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Eric Darius ready to bring the love to Yoshi's

Eric Darius
Eric Darius
Eric Darius

Most professional musicians experience the eureka moment: that instant when they decide they're going to dedicate their lives to performing. Such epiphanies often occur in the most mundane settings, such as walking home from school or in the sweaty heat of a garage-band rehearsal.
Eric Darius had his eureka moment, but he did it right. The saxophonist made his decision at age 11 while onstage at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Darius had come to the famed Swiss festival as part of America's Youngest Jazz Band, an ensemble whose members ranged in age from 5 to 12. The group played before an appreciative crowd on Montreux's main stage.
"That experience changed my whole outlook on music," Darius told me in an interview a few years back. "I started taking it seriously."
Darius performs what’s being billed as a “special pre-Valentine’s show” February 13 at Yoshi’s in Oakland.
Born in Livingston, N.J., Darius was raised in a musical home - his father plays bass, mom and a sister sing, and an older brother plays drums and trumpet. Darius received a saxophone for his 10th birthday and a year later had his onstage epiphany.
He began composing at age 14 and studied at the Blake High School for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Playing with the school's ensemble took Darius to New York and Japan and gave him the opportunity to jam with Wynton Marsalis and Paquito D'Rivera.
From there, he enrolled in the University of South Florida, and as part of its jazztet, traveled to festivals in Italy and France. In 2001, Darius independently released his debut album, "Cruisin' "; for the follow-up, 2004's "Night on the Town," he signed with Higher Octave. More recent releases include “Just Getting Started” (2006), “Goin’ All Out” (2008) and “On A Mission” (2010).
Darius' professional life for a time followed two tracks – his solo career and his position as saxophonist for keyboard star Brian Culbertson.
"I met him in California," Darius said. "I just gave him a CD and a business card. He just happened to be looking for a saxophonist at that time, and he called me back in just a few days."
Playing with Culbertson is just the high-profile gig a rising contemporary jazz star covets. For Darius, it also brings him closer to realizing the goal he set for himself onstage in Montreux.
"It just brought so much joy to me," he recalled of that performance. "And I realized how much joy it brought to other people."

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