If you have eggs and something has happened to your hen, you put them in an incubator and it provides the warmth and security to let them hatch. If you have an idea for a business, there are places set up called incubators where you go to learn the craft of doing business and take your idea from a germ to, hopefully, the next Microsoft.
So what do you do when you want a smooth jazz artist? Is there a place where you can incubate such a thing? Absolutely. One place is in the backup band of the rocker turned crooner, Rod Stewart.
How can that be? What’s he got to do with smooth jazz?
Rod’s discography is a who’s who of musicians, good and great, from a wide variety of genres. Reading the personnel list on Rod’s albums, you might be overwhelmed. From both sides of the Atlantic, the best and brightest have participated in his touring bands and recording sessions. For example, two of my favorite artists were part of the machine that was Rod Stewart’s backup crew.
First, the late Jeff Golub was his guitar player for many years before going out on his own into the contemporary jazz world. Jeff started with Rod in 1988, but if you want to be sure you are hearing him play with Rod, you have to go to the album released in 1991 called "Vagabond Heart." On four of the thirteen songs, Jeff is credited as a vocalist, but I am sure that he had his guitar in his hands too. Finally, in 1995, on the "A Spanner in the Works" album, Jeff is credited as a guitarist. Actually, he had left Rod in 1994 to led his own band called Avenue Blue but came back to do the recording with Rod.
Second, there’s Rick Braun, trumpeter extraordinaire, playing behind Rod on tour and several recordings. He first shows up in 1998 on the CD called "When We Were New Boys," the first actual CD released by Rod and Warner Brothers Music, but it’s no secret that he was playing in the band well before that. Rick also branched out with Jeff Golub in Avenue Blue, which served as another incubator of smooth jazz performers like Boney James, Chris Botti and Dave Koz.
However, if you see Bobby Caldwell as one of the band members, don’t get excited. He is not the smooth jazz crooner of "What You Won’t Do For Love" fame, but a hard rocking drummer who was one of the founders of the rock band Iron Butterfly. Which brings up another connection between smooth jazz and rock. Iron Butterfly’s biggest song was called "In-A-Gada-Da-Vida." According to Herbie Hancock in his new book Possibilities, Herbie writes, “Rumor had it that the song was actually titled ‘In the Garden of Eden,' but the singer was drunk and slurred the words.” Herbie, who shared management and the stage with them in the early 1970’s, should know.
With Rod Stewart's having turned 70 years old on January 10, all I want to say is Happy Birthday and Thank You for being the place where some of my favorite smooth jazz artists were allowed to hone their craft and develop their sounds. And Rod, you’re not too shabby yourself.
~Lydia Barnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: The Rod Stewart Fan Club pays tribute to Jeff Golub.