Ross Catterton: The WAMI’S & Beyond

Ross_CattertonBy George Halas

In addition to the latest and greatest on fabulous music, artists and venues, the myriad of beneficial services The Inquisition provides includes preparation for one-upmanship.

Savvy Inquisitors know that one-upmanship is a vital skill for water coolers, break rooms, family gatherings and anywhere pitchers of beer are served.

Historical examples of one-upmanship include phrases like “I saw Robin Williams when he was still in an improv group at Off The Wall in Reseda,” and “I saw ‘Grease’ when it was still an experimental theater project at The Kingston Mines in Chicago.”

Preparation is the key, so you may want to start practicing phrases like:

“I saw Ross Catterton when he was a guest soloist with The Jazz Orgy,” or

“I saw Ross Catterton play with Kyle Megna and The Monsoons” or

“I saw Ross Catterton play solo at Mile Of Music before his CD came out” or

“Oh yeah, well Ross Catterton’s mother taught my brother-in-law how to fly.”

The Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards Show – the WAMI’s – is coming to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on Sunday, April 16th. Catterton is nominated in the “Best Reeds/Brass Player” category for his work as a saxophonist and is also nominated along with his bandmates in Kyle Megna and The Monsoons in the “Artist of The Year,” category.

“I was completely humbled to be put in a category with so many phenomenal musicians, it’s such an honor,” Catterton said. “I’ve never sought out awards in my career because my focus has always been on creating the best listening experience for the audience. So for me the way I look at it is this nomination is more so a physical affirmation of my original intention of creating a musical atmosphere of pleasure and enjoyment for the audience and fans. Whether I win or not isn’t the issue to me, but rather it’s about the contentment I feel knowing that my goal of bringing musical happiness into this world has been achieved.”

The nominations are well-earned, but The Inquisition theorizes that they are but another step in a rapidly ascending career arc that seems almost limitless.

Tom Washatka has a Producer of The Year WAMI as well as being one of the state’s finest saxophone players, composers, arrangers and recording engineers.

“I met Ross at Lawrence University the first year he got there,” Washatka said “he was a student of mine. I remember he had such a great energy. I had a sense early on he was going to make a living making music.  He just needed to find his voice, which I think he has.  We’re going to be hearing a lot from Ross Catterton.”

Michael Underwood has been honored with a number of WAMI’s – he won Drummer of The Year in 2013 (he’s been nominated five times and is nominated again this year) as well as winning as a member of The Jazz Orgy (twice), Greg Waters and The Broad Street Boogie and Andy’s Automatics. He is also nominated this year as a member of Kyle Megna and The Monsoons as well as WiFEe and The HUZzband. He recognized Catteron’s talent immediately.

“I met Ross back in 2004 in Green Bay where we had a regular Jazz Orgy gig,” he recalls. “He was underage and tried to sneak in and they kicked him out. When they finally let him in to jam, he was smokin’ from the moment he started. He has always been a great player.”

Catterton released his first all-original solo album, “Love of The Union,” in January. He recorded with Marc Golde, WAMI-nominated as Studio Engineer of The Year, at his Rock Garden Studio in Appleton, nominated for Studio of The Year.

“The album went through several permutations, but my end decision was to create an album that by myself – an aural slice of what I’m capable of as an artist musically, creatively, lyrically, and from a production standpoint as well – that I can recreate live,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that the audience hears on the album what they can hear live. I’m really happy with the end result. Marc Golde did a fantastic job recording it, and my friends Jon Wheelock and Mike Underwood who I initially recorded with for a full studio album were very instrumental in producing my sound once I made the decision to record it solo. It’s really satisfying as an artist to have an aural representation of yourself that embodies your artistic intentions.”

When he performs live, Catterton uses looping technology that enables him to play saxophone, guitar, bass, percussion and sing simultaneously.

“The album sounds great. It’s awesome,” Underwood said. “I feel like it definitely showcases his talent in a lot of different areas, how versatile he is.”

An Appleton native whose teachers and mentors include Washatka, John Harmon, Steve Jordheim, Mike Hale and the late Fred Sturm, Catterton has moved to Nashville to continue his career, where he hopes “to become an established, respected, and self-sustaining musician in this new city,” but he will be back to perform at Mile of Music this summer.

“I do plan on playing at MOM again this year – the response I received last year was astounding,” he said. “I have been using the album as a sort of business card since my relocation to Nashville and have been very pleased with its reception. Since I moved in January I’ve been on two tours and have been back up to Wisconsin twice so I really haven’t done that much canvassing, but the spring is looking very promising. I’ll be updating my website with more dates as I book them.”

In addition to his wide range of superb musical skills, Catterton is charismatic and has the chops to be a stand-up comic if he so desired. He is committed to putting all of his gifts into play.

“This is quite lofty, but (my career goal is) to be someone who shifts the course of music, someone that impacts it in a way that whatever follows can be traced – obviously with some scholarly discussion – back to my influence,” he said. “This album has given me a focal point from which to pursue and gauge future trials and successes. I’ll continue to create, explore, improve, and refine the music that I’m so glad my friends, family and fans have come to enjoy.”

You can get a copy of and/or download the CD at his website or at

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