Any song I’ve ever written that I felt was good enough to share with music lovers, in a room, or in a club, or over the media, begins with a feeling of something that wants to come through from a dimension far greater than the mind. All I have to do is to allow this to happen and write it all down. Whether I hear a lyric first, or a melody that I can tease out of a guitar, I continue to experiment with what comes through.
By experiment I mean making refinements to the original idea, until I feel I have something I can expose to my musical colleagues and get them involved. I feel blessed to have musician friends who are so gifted that, when I present something to them, they generally respond by taking up their instruments and begin to tinker with the tune. At this point I can go with the flow – working off their ideas and adding more of my own.
It’s a wonderful, whacky process that never ceases to amaze me and for which I feel tremendous gratitude toward all who are involved, each step of the way. If something particularly good comes out of all this and the tune makes it to the studio, that’s where the real magic happens. Now, if someone hears this piece of music and he/she really digs it, then this is how the love comes full circle.
Rewrite the website. New Technology.
The Journey. Promo.
Oakland’s own LaTanya Carmical, joins the growing list of talent on this project and gives us a soulful, passionate and wonderfully bluesy vocal performance on a tune we aptly name “So E-Sensual”. As the ‘round up’ continues, Stevie “Keys” reels in our friend and muscled-up musical talent, Rich Lewis (originally with Little John)bringing him back into the ‘fold’, trombone totin’ and rarin’ to blow, which he does today – better than ever.
The Regency Benefit Concert. San Francisco.
CMI Studios. Barbados.
The first time John hears trumpeter Dave Scott (formerly with Boz Scaggs) playing a jazz set with Fundz Jazz, he knows he is in the presence of pure genius. When John invites Tom to hear Mr. Scott and Tom is equally mesmerized, we realize we have just the right man to take the lead on the haunting ballad, “Lady Friend”. As Mic might say, this track is pure 'ear candy'. From Fundz Jazz, we 'borrow' ‘kick ass’ drummer, John Xepoleas and powerhouse bass guitarist Marc Levine who with master percussionistJohn Duarte, rounds out our rhythm section. Johnny X, when not drumming, writes books to educate up and coming drummers, receiving a host of scholarly accolades along the way.
While on a trip to the island of Barbados, dear friend Cicely introduces us to Anderson Ward, "aka" Mr. Impact”, who’s performing at the Waterfront Café in Bridgetown. Inspired by the the hugely entertaining 'Mr. Impact' and the sheer beauty of this Carribean island, John heads home where, encouraged by his wife and frequent traveler to the Caribbean, Sandy, writes a song that bounces along in a convincing island style with a melody and lyrics tailored to Impact's style of laid back Calypso. Back in Bridgetown, with digs close to the beach and with a plentiful supply of Cockspur, John, Sandy and producer Tom Size make the final arrangements to record Anderson at CMI studios. The result? This homage to the island life, "Two Lovers As One", grown organically out of a mix of friendly people, blue sky, sun, sand and clear blue-green water. Island music is steel drum music and Tom, who had previously recorded an album with brother Andy, invited the supremely talented Jeff Narell (George Benson, Olatungi, Bobby McFerrin, The Grateful Dead) to create the ‘real steel’ sound and vibrant feeling tones that places this tune firmly on ‘island time’.
Through Mike, we brought together Dawn Coburn and LeeAnn Christopherson, two virtuoso vocalists in their own wright. 'Les Girls' can sing like wild women, or angels (depending on the mood of the track, of course). While the project continues to build up steam and courtesy of Tim and Stephen at 'Nuts and Saddles' John is introduced to British rock guitar superhero Guthrie Govan (Asia, the Aristocrats) at the 2010 NAMM show, bringing John full circle back to his original UK guitar roots. So, what do you say to a man who knows his way around an electric guitar, the way few of us humans are ever likely to? Would you, could you, kind sir, adorn some of our tracks with your masterful guitar wizardry? Fortunately, he's a true gentleman, very approachable. When we asked, he simply said 'yes'!
Mic recruited some of the finest horn players on the planet Marc Russo (Doobie Brothers, Yellowjackets), Johnnie Bamont (Huey Lewis, East Bay Soul, The Sons of Champlin), plus TOP bandmates,Stephen "Doc" Kupka and Tom Politzer to blow on our tracks. Meanwhile, John enlisted close friend and mentor Mike Williams, the gifted Bay Area guitar great along with another longtime friend, well known for his prodigious keyboard chops and impromptu stand up comedy, John R Burr (Alison Brown, Maria Muldaur) to join the expanding ensemble. When you listen to the tracks, you're grooving to their collaborative rhythm section arrangements. Any artist making music today knows the importance of choosing the ideal singer to make the songs ‘work’. Ross, in a stroke of genius and knowing full well the style of the music we intended to make, recommends Alex Ligertwood, the unmistakable voice of Santana for over 16 years. John and Stevie Keys place the call to Alex that intrigued him enough to come up from Santa Monica, listen to what we had ‘in the can’, and maybe(??) sing ‘one or two’ songs. Which, he did, making a bold statement while imprinting his signature style on the first of our songs. The next time Alex came up from L.A. to sing 'one or two more songs', we needed some powerhouse backing singers to match his full on vocal pyrotechnics.
John's progression as a songwriter has been a step-by-step evolution from writing lightweight, wry songs about girls, rebellion, angst and disillusionment to lyrics that instead, express his immersion into the many dimensions of what it means to be truly awake and aware as a human being. John turned to many of the East Bay's most creative spirits to help interpret and bring his new material to life. Midsummer, 2009, “3 Amigos” and lifelong friends, John, Journey bassist, Ross Valory and Stevie "Keys" Roseman (Mickey Thomas, Cold Blood, Little John) kicked off this new musical adventure. Ross brought on Tom Size, the legendary Bay Area sound engineer to record our music, while Stevie Keys called on friend, brass player supreme and Tower of Power alumnus, Mic Gillette to form the horn section and write the horn arrangements.
When John came to California, he was introduced to some amazing sounds coming out of the Bay Area, mainly funk, jazz, soul and R&B. He made a point of getting to know some of the musicians who were the creative force behind the music. From a warehouse location on the High St. in Oakland, CA, John formed the horn rock band 'Little John', forging original material with all of its rough edges, raw energy and power exposed on two (hard to find) albums for Epic records. The best material of all is contained in a live-in-the-studio recording. The original tapes, which were the recording media of the day, were destroyed in a flooded garage in a little Northern California town name, Lincoln
In England, John received his music education at the hands of some of Britain’s best known rockers and by playing sweaty, boisterous clubs located in London’s East and West ends. It didn't take long for John to realize that, in spite of his deep attachment to the guitar, the eyes of the world were on Jimi, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and the list was growing. In John's words, 'I couldn't distinguish my playing style from a host of other guitarists all of whom were equally influenced by these greats.
John writes songs that are deeply rooted in the tradtion of East Bay funk, soul and R&B. John is a transplant to the Bay Area from Central Africa via England and Europe.
CMI Studios. Barbados.
Project Kick Off. 3 Amigos.
Mic Gillette has distinguished himself, once again, as the arranger and horn section leader on every album track featuring'the big band' horns, with one exception, 'Big Shot Boogie' arranged by Rich Lewis. Mic and funk go together like hand and glove, which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows his legend-making work with the Tower of Power. Listen to 'If Seeing Is Believing', or 'So E-Sensual' and there's no denying who's the author of those awesome lines.
Mic is best known for 40+ years of stellar horns work with Cold Blood, Tower of Power, and the Sons of Champlin. But not as many people realize that he has appeared on countless albums and CDs for some of the biggest names in the music business--Santana, The Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow, Doobie Brothers, Quincy Jones, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Jefferson Starship, Huey Lewis and the News, and numerous others. Mic also enjoyed a brief stint with Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Mike Williams donated his time and talents to this project, from its inception. Mike helps John to 'tease out' the harmonies that underlie the melody and captures the result in a tool that formats and prints lead sheets. Mike has the uncanny ability to lead workshop-like rehearsal sessions and coach all the players on how to make the most of each arrangment.
Mike Williams began teaching privately in 1971. His lessons focus on technique, theory and repertoire. Styles include classical, blues, jazz, and classic and contemporary rock. Several former students are enjoying recording and performing careers including members of Counting Crows, 50 Cent, Michael Buble’s band, and The Posies.