PANAMA CITY — When smooth jazz recording artist Chris Godber isn’t playing sax at special events and concerts, you can find him in his Callaway studio working on his upcoming album.
“I’m working on a Christmas project for next year,” Chris said on a recent Thursday at Starbucks. “I started in July, but just couldn’t get into the Christmas spirit, so I’m using the spirit from this year for next year.”
You might have heard him around town at the Boatyard, Firefly, Purple Grape or even at the Festival of Trees.
I saw him playing his heart out on his saxophone at Holly Fair in November, when he previewed a few of his Christmas classics. Chris performs throughout the Southeast, including at weddings, where he and his wife, Maureen, a photographer, combine their talents.
His latest album, “My Offering,” is his fourth album to receive rave reviews, including from Scott O’Brien of SmoothJazz.com, who wrote, “If you’ve ever wondered what Kenny G would sound like if he kicked it up a notch, then you need to listen to this guy play.”
Just like Kenny G, Chris also plays the soprano sax, “the hardest to play,” he said.
But he likes a good challenge.
“People told me I wouldn’t be able to play the saxophone,” said Chris, 27. “God let me do it anyway. He used it to make me stronger.”
Chris was discouraged by teachers and doctors from playing in the band because of his asthma. But when he started middle school in Charleston, S.C., he was not deterred. He joined the band and made it to first chair sax by his eighth grade year.
“Since then, I haven’t had another lesson, learned on my own,” Chris said. “I probably sound different because I haven’t been taught, have my own thing going. Playing in church and high school, I had the ability to play by ear.”
A military brat, Chris has been back in his hometown of Panama City since high school. The band from the Family of God Baptist Church played with him on his last album and will be featured on his upcoming project.
“We all have other jobs,” said Chris, who works part-time as a respiratory therapist at Sacred Heart in Port St. Joe.
Chris can be heard playing soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, as well as drum programming, piano, bass and additional keyboards on “My Offering.” The album has four of his original songs, as well as tracks such as “Bless the Broken Road.”
“I still have asthma. People say, ‘I outgrew my asthma,’ but it kind of goes into a remission stage,” he said. “The positive pressure it takes to play the sax keeps it under control. … I live like I don’t have it, work out every other day.”
His song “Miracles” on his 2009 album, “One Breath at a Time,” is about the miracles all around us, even if “they don’t fit the mold we think a miracle should be.”
Chris was a National Finalist in Gospel Music Association’s 2005 Music in The Rockies, Estes Park, Co., and he has performed with T. Graham Brown. Last year, he signed with L.A. Sax to endorse their saxophones. When “Dancing With The Stars” came traveled through Florida, Chris also performed for them.
During this year’s Seabreeze Jazz Festival, he was playing in Pier Park, though not part of the festival.
“For the past two years, I’ve set up in the common area. I played all day long all weekend, set up a tent and sold CDs. I play as much as I can throughout the day,” said Chris, who hopes to be playing at Seabreeze’s 15th anniversary April 17-21 in Pier Park — even if he’s not at Aaron Bessant Park.
“I try to play the sax like I would if I could sing,” he said “The sax is the closest to the human voice, very melodic.”
Jazz it up
For more information about Chris Godber, including upcoming performances and wedding packages, call (850) 814-1608, visit ChrisGodber.com or Facebook.com/ChrisGodberMusic or email Booking@ChrisGodber.com. For more about Maureen Godber Photography, visit MaureenGodber.com.