Episode #37 – Summary

23 Mar

Recording Date: November 1, 2007
Recording Location: Star City Recording, Bethlehem, PA

This episode of Studio Jams features highlights from two different sessions that we taped on the same day, at Star City Recording in Bethlehem, PA. Both feature an eclectic mix of players. Here is a short video sample from the first session…

* SESSION 1 *

This was a funky session, that’s for sure. Our lineup included Gil Parris on guitar (Bobby Caldwell, and others), Curtis Harmon on drums (Pieces of a Dream), Cliff Starkey on keyboards (Doc Gibbs, the Emeril Live house band), Bennie Sims on bass (The Pointer Sisters, and others), Gerard Gibbs also on keyboards and Greg Riley on saxophones.

Gil Parris

As everyone was setting up and getting ready to play, you could sense electricity in the air. There was a Hammond B3 off to the side (one we weren’t using for this session) that keyboardist Gerald Gibbs found and was wailing away on, much to everyone’s delight. Everyone was upbeat and couldn’t wait to get started. We recorded 3 tunes that afternoon, but could only fit two of them into this episode. First, there was a very funky fun take on Duke Ellington’s Caravan (see attached video link), with some terrific solos from Gil, Gerard, Cliff and Greg.

Gerard Gibbs

We also took 2 takes of an original song of Curtis’ called Carried Away. It was interesting to see the interaction among them all as they put it all together…especially how the 2 keyboard players kept finding ways to support – and not compete against – each other. There were some great solo passages in this tune as well. This session had a very cool and upbeat vibe from start to finish.

Song Names

  1. Caravan
  2. Carried Away

* SESSION 2 *

Gil Parris

After a short break to modify the studio for our next taping, we were soon ready to go. Guitarist Gil Parris stayed with us, and was joined by Chico Huff on bass, Ted Cruz on piano, Vic Stevens on drums and David Wells on trumpet. Ted was someone who reached out to me wanting to appear on the program after having seen a few episodes on television. He is a wonderful pianist and composer who performs regularly with his trio in New York. Vic is a drummer that was recommended to me by a few mutual friends. Besides being an excellent musician, Vic owns and operates a nice recording studio in New Jersey, not all that far from Philadelphia, where I tape many of my episodes. I look forward to one day recording a Studio Jams session out at his place.

Vic Stevens

David Wells was recommended to me by an audio engineer friend of mine who had recently worked with him. David was very excited to be invited to participate…so much so that he actually drove 14+ hours from his home in West Virginia to do so!

When we got started, out of default, Gil sort of took on the role of Musical Director. We recorded 4 different songs at that session, but could only use 2 of them in the final edited program. Gil suggested a cover of the theme song to the Frasier television show, simply called Frasier Theme. Interestingly, it was written by Kelsey Grammer, the actor who stars in the TV series. We recorded 2 takes of this tune. We also cut 2 takes of the Horace Silver classic Sister Sadie…with some nice solo passages by Gil, Ted and Chico. Chico has appeared on a number of Studio Jams episodes and he never ceases to amaze me. I don’t think I have ever heard him play a note that didn’t fit in beautifully with what was being played. He is simply an incredible musician…and a heck of a nice guy as well.

Song Names

  1. Frasier Theme
  2. Sister Sadie

Highlights from both of these sessions were cut together to create this episode.

– Tom Emmi / Producer

www.StudioJams.com

Episode #40 – Summary

23 Mar

Recording Date: November 2, 2007
Recording Location: Star City Recording, Bethlehem, PA

This was a very cool session – and contained everything one could hope for in a jam session – great musicians, great material and spontaneous freestyle performances. Here is how it came to be.

Oz Noy

It was time for me to produce another episode. For whatever reason, I remembered both bassist Will Lee and drummer Anton Fig telling me at different times about a guitarist friend of theirs named Oz Noy that I should seriously consider having on the show. They both play gigs with him periodically – sometimes even together – in New York. And so I thought…why not…now’s as good a time as any. I figured if both Will and Anton dig his playing, chances are so will I.

Anton Fig

So I then placed calls to both Anton Fig and Oz Noy to invite them in for the session. They both said yes. Next, I thought my friend Demetrios Pappas would fit in great on keyboards. Demetrios is an experienced Musical Director and a first-call session player in Philly. He has also been on the show a number of times so I knew he knew the drill.

I also thought this would be a nice opportunity to finally bring in saxophonist Louis Taylor. He came highly recommended by percussionist Doc Gibbs. At the time, Doc was Musical Director for the house band on the Food Network’s Emeril Live television series, and Louis was part of his band. All I needed now was a bassist.

Victor Bailey

I was starting to get a little concerned, as the date was fast approaching. It wasn’t until 2 or 3 days before the gig, while talking to a musician friend, did the name of the great Victor Bailey come up. Victor is a monster. In addition to lengthy stints with Weather Report and Joe Zawinul’s Syndicate, he has worked with some of the very best in the business including, among so many others, Michael Brecker, Hugh Masakela, Steps Ahead, Chuck Loeb, Mike Stern and Omar Hakim. I had no idea he was living in New York. I just had always assumed he was based in Los Angeles. So I quickly gave Victor a call and explained my situation. Lucky for me, despite the short notice, he was available and more than happy to join us…even though he knew none of the other players involved. Needless to say, I was thrilled…and incredibly relieved.

Here is a little taste…

They played 5 tunes that day. In addition to Stevie Wonder’s Boogie On Reggae Woman, they covered Miles Davis’ All Blues and Wes Montgomery’s Four On Six. Oz also led the group through one of his original tunes, a funky upbeat song aptly titled I’m In A Funky State Of Mind. They ended the session with a simple Open Jam, a freestyle track with plenty of nice solo passages.

Song Names

  1. Boogie On Reggae Woman
  2. All Blues
  3. I’m In A Funky State Of Mind
  4. Four On Six
  5. Open Jam

All in all…a real nice jam session…and one of my personal favorites.

– Tom Emmi / Producer

www.StudioJams.com

Episode #45 – Summary

21 Mar

Recording Date: August 10, 2008
Recording Location: Brecon Jazz Festival, Brecon, Wales

This is a 30 minute “Special Edition” International episode of Studio Jams, one that is quite a bit different from a typical episode. Rather than bring musicians into a recording studio and watch them create fresh new music, we opted instead to take viewers to a notable International jazz festival and introduce them to some of the performers who appeared there, through a combination of interview and short performance segments.

This episode took us to beautiful Brecon, Wales, and to the annual Brecon Jazz Festival. Brecon is a quaint, small market town of about 8,000 residents located in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, a small mountainous region in central Wales.

My crew and I flew in from Philadelphia to Heathrow Airport in London. We were then met by a private van from the Wales Tourism Bureau for a very comfortable 3 hour trek through the beautiful Wales countryside to the tiny town of Brecon.

Each year, for 3 days in August, the population of Brecon almost triples as jazz lovers from near and far converge on the town for the Brecon Jazz Festival. Every hotel and bed & breakfast within miles of the town are booked solid. The town is so packed that they also create a huge, temporary camping area (for tents, RVs, etc.) just outside of town for the festival weekend (think mini-Woodstock). Thanks to the kind folks at the Tourism Bureau, my crew and I were fortunate to have accommodations in a home smack dab in the center of all the activity, at 1 Buckingham Place. (We affectionately referred to it as 1 Buckingham Palace.) It was perfect.

Although certainly not one of Europe’s largest, the Brecon Jazz Festival is among the most popular – always offering a diverse line-up of International performers. The following artists appeared at the festival and are profiled in this episode:

1. Gwilym Simcock (Wales)… Gwilym Simcock is one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers on the British scene.  Able to move effortlessly between jazz and classical music, he can, at times, inhabit both worlds and has been described as stylistically reminiscent of Keith Jarrett.

Gwilym Simcock

2. Wayne Krantz (USA)…Wayne Krantz is a fusion-style guitarist with a nice, hard edge.

Wayne Krantz

3. Jools Holland (England)… Jools Holland is the most popular pianist and bandleader in the United Kingdom, and host the popular Later…with Jools Holland television series for the BBC.

Jools Holland

4. Slim Lightfoot (England).

Slim Lightfoot

5. Arild Andersen (Norway)…Arild Andersen is a wonderfully gifted bassist…in my opinion, reminiscent of Dave Holland, Steve Swallow and Ron Carter.

Arild Andersen

6. Neil Cowley (England)…Neil Cowley studied classical music at the prestigious Royal Academy in London, and by the age of 10 had performed a piano concerto to a full house at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. He now fronts a popular, critically acclaimed jazz trio.

The Neil Cowley Trio

7. John Etheridge (England)…John Etheridge enjoys a glowing reputation throughout the jazz world and has been described by Pat Metheny as, “One of the best guitarists in the world.” He is a gifted and creative player whose approach to music can only be described as ‘eclectic’.

John Etheridge

The Brecon Beacons

So if you are a serious jazz fan and would welcome a picturesque stay in a remote country town in Wales for a few days, then the Brecon Jazz Festival is a perfect destination for you. It would serve you well to check it out.

– Tom Emmi / Producer

www.StudioJams.com



Episode #15 – Summary

20 Mar

Recording Date: March 19, 2004
Recording Location: Star City Recording, Bethlehem, PA

There’s not much more to say about Chuck Loeb that hasn’t already been said. He is certainly one of the premier jazz guitarists on the scene today. Besides having a successful solo career as an artist, composer, producer and clinician, he is also currently a member of the jazz supergroup Fourplay with Nathan East, Bob James and Harvey Mason, Sr. Chuck is the kind of musician who raises the bar for everyone he plays with. I so enjoy working with him.

Chuck Loeb

Once I was able to secure Chuck for the gig, I again reached out to NYC-based drummer Anton Fig (The Late Show with David Letterman) to see if he might be available. Much to my delight, he was. Anton is also a tremendously versatile player, as he has to be on his Letterman gig where he performs with so many different kinds of musicians. He, too, is just so easy and fun to work with…and a real pleasure to feature on our program.

Jeff Kashiwa

Next, I added Jeff Kashiwa on saxophones, along with Chico Huff on bass, Tracy Silverman on electric violin, Demetrios Pappas on keyboards and on percussion, Edgardo Cintron. Jeff was someone I had on my radar for a while, so I was thrilled when he agreed to join us. It was a great and diverse group of A-list musicians. I couldn’t wait to hear what they would come up with in the studio.

Chuck kicked the session off with no real rehearsal. He and the guys just sort of fell into what became a very nice 17 minute, 1 take version of The Beatles’ classic Come Together. It featured memorable solos from Chuck, Jeff, Tracy and Demetrios. Here is a short video taste…

Next, I think it was Jeff who suggested Little Sunflower. Again, with no real rehearsal to speak of, the guys kicked into this famous jazz standard. We recorded just a single take of this song that again featured terrific solos from many, including Chuck, Jeff, Demetrios and Tracy.

We then took a short break to listen back to some of what we just recorded. After the break, Tracy suggested the somewhat challenging Tombo in 7/4. He proceeded to lead the group through 15 minutes or so of general rehearsal through the changes and the basic form. Together, they then all put together a nice, tight head arrangement.

Song Names

  1. Come Together
  2. Little Sunflower
  3. Tombo in 7/4

When it was all over, it was another great afternoon of some fresh, inspiring new music.

– Tom Emmi / Producer

www.StudioJams.com

Episode #14 – Summary

19 Mar

Session #1: June 20, 2003 at Sigma Sound Studio, Philadelphia, PA

Session #2: March 24, 2001 at Sigma Sound Studio, Philadelphia, PA

This episode of Studio Jams features highlights from two different sessions. One features the great trumpeter/pianist Arturo Sandoval…the other features keyboardist T. Lavitz, along with a few other A-list musicians.

* SESSION 1 *

Arturo Sandoval

Unfortunately, this session had to be somewhat thrown together. I had made confirmed arrangements to have the great Arturo Sandoval join us with a few of his band mates well in advance – which is my normal practice. But then, as fate would have it, I received one of those “good news/bad news” phone calls the day before the session.

The good news was that Arturo would still do the gig. The bad news was that his band mates suddenly opted out of it. Big time bummer. As a result, I had to madly scramble to line up a number of musicians for the taping. Luckily, I was still able to pull it off on such short notice. In addition to Arturo, my band for the session included Steve Beskrone on bass, Bob Farina of drums, Emedin Rivera on percussion and Dean Schneider on piano. It was good that mine was an afternoon gig. Had it been in the evening, I doubt that any of these guys would have been able to join us.

Together we cut 4 different tracks that day, and opted to use 2 of them in this particular episode. Arturo clearly led the entire session…serving as somewhat of a “latin” mentor to the rest of the group.

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo is a musical icon…a true master on the trumpet. But what many don’t know is just how incredible a pianist he is. Personally, I enjoy his piano playing as much, if not more, than his trumpet playing. His approach is aggressive, rhythmic and powerful, yet, at the same time, quite melodic.

He proved it when he leisurely sat down at the piano and so nonchalantly kicked into what is the most impressive, mind-blowing version of All The Things You Are I think I have ever heard. It was jaw-dropping incredible. We also recorded a nice take on the Fats Navarro jazz standard Nostalgia.

Song Names

  1. All The Things You Are
  2. Nostalgia

* SESSION 2 *

T. Lavitz

It’s with a bit of sadness that I now reflect on this session as it features, among others, the great T. Lavitz, who unfortunately passed away but a few months ago. T is perhaps best known as being a founding member of the powerful fusion band The Dixie Dregs (with Rod Morgenstein, Steve Morse and Mark O’Connor) back in the 1970’s. He also toured extensively as a member of Jefferson Starship and Jazz Is Dead. Drummer Rod Morgenstein also joined us on this gig.

Rod Morgenstein

For this session, I thought I would add a bit more of a rock element by adding guitarists Eric Bazilian (of The Hooters), who was also a big fan of T. Lavitz, and Joe Mass. Also added were Hector Rosado on percussion, Jay Davidson on B3 organ, Mike Boone on bass and John Swana on trumpet. In my opinion, John is truly one of the most under appreciated and gifted trumpeters in jazz…a world class musician who should be everyone’s radar.

Eric Bazilian

Collectively, they started things off with a T. Lavitz original, an upbeat tune with a standard blues progession, simply called B-flat Blues. After 15 or 20 minutes of rehearsal working out a suitable arrangement that included a few interesting rhythmic kicks, we recorded a few short takes of this song.

John Swana

But the highlight of the session for me personally was when T suggested an original ballad of his, a tune called Tears. Unbeknownst to him, it was the 1st tune I ever heard him play years ago. It was the song that first turned me on to him musically…so it was naturally a bit extra special. He sat down at the acoustic grand piano and, after working through the chart, along with just Rod on drums, Mike on bass and John on trumpet – adding color and a nice solo passage on muted trumpet – played a beautiful, flawless take of the tune. It still gives me goosebumps to this day.

Thank you, T, for all the beautiful music you have shared with me over the years…this session included. You are missed.

Song Names

  1. B-flat Blues
  2. Tears

– Tom Emmi / Producer

www.StudioJams.com

Episode #13 – Summary

18 Mar

Recording Date: March 19, 2004
Recording Location: Star City Recording, Bethlehem, PA

GE Smith

This was a fabulous session, and certainly one of our most popular. It is also one of my personal favorites. Basically, we assembled a group of A-list rock and blues players and just let them go at it. There were a total of six musicians for this one…GE Smith on guitar and vocals, Joe Bonamassa on guitar and vocals, Anton Fig on drums, Demetrios Pappas on keyboards, Chico Huff on bass and Tracy Silverman on electric violin.

It was a few hours of some great music, that’s for sure. Here is a little taste…

 

Most will remember GE Smith from his high-profile stint as Musical Director for Saturday Night Live (SNL) and his lengthy tenure with both Hall & Oates and Bob Dylan. From Paul McCartney to Eric Clapton and so many in between, GE has played with some of the very best in the business.

Anton Fig

Anton Fig can be seen (and heard) most weekday nights on the Late Show with David Letterman program on CBS, where he is part of the house band with Paul Shaffer, Will Lee and others. He has appeared on many episodes of our Studio Jams series and hits it hard each and every time. I love working with him.

Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa is a terrific young and confident guitarist, with an aggressive yet sensitive approach to the instrument. He is extremely well versed and schooled in the blues, and is a national spokesperson for Blues In The Schools. A producer friend of mine turned me on to Joe years ago, and I’m so glad he did. It has been a blast watching his career steadily grow ever since. I have no doubt that he will one day be headlining arena shows all over the world. He is that good. This was the first time I was working with him. I have had the pleasure of working with him a couple of more times since then.

Tracy Silverman

And then there’s Tracy Silverman. Well, Tracy is just one of my favorite people. Besides being a heck of a nice guy, as a musician, he is just so versatile. With his one-of-a-kind electric, fretted 6-string violin, he is a world-class player in multiple musical genres…classical, rock and jazz. He, too, has appeared on a number of our programs (Episodes #13, #15, #22, #46 and #47). I hope to include him on many more.

GE Smith

There was not much rehearsal at all during this session. It was mostly GE and Joe calling out and/or starting a blues tune and everyone else simply falling right in line. The guys just wanted to play. And play they did. It was a few hours of some great music, that’s for sure. We recorded 6 different tracks that afternoon, but due to time constraints, we were only able to include 5 in the final edited program.

Song Names

  1. Stratus
  2. You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had
  3. You Upset Me Baby
  4. Empire State Blues
  5. Highway 61 Revisited

– Tom Emmi / Producer

www.StudioJams.com

Episode #19 – Summary

16 Mar

Recording Date: July 18, 2004
Recording Location: Star City Recording, Bethlehem, PA

Charlie Musselwhite

This was a session that had a very interesting and unusual mix of musicians. First there was Charlie Musselwhite, the legendary old school blues harmonica master. Like a fine wine, Charlie has only improved with age. His life, in fact, reads like a classic blues song: born in Mississippi, raised in Memphis and schooled on the South Side of Chicago. A groundbreaking recording artist since the 1960s, Charlie continues to create great music while remaining firmly rooted in the blues. In his long and storied career, he has worked with so many different blues and rock artists…having developed close friendships with blues icons Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Joe Williams, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Besides being a wonderful musician, Charlie is an incredibly warm and honest guy – and an absolute pleasure to work with.

Next, there was Marcus Johnson on keyboards. Marcus is an extremely talented jazz composer and producer out of Washington, DC. He is an action-oriented, take charge personality – with an extremely bright future.

Luther Dickinson

On guitar, we had Luther Dickinson. Luther is the son of the late famed music producer and legendary studio owner Jim Dickinson, and an integral member of the North Mississippi All-Stars, a popular touring rock ‘n roll jam band. He brought a ton of youthful energy to the session.

Rayford Griffin

Our rhythm section was very tight…thanks in great part to our drummer, Rayford Griffin…a friend and also one of my favorite drummers. He is an exceptional musician; very versatile with monster chops. On bass was Chico Huff. Chico has been on the show a number of times and fits in beautifully each and every time, no matter who I put in the studio with him. Finally, I added Emedin Rivera on percussion…another wonderful musician and good friend.

We recorded 3 tunes that afternoon. To start us off, Marcus suggested the classic Papa Was A Rolling Stone, which was creatively built around a catchy guitar riff from Luther. After about 20 minutes of rehearsal, we cut the first of 2 takes of that song…with nice solos from both Luther and Marcus. Next, Charlie wanted to cover an old Bob Dylan tune called Pledgin’ My Time. He sang on this as well. It took awhile for everyone to get on the same page with it, but after a few minutes we were ready to record. After that, we all took a short break.

Marcus Johnson

Upon returning to the studio, Marcus suggested they try and play Windy City, a nice upbeat Rodney Franklin tune. At first, being totally unfamiliar with this jazz tune, Luther was a bit reluctant to participate and graciously tried to “sit this one out.” However, much to my pleasure, and with some natural encouragement from Marcus, he hung in there and contributed a very nice solo passage to the tune. Rayford hit it hard as well. (Not surprising though, because I believe he toured with Rodney Franklin for awhile, so he was possibly quite familiar with the tune.)

Song Names

  1. Papa Was A Rolling Stone
  2. Pledgin’ My Time
  3. Windy City

Again, this was a very eclectic mix of musicians and material…but ended up being a very, very nice and interesting session.

– Tom Emmi / Producer

www.StudioJams.com