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1992.07.31 - The Boston Globe - Lisa Maxwell: From Berklee to Guns Ν’ Roses

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1992.07.31 - The Boston Globe - Lisa Maxwell: From Berklee to Guns Ν’ Roses

Post by Blackstar on Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:59 am

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Lisa Maxwell: From Berklee to Guns Ν’ Roses

For tenor and alto saxophonist Lisa Maxwell, tonight’s concert will have special significance, because it marks a homecoming of sorts. Educated at Berklee College of Music, she studied jazz with Joe Viola, Herb Pomeroy and Billy Pierce.

By Alisa Valdes

If you’re at the Guns N’ Roses concert tonight, watch for the newest members of the touring band: Lisa Maxwell, Cece Worrall and Anne King.

They’ll be wearing wigs and wriggling to the metal beat in custom-designed “bondage” outfits, but underneath are three highly trained and proficient horn players.

For tenor and alto saxophonist Lisa Maxwell, tonight’s concert will have special significance, because it marks a homecoming of sorts. Educated at Berklee College of Music, she spent a few years living on Park Drive in Boston, studying jazz with Joe Viola, Herb Pomeroy and Billy Pierce. Though she never dreamed of landing a gig with one of the world’s most profitable and controversial rock bands, many people who know Maxwell are not surprised.

Pierce remembers Maxwell as “wild and irrepressible, with a good sense of humor about herself and her place in music. She has a healthy attitude about music and is a fun person. This gig sounds right on par for her.”

“I knew that Lisa was going to end up with something big,” says Viola, Berklee’s saxophone guru. “You could tell that about her right away. She’s an enterprising person, and to back that up musically, she can’t fail.”

Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer recently broke new ground for women instrumentalists by playing with Prince, but females on horns are still uncommon in popular music.

Since many of Guns N’ Roses’ lyrics denigrate women, it’s hard to imagine any woman taking the gig. But then again, it’s hard to imagine anyone not taking the gig. Even if you have to wear a fishnet body stocking and a G-string.

That’s what 29-year-old Maxwell, who is the leader of the horn section, said in a telephone interview from her home in Los Angeles.

Maxwell recalls that last September Ted Andreatis, a friend of hers and of Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash, told her that the band was looking for “girl” horn players who could also sing.

“Ted mentioned my name, and I went and jammed with Slash. Then he said, ‘Get together two other girls and write the arrangements.’” So she began transcribing the group’s albums and called up her old friend and trumpeter, King. King recommended saxophonist and flutist Worroll.

“The look was real important,” says Maxwell. “I mean, the playing was the least of it, it’s not hard.”

Since October they have toured with the band in the United States, Japan, Europe and Mexico, to differing reactions.

“The fans are very receptive to us,” she says. “Mostly I’d say it’s 13-to 18-year-old guys with bandannas and zits asking us for our autographs.”

But with the band and crew, it has been an uphill battle for respect. Maxwell, who does not wish to seem dissatisfied, says simply that the horn players have done a lot of complaining.

“We sort of joke around and say we’re a dessert topping and a floor wax - sometimes we travel with the band, sometimes we travel with the crew, and nobody seems to know what to do with us.

“The crew was very resistant at first. They figured that the band put us with the crew because they didn’t respect us and so we weren’t worth very much. But now that we know each other they treat us like sisters.”

Maxwell says the band also treats the women as buddies.

Lead singer Axl Rose keeps pretty much to himself, according to Maxwell. “Nobody really has contact with him other than his close friends, his assistant, his chiropractor. He’s always been totally great with us, never dissed us in any way, gives us a lot of respect and jokes around when we pass him in the hall.”

The horn section plays on seven tunes in the Guns N’ Roses repertoire. More often than not, however, they play three or four songs per show. The rest of the concert, they sit in their quick-change room onstage, hidden from view, and watch television monitors.

When they do go on, they sound good. Too good for some critics, who have assumed that they are models pretending to play along with a prerecorded track. Maxwell partially attributes this to their costumes.

“[The band] couldn’t decide if they wanted us to look elegant or have a street-slut vibe. They decided on street, and got a designer who did a great job but really didn’t have time to fit us properly.”

After some fans and critics commented on the costumes, she says, the women asked to use their own clothes because they felt it would lend more credibility to their playing.

Despite some difficulties on the tour, Maxwell considers herself lucky. “I don’t think of this as like I’ve made it now. But for me, for a first tour this was awesome. It’s really luxurious. It’s been a great experience.”

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