Al Waters and his band EMANON (that’s “No Name” spelled backwards) brought their smooth jazz sounds to the cafeteria and Student Life center on Feb. 25. The five-piece band, led by Waters and his saxophone, finished up their cross-campus tour at South Campus to a packed house of students and faculty members.
Waters previously spent a decade working with Ray Charles and his orchestra, and also spent time performing with greats such as Teddy Washington and many others. Now, in addition to recording and performing at events, Waters works with the Ritz Theater Jazz Orchestra as a conductor, arranger and performer.
A Jacksonville native, Waters started in his school band in seventh grade and has been in love with music ever since. Waters spoke fondly of his uncle, whom he credits in part to introducing him to jazz. “I think in tenth grade, when I really started to hear jazz, I was really taken with the ability they displayed…and man, when I found out they played what they felt! The first person I spoke to, my uncle was with me and I said, ‘I’d really like to see the music for that,’ and he told me that they don’t use music for that,” said Waters.
From there, Waters’ career has taken him all over the world. “I’ve been to five continents,” he said. “I’ve never been to Australia and I’m not that interested in going to Antarctica.”
In recent years Waters has performed at major local events, including the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, which routinely draws over 10,000 fans.
When he’s not performing, Waters is also an accomplished teacher. He spent four years as an instructor for Virginia Union University. Waters originally believed being a teacher wasn’t for him.
Now when teaching students, Waters pushes social media and a very unique tool — YouTube. “Learn as much as you can about the business side. Use the resources you have available…YouTube. People are demonstrating so many things. I have students that I’m teaching that don’t go to it to view anything or to learn. That is a tremendous resource,” he said.
Waters also has some advice for music students here at Florida State College at Jacksonville. “You have to start with Bach. There are so many romantic pianists. Like Nitz [sic], Phil Nimmons, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong. Saxophone: ‘Body and Sole’–Coleman Hawkins, Moody (from Savannah), Coltrane…there are so many. Try to hear as many people as you can.”
Waters went on to express his most important piece of advice: “Don’t give up what you’re doing, and make sure you have a really good work ethic. Have a really good work ethic because that is what it’s all about.”