Ahmad Alaadeen has spent the better part of his life playing music, starting his professional career at age 14. Alaadeen has played with Ella and Miles. He has toured the world with his tenor and soprano saxophones, and he has performed every shade of blues between Billie and Smokey.
Alaadeen is dynamic and electric, yet he exudes the kind of cool vibe one expects from a seasoned jazz musician. Even 235 miles away, with signal loss and cordless-phone static, he sounds as assured as his music, a man well practiced in staying loose.
"I'm not big on getting things down to the nth degree," Alaadeen says. "I like the creativity and the chance for mistakes. For instance, I never rehearse the same tune until it gets tiring. I get 'em right on the edge, where (the players) almost know it.
"Then," he laughs, "I say, 'Let's go to something else.' That way, when they get on the bandstand, they are really listening for what they didn't get."
It's a real-time exercise in improvisation. Part of the beauty of jazz is that no two ensembles, gigs, players -- or even the same player, constructing the same tune on different nights -- are the same. That's also what makes a live performance such a treat.
"I'm constantly changing (the music)," Alaadeen says. "I'll tell 'em, 'Hey, man, this time let's leave out this part. Leave out this, this and this.' That way, although it's the same tune, it's always fresh."
Fresh. Like the rare summer breeze on a humid July night in the bountiful greenery of the Garden.
Ahmad Alaadeen concludes this summer's Whitaker Jazz Festival with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 12, in the Cohen Amphitheater, Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd. Admission is free. Call 314-577- 9400 or 800-642-8842 for more information.