Lake Norman & Mooresville

Local musician brings the sax to life

I will never forget the first time I heard the melodic smooth jazz sound of Mike Kincaid on tenor sax: It was February 2008.

My wife and I were enjoying the annual Lowcountry blues bash in Charleston. We had just completed a walking tour around the fascinating historic district of the city and were headed toward the Mills House to rejoin our friends.

As we walked north on Meeting Street, we began to hear the sound of a rich tenor sax reverberating between the buildings in downtown Charleston. Our friends told us there would be live music on the patio and gave us walking directions to the Mills House.

As it turned out, we really didn't need them. We just followed our ears as the music became louder. Eventually, we joined our group and sat down in front of Kincaid, the man who was making that great jazz/blues music with the Shrimp City Slim Band.

Was I ever surprised to find out he has been a Cornelius resident since 1998.

Kincaid plays soprano, alto and tenor sax, as well as the clarinet. Unlike many woodwind musicians, he's as good with one as the other. Therefore it's hard to believe that he never touched a musical instrument until ninth grade.

"I started late" said the 53-year-old native of Reidsville. "I was more into sports, like football, but my best friend played clarinet, and he convinced me to give it a try."

From there, Kincaid picked up the tenor, alto and soprano sax, as well as the flute, and participated in band and orchestra through his high school days in Charlotte as well as during college at East Carolina University. Although he took private lessons, Kincaid credits trombonist Bill Hanna for much of his success.

"Bill was without a doubt the most influential person in my music career. I learned so much from him," said Kincaid. Hanna's Jazz Jam Band now performs at the Double Door in Charlotte.

Kincaid went on to lead or perform with more than 25 bands between 1974 and today.

Mike's favorite instrument is the tenor sax: "You can do more with it than the others."

As for his most memorable performances, Mike remembers two distinctly:

"One was in 1992, when I impersonated Bill Clinton for a major Democratic Party function in Monroe. That was so much fun, especially knowing that President Clinton and I shared a love for the sax."

Kincaid also has fond memories of the 2007 Chicago Blues Fest, where he performed with vocalist Wanda Jackson. "We were treated like royalty," he said.

He met his wife, Cindy, in 1991, and they dated for seven years before tying the knot in 1998.

"He was a bachelor and probably planned on staying that way, since his first love was his sax," said Cindy. Since their marriage, the two have been comfortably situated in a townhome on the shores of Lake Norman.

Today, Kincaid limits his gigs primarily to weekends while holding down a position with Invensys, a major player in the technology field, during the week.

His current band, the Kingpins, consists of Rob Woods on keyboard and vocalist Mollie Saunders. Their repertoire includes some jazz, blues and soft rock, and Kincaid is always introducing new songs and arrangements to keep their presentation fresh. The band is in the midst of playing alternating Saturday evenings at Pelican's Patio on West Catawba Avenue through August.

Kincaid also will appear with the King Bees at the annual New River Blues Festival on Sept. 4 at the River House Inn near Boone.