"I got a Fever, and the only Prescription is MORE COWBELL...I GOTTA HAVE MORE COWBELL, BABY!"
If you never heard the above line delivered by Christopher Walken, then you missed the arguably- funniest Saturday Night Live skit EVER...
A good friend of mine gave me this Genuine copper cowbell for my last birthday knowing how funny I think that classic SNL skit is.
This cowbell is placed right next to my music studio monitors to remind me NEVER to forget the importance of Cowbell in the Mix...
All of this really has nothing to do with the Story, but humor is Always Good. Remember to smile and to laugh, and to do them both often.
CHAPTER 1 NEW YORK Early Music Years
The Story begins when I started playing the clarinet at the age of 9, followed soon after by the piano. My first teacher for both instruments was a one-of-a-kind, truly inspirational music teacher at the local school I attended, Alice E. Grady Elementary School in Elmsford, New York. His name was Milton Williams, and he unfortunately passed away just a few years ago.
Turns out Mr. Williams is the father of the lovely, famous and Very talented singer & actress, Vanessa Williams, who I imagine you've all heard of. I'm sure that Vanessa's talent was greatly nurtured by her father. In any case, Mr. Williams came to my house every week for private piano lessons and sometimes stayed over for dinner. Very Nice man, extremely well-liked and admired by so many of his former students.
Sometimes my cat, Morris, helped me practice on the piano that my Mom decided to paint a sort of fluorescent red/orange/pink -- in any case, a color that definitely doesn't occur in Nature and typical of the '70s. It matched the '70's fluorescent red/orange/pink Shag Carpeting in the family room where my Dad's Bar was, and all the smoker-filled, lively '70s cocktail parties took place... I can hear Paul Desmond/Dave Brubeck playing "Take 5" and "Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter" in the background... fond memories...
At Mr. Williams' encouragement, I performed "The Entertainer" at the Winter Concert 1973. This Ragtime classic had just become Wildly popular with the release that year of the movie, "The Sting". By the way, I got a standing ovation... Not bad for age 10, and for sure a defining moment in my musical career.
CHAPTER 2 NORTHERN CA High School
On July 2, 1976, just 2 days before our Nation's Bi-Centennial (remember it well), I flew on a plane for the first time - aboard "TWA" Airlines - moving with my family to Northern California.
And while I was studying classical piano very seriously for several years, I very naturally started to get into jazz and pop music. Loved Spyro Gyra, Earth Wind & Fire, Keith Jarrett, Joe Sample, Chick Corea, the YellowJackets and much more...
About a year later I met a great high school sax player named Lincoln Adler at Mendocino Music & Arts Camp, where I was teaching & playing piano and Lincoln was teaching & playing sax. We've been friends and musical collaborators since. A long time.
Since the age of 14, I've played music professionally - weddings, parties, clubs, theater, etc.
I attended Monte Vista High School in Danville, CA where I played lots of jazz. My jazz combo even won the Monterey Jazz Festival High School Jazz Combo competition in 1980. We competed that year against state-wide entries including the formidable Berkeley High led by a young, and since then world-renowned jazz pianist, Benny Green. Yup, we won that year, I suppose among other because we were playing more of the beginnings of "contemporary" jazz (mixed elements) versus the mainstream Benny is awesome at... anyway, the judges picked us.
One other interesting tidbit: it just so happens that a young John Patitucci went to the same high school as I did. John was a Senior when I was a freshman. Indeed, THE MONSTER electric and acoustic bass player -- who's played with Everyone, but is perhaps best known for his tenure in the CHICK COREA ELEKTRIC and AKOUSTIC BANDS.
CHAPTER 3 COLLEGE YEARS
After high school, and while Lincoln and I were later both studying Undergraduate at UC Berkeley, we had a band called "The Berkeley Unit".
Linc and I played at the original Yoshi's regularly during College. Yoshi's is now the most well-known jazz club with 2 locations in the Bay Area - Oakland and San Francisco.
While at CAL, I studied jazz piano privately with a VERY talented jazz pianist, composer and excellent teacher, Susan Muscarella. Susan co-managed the UC Berkeley Jazz Program at that time.
Since that time, Susan founded an Outstanding program over 15 years ago on her own in Berkeley called the California Jazz Conservatory (originally the "JazzSchool"). Click here for more info on Susan Muscarella and this one-of-a-kind music school.
In my sophomore year, Susan referred me to an audition for a gig (which I got). This turned out to be an incredible experience for me as the Musical Director and Pianist in several hundred performances of the San Francisco revival of a very funny British comedy revue called "Beyond The Fringe".
Thank you, Susan, for the referral and thank you Very much to the noted journalist and author, Gerald Nachman, who was then Entertainment Columnist and Theater Critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Gerald liked the show so much that he gave it the "Little Man jumping out of his seat clapping" in the Pink Section (Sunday entertainment guide for the SF Examiner / Chronicle) - i.e. Rave reviews...
Right around that same time period 1983-84, Lincoln and I recorded our first "real deal" demo tape at "Different Fur" recording Studio in the Mission District of San Francisco, a 24-track recording of original material with some Top Bay Area musicians including Marc and Paul Van Wageningenon bass and drums respectively (RIP, Paul), Kenneth Nash on percussion (has played with Everyone), Steph Birnbaum guitar (Pablo Cruise, Sheila E.), Frank Martin on electric keyboards/synths (has played with Everyone, great producer and teaches at the Berkeley JazzSchool as well)
FYI, I've happily reunited with Marc "VW" Van Wageningen on the Brand New Day EP. Marc in fact plays bass on one of the same (but Very updated ) tracks I wrote and recorded back in 1983, " "Samba Do Coração" or "Samba from the Heart" in Portuguese.
The name of our musical project back then was "ONE", and Lincoln and I gave it an honest shot to get a record deal. This was WAY before the Internet, digital audio and even the first MAC. So the fonts weren't so fancy then.....
We submitted cassette demos to the only contacts we could apparently muster up at that time -- typically the front gate security guard at A&M Studios or Capitol Records, etc......
Of course, the Security Guards promised to deliver the tapes. And they did, confirmed by the really nice letters (and the tapes) we received back from the A&R departments... with very personal statements of encouragement. As an example, here's one from Capitol Records that has inspired me ever since...
Well...we were young but we gave it an honest shot. The music was great for what it was... Anyway, Lincoln moved to LA to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood as a musician, and I went off to work in Entertainment Finance at Drexel Burnham (investment bank famous for "junk bonds" ) and then on to Stanford Business School. In a nutshell.
CHAPTER 4 OFF TO HOLLYWOOD & COLORS "1.0"
But I missed playing music terribly, and so to make a longer story short -- after graduating from Biz School in '88 I moved down to LA to join Lincoln and form COLORS with Rob McDonald on Bass, Freddie Fox (original guitarist), Johnny Castaneda on drums, Lincoln on Sax and Me on Keys.
Interesting aside: Freddie Fox (excellent guitarist - you can check Freddie out here) married the great R&B and Dance singer, Evelyn "Champagne" King, best-known for her song hits: "Shame", "Love Come Down", and "I'm in Love". Evelyn in fact met Freddie back in 1989 at one of COLORS' gigs at "Bon Appetit" in Westwood (near UCLA, Great club, unfortunately no longer exists). She also recorded vocals on one of my tracks, "Wish You Were Here" , now entitled "I Know You're Here" on the COLORS 2.0 "Brand New Day" EP.
In 1990 sometime, a young, extremely humble and pleasant (in a uniquely Japanese way) but SERIOUSLY MEAN guitarist named Toshi Yanagi joined COLORS to replace Freddie in the Guitar Spot because Freddie was touring a lot with other acts... Anyway, we still love you, Freddie, and I very recently saw Rob "McBass" play with both Freddie and Evelyn down here in San Diego. They sounded Great. And they're Still married after 20+ years. What a concept! :-)
We played at the top local places at the time like AT MY PLACE in Santa Monica (GREAT, GREAT venue, no longer around and BOY do I miss that club!!) BON APPETIT in Westwood (miss that place too! ) LE CAFE upstairs in Encino (gone... BUMMER!!), THE STRAND in Redondo Beach, CARLOS 'N CHARLIE'S on Sunset (that FUNKY place not around either), and lots others in San Diego and around So Cal...
COLORS - in 1990
Standing (L to R) Rob "McBass" McDonald, Johnny Castaneda.
Sitting (L to R) Brian Sherman, Lincoln Adler, Toshi Yanagi
Back then, "COLORS" went through some name changes including "Colours", "NColor" and then finally "Rain-Bo Tribe" (due to conflicts with the original "Colors" name....) We kind of look like Gangstas in this shot, no?
Check out COLORS aka Rain-Bo Tribe etc. performing "Jazz Life", an original composition co-written by Lincoln Adler, Rob McDonald and Yours Truly (Brian Sherman). Toshi's Amazing Rock-Out playing was Clearly evident back in 1990.... We were a bit younger back then (forgot I used to usually wear glasses, before getting my eyes fixed) This track was featured on the Rainbo-Tribe release "What They Don't Tell You" in 1994. I'm currently in the process of updating and making a COLORS 2.0 Vocal arrangement of "Jazz Life", a COLORS classic... keep in touch!
CHAPTER 5 BACK TO BUSINESS...
To make a Long Story short -- In about 1992, after some years with the original COLORS / Rain-Bo Tribe, I sadly left the group to pursue a different path. I simply didn't have it in me -- at that time-- to tough it out "making a living" (Not) as a Contemporary Jazz musician.
Back then, digital audio technology was in its Early / infancy stages, facsimiles of digital audio workstations like "Logic Pro and Pro Tools" were most definitely not around. "Home Studios" typically consisted of a Tascam 4-track tape recorder...
So that year, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and hooked up with some of the actor friends I had performed with in "Beyond The Fringe". A couple of them had started a small pet store in San Francisco. I decided to join them in the biz, later established and rearranged our partnership and grew that little business over a 7 year period to be the largest pet supply retailer in the City of San Francisco. "Sammy's Pet World" (named after my cat at the time) was a San Francisco institution, with 3 locations in Potrero Hill, Mission and Russian Hill.
I sold that business in 1999 to Petco, moved to Spain and Sweden for some years (previous wife Swedish), co-founded and operated various consumer / retail businesses in Spain, Sweden and back here when I moved back to the States in '04/05.
During this roughly 20 year period, I honestly didn't pursue any notable professional music projects. Sure, I played here and there, but always listened to LOTS and LOTS of music. I Never stopped listening....
CHAPTER 6 & BEYOND
Well -- fast forward to 2012. Last year, I began doing my own home production of various musical material that I arranged and performed -- to place on some educational toys I am currently developing with a partner. At that point, I decided to get Serious with my home studio set-up, purchased Logic Pro on the advice of Lincoln, an iMac, and a couple of other gizmos that Lincoln told me to pick up. And I put the YAMAHA MOTIF XS8 production synth I had purchased in 2008 to Much better use....
And after nine months -- working day and night to get properly up to speed with the "New" Digital Audio paradigm as well as to carefully hone all the arrangements for various musical ideas that have been on my mind for a Long time -- my BABY was born, the mastered tracks for COLORS 2.0 debut album Brand New Day.
For the past year or so, I have been EXTREMELY prolific in my home studio and am Extraordinarily Grateful to be Very alive and Very well while Digital Audio Technology is as accessible and advanced as it has become -- enabling me to create music that I could ONLY dream of 5+, 10, 15 or 20 years ago.... GRATITUDE. Abundant Gratitude.
It has brought me back Home to a very special place in my heart, where I can now realistically and diligently work for the Rest Of My Life to leave a growing and important legacy of Great music (in my humble but confident opinion) -- music that I can share and connect with people in a Very real way, Literally all around the World.
A BRAND NEW DAY
COLORS 2.0 music brings me -- and I hope You, the Listener and Very Valued Fan -- to another place. It elicits Deep feelings - Intense Joy, Deep Sadness, Peace & Tranquility, and Love. The music has a Positive Message. It tells a hopeful story, takes us on a Spiritual Journey to a Higher Place, Connects us to a Higher Power, and returns us back to that most special place we call Home...
I've been around the block several times in my life. I've experienced some great successes as well as some miserable failures, and I've lost some Very Dear people along the way. I almost lost my son to an insidious and extremely complicated disorder (he's thankfully doing Great now) and I strongly believe that my music reflects the richness and depth of the myriad of those experiences and feelings.
I am So happy to be reunited with the Talent and Creative Energy of the core members of the original COLORS. Rob, Toshi, Lincoln - you guys ROCK! Look forward to LOTS more collaboration going forward!
To my Kids: Micah, Hannah and Daniel. I Love You.
COLORS 2.0... the New & Improved..... LOTS and LOTS more to come your way!
"Stand Up, Lift Your Voice and Rejoice for the Brand New Day"
San Diego, CA