Growing up in Colorado, I used to sit with my folks and listen to rock & roll oldies on Sunday mornings. I always liked the gritty sound of those old-time sax players. So, when I was 12, I picked up the tenor sax and joined the school band. My first sax record was Yakety Sax with Boots Randolph and Ritchie Cole.
In 1990, I moved to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago. It wasn't until after college that I got serious about music. With more free time on my hands, I started sitting in with West Side blues bands.
I did some touring with Grammy-nominated blues drummer Sam Lay (best known for his work with Howlin' Wolf and the Paul Butterfield Band) before starting my own group in the summer of 1997.
That was the middle of the swing craze, and we did our share of jumpin' and jivin' before making our way to the music we do now. We've played all kinds of venues: The House of Blues, Navy Pier, United Center, Rosa's Lounge, Buddy Guy's Legends, B.L.U.E.S., FitzGerald's—plus numerous festival dates and private events.
In 1999 I met Big Jay McNeely—one of my long-time sax idols—and began what has been a very rewarding association. I've brought Big Jay to Chicago several times to perform with my group. And he's featured on my original 2003 album, The Clutch—named one of year's Top-Ten Blues Albums by Chicago Public Radio.
I play a classic Selmer Mark VI tenor sax which used to belong to Willie Young, another member of the Howlin' Wolf Band. By the way, my last name is pronounced SHIN-toe—it's Italian.