Sounds 🎸🎹🎺

Some of My Musical Heros


Discovering music went hand in hand with my playing when I was young. I remember being drawn to music early, listening to Dad’s Sea Shantys and orchestral music accompanying battles at sea on TV. Once, when Dad was in California, Mom took me to see a James Bond movie (Thunderball). I was hooked on the music. So my first music purchase was from a magazine with a record of James Bond theme songs!

As the 60s started winding up, I got caught up in the music that my friends were listening to. I remember listening to Led Zepplin’s first album at a neighbor’s, along with the Doors and the Chamber Brothers Time Has Come. My first rock album purchase was proto-heavy metal band Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum. In Jr High School, I remember bringing King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King to civics class one Friday – the teacher couldn’t get over the album cover.

I had heard the band Yes, but I was blown away the first time I heard Fragile, and it became one of my most-listened-to LPs. Chris Squire’s gnarly bass, Rick Wakeman’s keyboard wizardry, and Bill Bruford’s ultra-precise drum timekeeping left me in awe. The King and Yes would be top favorites for 50 years.

I always sought unusual music; nobody was more unusual than Frank Zappa. We’re Only In It For the Money was one of my favorites, and I quickly learned the lyrics to his snarky songs. Later on, his rock-ensemble albums like The Grand Wazoo, Waka-Jawaka, and Hot Rats became all-time favorites that I still love listening to. I didn’t care for his later music quite as much (with some notable exceptions like Bongo Fury), but I have heard most of the music he made during his spectacular time on Planet Earth!

I remember going with a friend one night to one of our teacher’s apartments in Cape Canaveral to get high and listen to the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I was stunned and started to explore where this came from, only to uncover the whole Mile Davis Jazz Fusion world. This led to my all-time favorite piano player, Chick Corea, and the band Weather Report also becoming life-long favorites.

Music, for me, quickly became a signpost for my life. For example, listening to Who’s Who’s Next reminds me of my first girlfriend. Jethro Tull’s Thick As a Brick always takes me back to a family vacation I spent with my new cassette tape player, listening to the album repeatedly. Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild reminds me of one summer hanging out with a buddy while we built a boat in the garage. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon takes me back to the summer between high school and community college when I lived in Boston with a friend.

The most significant thing in High School was my senior year as part of the Jazz Band. That opened up the whole world of Jazz, especially Jazz drumming (what the drum set was invented for!). I started listening to Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, and traditional Big Band music with drummers like Buddy Rich. I’ll never forget watching Buddy do a one-hand drum roll on some afternoon talk show my Mom had on!

That ultimately led to a couple of years where I explored modern Jazz. I was particularly fascinated with different musical instruments and sought out music with unusual instruments. To this day, I am fascinated by the plethora of musical instruments, both traditional and modern, and I always look for unusual music.

When I moved to California in the mid-seventies, things started changing quickly for me. Chick Corea’s Return to Forever (RTF) and the solo albums from members Stanly Clarke and Al De Meola and Chick’s future work became favorites. I remember seeing RTF in Santa Barbara when my all-time favorite album, Romantic Warrior, came out. The song Romantic Warrior and other classics like Song to the Pharaoh Kings are all-time favorites. You will never hear better musicianship IMHO 😎.

Electric violin player Jean Luc Ponty – who had played with Frank Zappa earlier – became another lifelong favorite in the Jazz fusion genre. I never tire of listening to his music.

I also saw Weather Report play at the same Santa Barbara theater during the Heavy Weather days. I borrowed a buddy’s camera and took pictures of the band. I’ll never forget watching Jaco Pastorius become one with his fretless bass while I pushed to trigger. Unhappily – I somehow lost those photos – a true ‘Oh Shit’ of my life!

My most significant association with going to college in California, though, had to be the Eagle’s Hotel California. Somehow, the fact that I was living there when it was released made it more memorable. I remember bands like Fleetwood Mac, Heart, and Boston from those days. One of my roommates dug Steely Dan, while the other liked smooth jazz bands like Chuck Mangione. I remember seeing them play at our small college along with bands like Marshall Tucker and Kansas.

When I moved to Seattle, my musical tastes shifted significantly. I remember listening to this cool jazz band called the Pat Metheny Group and starting to follow them, Pat in particular. On the other side of the spectrum, I started listening to Police when Synchronicity emerged. Sting had an unusual voice that I liked, and Steward Copeland was a madman on the drums. This changed during the latter part of the 1980s into a passion for Sting’s solo work.

A radio station in Seattle played ‘New Age’ music. I remember the term being associated with Windham Hill recording artists like George Winston. I saw George play – barefoot and moaning while he made love to his baby grand 🀣. One artist I still love is Michael Hedges, an acoustic guitar player who could get unique sounds out of his instrument by basically attacking it while playing. He claimed to be a composer who happened to play the guitar and was a master of dynamics.

Later into the 1980s and MTV! I listened to many of the 80s bands, particularly Simply Red, Level 42, and Mister Mister. Kate Bush came a bit later after I moved to Germany, and her The Whole Story came out. That will always be the musical memory of my time in Germany. I was almost mesmerized by her music and songs like Running Up That Hill. I had never imagined someone could be so expressive with their voice like Kate.

I had heard of Genesis before but didn’t know their music until Pete Gabriel left. When Gabriel came out with So in the mid-1980s, I listened to his back catalog, and like Kate Bush, I was hooked. He also opened the door to world music with some of his collaborations with African musicians. At the same time, Paul Simon – whose 1970s music I liked quite a bit – did the Graceland thing and later Rhythm of the Saints. After returning from Germany to Colorado in the early 90s, I explored World Music like I did Jazz in the early 1970s.

I lived in Colorado in the first half of the 1990s and saw a lot of concerts thereβ€”especially Red Rocks, my favorite venue of all time. I will never forget seeing Sting perform with a thunderstorm over Denver in the background. During that period, I listened to many folk-rock songs, like Shawn Colvin and the Indigo Girls. I remember discovering some of David Byrne’s post-Talking Heads stuff in my world music search for his work with Brazilian artists.

Other highlights in Denver included seeing John Mayall play in Boulder and Pink Floyd on the Division Bell tour at Mile High Stadium. I was more than a mile high and dug the flying pig. Another highlight was King Crimson’s Double-Trio stuff with mind-blowing guitar players Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford, and Pat Mastelotto’s double drumming. Unreal musicianship!

I moved to Atlanta in the mid-1990s. I got on this kick with female singers like Sarah McLaughlin and Alanis Morissette. The alternative rock thing was in full swing, and I was drawn to Eddie Vedder’s voice and his work with Pearl Jam. I used to love turning up the car stereo and singing to songs like Jeremy.

My interest in Celtic music started after hearing an album by the band Capercaillie. Their fusion of Celtic and African songs intrigued me, as did the band Afro Celts from Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. Capercaillie singer Karen Matheson has the most beautiful voice of all Celtic women I have heard – especially when she sings in Gaelicβ€”musical poetry at its finest. I listened to a lot of world music at this time, including bands and artists like Clannad, Deep Forest, Youssou N’Dour, and Johnny Clegg.

I went to the theater a lot in the late 90s. I saw River Dance there, which also had the beat-oriented Celtic thing going on. I remember sitting next to the percussionist for the large band playing the music. The dude had laterally 20 feet of percussion – everything from gongs, bells, cymbals, tympani, hand drums of every kind, mallet instruments – you name it, this guy was playing it. That really started my love of hand percussion and subsequent collecting of ethnic and orchestral instruments.

Around the Millennium, I became enamored with the music of Dave Matthews and the album Crash. I was thunderstruck by his drummer, Carter Beauford. His technique is truly unique – according to him, he developed it by watching himself play in the mirror. Nobody has the mastery of the hi-hat and snare that he does, IMHO.

In the mid-2000s, I picked up Pat Metheny, where I left him in the mid-1980s. Oh my! It was a unique experience to listen to a dozen incredible albums I didn’t know existed. Again, the curse of Jazz in Pop, Hip Hop & Rock American culture. His Jazz Orchestra and use of multi-instrumentalists and non-vocal singing were like magic dust to the amazing quartet music.

I became fascinated by his drummer, Antonio Sanchez – a one-time Olympic gymnast turned Jazz percussionist and musician extraordinaire. His independence and the subtle way he hits the drums and cymbals is amazing to watch. I was saddened to hear of his keyboard player Lyle May’s recent death. Ad true genius at ever-so-slightly changing the grand piano sound using electronics and brilliant co-composer of the Jazz orchestra’s greatest numbers.

For the following years, I listened to a lot of jazz. I explored the Bebop era with Miles Davis and John Coltrane and discovered many interesting talents, such as keyboard player Brad Meldau and Swedish jazz trio EST. At the same time, I was adding music from my older favorites into my catalog, particularly bands like Yes, Jean Luc Ponty, and King Crimson. All three feature musicians like the Return to Forever gang of Chick, Stanley, and Al, who have never stopped exploring new musical frontiers.

I moved back to Florida to retire in the mid-2010s. This was a massive change for me, and I started playing the drums again in earnest for the first time since starting back up in the late 1990s. I reconnected hard with my roots by taking a cruise filled with people who loved Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and King Crimson – they called it Prog now – or Progressive Rock.

I was all over Prog starting in 2014. And what better way to start than getting a subscription to a magazine from the UK that features Prog Music? Indeed! From their top 100 Prog albums of all time, listened to albums by Porcupine Tree. This led to bands like Spock’s Beard, District 97, Dave Kersner, and others.

Porcupine Tree’s frontman Steven Wilson became my new poet laureate, and I couldn’t get enough of his music. This led to a bunch of new musicians like the stunning Gavin Harrison. He combines the stellar timekeeping of Bill Bruford with the ascetics of a Big Band drummer and makes the most complicated rhythmic patterns and time signatures sound effortless.

When I retired, I got a subscription to Amazon Music, which gave me access to almost anything I could want to listen to. I spent my whole first summer listening to the Rush catalog. I was somewhat familiar with them, but I never really liked Geddy Lee’s voice that much. My entire view changed after listening to their impressive body of work. The loss of Neil Peart saddened me, and I can understand why he is regarded by many as the best rock drummer in the world. Like recently departed Charlie Watts, he was a jazz drummer at heart.

One of my primary sources of inspiration these days is the CD I get with my subscription to Prog Magazine. I continue to discover bands and artists I really dig – too many to name. I read the reviews and then flag them on Amazon Music to play in the car or the shop. Here are my current favorites.

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In Memoriam

Chick Corea 2021

I was saddened this year to hear of Chick Corea’s death. I saw him play multiple times, starting with this work in Return to Forever and lastly with John McLaughlin in Five Peace Band. He was, without a doubt, my favorite keyboard player of all time. He started out – like other greats – as a drummer. His ability to essentially play drums with notes on a keyboard is unparalleled in the same way Jimi Hendrix was with the electric guitar. He was also continually active throughout his career – maybe because Jazz greats can’t sit back on their loads of cash like the rock guys, but more likely because he lived to play. RIP, My Spanish-hearted friend.

Jeff Beck 2023

I remember hearing Jeff Becks Becks Bolero in the ’60s and thinking, “Well, this is certainly different 🀣.’ I followed his work with ex-Vanilla Fudge players and later his solo work on the two seminal albums Wired and Blow by Blow in the 1970s. Nobody can make a guitar talk as he does on songs like Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers. He is a rare talent and perhaps the best instrumental rock guitar Gods in history. RIP with your Led Boots!

Wayne Shorter 2003

The last of the exceptional Trinity of Weather Report passed. The musical genius of these three men is blazed intelligibly on my musical soul. I never tire of listening to their music. Wayne was one cool dude, too – a Buddhist and peace activist. He played with anybody who had the musical chops to compete with him. Listen to the tenor sax solo on Steely Dan’s Aja. Wow!

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Photos of musicians over the years.

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