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Definitely David... Jazz saxophonist David Caceres is a quiet, reserved 29-year-old. But when the occasion calls for it, he can be assertive and self-assured. Take, for example, when the conversation turns to the snobbery that often pervades his field, frequently under the guise of purism. For Caceres, "purity" isn't the issue; what matters, he says, is "the integrity of the music -- and I like a lot of music."

No doubt about that one. As anybody who's caught Caceres around town knows, he enjoys dabbling in a bit of everything -- from traditional swing to hard bop to horn-driven soul to cocktail jazz with vocals. And while such eclecticism might seem considerably less daring in the wake of Harry Connick Jr.'s popular success, it could still get Caceres into trouble with a core jazz audience that has a keen sense of rules and boundaries. Not that Caceres seems concerned. He's too busy to worry himself with restrictive nonsense.

Among his many duties around Houston, Caceres most recently lent his alto sax to CDs by Joe LoCascio and Tod Vullo, and he spends many an evening sitting in with a variety of artists -- jazz and otherwise -- on stages in Rice Village and elsewhere. You can also catch Caceres with the brassy, good-time soul/R&B outfit TKOh!, my pick -- with apologies to Press Music Awards winner Global Village -- for best local horn section.

While such distractions can make it difficult, Caceres is trying for the moment to stay focused on himself. He has his own self-named trio and quartet, and you can see both this week -- the trio Thursday at the Velvet Elvis and the quartet Saturday at Ovations. And late last year, Caceres released his debut CD, Innermost, on the local Mayfly label. Innermost is an engrossing hodgepodge, a work with a host of moods and mannerisms -- but again, it's not the sort of thing that's likely to light a fire under too many purists' butts.

Tempting fate, Caceres is also having a go at managing himself. It's been a Herculean task trying to convince the jazz labels in New York and Los Angeles that his fluid sax work, charming vocals and catholic taste in music could reap dividends outside of Texas.

"I haven't had any luck so far," Caceres says over lunch recently at a Galleria area restaurant. "I've sent about 20 packages to management companies and record labels; these people get maybe 100 packages a day. I called Verve Records, a big jazz label, and they asked me if I was the artist or the manager. I should have just said I was a manager, but I told them I was the artist, and it was like: 'We don't deal directly with the artist.' Click."

Really, Caceres ought to know better. He has family history to look back on -- his grandfather Emilio Caceres was a well-known violinist and leader of a popular swing orchestra in the '30s and '40s, and his great-uncle Ernie Caceres was a reed man of the highest order who played with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Woody Herman -- and he was trained at Boston's highly regarded Berklee School of Music. He then took his lumps in New York City, living at poverty level most of the time and playing little.

In 1991, numb from his East Coast adventure, Caceres returned home to San Antonio. After licking his wounds a bit, he hit the cover band circuit along the River Walk. But Caceres was soon bored in the Alamo City, and when Houston jazz ambassador Paul English offered him a ticket out, he took it. Bassist Jim Kalson, a friend from San Antonio who played with English, had put in a good word, and before long, Caceres was driving to Houston weekly to perform. By the fall of 1992, the saxophonist was in Houston for good as a member of English's quartet. "That was a great experience for me because I'd never had a regular gig with such high-caliber musicians," recalls Caceres. "I mean, they were playing Chick Corea and stuff like that. It really busted my ass."

Soon after his arrival, the networking began. Now, more than three years down the line, Caceres is one of a handful of high-profile jazz artists in a city where, to be honest, that distinction isn't what it could be. Houston is no New York -- or no New Orleans, for that matter -- but that's fine with Caceres.

"The jazz audience is pretty small," he admits, but still, compared to Caceres' unswung hometown, the Houston jazz scene is paradise. "It's a small scene," Caceres says. "But it thrives in its own way, and people support it."

Etc.... The Blue Iguana has a peppy alt-rock lineup slated for the weekend: Truth Decay and El Flaco perform Friday, and Dune, TX, Milkweed and Code 4 triple-up Saturday. The Abyss competes for the moshers' attention with its own end-of-the-week soiree. Friday, it's a bangerfest with Christian Death, Switchblade Symphony and Big Electric Cat; Saturday is slightly more sane with 57 Farm Dogs, Hip Sent Oscar and High Speed Death Trap. Bring your steel-toed boots, just to be safe.

-- Hobart Rowland

 
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