How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
Besides working and recording with my own band, I have been traveling for years with my friend Crystal Gayle as her bandleader.I just thought I'd dedicate a cd to her. I've been collecting tracks I've recorded at my home studio for the past few years and I used Crystal's studio to record some of the newer songs I've written. There is a version of one her crossover hits called "Ready For The Times To Get Better" that I'm proud of. On the last chorus Crystal's son Christos who engineered and helped me produce, makes a cool vocal appearance.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?
Besides writing and arranging the songs I think it's making use of what is possible to do in the studio.As a session player I've been recording on Pro Tools for years but in my home studio up until recently I still used a digital tape format thru my old analog board.So when I recorded the newer tracks at Crystal's state of the art studio I had to make sure that the new tracks weren't too slick sounding so they would match up to my home recordings. All the songs are recorded with live in the studio players and I didn't do any programing or sequencing.
How would you describe what inspires you to do what you do?
It's definetly playing for people... with either my own band or for other artists.For the past several years I've been playing a wednesday night gig at a wonderful little hamburger/beer bar called Browns Diner in Nashville with a quartet.I can play anything I want and it's a great place to try new material as well as the classics.But it's also a thrill to play to large crowds in theaters,arenas and outdoor festivals.
Of your touring and gigs so far in your career, do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?
I have been so blessed to have played in some of the world's nicest venues like the London Palladium,Lincoln Center,the Kennedy Center and so many casino stages in Las Vegas..I got to sing with Buddy DeFranco and the Glenn Miller Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London (we recorded a live album there).More recently I did a Christmas show at Carnegie Hall with Crystal and played alto saxophone solos with a wonderful New York orchestra.I also did a fun week at Feinsteins in New York..There's a wonderful club in Nashville that I opened in '82 with my band.It's the Bluebird Cafe and every year I host the anniversary and Christmas shows.The format is me and the band performing and backing up ten or eleven artists.Over the years we've had people like Rita Coolidge,Nanci Griffith,John Prine,Janis Ian and so many more.This June we will be celebrating the 30th Anniversery Show and I'm sure it will be a kick.
Who are some of your current favorite artists, Smooth Jazz or otherwise?
My friend Ernie Watts continues to inspire me on saxophone as well as Dave Sanborn ,Kirk Whalem,Richie Cole,Dave Koz,Mindi Abair and Maceo Parker.I like vocalists Michael Buble, Harry Connick,Nora Jones,Jimmy Hall,Donna McElroy,Crystal Gayle and the great Tony Bennett.
What would you define as the most life-changing event so far in your musical career?
I had a scare a couple of years ago when a dentist damaged a nerve in my jaw and I thought I wouldn't be able to play or sing again.After I finally fixed the problem I was determined to perform and record as much as possible because being able to make a living playing music is truly a gift. I'm one lucky guy.When I was going thru all of that a saxophone player friend of mine in Las Vegas (Thom Pastor) told me with a wink "if you are what you do and you don't...you ain't."
What would your top “desert island” classic albums be, regardless of genre… the albums you turn to time after time for your own personal enjoyment and inspiration?
"Kind Of Blue" and "Sketches Of Spain" by Miles Davis are still late night favorites of mine along with Charlie Parker's "April In Paris" and Stan Getz "Focus" album..The Beatles "Abbey Road" and "Sargent Pepper's" albums are so entertaining.There is an album I heard in high school that made me want to play alto.It's "Ray Charles Presents David "Fathead" Newman".I listen to the first track called "Hard Times" about once month to this day.There's an old Stan Kenton album I have on vinyl called "Standards In Silhouette".It was on that album that I first heard altoist Charlie Mariano play.He passed away in '09 and his playing was so incredibly moving.I have a huge collection of his recordings. I've got to say though that my very favorite album will always be Frank Sinatra's "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning".It's perfect.
Going back in your life as far as you can remember, what song or performance is the first you recall hearing and being affected by?
When I was seven I saw Elvis on his first national tv appearence..the next week my parents bought me a guitar.
What’s your favorite non-music activity?
If you were magically allowed to spend an hour with whomever you chose in history… alive or dead… and really be able to get inside their head, who would that be?
Duke Ellington,Charlie Parker,Dwight Eisenhower,John Lennon,Stan Laurel,Frank Sinatra and Grover Washington Jr. who I consider to be the father of smoothjazz music.