The first track "Marin City" is actually autobiographical, the lyrics are historically accurate. I called on my good friends and vocalists Philip Bailey, Robert Brookins, Howard Hewett and some new vocalist friends the Johnson Sisters, who were the background singers for the Isley Brothers, to help me croon.
"Wake Up And Smell The Coffee" is a situation that many musicians can identify with - I mean this is real, with a little humor (you know me!) Kim Johnson as the distraught woman - she's great, what else can I say?
"She's Amazing" is another tune in the style of "No Rhyme No Reason" but is not an extension of that story line. Chante Moore shines at the end.
"If You Will" is a pseudo Brazilian groove that features scat singing by Flora Purim.
This brings up and interesting observation for me. This is the last album I've recorded (so far) with predominantly machine drums. I programmed the drums to be if not exactly realistic, at least interesting. Even so, after this album I sought after a real drummer to execute my grooves.
"Never Be Another" was originally produced and recorded for contemporary gospel group Anointed's album. The song didn't make their album, but I always liked it, so I revised it for my album. It's a nice groove and I think a special song - in fact it is Anointed.
"Ancient Source" is another special song, maybe the precursor to "My Piano" from the Face The Music" CD. I tried to show the connection of all African derived music by including African, Jazz and Contemporary Urban musical styles all together at one time. The drum programming is fairly elaborate on this one - I like it! The song is supposed to be a musical collage.
"Only You Understand" brings my original funk rhythm section back together for another hit. The title is really fitting because in many ways only they understand how to play this music - I'm speaking of Byron Miller on bass and Ndugu on drums. Ray Fuller on guitar fits perfectly with this rhythm section because he's musically sensitive and really listens.
"If He Ain't Mr. Right---" This was a continuation of a more conversational approach to singing that I started with "No Rhyme" - it's just a different vibe.
"Sexy Cool" - I like situational songs that develop a story line over time, this is such a song. Visualize the scene, a man running into an old flame and wondering - what if, if I only---- you know!
"All About You" features Kim Johnson and the Johnson Sisters. They have that young sound that I wanted on this album. Jef Lee Johnson on guitar really adds what this song needs.
"Whatever It Takes" is an instrumental with a pop/jazz feel.
You know I think it's time to mention that this and the majority of the songs on this album have Jef Lee Johnson playing guitar. This was the first album of mine he played on and set the stage for our future work together which is still ongoing.
"The Times We've Known" was written by French composer Charles Aznivour. Charles is a national hero in France and an incredible songwriter with songs being covered by artists from all over the world. This happens to be a song that I performed in Montreux as part of a tribute to him. Obviously I put my own thing into it.
I was going through an awful time in my private life and this song really spoke to my heart. In fact, it's difficult for me to perform this song without tears.
My wife had just undergone a serious operation and there were complications. I'm happy to say that everything is OK now, but at the time I didn't know what to think and was totally depressed! I didn't know what was wrong with me at the time, but I realized later that I had to allow myself time to grieve even though she was quite alive. I didn't seek professional help because I didn't think it was that bad, but I'll tell you still to this day it does not take much thought to put me emotionally right back at that moment in time. I had to find a place to put this hurt and in many ways this song helped me through this period of time. I thank Charles and I thank God for bringing me through.
I have since had many emails, letters and phone calls about this song - believe me this song spoke to many people.
"At A Glance" is a sort of throwback to the way I used to record in the 70's. I used all my old analog instruments where one orchestrates one note at a time - no presets, no stereo synths, etc. Arp Oddysey, Mini Moog, Rhodes with echoplex, Piano, and my buddies Ndugu and Byron in the rhythm section.
This is the first CD on my BPM label and was definitely a turning point in my career. I really like this album, it has a lot of great playing by everyone and marks a departure from most of the albums I've recorded up to this point. Conceptually the idea was to use the same group of players for the entire album so there would be spiritual continuity, and I wanted to do a lot of piano playing.
I pulled together Christian McBride-bass, Little John Roberts-drums, and Jef Lee Johnson -guitar as the nucleus of the album. All the other instruments are very important, but basically used as ear candy.
"The Black Messiah (part 2)" is my dedication to my mentor Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. Blue Note records was kind enough to allow use of Cannons voice at the end - Bruce Lundvall, I owe you.
"Chillin'" is a kind of gentle smooth groove. Little John lays the law down.
"My Piano" is another musical journey from Africa to the America's displaying the connections between various styles. I love to play this one live because I've really stretched the boundaries to include the full plethora of black music.
"Guess You're Not The One" became the instrumental counterpoint to "No Rhyme No Reason". Even though they are not thematically related, they have a similar vibe and has become one of my more requested songs. In fact in Los Angeles it became a number one record at KJLH, now that's saying something for an instrumental song.
"Let's Roll" is a throwback to the music I used to play with Flora Purim, Airto, Stanley Clarke and other fusioniers. Listen to Christian on this one - whew!
"Ain't It Funky Now" came about as an accident. We were fooling around talking about James Brown between takes and Jef started playing this lick. We all joined in and started playing. As I listened back, I knew this had to go on the album so I just added an intro, horns and vocals - there it is!
"Close To You" is another situational song that is conversationally presented. It is the only complete vocal song on the album. It features my buddy Kirk Whalum on tenor sax, how perfect can it get?
"Another Way To Look At It" almost became the album title. There are several different vibes in this tune - fusion, funk, jazz - simply put, it's another way to look at it.
"Creepin'" is just fonky! Some fans have told me that it reminds them of Frank Zappa, but that's not what I had in mind. The beginning is totally off the cuff, I just started talking to Christian about a fantasy situation. Rickey Lawson let Little John use his Roland Electronic drum set for the vibe. All of us laughed so much during the vocal overdubs that we barely got through the recording process, and I think you can tell the tune is meant to be stupid and funny but with some good playing.
"Ten Mile Jog" came about as a jam session that I later orchestrated with synths and horns. This turned out to be the last tune we recorded. I said to everyone "let's play something off the cuff"- I looked at Jef and told him to start. We played about 45 minutes which I cut down to eleven minutes or so and there you have it. Airto and Shiela E move this rascal along like an out of control train. This is the only tune that Christian played electric bass - whew, check him out!
"Guess You're Not The One - vocal version" was added to the CD later. I received a lot of calls and emails from radio stations saying they would play this tune if I put a lead vocal on it. So I went back into the studio, recorded a lead vocal and added the track to further releases of the album.
My second CD on BPM has some great moments. The package also contains a DVD of two songs from my 1983 Live in Japan DVD. The album is made up of some songs that were previously destined for other projects but for some reason or other did not make. Nevertheless I knew these songs contained something special, at least for me anyway. Howard Hewett, Kim Johnson, and my new bg singer in my touring band, Shannon Pearson, handle the majority of the bg vocals.
"Trust" was originally written and produced for a relatively unknown singer who was recording an old school album. When that album was not released, I took the original track and began replacing the synth instruments with real players, starting with Teddy "oh so steady" Campbell. Alex Al-bass and Jubu-guitar round out the rhythm section which I think speaks for itself. I originally had a full vocal lyric, but decided in the end to let my piano do the talking, with the vocals simply stating the title - Trust
"I Wanna Know" was also written for the same old school project mentioned above, however I decided to sing this one. By the way the lead instrument is not a guitar, but Native Instruments Prophet V virtual synth running through Native Instruments Guitar Rig.
"Superwoman" - was originally produced and arranged for Eric Bene for the Living Single soundtrack. Having always liked the arrangement, when it didn't make the album I decided to redo the track for my album but featuring me on the piano. I sampled Eric's bg vocals and there you have it. It's a great song written by one of this generations most talented songwriters, Stevie Wonder.
"No One" was originally written for Anita Baker. She had asked me to write her a song that was similar to "No Rhyme No Reason". When the track was finished I called Rachelle Ferrell and had her write the lyrics, sing the demo, and then submitted the song to Anita. However, Anita decided not to record the song. Later, I remembered that the demo was in my tape library, so I decided to record an instrumental version of the song with bg vocals in the Chorus, and replace the basic synth instruments with real players. Christain McBride plays upright bass along with Everette Harp-sax, Oscar Brashear-trumpet, Paul Jackson and Ray Fuller on guitar.
"T-Jam" was written for the Tavis Smiley PBS radio show. I met him at an induction of Al Jarreau into the Hollywood Star Walk Of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. I told him that he should call me sometime to write a theme song for one of his shows. The next day he called, I wrote the theme song and due to the overwhelming response, I have included a longer version on this album. Soloists include Hubert Laws-flute, Evertte Harp-alto sax, Oscar Brashear-trumpet, Shiela E-perc, and Christian McBride-bass. This song was nominated for a Grammy but did not win.
"Somebody's Body" was one of my new songs - I think it's an interesting story that I've actually experienced (in my youth). Teddy Campbell on drums is absolutely amazing on this track. Jubu & PJ lay the right guitar parts down, and Michael "Patches" Stewart plays harmon mute as only he can.
"Sausalito" is a nice little Brazilian groove with Airto on drums and percussion. I grew up very close to this small town, played my first gigs there as a young musician, attended grammar school close by, took out my first date and had regular doctor visits in Sausalito. The lyrics represent what I felt about the city during those days - I have a lot of great memories.
"Saturday Night" is a jazzy "stepper" tune. I had recently lost my mom and wanted to do something for her that I thought would make her smile. She liked to dance, so I give you "Saturday Night".
"In Between The Heartaches" is a great Burt Bacharach song. Again, this was an arrangement originally written for Dionne Warwick but didn't make the album. I always loved the arrangement, so I took it and re-recorded the tracks using a Rhodes lead.
"Hybrids" track was recorded some years ago but never finished. Yeah, it's another long one, 18:26. Ndugu, Byron, Shiela E and Airto round out the Rhythm Section. The idea was to have a simple chromatic melody that would recur from time to time on my cue, everything else was improvised. Once again Jef Lee Johnson gets the call to begin the tune. I took the track and orchestrated it at a later date. It's called Hybrids because the journey that this tune takes is a hybrid of many different styles, feelings and sounds. Are you ready for the trip?
Steve Wilson and "Patches" work really well together on this tune.
"Homeland" brings my buddy Jonathan Butler back to the studio - I just love the way he plays guitar! This is an African/Brazilian groove with some bebop here and there. It's a great tune to play live because the groove is so open.
I decided to record a more traditional jazz album with the same rhythm section players for the entire CD. I chose Brian Bromberg-upright bass and Terri Lyne Carrington-drums. They are both accomplished players with a lot to bring to the musical table.
The songs are refurbished traditional standards or original songs that fit within that framework. I know this is not an album for all my fans, but it definitely has a place in my heart.
The music is mostly melodic but not overly simplistic. The players all know how to bend a melody to their will and use the chordal structure as a springboard for musical exploration.
I should also mention that I did a new version of "Sweet Baby" using piano accompaniment only. The song is at its' core a personal song, so I decided to treat it that way on this album.
The CD was recorded the old fashion way with the rhythm section playing at the same time. It was tracked in two days and completed shortly thereafter with simple overdubs here and there.
Déjà Vu is a look back at some styles that I was interested in during the early parts of my career. In some ways it’s similar to my previous album “Dukey Treats” but it is a different look back. For one thing I chose to do a lot more synthesizer playing on this album using vintage analog synths along with current technology digital synths. Second, this album ventures into some other musical areas that weren’t covered in “Treats”. A blow by blow is covered below.:
1. A Melody: this tune allows me to visit the “Brazilian Love Affair” vibe in a slightly different way. I had the opportunity to play an extended Voyager (mini moog) solo which I haven’t done in along time. I love this vibe and the vocals are definitely A Melody.
2. You Touch My Brain: actually written for the “Dukey Treats” album but never recorded. This is a real loose “Sly” kind of funk groove that I love so much. It gave me a chance to sing a simple song and though most fans are not used to hearing Ron Bruner Jr. play this way, he puts that simple spice on the drum track allowing the music to flow naturally – after all, Fonk is or is not! And Jef Lee on this track – oh my God!
3. What Goes Around Comes Around: originally written by Everette and myself for the latest Everette Harp album that I produced. With an over abundance of songs it was never recorded for his album. Now, I always liked the tune so I decided to alter it a bit and include it in my package. The melody is played by Everette on soprano sax and me on Voyager, a real nice blending of timbres. This tune may remind some of a funky type of Weather Report vibe. Michael Manson plays great bass on this track along with some tasty guitar work from Ray Fuller. I played synth bass along with computer drums, the latter being programmed to sound like a real drummer. It’s quite tasty if I say so myself!
4. Bring Me Joy: will remind some of a Stevie Wonder song. Again I played lead Voyager. I sing some easy vocals but overall allow the synths to dominate the feeling. Most of the synths are Arp Oddesey and Mini Moog – all played one note at a time to achieve a chord. The vibe solo is a played via Giga Studio, Cool Vibe patch.
5. Ripple In Time: a tribute to Miles Davis from his funky free “Tutu” period. This tune allowed me to create what has been called tone poems using various synths to create the environment. It features Oscar Brashear’s interpretation of Miles, and he did a great job. Ron Bruner is solid throughout as is Jeff Lee on guitar. I played the Marcus Miller sounding bass on this one.
6. Oh Really?: Kinda funky in an off beat way. Ron lays the beat back and we all ride the wave. Once again Jeff Lee is amazing! Larry Kimpel laid the law down on this one as well. My old Wurlitzer 140B sounds like it’s stuffed with socks – and that Castlebar Clavinet – oh boi!!! I can’t neglect that organ – whew, kinda fonky but plenty jazzy at the same time.
7. 6 O’Clock Revisited: exactly what it says. Originally recorded on my Warner Brothers album “Snapshot”. This time I wrote lyrics and changed up the groove. It’s mostly an all synth track except for Ray Fuller on guitar and me on piano.
8. Come To Me Now: a song I wrote some years ago and never recorded. I think it has a great melody and allows me the chance to play some sensitive lead piano – you know, like I like to do…
9. Stupid Is As Stupid Does: a track in the typical jazz tradition of solos by all (except the bass). I used to record these type tracks almost on an everyday basis back in the day – this is truly a Déjà Vu moment. Bob Sheppard, Nicholas Payton and Hubert Laws throw down along with a blazing Nord Lead 3 solo by me followed by a crazy Ron Bruner solo.
10. Déjà Vu: a track where the melody begins very simply and grows and grows. The tune allows me to stretch on a Motif ES8 synth guitar patch and gives Bruner a chance to shine especially at the end of the tune. Mention must also be given to Sarah Thornblade who has quickly become one of my favorite violinists. This tune will remind some of the Mahavishnu Orchestra experience and that is appropriate. A nice piece of writing I might add.
All in all a nice collection of material that I hope you grow as fond of as I am.
Another in a series of Classic CD’s to be released on BPM. This set was originally recorded as a demo at a small club in San Francisco called the Half Note Club. These recordings were mailed to various record companies in the hopes of securing a deal at the time, but Al and I were both dismissed by everyone. However I kept the original recordings in my tape library waiting until the right time to release the material. It is not the greatest audio recording but is important because it historically locks in our musical beginnings. It shows where we came from musically and illustrates how we came to be the musicians we are today - the seeds can be clearly seen. This is the first volume of two more planned subsequent releases. So sit back, relax and let us take you on a journey back through time to the Half Note Club in 1965.
1. Conversations – One: Along with Al and myself I managed to get the original band John Heard – bass, Al Cecchi – drums and club owner H. Warren to come to the studio and reflect on the atmosphere at the club and in San Francisco during those days - talk what was going through our minds at the time of these recordings, mostly we were laughing!
2. I Could Write A Book: I first became aware of this song by listening to a Miles Davis record. So when Al said he wanted to include the tune in our set, I was all smiles. As a 19 year old pianist I was still searching and learning my craft but I can see the seeds of what I’ve become – sort of (smile).
3. Satin Doll: Al and I came up with this arrangement in the foyer of his apartment where there was an upright piano in the hallway. We would work there during the afternoons when possible.
4. Al’s Pause For The Cause: ..you know, Al likes to talk
5. It Never Entered My Mind: a great song that Al sings so well!
6. On A Clear Day: one can hear our early love for Brazilian grooves in the arrangement of this tune.
7. Moanin’: one of the popular jazz tunes from the period . One thing for sure, we knew how to swing!
8. Conversations – Two: ..more conversation
9. Sweet Pumpkin: this is one of my favorite tunes of the set because it swings so hard. Al brought this tune to my attention and I’m so glad he did. 10.Best Is Yet To Come: This was one of Al’s tour de force tunes, he used to slay the audience with this one.
11. Band Introduction:
12.Come Rain Or Come Shine: another strong feature for Al. He had a real firm idea of how he wanted to perform the tune so it was just a matter of translating his ideas into reality.
13.Dat Dere: another popular jazz tune of the day that Al tears up! It was written by Bobby Timmons who ironically played piano for the Cannonball Adderley Quintet for some years, little did I know that one day I would join that line of wonderful pianists who played with this incredible band.
14. Conversations – Three: …more of that…