I don't know how to describe Rob Scheps other than to say that he's larger than life and has a seemingly boundless supply of energy. He was a child prodigy and as an adult he is a virtuoso. Bob Mover once said to me something like," I've got some great technique but Rob's a got the technique of a monster." Kenny Brooks first introduced me to Rob when Scheps needed a lead-alto for his True Colors big band in Boston. Kenny told me that as a freshman Rob cornered him and pulled him into a practice room in order to check him out, then Rob proceeded to cut him to shreds in an impromptu tenor battle. I ended up playing in Rob's band for about three years. It was truly smoking. Here's an image that sticks out in my mind from twenty years ago- Scheps dressed as a giant carrot in Harvard square scaring passers by playing Giant Steps on his sopranino. Some of the great players in the True Colors band were John Medeski, Anders Bostrom, Kenny Brooks, Donny McCaslin, Dave Finucane, Doug Yates, Wesley Wirth, Mark Taylor, Curtis Hasselbring, Dimitri Metheny, John Carlson, Andy Gravish, Jay Branford, Josh Roseman, and John Dirac. The instrumentation had saxes, flute, tuba, bones, french horn, trumpets, and rhythm section so we rarely made more than ten dollars a gig. .
Scheps has recently left the comfort of Portland for the east coast, although he still pops into town for gigs on occasion. A few years ago I had the pleasure to tour with Rob's Jazz-Funk project called Magnets! This group features the great electric bassist Kim Clarke and drummer Ronnie Burrage (who lives up to his name). He also brought Gary Smulyan to Portland and we played Gary's great book written by Bob Beldon for a sax section with rhythm section plus Gary as solo bari sax. This project was called Saxophone Mosaic. I also played in Rob's freaky Salon D'Refuse band for a few years here in Portland as well as doing some gigs with his big band.
Scheps always has some new project happening and his energy level and dedication to his music is unsurpassed. He is really scary when he gets that horn in his mouth.