BB. Jeff, thanks for doing this interview, we thank you on behalf of your Australian fans. Let's start by asking when did you start playing the piano?
At Age 4. I grew up in a musical house where my mother played and I had two sisters taking piano lessons. I wanted to get in on the fun.
BB. Can you recall your first time on stage?
I started my first band when I was 13. I couldn’t afford an electric keyboard which were expensive so I played guitar. I also was the “lead singer” but we did mostly instrumental songs. This is in 1965. I think we did a bunch of Herb Alpert songs (who I would later go on to produce and collaborate with) like the Lonely Bull and Tijuana Taxi, some Al Hirt tunes and I know. I sang the song “Gloria” by THEM (Van Morrison’s first group).
We had a drums, tenor sax, guitar (me) and trumpet. The trumpet player’s name was Joey Koplin, who was really into Marvel comics so we had that in common. At first we had different trumpet player, Gilbert Hamburg, but I fired him to hire Joey. That was one of my first experiences with band dynamics. Gilbert’s father called my dad to complain. For some reason I found that hilarious.
I remember it was fun except for the fact that the sound reinforcement we had didn’t come close to overcoming the acoustics our junior high school gym. I remember the entire enterprise was a blast. I played in a few other groups in junior high and high school. One of them was a blues band with kids who lived farther out in the country. I was lucky to meet those guys because I got a good blues education at a young age and was introduced to some music I still love like the Paul Butterfield Blues band and the John Mayall band.
One fellow that I played with was Mark Chopinsky (we called him Chopper). I just recently got back in touch with and saw him again after almost 50 years. He lives in Haifa and has a recording studio. I actually try to stay in touch with a lot of musicians from my youth, I have very fond memories of those days.
BB. Do you write your own material? Can you describe your creative process?
I’m always listening to new and old music and trying to come up with good ideas for songs.I look for something that really gets me excited like a certain rhythmic concept or chord progression.
I’ve been writing for a long time so I have a sort of “craft” which allows me to take a very simple idea and develop it into a song with melodic and harmonic themes and variations. The main thing is to keep that excitement there and hopefully have a “wow” factor. It’s easy to write songs but it’s hard to write GREAT songs.
I have a large collection of songs and demos that haven’t been finished so sometimes I go through those.
When it comes to making an album, I like collaborating. I’ve made the last four or so with Jimmy Haslip as co-producer and co-writer. When we get into making a record we usually try to find a theme or concept that we’re going after that all the music fits into. We have a group of really talented musicians (mostly in L.A.) that we rely on to help us out although we do try to change that up a little bit now and then also. For example, the last album had Bob Mintzer guest on saxophone which was a treat, he’s an awesome player. Gary Meek, who I used to play with a lot, also contributed. On our previous three records we featured Eric Marienthal on sax, who’s a superb musician.
On my last CD, Step it Up, our concept was to to explore 1970’s modal jazz sort of like what Miles Davis, Joe Henderson and Weather Report were doing. The song Fire Sprit, Tenth Victim and Step It Up really have that vibe.
BB. What are your preferred hobbies?
I read a lot- many newspapers and blogs. I exercise at a gym and also listen to podcasts.I’m interested in tech and science. I have a large collection of vintage keyboards that I love to play which is sort of a hobby in itself.
BB. Do you support any sport team?
I follow the Lakers especially when they are winning. I am fascinated by sports teams thatsucceed with an innovative approach- so on that tip I’ve been a fan of the Golden State Warriors for the last two seasons.
BB. What is your current read?
Some recent books I like are; Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Station Eleven and Ready Player One. There’s a bio about the Beatles that I’ve read a number of times called “Tune In” by Mark Lewishon. It’s very detailed and the story is just amazing. I really liked the first of three books he’s writing so I can’t wait for vol. II.
BB. When you are not performing how do you spend your evenings?
In the studio usually. I’ve sort of stopped watching TV for the most part. But I do rent and stream movies occasionally. News junkie.
BB. What is your drink of choice?
BB. Your best holiday destination?
Bali and occasionally Tahiti. I love Italy. Traveling is one the perks of the job from the standpoint that it’s really fun and interesting to see how different people and cultures live.
BB, Do you believe the world is doomed?
Definitely! The Sun will supernova and all the planets out to about the asteroid belt will be incinerated! But we have a few billion years until then.
BB. What can your Australian audience expect from your performance at Bird's Basement?
We have a great group of musicians that I’m really looking forward to playing with and I think the people will enjoy. Staying in one place and playing for a while is blastso I’m looking forward to really exploring a lot of songs in my repertoire to change it upa bunch while we are there.