is to get the kids to stretch out. I want to take them away from the tradition.

 Avant-garde is still a dirty word among a lot of academics. Their attitude is, 'How can you teach the kids all the crazy stuff, when they don't even know bebop?' Well, I give them the tunes sometimes, but then I ask them to go beyond that. I also expose them to something that's a little different.

 If you're going to play free, it's up to you. You got it. I'm not going to yell directions to the ensemble or the soloists as they play. You got it. If the music stops and you're flailing, that's your problem. It's up to you to pick it up and make it happen. That happens to everyone; the music comes to a settling point and now it's up to someone to pick the ball up and go with it. You can't leave it there. So one thing they're learning is how to keep the momentum going. They're learning how to keep the music in motion, and it doesn't have to be with a lot of notes, either. It's something that transcends paper, the staff, the lines, the key. It's stuff that a lot of people don't learn in school. My ensemble gives them an opportunity to do that.