Best Instrumentalist - Paul BiondiPhoto by Todd Cooper

Best Instrumentalist

1. Paul Biondi

2. Don Latarski

3. Idit Shner 

“So I was watching them rehearse, and the guy playing the sax, he picks up an alto, and the song was ‘Watermelon Man.’ And I was ready to start a religion around the guy,” saxophone player Paul Biondi says over the phone when asked what provoked him to play two saxophones at once. He’s just returned home from Philadelphia, where he grew up and where his affair with saxophone began. Biondi started playing the sax in fourth grade, picking up cues from the jazz music going on in house. “There were a lot of great players in the Philadelphia area who would rehearse in our basement.” He says playing two horns together “didn’t happen all at once. They don’t record well, but when you play it live at a gig, it has a chance to spread out throughout the room.” Biondi has played sax alongside such timeless jazz artists as Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé. Playing with Fitzgerald and Tormé sticks out in his mind because they both “had the ability to riff, to improvise… doing scat. They’re like instruments unto themselves.” A resident of Eugene since 2004, Biondi plays regularly at Mac’s Restaurant and Nightclub and Unity of the Valley Church, and is involved in local and national fundraising and relief efforts. “I may not be able to write a $1,000 check to a cause I believe in,” Biondi explains of his consistent involvement in fundraising through music, “but I can donate my time as a performer as a musician.”

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