Saxophonist Eric Schugren grew up in a musical family in Berkeley California. He moved to Lopez Island Washington at 13 and was given 'Kind of Blue' and 'Giant Steps' by his father. Eric was smitten by the emotional depth of this non-verbal music and started playing on alto the following year - alto because the only functioning horn at the school was an alto. After figuring out the fingering and getting hooked on Coltrane he had to get his hands on a tenor. The following fall he moved back to California to pursue this budding interest and bought an old Selmer tenor (which he plays to this day) and found not one, but three different ensembles at his new High School. The following year he was given the tenor chair in the 'A' band and began checking out live music around the San Francisco bay area at places like Keystone Korner. By the time he was a senior he was the featured soloist in the ensemble and had decided to use music as a stepping stone to UCLA. His freshman year at UCLA he was awarded a scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival and realized that with some serious effort he might be able to make a life in music. The following year he left UCLA to study harmony and composition at the Dick Grove School and upon graduation began a long relationship with Guitarist Robert Hernandez and Bassist Richard Reyes in which Latin jazz and Salsa provided the opportunity for professional work. About this time Billy Higgins opened 'The World Stage' and all the serious young jazz musicians were using the space to rehearse and soak up the generous spirit of Higgins, pianists William Henderson, and Horace Tapscott, and many other truly inspirational Jazz masters. Many of the musicians from that time have gone on to make a life in jazz; drummer Willie Jones iii, trumpeter Richard Grant, drummer Cornell Fauler , Guitarist Hide Tokunaga, Bassist Willem Von Hombracht, and bassist and arranger Marcus Shelby to name a few.
Eric Schugren and Willen Von Hombracht in St.Louis
Eric recorded his first cd in 1995 titled 'Silent Pearls' referring to the unspoken pearls of wisdom that come in musical life. This album was well received and critically acclaimed, and was the catalyst for creating the independent label 'Prime Directive Jazz'. During this period schugren, drummer Cornell Fauler and bassist Willem Von Hombracht had a monday night slot at a health food restaurant named The Good Life. This became the name of the trio for a recording later titled 'The Good Life Trio live at The World Stage'.
In 1996 Kenny Burrell started a Jazz studies program at UCLA and hired many of the Jazz masters that were part Los Angeles' rich Jazz history. Harold Land, Oscar Brasheer, Airto Moreira, Jeff Clayton and a few others were all brought in, so at Higgins' suggestion Eric approached Burrell to rejoin UCLA and finish his degree. A custom degree was created titled Ethnomusicology/Jazz Studies and Schugren signed up - finishing in 2000.
In 2002 Schugren contracted Bells Palsey and was forced out of saxophone playing for most of the year, fortunately Eric had music production jobs in the form of soundtracks for short films. A series with sounds and music was done for Beat generation filmmaker Bob Branaman titled 'burn karma burn' and were included in The Museum of Modern Arts' Beat Generation show. In 2003 the horn playing resumed and a recording with trumpeter Richard Grant, bassist Bob Hurst, drummer Fritz Wise, pianist Danny Grissett, and saxophonist Barney Proctor titled 'Grant of Immunity' was done live at World Stage.
In 2006 Schugren got the opportunity to go to China and perform with some American and Chinese Jazz musicians in Beijing. In the summer of 2007 he began teaching as the woodwind clinician at the International Summer Jazz Acadamy in Krakow, Poland. The ISJA in Krakow continues to the present as a summer engagement and Schugren looks forward each year to meeting with students who respond to the tremendous power of this musical language.
Vin Scialla and Eric Schugren at Tedesco Studios
In 2008 Schugren packed up and moved out to New York where he was welcomed on the scene immediately. Guitarist Billy Newman and Bassist Leco Reis became important workshop partners and Cornelia Street Cafe became a venue for airing this consortium. Schugren also met and worked with a contingent of musicians living on Long Island including the historically important late Teddy Charles, the arranger Gil Goldstein and the trumpeter Alex Sipiagin. In New York city Eric also started working and workshopping with drummer Vin Scialla and in 2013 Schugren and Scialla recorded an organ trio project featuring Brian Charette on B3 that grew to include Mike DiRubbo on alto, Fabio Morgera on trumpet, Jeff Fairbanks on trombone, and Nano Valerio on percussion. This album is titled WakeUp! and was released October 2014.