Don Aliquo: The Man, The Music, The Journey
DA: From the time I left home for college the first time  to the point in which I encountered my first teaching position , I pretty much supported myself with gigging. That would include stints with The Tommy Dorsey Band, The Buddy Rich Band [briefly], The Keystone Rhythm Band [East Coast R & B] and Roger Humphries and RH factor. In addition, I did all sorts of other gigs as a sideman and a leader during this timesome jazz and, of course, some not! I did have some advantages, though. For instance, I could read pretty well for a kid, and as a result my Dad would send me on gigs that he didn't want or was too busy to handle. This started roughly during my junior year of high school. And by my senior year, I was gigging three to four nights a week with a show/dance band sponsored by the Dodge Corporation. It consisted of the top college (and sometimes high school) students and was led by a great traditional jazz trumpeter named Benny Benack. The band had a great book written by a gentleman named Joe Campus and was some valuable and practical gig experience, especially as it relates to jazz ensemble playing. As a result, I had a pretty healthy jump start into the commercial gig scene and the jazz scene in Pittsburgh after graduation.
AAJ: How did you get from point A to point B in your careermoving from Pittsburgh to Nashville?
DA: After getting a music education degree from Duquesne University, I decided to continue and get a Master's Degree as well. At this point, I wanted to further develop as a creative musician and to develop my teaching skills as well. After teaching at a summer jazz camp at Duquesne, I knew I could be good at teaching jazz. This led me to seek a college teaching position, which I obtained in 1999. The school, Middle Tennessee State University, is about 30 miles south of Nashville. I, along with pianist, Dana Landry, started a Jazz Studies Program here that has prospered. I should mention that Dana is a great pianist and friend and he was largely responsible for recruiting me. Dana and I have been playing together ever since, including my last two CDs and also his debut CD, recorded with Gary Burton [vibraphone] on the Summit Records Label. We have also been playing in Denver as our schedules permit. Dana moved there to take the Director of Jazz Studies position at the University of Northern Colorado and I became the director here when he split. Nashville is an interesting place to be a musician for sure. There are great musicians here however, just like there are great players everywhere. And I should say this gig has been a great opportunity for me in many ways.
AAJ: It is obvious just listening to your recordingsAnother Reply (Consolidated Artists Productions, 2003) for example]that you are an "inside" "outside" player. Would you say that approach was shaped in any way by your studies with George Garzone [saxophone] or Eric Kloss?
DA: I suppose that describes my style and approach to some degree. As a young player I definitely gravitated towards inside/out, high-energy players, most of whom had a lot of "edge" in their sound. Both George and Eric would fall into that category and others like [saxophonists] Jerry Bergonzi, who I heard a lot in Boston, and people like Steve Grossman and Dave Liebman as well. Actually, I think I probably learned more from listening to these guys play than in formal lessons. Of course, Coltrane was my main inspiration. I can remember my Dad playing the entire recording of Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960) for me very early, as well as Sonny Rollins tunes like "Strode Rode" and "Pent-Up House." I was still in high school and really just listening to pop radio, although I had started to dig some commercial jazz [saxophone] players like Ronnie Laws, Grover Washington, Jr., and Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. To my Dad's credit, he never tried to squelch that, but he would play 'Trane for me and say things like: "Now that's the real deal there, not that stuff you're listening to!"
Over time, I became more and more enamored with my Dad's record collection, although I was still buying things like Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Although I didn't really understand 'Trane's music at first, I was immediately drawn to the sound he produced. You could tell there was something happening on a much deeper level than with a lot of the other music I was listening to, and I wanted to figure it out! I really had a tremendous advantage having so much music in the house. I was able to check out players on record before I even knew who they were or what their contributions were to the music!