James “Saxsmo” Gates is one of Richmond’s premier musicians. As a saxophonist, Saxsmo has a flaming passion that is evident in every note played. Undeniable passion along with his bell-like tone quality ignites a fire that is sure to light the hearts and souls of all true jazz enthusiasts.
Saxsmo is a Richmond native and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1978. He attended Virginia State University and later transferred under a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Berklee in 1984. Also with a full scholarship, he received his Masters in Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University 2011. Saxsmo is the Founder/ Director/Coordinator of the Dr. Billy Taylor Jazz Studies Program at Virginia State University. Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation (Key To The City Award) Living Legacies 2015. Gates has played and traveled extensively in the United States and abroad in performing with such notable artists as Joe Kennedy, Jr., Art Blakey, and the Jazz Messengers, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Walter Davis, Jr., Walter Bishop, Jr., The Temptations, Dianne Reeves, Jimmy Cobb, Hod O’Brien, Larry Willis, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, Larry Carlton, Jeff Lorber, Alex Bugnon, Terrance Blanchard, Delfeayo Marsalis, Billy Kilson, Patrice Rushen, Steve Wilson, Lonnie Listen Smith, Steve Turreand The Main Ingredients.
Saxsmo credits the forefathers and Masters of Jazz for his musical foundation and passes it along every chance he gets by serving as a teacher and instructor of jazz.
Be cool // OMP is the place for peace, love, support and kindness. Critique must be requested.
Listen // Be mindful of what other players are doing. Be mindful of dynamics. It's OK to not play - music needs silence, too.
Courage // The good stuff is beyond your comfort zone. Make mistakes. See rule #1.