Warning, Warning!! Boring life history, read at your own risk!
I’ve been playing music all my life, especially jazz and blues. Some highlights of my career include the creation of one of the first Multimedia albums with Michael Nesmith, a Columbia album with Latin-Jazz artist Willie Bobo, and several years of study at the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in Marin County.
I’ve played Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Montreux, the Northsea Festival, the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz festival and the Monterey Blues Festival, plus many smaller venues. I’ve been a member of the Musician’s Union for over 25 years, currently a Life Member of San Francisco Local 6 (after a merger with Local 153 in San Jose, after a merger with the Monterey Musician’s Union.)
In my ‘jazz’ hat, I play a variety of styles from swing to avant-garde, but my strongest format (IMHO) is post-bop mainstream.
As a blues artist, I’m most comfortable in organ-based jazz or funky blues (Jimmy Smith era) although I play rock and ‘roots’ styles as well.
My electronic compositions cover many styles and techniques. Much of what I do falls into the category of what I call Electronic Impressionism, music that is harmonically rich, with programmatic themes and a tendency to build in emotional and technical intensity.
|502nd AF Band||Biloxi, MI||Piano, percussion
I’m not really sure what to say here. Some great musicians, some terrible ones, one anti-music Warrant-Officer-In-Charge and a second-in-command with some jazz sensibility but not much authority. Example: We practiced Stravinsky’s Berceuse and Finale from the Firebird exactly twice before performing it (the piece contains many complicated counter-rhytmns and odd meters which virtually nobody in the band was comfortable with, and the performance was, predictably a disaster. Meanwhile, we spent two months(!) preparing a piece entitled Parade of the Cliches, which our fearless (and clueless) leader agonized over, making sure every corny line, from Shave-and-a-Haircut to the theme from The Andy Griffith Show was absolutely clear and “perfect.”
|The Bachelors and the Debs
||the Southeast, New Jersey, Thule Greenland||Electric Bass, Piano, vocal(!)
This was a show band (cocktail drums, piano, sax, singer, tap dancer(!) and electric bass) who needed an electric bass player in 1963. I had never seen one, except on the Ed Sullivan Show, but I knew the notes from playing a tiny bit of guitar, and their music was all root-five two-beat or simple walking lines, so I got the gig. We bought the only electric bass and amp in Biloxi Mississippi and headed East…
|Island Hoppers||Miami||Electric Bass
When the show band split up, I drove to Miami and decided to sell my bass (after all, I am primarily a keyboardist…) Dropped into Ace Music, Miami’s premiere music store, and told the kid behind the counter that I wanted to sell my bass. “You play that thing?” “Yeah, I didn’t steal it…” As it happened, his band needed a bass player, and I started playing with a group that had no name other than that of the bandleader,Jamaican dreadlocked guitarist, Bobby Waters, who occasionally used the Island Hoppers name when asked. Here I met baritone saxophonist Bob Dingwald, who introduced me to raga and the music of Ravi Shankar, and pulled me through several moves and changes in my life (all the way from Miami to Hartford…)
|Sam and Dave||Miami, North Florida||Electric bass
Bob got the two of us a gig with Sam and Dave, who had just changed from a trio to a duo and were going on a tour of North Florida to release their new song, “Got A Thang Goin On.” (At least that was how we were told it was spelled and pronounced, the record company apparently corrected the grammar.) We played several showrooms. The band was killing, the singing powerful and moving – but this was 1963 and North Florida was not comfortable with mixed-race bands. Sam and Dave regrouped, went back out and became the masters of soul you know, Bob and I soldiered on, pushing da funk…
|Double Decker Lounge||NW 79th St.Miami.||Piano Trio
I was also doing pick-up work as I could – l actually played a week at a “dime-a-dance” club featuring women in their sixties hustling men in their eighties. But I landed a gig at the Double-Decker, an upscale circular bar sporting two levels, with the piano, bass and drums in the center on a pedestal.
The back room was the showroom, and only open weekends. There was this B3 just – sitting there, so on my breaks, I’d go back and re-acquaint myself with it. Just in time for…
|Dizzy Jones||Mary Elizabeth Hotel, Miami||Hammond Organ, show band
Next, Bob got us a gig at one of the hottest of Miami’s black night clubs. The front room featured a magnificent pianist, Noel Cruz (if memory serves). Wonderful, short, heavyset, a Buddha sitting at the piano playing truths. World-famous pianists would drop by to listen (I once got in a gentle argument with some patron about the use of major sevenths in jazz – who turned out to be Tommy Flanagan. My apologies, Mr. F, I was really young and dumb. At least I’m no longer so young…) Meanwhile, the 9-piece show band burned in the back, as I played my first gig on organ, getting the dancers going and playing behind second-line acts like Chuck Jackson.
|Melvin Smith and the Nite Riders||Hartford||Hammond B3 Soul and R&B
(I’ve left out a large part of getting to Hartford,all that matters is the couple months I spent in the organ bars in D.C., learning to play bass lines.
|“Spider” Martin||North East Coast||B3 – Chitlin’ circuit jazz and blues
This was my true school of organ jazz. Spider was a Lionel Hampton alumnus, and his drummer, “Tombstone” was a rock-solid rhythm machine that taught me how to NOT play organ bass. To complete (or at least augment) my education, Jimmy McGriff would come sit in whenever he was in town…
|Dan Brown and the Dynamics||Baltimore||B3 – Chitlin’ circuit jazz and blues
When I joined Danny, we started by playing Club Les Gals, a 24-hour, 7-day strip club in Baltimore, but wound up in a local organ room playing some very fun jazz and soul. Shirley Scott’s brother on sax, a great audience and great music! This is where I wrote Big Greasy Elephant known at the time as Ye Olde Eleven.
|The gig that never happened||Brownsville, PA||B3 – the other option
When I decided to leave Baltimore and study sarod, I needed to supplement my income in order to make the move (and haul a Hammond from Baltimore to San Francisco.) I took a gig with a terrible band, name mercifully forgotten. Their style was the East Coast’s answer to Louis Prima and the Vegas Shuffle. After the first set at this gig, the club owner came rushing up to me, almost unintelligible in his praise – greatest organist he ever heard, I was even better than (at this point, I expect the usual – and incorrect – comparisons to Jimmy Smith) – better than Richie Varola! (Who?) The organist with – Andy Angelucci! Like I was supposed to know the name. OK, whatever…
So off I went to San Francisco, checked into a cheap hotel to figure out my next move. The third day in San Fran, I get a call – from Andy Angelucci! Richie Varola was leaving to join Sam Butera and The Witnesses and he wanted me to replace him. I said no thinks, I was here to study sarod, but how in hell did he know where I was? (Italian-owned hotel…)
|Ali Akbar College of Music||San Francisco Bay Area||Sarod
I moved to San Francisco in 1968 to study sarod with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. This was undoubtedly the deepest, most meaningful course of study in my life. For the first time ever, I actually practiced at least four hours a day, usually more. But the demands of the music meant, to me, that I not play “Western” music while trying to assimilate a vastly different way of experiencing and playing. So I stopped playing keyboards and listening to American music entirely during this time. When I eventually came to the conclusion that I could not find a day gig I could stand, I reluctantly left the school and went back to jazz and R&B. But I still consider Hindustani Classical Raga the highest form of music that we, as a species, have evolved.
|Bert “Wheels” Wilson||Berkeley, Big Sur||Piano, organ – Avant-garde and mainstream jazz
“Recovering” from raga, I met Bert and dove back into serious jazz. The next phase of my journey began here. Bert, until his passing in 2013, was a very accomplished saxophonist, capable of quoting long excerpts from Coltrane and Dolphy solos (or Sonny Rollins, etc.) and his love of the music helped drive me back to jazz.
|Sonny Simmons||Berkeley, Big Sur||Piano, organ- Avant-garde jazz
Sonny was (and is) a major force in avant-garde jazz, an incredibly inventive and original musician. I met him at a jam session at Bert Wilson’s apartment, and within five minutes, he had explored the limits of my hearing and execution (just started playing on a C scale, as soon as I played a C chord, he jumped to F – I followed, he jumped again, to a more complex harmony, and this continued till I could no longer follow…)
|Michael Nesmith’s The Prison||LA Area||Arp Odyssey-Bass mostly
Zitro (as in Zytron) introduced me to Nez, who subsequently invited me to play bass on a number of tracks. He called on the Zytron gang for several projects. Enormous fun, and like other masters, zero wasted time. “C’mon, guys, I’m getting bored,” and this time is forever…
|Zytron Aquarian Ensemble||Big Sur, LA||Keys – electronic jazz, Mahavishnu-oriented fusion
The Zytron band was the culmination of my explorations of odd meters, classical raga, “outside” jazz and free improvisation. We all were listening heavily to Coltrane, Weather Report, electric Miles and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. We played party gigs in Big Sur where the only people that could dance to our songs – written in meters ranging from 5/4 to 22/8, including 8½/4 – boogied the night away.
|Courtial||Palo Alto, SF Bay Area||Keys – Contemporary Pop Jazz
This was the most intuitive band I ever played with. The band was put together by the bassist, Ed Williams, to perform music he had written for a play, “Us, the Rest of Us.” The play closed opening night, but the band, from the very first rehearsal, found enormous common ground that soon grew to a mature, signature sound. At one point, we pretty much owned the mid-peninsula jazz and fusion market, with everyone from hippies in VW buses to pre-dot-com moguls in their Mercedes XL’s…
|Willie Bobo||LA area, New York, Europe||Keys – Latin jazz big band
Errol Knowles, the vocalist with the Courtial band, was a cousin of Victor Pontoja, Willie Bobo’s conguero. So when Willie heard the first Courtial record, he wanted the band for his next tour. Errol and I accepted the offer, and what followed was a raft of my favorite musical memories – playing with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt, getting to perform at major world music venues – Carnegie Hall, the Northsea Festival, Montreaux, etc. Never to be forgotten.
|Roger Eddy||Monterey||Keys – Contemporary jazz and funk
The Roger Eddy Band pretty much owned the adult (non-rock) club scene in Monterey in the 80’s. At the Fog Bank, where we played until 1:30, there would be lines waiting to get in at 1:00! Original material, great grooves and a fun band.
|Cookin’ with Mr. Dash||Monterey||Keys – Jazz, contemporary funk
I put together this quartet for a gig at a local watering hole. Not much to say except we had a great time, the music was smooth and fun, and the diners dug it. The recording was done live on a quiet night.
|Bow Williams Swing Machine||Monterey||Piano – Big Band
Local big band, Bo wrote the arrangements – scaled-down versions of full big band for smaller bands. He pulled together some of the best players in the area, so the usual scenario was that the rehearsals would just suck, but the gigs would come off great…
|Prophetz of Time and Space||Monterey, LA, Lake Tahoe||Keys, composition – electric jazz
The second bassist from the Zytron band, Steve Vasconcello, put together a band with some of the best fusion players – Ndugu Chancler, Jerry Goodman – and recorded a number of my tunes from the Zytron days.
|Dino and David||Monterey, Pebble Beach||jazz, R&B, six-piece duo!
The Lodge at Pebble Beach was the beginning of this “dynamic duo” that was quite popular in the hotel circuit.
|Haragán Y Cía||Mexico City||Organ – Metal Rock
I got a call from Dennis Parket, who had been the original bassist on the Zytron – Handmade In Big Sur recording, inviting me to play organ for an album project. I was quite surprised to discover that he was now bassist and recording engineer for a Mexican heavy-metal-style band. But oddly enough, my playing style fit right in! The band flew me down twice, once to record and a while later, to debut the album at a 5,000 seat venue which was packed to the roof! Great fun, great band.
|Mobius Fourtet||Monterey Peninsula||Keys, composition – acoustic jazz
Short-lived, but lots of fun. A chance to try new original compositions and explorations.
|Mission Ranch||Carmel, Ca||Solo piano – Contemporary concepts
I currently perform here Monday thru Thursday, 5-8PM. Solo piano with backing tracks from my iPod, so the net result is a one-man trio. Come on down!
Phew! I TOLD you it was long…
It’s the Story of my Life
While I’ve been a musician all my life, my interests have been wide-ranging, apparently with a subtler purpose. After my stint in the Air Force Band, I took up electric bass and wound up in Miami, where – because I now played bass – I discovered Hindustani raga.
This led to a desire to bend keyboard notes (in 1964?) and created my interest in electronic music and synthesizers.
The need to recall synth patches quickly in live settings led me to computer programming and enabled my secondary career as a computer programmer/analyst. I have programmed in 6502 machine code and Assembler, Pascal, various Basics and more, but my favorite computer language was Foxpro (till Microsoft ruined it.)
So ultimately every path that piqued my interest turned out to be necessary for the next step. Each time, the decision was obvious
About “The Hat”
I get a lot of questions about the various hats I wear. “Are you…”
Jewish? (no, a yarmulke is MUCH smaller and sits on the crown of the head), apparently even Moses had male pattern baldness;
Muslim? – No, though many of these hats are similar in style or origin.
Some other weird kinda religious nut? Maybe – visit my other iste, The Church of Zero (Is Nothing Sacred?) – but that has nothing to do with – “The Hat”…
In fact, I have a fair number of odd hats. But of the two I wear most, one has a hummingbird on the front; this is from Vancouver. The other is a “Monterey Jazz Festival hat.” The vendor at first enclosed space on the stage side of vendor row at the Monterey Jazz Festival makes these simple black brimless hats that keep the sun off my scalp. End of story…