Sallins celebrates another year with new grooves

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Jo Sallins is celebrating a birthday in the best way he knows how: a jam session.

The jazz musician and educator will be hosting a benefit for the Open Pantry from 4 to 7 p.m. March 24 at Scibelli Hall at Springfield Technical Community College. The concert is free with the donation of a non-perishable item for the Open Pantry.

And Sallins is inviting "good players" of any sort of music to bring their instruments and join him on-stage.

Besides his 48th birthday, Sallins is noting the release of his 25th recording "Artistic Expression."

The CD also includes a DVD, which not only features Sallins performing his compositions, but also footage from one of his many programs at area schools and demonstrations of him playing the bass guitar and keyboard at the same time.

When asked how he developed the technique, Sallins said that it came out of a frustration that when he played the keyboard, the guitar player didn't do exactly what he wanted and when he played the guitar, the keyboardist didn't always satisfy him.

So, he decided to try both parts and recalled it took him 30 hours to learn how he could do it on just one song, John Coltrane's "Giant Steps."

"I kept practicing. It takes a lot of practice," Sallins said.

Sallins is currently planning a trip to Japan and South Korea for a series of concerts and clinics. He has been playing Spector bass guitars for 15 years and contacted the company two years ago to see if he could represent them. He appeared at a music industry trade show in California two years ago for Spector and caught the attention of Japanese business executives.

Sales of his recordings have been strong in Japan and Sallins is currently making room in his schedule to make the trip next year. Sallins explained that he teaches at 50 to 60 schools a year.

Besides enjoying working with students, he said the programs have been a way for people to discover his own music. Parents attending the programs to listen to their children have been buying Sallins' CDs.

That kind of marketing program is part of Sallins' life as an independent artist. He sells his CDs at appearances and online through

And although the life of an independent jazz musician can be a challenge, Sallins has no regrets.

"I've been playing music professionally for 38 years," he said. "When I wake up, it's music. So what if it's difficult?"