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Portrait of an Artist: Danny Little ’22

October 14, 2022

Alex Spear
SAXOPHONE SEND-OFF Renowned jazz saxophonist Danny Little ‘22 will graduate at the end of this semester. He has long been a staple of the Bowdoin community not only for his playing but also for his compositions.

If you were to poll members of Bowdoin’s music community on who among their peers they want to play with most, one name would appear with greater frequency than the rest: Danny Little ’22. The second-semester senior started his musical career young, playing classical piano. The keys and straight rhythms didn’t last long with Little who picked up clarinet in seventh grade. Although it is now a familiar sight, it wasn’t until tenth grade that Little got a saxophone in his hands.

“My jazz ensemble director said, ‘You don’t sound very good on clarinet, you should switch to saxophone,’” Little said. “That’s when my interest in music and jazz got a lot deeper.”

Guitarist Maggie Broaddus ’25, who has played with Little in various jazz combos on campus, explained the reasons behind Little’s prestige.

“He’s so melodic,”  Broaddus said. “He’s very intentional with his playing and super humble too and he just makes space for other people.”

Last spring in Studzinski Recital Hall, Little performed eight of his own compositions for his senior recital. Broaddus, who played in the recital band, put into perspective the scope and tact of his undertaking.

“[His compositions] had such a range, beautiful ballads, weird modal songs, to even some bluesy stuff. I was so impressed by how he pulled it all together, composing parts for instruments that he doesn’t play,” Broaddus said. “[His compositions] are complicated, but not in an obnoxious way. They’re not just full of jazz cliches.”

The range in Little’s songs is reflective of his varied writing processes. He explained that at times he builds chords around a melody while at others he does the reverse.

“One song started with just a bassline,” Little said, emphasizing the fluctuation in his composing.

Little collaborated with the recital band in the final portion of his composition process. The saxophonist was open to the band making adjustments and filling in blanks.

“Everyone brought ideas to the table,” Broaddus said. “One of the things I respected was he was so open to ideas and I know [pianist] Johnny Liesman ’22 gave him a lot of input on his stuff and he took it all.”

Little left the recital feeling fulfilled, a feeling that he was not expecting.

“Something I’ve heard from other musicians online is that if you have a really big performance, you often feel really empty after the fact and you fixate on all the things that could have gone better,” Little said. “To my surprise, I’m the opposite. I was incredibly happy with how everyone played. I thought we had a really good connection amongst the band on the [night of the performance].”

Little’s selfless nature can be seen not just in his composing but also in his playing. Broaddus explained that the jazz combo class she is in this semester with Little lacks a bass player, an essential piece of the rhythm section that is found in almost every jazz band. However, Little makes up for the shortcoming by stepping outside of the usual role assigned to horn players.

“When I’m soloing, he supports me, he plays stuff to support my playing and that’s not typical of a saxophone player,” Broaddus said. “He makes everyone else sound good too, which is huge.”

Little touched on his post-graduation plans.

“I’m not going to do music for a living,” Little said. “I definitely think I will play music in my freetime, and I will try to be in groups wherever I end up living, just on the side for fun.”

Little instead plans to pursue a career in computer science, another field that he thrives in. Although his absence will certainly be felt on campus, he is confident that Bowdoin’s dedicated music community will continue after he graduates.

“It’s great to see that there are underclass students who have a lot of passion to keep student music going. That makes me feel confident that the good community is going to continue,” Little said.


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