Once again the guitarist, who has taught at FAU, FIU, and the New World School of the Arts, finds himself straddling the grotto between audience acceptance and scholarship, staying true to his art while making a living, not losing that precious foothold on either side. But Salz learned long ago the value and personal rewards of entertaining and enthralling an audience. "My first big influence here was Ira Sullivan," he recalls. "He said, 'You're paying all that money to go to the University of Miami? Just give me the money and I'll teach you how to play!'" These were the days when the Unitarian Church and the Airliner were hot jazz venues. "That was sort of the antidote to Eastman [College in Rochester, New York] which was very intellectual and I learned a lot of theory," says Salz. "Ira taught me the other side of it. The sort of nonverbal things. Just learning the repertoire and getting over stage fright. And just playing a lot and getting my own personality out and not being so intellectual."
And the tributes Salz has been performing -- Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt -- over the last few years are anything but pure intellectual exercises. After all, if the name Louis Armstrong is attached to the project, you know there'll be some serious blowing. "I think Louis was the first great jazz soloist," Simon says. "Before that time it was more of an equal thing with everybody playing at the same time. The early stuff with the Hot Five and Hot Seven is all counterpoint, although Louis stood out. Later he just sort of became a star, and he had all these recordings and everybody else kind of just sounds drab."
Simon Salz and His Hot Seven Jazz Band perform at 8:00 tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow night (Thursday) at the Riverside Hotel, 620 E Las Olas Blvd, Ft Lauderdale, 524-0805. Admission is $15.