Alto Reed, born Thomas Neal Cartmell, was a legendary saxophonist best known for his long-standing collaboration with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. His energetic performances and unforgettable saxophone solos contributed significantly to the classic rock sound of the 70s and 80s.
Born in 1948 in Detroit, Michigan, a city renowned for its music scene, Reed developed an early passion for the saxophone. His unique stage name, Alto Reed, was reportedly chosen for its musical connotations – ‘Alto’ being a type of saxophone and ‘Reed’ a crucial component of the instrument.
Reed’s career took a major leap forward when he joined Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band in the early 1970s. His saxophone solos became a defining element of the band’s sound, contributing to their distinctive blend of heartland rock and soul. Reed’s most iconic solo is perhaps the haunting and instantly recognizable introduction to “Turn the Page”, a track that encapsulates the spirit of the road-weary musician.
Throughout his career with the Silver Bullet Band, Reed’s saxophone lent emotional depth and texture to numerous hit songs, including “Old Time Rock and Roll” and “Mainstreet”. His performances were marked by his ability to embody the music fully, often dancing and moving with his saxophone on stage, creating a visual spectacle that complemented his musical contributions.
Beyond his work with Bob Seger, Reed also performed with a variety of other musicians and bands, demonstrating his versatility and adaptability. He played with blues legend Willie King, contributed to the soundtrack of the film “Urban Cowboy”, and even shared the stage with pop superstar Lady Gaga.
Reed’s impact on the world of saxophone extended beyond his performance career. He was dedicated to music education, frequently conducting workshops and clinics to help aspiring saxophonists develop their skills. His teaching philosophy focused on the importance of emotion and expression in music, emphasizing that technical prowess should serve the music, not the other way around.
Reed passed away in 2020, but his legacy lives on through his memorable performances and his influence on future generations of saxophonists. His unique sound, dynamic stage presence, and deep commitment to the art of the saxophone continue to inspire musicians around the world.
Page last updated 6/18/2023.