Gay Sax: Saxophonist Alan Darcy brings his talents to the Flamingo Resort

By : Krista DiTucci
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Tampa – Saxophonist Alan Darcy has showcased his musical talents to Florida and the rest of the U.S. for more than 20 years. Because his recent performance at the Flamingo Resort in St. Petersburg was so successful, locals can now find him there for poolside performances the second Saturday of each month.

The Staten Island native has resided in Florida intermittently since his youth. Darcy’s family experienced a great loss when his sister passed away suddenly after struggling with cancer. Darcy has used his music to help heal his own heart, as well as the hearts of his loved ones.

In an interview with Watermark, the openly gay Darcy discusses his eclectic musical style, difficult times and feeling his way to a better place.

WATERMARK: How long have you been playing the saxophone?

ALAN DARCY: Since the last century (laughing). I’ve probably been playing since before you were born. I started playing as a freshman in high school in the ‘70s, but I knew I wanted to play long before that.

I have a very vivid memory—I was in the fourth grade and we had this thing called assembly once a week where all the students would go to the auditorium for a presentation. One time they had a band with a saxophone, and it was like a laser beam went off. I remember thinking, “I like that. I really like that! I want to do that!”

Did you always have a love for music?

My family was pretty musical. My Uncle Joe was a music teacher and entertainer. He opened for Tony Bennett right after World War II in the early ‘50s. My family is Italian and Irish, so my house was always a party and there was always music. My sisters and mom were musical too. As for me, I walked around singing as a kid and wasn’t good at sports. I was always an entertainer and class clown.

Do you play any other instruments?

I play every type of sax, but I also play the flute and sing. I play guitar and piano but don’t really perform on them, I just use them to write at home by myself. I also play a little bit of the harmonica.

What do you love most about the sax?

I used to say I’m a saxophonist first, but really, I’m an entertainer who plays the sax and sings. I feel like I’m singing through the sax. I hear amazing singers like Whitney Houston hit those high notes and all the emotions come out. Sax is the one instrument that sounds the most like a human voice. And it allows me to hit the high notes I can’t hit with my voice.

When I hit those high notes, I feel like I’m soaring through it.

Do you have a favorite style you like to play the most?

I really don’t have a favorite. The alto is my favorite type of sax because the size of it fits my body perfectly. But as far as style, I’m very eclectic and it really depends on my mood.

One of my biggest heroes is Billy Joel. I love how he performs and entertains. And he is from New York. I came from that school of pop music like James Taylor and Sting. But I also came from the school of instrumental music and having the music tell a story instead of the words.

I’ve always had my feet in two different places; hopefully they come together and mix. I listen to jazz, RuPaul, dance music—all different styles. I compare it to food: sometimes you’re in the mood for Chinese, sometimes you want Italian. It’s like a big buffet to me.

Tell us about your professional journey. When and how did you get your big break?

I decided to become a full-time musician in my 20s. I moved to Florida from New York in high school. After high school, I didn’t think I could make a living as a musician, so I pursued other options. I moved back to New York and became a theater major because there was more job security, but that didn’t work out either.

I came back to Florida and got a degree in art from Florida State. After college, I picked the sax back up again. I was always wrestling with who I was—I hadn’t come out of the closet, and being raised Catholic, I had my own issues. In my 20s I came out and said, “This is who I am. I’m going to own it.”

I had to learn to love myself and accept who I was, and that’s when the music happened.

My partner was HIV positive in the ‘80s, back when it was a death sentence. He committed suicide, which was a turning point for me. It was a shock to my system.

He was so afraid to be around people and be ostracized. I woke up a couple days later and thought, “What am I afraid of?” Life is so short and fragile. That’s when I committed myself to music.

Ever since then, things have always fallen into place for me. The universe went, “Yeah, you’re ready.” I got a scholarship and went back to school at about 26 or 27. I was starting all over again and was in class with all these kids just out of high school who were so much better than me musically. And here I was, the old man at 26 having to learn how to play a C major scale again.

It was a wonderful time because all this growth came out of something so sad. It evolved from there and got better and better. People started paying me to play at birthday parties and weddings. I started playing professionally with an independent label in the mid-90s.

I don’t know if I’d say I really got my “big break.” It sounds corny, but it feels like I already have my big break because I get to make music for a living. I’m my own boss, set my own hours, and get paid to make music and have fun.

But I feel like there’s always room to grow and another place to expand to musically. It’s more about growing where you want to go. My goal is to have more fun, play for more people and get better at the craft. I’ll probably be 80 years old saying, “I want to learn that song; I want to learn that scale.”

What can we expect from your latest album, Momentum?

It’s my sixth CD that I released on my own independent label. I’m really excited about it! I got to work with some of the best national musicians, such as Ron and Dave Reinhardt, Tim George, Frank “Third” Richardson, Paul Buzine, Dominic Pages, Leah Clark, Andre Lewis, Mauricio Rodriguez, Gil “El Nino” Garcia, Mike MacArthur and Scott Simon.

I pulled the music from different times in my life. They all have a common thread to me, which goes back to the title Momentum. When my sister passed away, it was a hard time for everyone. I kind of had to start over emotionally because no one expected her to pass so suddenly.

I started meditating and doing appreciation work—every day I would wake up and write down what I appreciate, like a gratitude list with a twist. ‘I Appreciate’ is my affirmations put to music. I made my private affirmations public, which is very personal. They click with people and uplift them.

‘Requiem’ is the most personal to me because it’s about my sister and what I was going through. It’s the only ballad on the CD. The lyrics are all about her and what happened to her. I suppose writing and recording this song was a way to help me work through my grief. At the time of the CD release, my uncle and aunt passed away as well, so I wanted to include them in the dedication too.

Another very personal song on the album is ‘Feel Your Way to Better.’

It’s about having the choice to focus on what’s going right and what feels good—taking baby steps to get from a sad place to a happier one to “feel your way to better.”

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