LIFE IS MUSIC
. ABOUT ME
I started playing the piano in earnest at age four by learning "Alley Cat" and "The Pink Panther". Been a fan of Henry Mancini ever since.
Started composing at age ten. McCoy and Chopin, Chick and Lizst, Herbie and Bach. Figured out I could speed things up and skipped the last year of high school upon acceptance at the university in composition.
Funny how as I get older, I wish I could slow things down.
Music for Film, Television, Dance and other Productions (short list)
Rites of Passage
Discovery Channel documentary film on the use and rituals of body piercing around the world. Composed the soundtrack with Marco Franzoni, cinematographer.
Discovery Channel documentary film and remote wilderness areas in the Unites States.
Weekly show on AMC, GRB productions. A half hour show each week, 13 episodes, going behind the scenes with special effects wizards of cinema such as Stan Winston and his studio.
The WiIld, Wild Web, TV theme song
Parallax Productions, syndicated nationwide
The Wild Web, TV theme song
Parallax sold the show to CBS
CBS 50th Anniversary Special
With Mike Melvoin, composer. This was my first project with Mike. We went on to work together for years on several shows including First Edition, a prime time show in the 90s.
Wyatt Earp, film made for TV
With Dana Walden, composer.
Sister Cities, theme song
With Fred Kron, composer, Richard Martini, producer.
A pilot on the sister cities, Chicago and Casablanca.
My Voice Matters, theme song for a Google Hangout event
With singer-songwriters Aubrey Logan and Gary Catona.
Lone Star Heart, EP for Olivia Kuper Harris
6 songs with singer-songwriter Olivia, Rocky Maffit cowriter
A Memo To The Current Madness, music commissioned for dance, Mary Anthony choreographer
Premiered in New Your City, 1979. While getting a music comp degree from the University of Illinois, I worked for the dance department as an accompanist. Had the honor to work with the Jose Limon and Martha Graham Companies. Mary Anthony, a New York contemporary of Martha Graham was guest faculty.
The stories are from my life and travels. I’ve was keyboardist and music director for Joe Cocker for 13 years and keyboardist in the soul-funk band Tower of Power for 11 years, traveling to 70 countries over a period of several decades.
. GREG ADAMS & THE EAST BAY SOUL
In 1995 Greg Adams left Tower Of Power to embark on a solo career. He was signed by Epic Records and he released his first solo CD Hidden Agenda at the time the Smooth Jazz radio market was emerging.His first single “Smooth Operator”reached #1 on billboard and radio and records charts. Greg and Ico-wrote thee songs with Greg on the Hidden Agenda CD "Moon Over Palmilla”which hit #5 on the charts. “Yet, In My Dreams” and “Amsterdam”. We continue to write together on all of Greg’s and East Bay Soul recording projects. 2002 Greg produced “Midnight Morning” which was initially released on his own Label Ripa Records. Blue Note Records, so impressed with once again success at Smooth Jazz radio, they bought the masters and signed him to the label. On this project I co-wrote “Crosstown".
2004 Greg released Fire fly on 215 Records. I co-wrote “Just Like Breathing”, a ballad written for the trumpet. I co wrote .Afterglow”. This was written with, Kessie and Wirrick. In the last months of his life we met several times to try to get him singing again. He was wanting to do a blues album.
2006 “Cool To The Touch” was released. I had written with Greg“One Night In Rio” a samba, played keyboards and programmed the drums."Life In The Key of Blue” here, I played keyboards, programmed the bass and drums “When The Party’s Over”, another torch ballad where I played keyboards and the string arrangment.
2009 Greg started the group East Bay Soul, a bigger band with a five piece horn section like Tower. Greg’s genius was always his arranging horns and strings. Nelson Riddle, Johnny Mandel and Henry Mancini are his heroes. On the first self titled album I co-wrote “Reading Lips” featuring Tom Bowes (TOP alumni) on vocals. I brought my friend Rocky Maffit to write the lyrics and he remains our goto wordsmith to this day. I also contributed to “What’s It Gonna Be” and “I Hope” featuring Darryl Walker who is still in the band now.I played keys on all three songs.
2012 “East Bay Soul 2.0” was released. I co-wrote with Greg “To Catch A Thief”, “Brassilicious” and "Carry On".
2015 “That’s Life” came out. I contributed to “Get Smart”, “Didn’t Wanna Do It”, “Grow Old With Me”, “Earth To Mars” and “Damned If You Do”.
In 2016, I came on board to be a band member of East Bay Soul. Previously, Greg and I wrote together and I sometimes contributed to recording, but I stayed in TOP until ’99 and 2001 began my thirteen years working with Joe Cocker. In 2018, I wrote and recorded with Greg and EBS for the first time as a band member. Greg also gave me co-producer credit for our 2018 release “Conversation”. “Look Book”, “Conversation”, "Tiger Beat”, “Possibilities”, “Send” and “Where Do We Go From Here” are all among my penmanship.
. JOE COCKER
Joe Cocker and Mad Dog Touring were going strong in 2001 when I was hired to play keyboards. I remained there until his passing at the end of 2014. I became music director about halfway through, having created soundtracks for opening and closing the live show and being Joe’s pianist in situations outside of the band, such as touring with The Night Of The Proms orchestra in Europe 2004 for three months (including with James Brown, Shaggy, Cyndi Lauper and others) and performing with Wynton Marsalis and his orchestra for a Jazz At Lincoln Center fund raising concert at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, 2006 (with John Mayer, Natalie Merchant, John Legend, Bernie Mac, others…). In these later years, Joe would have me visit him at his home in Colorado, Mad Dog Ranch to prepare him for recording and then again to prepare an upcoming tour. In the last months of his life we met several times to try to get him singing again. He was wanting to do a blues album. We toured extensively in Europe, The US, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, North and South Africa, Russia, Armenia and Dubai.
The rhythm of the tour schedule would revolve around album releases about every three years—one year was busy with supporting the new release, one year moderate, and one year relatively light. During album support a full production tour would be booked across Europe involving trucking our own stage, sound and lights. The crew was about 40 people including catering and a private chef for Joe. The other way we did album support were the festival tours. We chartered a private jet, had a four or five person crew, band, management and Joe, and crisscrossed Europe, Russia and North Africa playing festivals. On these concerts we usually closed the event, playing last on the big stage, sharing rental gear with the other bands, and sometimes flying after the show to the next city to do it all again the next day.
In the spring of 2001, I got a call from my old friend Steve Grove (Euge Groove) who was the lead tenor sax when I first joined Tower Of Power in 1989. Steve went on to play sax and keyboards with Joe, Tina Turner, Richard Marx, among others and I hadn’t heard from him in years. Thus, out of the blue he asked me if I would be interested in auditioning for Joe Cocker as longtime pianist and childhood friend and bandmate, Chris Stainton was leaving. (Chris eventually went on with Eric Clapton.) I was sitting at the piano in my living room I remember and after the phone call from Steve, fifteen minutes later the phone rang again, this time from Ray Neapolitan, Joe’s personal manager. I received in the mail a five song CD to learn. Several weeks later the audition happened at Third Encore, a Los Angeles rehearsal studio. Joe was present and sang every song. After finishing the first song, “Feeling Alright” I thought, just kill me now! We then did "Up Where We Belong", “Leave Your Hat On”, "You Are So Beautiful” and “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Joe was friendly and seemed to be enjoying himself. I was in heaven. After finishing he said goodbye and walked away. Ray came over to the keyboard rig as I stood up to leave. He asked me if I could hang out and of course I said sure. As I started to walk away, he said, can you keep playing? I ended up playing the same five songs another two hours for the bass auditions.
That day was the beginning of Oneida James's on bass and my career with Joe Cocker. Gene Black on guitar and Jack Bruno on drums had been there already for years. The four of us remained the core rhythm section for Joe for 13 years, up to Joe’s passing. The last tour “Fire It Up Live” is on DVD available in Europe. The whole tour was 70 shows in five and a half months with a two week break in the middle between the production and festival runs. The DVD is shot in Cologne, Germany at the arena there in front of a sold out crowd of over 20,000. The first show of the festival run was in Stravinsky Hall at the Montreux Jazz Festival where I had played years earlier both with Joe and TOP.
. TOWER OF POWER
The first album I recorded with TOP was “Monster On A Leash” released on Epic Records in 1991. Two of the founding members were finding their recovery and sobriety in these years to which the title refers with humor. The previous album was released in 1987 and the band almost disintegrated from what Doc Kupka referred to as one’s “Controversial Personal Lifestyle.” The leader, Emilio Castillo was already 6 months sober when I was hired in 1988. Doc followed the next year thanks to the intervention of Huey Lewis who the horn section had been touring with worldwide. Huey Lewis and the News were at the height of their popularity in the mid 80s and Huey brought the horn section on board as the band floundered with no record label. With a new, younger band formed in ’88—’89, the band was signed to Epic Records. Monster On A Leash was the new release. Records sales were good. I’m a cowriter on two songs for this album, “A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing” and “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, the instrumental for the album written with founding member, Greg Adams who I still write and work with today. With “A Little Knowledge…” I was invited by the guitarist at the time, Zeke Zirngiebel to help him and his writing partner, Dana Myers, work on a bridge. Zeke and Dana had the chorus written and the verse, too, but without lyrics. After the one session when I wrote them a bridge, nothing happened for weeks. Finally I called and asked what was happening with that cool tune they started?
They were stuck on the lyrics for the verses! It took a few days but I eventually came up with the words too, for the body of the song.
It was my first submission to the band and I ended up writing as the bridge, a duet note for note between the guitar and the horn section. Later I was nervous playing it for Greg, the world renowned horn arranger for the Tower of Power horns. He listened on headphones—if I recall we were on a bus—took the headphones off and said, “Yeah. Let’s go with that.” He and I went on to write the instrumental for the album. Both songs were included in the live set in subsequent years.
The next album for me was T.O.P. in 1993. I was cowriter on four songs, “Please Come Back To Stay”, “I Like Your Style” and “The Real Deal” all with Emilio and Doc, and “Cruise Control” another instrumental with Greg Adams. A couple of stories—“Please Come Back…” is a 6/8 soul ballad like “You’re Still A Young Man” or “Just When We Start Makin’ It” that TOP was famous for. I had the chorus music written when Mimi and Doc came in. Pretty much in one session they had the lyrics for the chorus as Mimi was going through a breakup with his first wife. Later, Greg’s horn arrangement on the bridge is over the top and went over live Big Time.
1995 “Souled Out” was released. It was an honor and great experience to work with producer and keyboard wiz, Jeff Lorber. He insisted he produce and I play which was something. “Rhythm & Business” 1997. “That Was Then and This Is Now” I wrote with Mimi and Doc. “Spank-A-Dang” is an instrumental I wrote with the drummer at the time, Herman Mathews, who I work with today in Greg Adam’s band, but that’s the next story…
The last album I did with the band is a live recording at The Fillmore West in San Francisco. “Soul Vaccination: Tower Of Power—Live” I was deathly ill this night, a few days later catching pneumonia. I was in bed all day and night except for soundcheck and the gig. Not sure if we want to share that! Last year was TOP’s 50th Anniversary. They released “Soul Side Of Town.” I’m not on the album but am a cowriter on one song, “Hangin’ With My Baby.” There’s a DVD of the 40th Anniversary concert from 2008 that I’m in. Many alumni were asked to participate. At one point there were 15 horn players on stage, 4 keyboard players, two drummers. For the 50th everyone was invited, but onstage were the current band, a few extra original members and a string section and background vocal group on a riser in the back. It was an incredible show.
. BONNIE HAYES
One gig lead to the next. Introduction to Cocker came from my Tower Of Power bandmate. Tower Of Power found me in the Bonnie Hayes band in the mid 80s. The TOP horn section was touring with Huey Lewis and the News in those days.
Bonnie Hayes And The Wild Combo was an 80´s club mainstay in the San Fransisco Bay Area. A singer-songwriter leading her kickass band, a song in a film (Girls Like Me) and packing the clubs whenever she and her band were on stage—I was a fan long before I was in the band.
The Hayes family is a musical tour de force. Bon’s brothers, Kevin (drums) and Chris (guitar) were on the scene in their own right. Prior to my joining Bon’s band in ’86, Kevin and I worked for a year in Maria Muldaur’s band, touring the States and Europe. Chris Hayes was the guitarist and principle songwriter with Huey Lewis And The News. Bon put a larger band together in 1986 hiring additional background singers and a keyboard player to allow her to front the band. I came along at the right time and was that additional keyboard player. Learning Bon’s songs was a lesson in composing and arranging. In the beginning, Bon and I sat on the bench at her studio piano as she played for me. Her music is full of voice leading and non-triadic harmonies that supported each song's melody. Hooks are everywhere including in the accompaniment parts. Since that time of learning Bonnie’s harmonic architecture, I like to talk about Shapes in harmony—specific chord structure that goes beyond the information of a chord symbol.
This band recorded one album on the Chrysalis label. Here is the band photo on the back cover. This was definitely one of the best bands of my career. After the two years I worked with them, I went off to Tower of Power, Kevin went with Robert Cray and Bennie with Prince and Miles Davis, now longtime bassist with Santana.
Bonnie and her band were hired at this time to be one of the opening acts for Huey Lewis and the News during their heyday of hit after hit at the top of the charts. I’ll never forget my first time playing an arena stage—Standing at the base of the stairs behind the stage, the ceiling of the Oakland Coliseum high above, the murmur and anticipating buzz of 20,000 people all around, when all of a sudden the place goes completely black, a mighty roar erupts and rises out of the crowd in the darkness as crew flashlights spring on, illuminating step by step the stairs leading up to our ready instruments and microphones on stage. Time to rock. At present, Bonnie is the chair of the songwriting department at Berklee School of Music.