Wednesday, July 13, 2011

50 albums that STILL knock me on my ass....

This one was a challenge...its not like these are the 50 Greatest Albums Ever Made, or 50 Albums That Changed History....I've started the process of unpacking my nearly 2000 cd's at my new place, and during the process, I started thinking about how some of these albums have had such a profound impact on my life. In some cases, I remember the exact moment when I heard them for the first time; in other cases, I think of how these albums set me on the path of becoming a musician, and in some instances, I think of how these albums helped shape my personality to some degree....if anyone wants to know where to find any of the "hard-to-find" or "never-heard-of-them" albums, I'll be glad to send you a link or even burn you a copy....anyway, here's the list:

50. Ray Charles - "Love Country Style" - I've listened to this album since my parents had it on 8-track...this features Johnny Cash's favorite cover of his classic hit "Ring of Fire."
49. Dazz Band - "Keep It Live" - I remember picking this album up, because I loved the song "Let It Whip"...I was pleasantlt surprised by the songwriting on the entire album.
48. Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band - "Volume 1" - as someone who stayed up religiously to watch Johnny Carson, it was just as entertaining to listen to Doc and the band every night. This album captures that magic.
47. Tower of Power - "Direct" - this was a "live" studio recording of six of their classic tracks, done in one take...I'm still amazed at the level of musicianship in this band!
46. Michael McDonald - "Blink of an Eye" - if you've never heard McD's rendition of the classic hit "Hey Girl", you've been seriously deprived.
45. Joey DeFrancesco - "Organic Vibes" - this album features the great vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, and the combination of vibes and Hammond B3 is perfect!
44. Spyro Gyra - "Morning Dance" - although the title track is what brought the band to fame in the jazz world, its the songwriting and amazing lineup of some of NYC's top studio musicians that makes this album stand out.
43. Nat King Cole and George Shearing - I remember hearing the track "Pick Yourself Up" on one of the American Songbook shows on WNEW out of NYC back in the mid 80' college friend Rob Collins found this album in the summer of '89 while on vacation in Europe, and made me a copy. Now that I found the CD and burned it on iTunes, I'll never lose it. A classic voice and the "Shearing Sound"...enough said.
42. Chicago V - to me, the soul of the band Chicago died with singer Terry Kath..... the pure soulfulness of his voice on "Make Me Smile" is unmatchable...their sound on the early albums is truly unique, and unfortunately, the new version of this band will never reach this level.
41. Van Halen I - even though I think "Van Hagar" is when they found their true musical sound, the David Lee Roth era of Van Halen got off to a tremendous start with this album. Eddie Van Halen's guitar technique was truly revolutionary when this album came out in '78.
40. 24th Street Band - "Share Your Dreams" - the "pre-Letterman" house band, which featured the late Hiram Bullock, Will Lee, Steve Jordan, and Clifford Carter. Sick grooves, great vocals, and the true NYC studio sound (and the New York City Strut!).
39. Peter Gabriel  -"So" - I snuck into Woodstock '94 (ok, it was a free concert at this point) just to see Peter Gabriel and Tony Levin. This album came out during my junior year of high school, and I remember blowing out one of the speakers in my '79 Rabbit while "Big Time" was playing on the radio.
38. Roberta Flack - "Quiet Fire" - another album from my early childhood, that was (and still is) one of my mom's favorites as well. The album has such an amazing acoustic sound, and Roberta's voice is the perfect compliment to the arrangements and the overall production. Her cover versions of "Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "To Love Somebody" really broadened my horizons on how to take a unique approach to rearranging cover tunes!
37. Level 42 - "Running In The Family" - how these guys ended up being labeled as 'new wave' is beyond me......although I loved listening to their Top 40 hits when they were first released, my college roommate Chuck Wilson really turned me on to their catalog of music.....this album best represents their musicianship, from their funktastic grooves to their well-above-the-standard pop ballads.
36. Larry Carlton - "Smiles and Smiles to Go" - one of the most legendary studio musicians in history....this was his first record where he plays all acoustic guitar. I spent a lot of time listening to this album while driving back and forth from my folks' house to Ithaca when I was in college, and I have many memories of falling leaves and warm spring afternoons when listening to this record. When I pass away one of these days, I hope that his rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" is played at my funeral.
35. Kirk Whalum - "Cache" - his rendition of "Over The Rainbow" will be hopefully played after "The Lord's Prayer".
34. Herbie Hancock - "Maiden Voyage" - I remember taking a Jazz Improvisation class at Ithaca back in '89, and having to analyze the Freddie Hubbard trumpet solo on the title track....I was instantly hooked on the entire record.
33. New York Voices - this album makes me proud to be an Ithaca alumnus....NYV came back to IC to promote this album, and they spent a lot of time doing master classes and giving the vocal jazz students a great deal of coaching and positive feedback. Darmon's scat solo on Caravan is off the charts!
32. Hiram Bullock Band - "Live at Manny's Car Wash" - I vividly remember saying "HOLY F---!!" out loud when I heard the cover of Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower" for the first time in my apartment 16 years ago when I picked this album up. This is the ultimate 'power trio' album, with Hiram, Will Lee on bass, and Clint DeGanon on drums....all I can say is FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS!
31. Michael Jackson - "Off The Wall" - say all you want about Thriller....THIS is the definitive record....from Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, to Rock With You, to the title track.....groovalicious all the way through!
30. Joe Doggs/Joey DeFrancesco - "Falling In Love Again" - who knew that Joe Pesci could SING HIS ASS OFF???
29. Moody Blues - "Days of Future Passed" - a shout-out to Jon Epstein for turning me on to this album, during our many drives back from Ithaca for fall and winter break....I can still picture the overcast days riding up Route 17, my friend!
28. Jimmy Smith "Bashin" - one of the original Hammond B3 jazz musicians....I still have my dad's original copy on vinyl...I listened to Jimmy Smith and Ray Charles religiously when I was in elementary school....hell, I thought everyone did! (What a great way to be so incredibly naive!)
27. The Brecker Brothers - "Return of the Brecker Brothers" - in a word....DAMN. Two unbeliveably talented cats, surrounded by the top musicians on the scene. LOVE the track "Big Idea" with the melody line from their classic hit "Some Skunk Funk".
26. Sting - "Bring On The Night" - I remember driving home from a concert at Saratoga in 1986 listening to this album at 2 in the morning for the first time...I wasn't really a Sting or Police fan until after hearing this album, and then going back to the original recordings.
25. Donny Hathaway - "Live" - I've said it before, and I'll say it again....his version of "What's Goin' On" is just as good as Marvin's....believe that!
24. Wes Montgomery - "A Day In The Life" - I cannot wait to cross 'driving up the PCH watching the sunset listening to this album' off my bucket list!
23. Al Jarreau - "Look to the Rainbow" - Al Jarreau doing what Al Jarreau does best....him and a rhythm section just tearing it up!
22. Ricky Peterson - "Nightwatch" - I remember seeing Ricky for the first time when  he was playing keyboards for David Sanborn in '87....he blew me away! This is his first solo record, and his sense of rhythm and chord structure and improvisation is phenomenal. Plus this is a great album to listen to at 3am!
21. Grover Washington Jr. - "Come Morning" - I bought this album in the summer of '87, and I remember driving to Boston on the Mass Pike listening to this on a perfect sunny summer day. To this day, this CD is always in the car when I head to New England.
20. George Benson/Earl Klugh - "Collaboration" - I remember being with my brother Lee in the Arby's on Albany Avenue in Kingston NY in August 1987 when I heard the track "Mt. Airy Road" for the first time, and we both said "Cool! New Benson album!" This is one of my 'road trip' albums....great for driving on a sunny day, as I've listened to this on many of my Acura adventures!
19. Luther Vandross - "Never Too Much" - I remember seeing the video for this song, and buying the cassette (remember those?) the next day....the title track is too funky for words, and Luther set the tone for singing ballads with his cover of Burt Bacharach's "A House Is Not A Home". There will never be another Luther....EVER!!
18. Frank Zappa - "Roxy and Elsewhere" - the album that helped me come out of my shell...I played in a reggae/funk band in Woodstock in the early 90's, and we covcered the Zappa tune "Village of the Sun" from this album....this experience was like a whole new level of music (and life) education for I'm proud to say 'my name is Lane, and I'm a Zappaholic.'
17. Take 6 - this album should be REQUIRED LISTENING for any of these wannabe boy-band pop stars....six-part harmonies that all but revolutionized a cappella singing....think I'm kidding? Look up who  Boyz II Men lists as their biggest influence when they first started out....
16. Al Jarreau - "Mornin'" - not a perfect summer morning goes by where I don't play the title cut on my way to work....and I've been doing this for 20 I write this, I know for a fact that this CD is in the 6 slot in the CD changer in the Acura....just sayin'....
15. Stevie Wonder - Fulfillingness' First Finale" - my favorite Stevie 'non-greatest-hits' album...I will never forget listening to the track 'Creepin' with my dad on the snowy Saturday afternoon in January '75 while waiting for my mom in the supermarket. This is still my favorite album to listen to on snowy cloudy days...
14. The Doobie Brothers - "Minute By Minute" - classic Michael McDonald, at his absolute best!
13. Steely Dan - "Aja" - I remember listening religiously to legendary DJ Dan Ingram on WABC-AM back in the day, and I can still hear his voice during the intro to "Josie". (Let's not forget to mention that this album is musically brilliant!)
12. Hiram Bullock - "From All Sides" - I remember the night in 1986 when I stayed up to watch Hiram perform as a solo act on Letterman, and he played his cover of "Funky Broadway" with Paul Shaffer and the boys....I bought the album right before my high school graduation, and the track "Window Shoppin'" 'knocked my doors off.' I still listen to this album like it came out yesterday!
11. Pat Metheny Group - "Still Life (Talking)" - I heard this for the first time in October 1987 while driving from Ithaca to Buffalo on a fall Friday evening....the track "Last Train Home" felt so appropriate (even though it was while watching the sunset and the lights of the trucks on the New York Thruway)...I also remember riding with my friend Rob Collins while he was delivering pizzas singing the chorus to Minuano Six-Eight at the top of our lungs...good times...
10. Marcus Miller - "Suddenly" - Jon Sanborn made me a copy of this album when I first met him my freshman year of high school back in '83. Up to this point, my foray into R&B music was very "ol-skool" (70's R&B) so this album really resonated with me....Marcus is the artist who piqued my interest in playing bass, as this was the first R&B album where I truly heard the bass used as a lead instrument...
 9. Miles Davis - "Porgy & Bess" - a classic Miles Davis withe the Gil Evans Orchestra album....amazing arrangements of the Gershwin classic.
 8. David Sanborn - "Backstreet" - this is my favorite album to listen to whenever I'm in New York just has that NYC studio sound that I love...
 7. Earth, Wind, and Fire - "I Am" - this was the first EWF album (8-track! It was '79!) that I bought, because I loved (and still love) the song After the Love Has the groove of In The Stone still hits the spot 32 years later.
 6. Jimi Hendrix - "Are You Experienced?" - as the late Hiram Bullock said, "Jimi's music was made TOMORROW." There are no bad cuts on this album whatsoever, as most of these are now considered timeless. And who else would think to record a guitar solo, so that when you play it backwards, it fits the chord structure of the song? Holy crap!
 5. Jaco Pastorius - the bass-playing world was knocked on their ass with this record, as it truly influenced bassists from every genre. Jaco's influence on bass was very comparable to Jimi's influence on the guitar. Portrait of Tracy and Jaco's cover of Donna Lee are still mind blowing!
 4. Chuck Mangione - "Feels So Good" - the album that caused my grades to drop from 4th - 6th grade. I listened to this album EVERY DAY from 1978 - 1981 (when his Fun & Games album came out). Homework was not a priority for me because of this album, and 33 years later, I still have no regrets!
 3. Roberta Flack - "Killing Me Softly" - I specifically remember the fall morning in '73 going with my mom to the car wash in her '68 Chevy Caprice and listening to this album. Love the Fender Rhodes keyboards used on the album, the songs have that classic acoustic 'Roberta' sound, and the track 'Suzanne' takes me back to that day every time I listen to it.
 2. Ray Charles - "A Man and His Soul" - this album is way ahead of its time. A black man in 1961 recording country/western songs and American Songbook classics (as big band arrangements and well-arranged ballads) was an incredible risk, but well worth the reward. Most of these songs are now on greatest hits compilations, but these were the soundtrack of my life as a little kid, as I can remember many car rides listening to Brother Ray.
 1. Stevie Wonder - "Songs In The Key Of Life" - the album that confirmed for me at age 7 that I wanted to be a musician...I wore out my 45's of the songs Sir Duke, I Wish, and Another Star, and over the years, I've come understand the dichotomy of songs like 'Village Ghetto Land', and I've learned an incredible amount about life, love, culture and society from these songs. I truly believe that Stevie Wonder 'sees' and feels things on a higher emotional level, and that this album is truly his masterpiece.

There you have it.....hope this gives my friends a better insight into my musical mind....and hey, hopefully I just made a few album recommendations......

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

for p.c.......

By now, most of you know that I lost my good friend Pat Cerello two weeks ago....I guess the reality of Pat's passing didn't start to hit me until a few days ago. Although the hurt and loss was immediate, it was over the past few days that I began to realize the impact that Pat had on me as a friend and a musician, and I also realize the incredible void that he leaves behind, which is felt by so many.

I first met Pat during the summer of 2000 - I was playing gigs with saxman Tom Hamilton in Northeast PA, and Tom got me on a gig with "The All-Night Band", filling in as a trumpet player (with the occasional vocal tune). After years of playing easy, by-the-book Top 40 gigs, this opportunity was invigorating, as it was a gig where all of my favorite styles of music (jazz and r&b in particular) were played, and I had to really bring my "A" game on each and every gig....Pat soon realized that being a vocalist is my strong suit, and he offered me a full-time gig with the band. From this our friendship developed quickly, and my ears were opened to a whole new level of musicianship!

The gig that really allowed Pat and I to bond was the now-imfamous "Gig From Hell", which happened Labor Day weekend 2001 (10 days before 9/11).....we played a wedding for a friend of Pat's up in Lake Placid, and to say it was exhausting was an understatement....schlepping 6 hours up to Lake Placid to crappy overnight accomodations with no showers, cold temperatures, and being the "secondary" band to Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge (seriously....these guys all looked and sounded like used-car salesmen with bad combovers!) would be enough to make most guys turn around and go home, but Pat did everything in his power to keep everyone in good spirits, all things considered. I rode up and back with him that weekend in his brand-new Volvo, and we spent hours talking about life, family, and of course, music. Pat and I found out that we had many things in common (we both have older siblings that were put up for adoption that we reconnected with), and the time we spent hanging out that weekend is something that I will never forget.

Pat and his family are the true definition of generous - anytime that I was at Pat's house late after a gig, his wife Cindy made sure I did not leave the house without a "to go" cup of coffee for my drive back to Pennsylvania. And anytime you were at the house, you knew you would get a good meal....(I admit, there were a few times when I skipped lunch driving up to Pat's house, because I knew my tummy would be happier from Cindy's leftovers compared to anything I would get at McDonalds!) I think about the conversations that Pat and I had in his downstairs recording studio about how talented his daughters are (the understatement of the year), and the hours of us listening to music and trying out musical equipment, and how much I learned about life spending time with him and his family, and I know that I'm truly blessed to have had such quality time.

Pat and I had the 'stupidest' of fights a few years back (a fight well documented by some), but I'm thankful that we were both able to put aside our differences and patch up our friendship. It meant a lot to me to gig with Pat during the last couple of years, as there was a comfort and a routine to playing music with him that I have never felt playing with anyone else. It still blows my mind that Pat could play at such a virtuoso level, even when he was either worrying about an angry bride, or if the band got fed after the first or second set. He would always talk about how much better he played when "he wasn't the bandleader", and that was one of the primary motivators for me to invite him to play the "Partners In Crime" gig with me in Woodstock two years ago...that for me is my "Super Bowl" gig - there wasn't anything earth-shattering about the gig, but for me, it was an honor to have my brother Lee and my "brother from another mother" Pat on the same stage, as they are two musicans that I will always look up to. To see them having fun and playing their asses off is something that I will always cherish!

I guess what has been really hitting me hard is knowing the void that many of us feel right now, as Pat's time came way too soon. Knowing that I won't hear him play "In a Sentimental Mood" anymore frustrates the hell out of me, as that was always the highlight of my gigs with Pat. He played a solo on the credenza that was always a MOTHERFUCKER (sorry to be so blunt, but there is no other word to truly describe how good his solos were) our friend Jan Stevens said at Pat's funeral service, Pat had sense of humor that he would share at the gigs and that he would also incorporate into his music, and that was always refreshing.....who else would encourage me to sing songs like Surfin' USA and Beer Barrel Polka on gigs, as not only was I the only black person in the band, but also the only black person at the 200-guest wedding?

Pat, I miss you terribly, and I will never forget all the fun times we had over the last 11 years.....I feel like you gave me my Master's Degree in "Gigology", as you challenged me to reach my musical potential in a way that nobody else ever has....please rest in peace knowing that your friends will do everything that we can to be there for your family, and know that we will never let your musical legacy be forgotten. Love ya, man...