Thursday, April 24, 2014

'A friend of a friend of ...': Frank Martin

Frank Martin shared a photo on his Facebook status last week that caught my attention.  He was in his familiar spot on keyboards, in the middle of a rehearsal led by Sting with a group of other musicians as they prepared for the 25th Anniversary Rain Forest benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City on April 17.

Frank Martin (photo via
It's not unusual for Frank Martin to be associated with musicians like Sting, or for that matter musicians with names like Lady Gaga, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Al Jarreau, Larry Coryell ... well, just go to his website to see even more of a roster of well-known names Frank has been associated with through the years.  Or just go to his website and enjoy the original soft jazz that plays right along with your browsing.

It's tasty stuff.

Martin has a musical resume that's nothing short of breathtaking.  He's a clinician/teacher at the University of California at Berkeley, he teaches classes in arranging, composition, rhythm, piano, improv, he has his own recording studio in San Rafael, and he's worked with ... well, let's just say he's worked with a dazzling array of artists through the years.

Another photo from the preparations for the last Rain Forest concert was a simple one, taken from the stage facing the seats that would be filled by an audience in the prestigious hall.  The photo showed a drum set that would be manned by a longtime associate of Martin's, drummer Narada Michael Walden, who has a long and storied musical history of his own as a musician and Grammy Award-winning producer.

Frank has been a mainstay in Narada's band for a lot of years, in part because -- as Narada himself has said -- Frank Martin can play any style, whether it's jazz, pop, funk, soul, you name it.  It pays to be versatile.

That's how you get a gig like the one at Carnegie Hall for the Rain Forest foundation.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

'A friend of a friend of ...': Jeff Pehrson

Keep in mind, this "friend of a friend" social networking adventure began with a trip to the San Francisco area.  So, what does that mean when it comes to any trend that is prevalent in my daily social networking news feed since then?

To riff on a famous line from a movie, "I see Dead people."

As in The Grateful Dead.  Images of Jerry Garcia pop up quite often, in various ways.  I see people who've shared a stage with Jerry, a former girlfriend and mother to one of Jerry's children, people who've shot countless photos of him and the band, and even more countless fans of The Dead, people who are eager to share any bootlegged recording and can name exact dates they saw the beloved band, like so many other Deadheads around the world.

Jeff Pehrson performs with Furthur.  (Photo via
I can't claim people like Grateful Dead guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir or bassist Phil Lesh among those "friends of friends."  But there is a connection in Jeff Pehrson, who performs backing vocals with Lesh and Weir's band Furthur when he's not working with his own folk rock band, The Fall Risk.  While you're at it, check out Pehrson's music with another folk rock band he co-founded, Box Set.

Pehrson has serious songwriting skills which makes the music of Box Set and The Fall Risk unique on their own.  When it comes to the time he's spent with the rock music legends that are Weir and Lesh, try listening to recordings of Garcia singing a song, and then follow that up with the sound of Pehrson singing.  It'll soon become a bit obvious why Jeff Pehrson is a part of that Dead-like family, and has been since he joined Furthur in 2010.

The spirit of The Dead lives on to this day, and just might never die.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

'A friend of a friend of ...': Dave Getz

Unless you look closely at some of the names in my Facebook friends list -- those "friends of friends of" actual friends -- you might not give much thought to who some of these people are or what they've done.  When you look at their biographies, that's when pieces of modern music history can hit you like a freight train going full-speed.

Dave Getz
Such is the story with Dave Getz.  He's a gifted visual artist.  That's basically what took him to the Bay Area, to study art and try to make a name for himself with his talent holding a brush and creating works of art that are appealing to the eyes.  Before that, he'd shown serious chops as a drummer in the New York area.  He went on to study art in the San Francisco area, and met Peter Albin, who was with a band called Big Brother and The Holding Company.  Dave let Peter know that he played the drums, Dave soon became a member of Big Brother himself.

Later on in 1966, there came a singer from Texas who would join the group as well.  She would set the world of rock music on fire and become a legend with her powerful voice.  Her name was Janis Joplin.

Big Brother's album "Cheap Thrills" went to No. 1 in 1968 and stayed there for eight weeks.  Playing in that band which had already started establishing itself on the instrumental side, having Janis Joplin bolster it vocally ... it was a defining moment.  Janis left the band in 1968, and Getz went on to play with Country Joe and The Fish.

That association with Big Brother and Janis Joplin will stay with Dave Getz forever.  He's still playing, teaching others how to play, still working on his visual art.

Looking behind the names can paint a fascinating picture of a person's life.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

'A friend of a friend of ...': Greg Errico

"Laying it down for Sly & The Family Stone, Greg Errico had more pocket than a giant in dungarees. The band busted down musical barriers at will, blending soul, funk and even psychedelic rock. Underpinning it all was Errico’s impeccable syncopation and dance-floor friendly grooves."
Greg Errico
Imagine how blown away I was back in the early part of 2012 when I started networking with musical friends of newfound friends on Facebook and considered the things some of them had accomplished.  Last year, when I saw a list of the "100 most influential drummers of all time" (which the quote above came from) and saw the name Greg Errico in there, I thought, "Hey, I know that name."

When you listen to the Sly song "Dance To The Music" and the drum is highlighted, that's Greg Errico you're listening to.  It was his syncopation that was a crucial ingredient in some of the great Sly & The Family Stone tunes, a groundbreaking soul and funk outfit from the late '60s and early '70s that was incendiary both on- and off-stage, having a part in Woodstock and going on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He left the Family in 1971, but his resume would be added to with touring stints in Weather Report in 1973, David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs" tour in 1974, Santana, the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band, blues harp master Lee Oskar, to name just a few.  He still plays and produces.  In soul/funk/rock music history, his reputation is etched in (Sly's) Stone.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

'A friend of a friend of ...': David Freiberg

Now, let's see, where was I before I interrupted myself?  Oh, yeah, talking about the musical friends of friends I've come across on Facebook.  That list has grown since the last time I did anything in this series, but for now I'm sticking with some of the Bay Area talent that helped to put that area on the musical map.

David Freiberg
I'll pick this series back up after a lengthy intermission by putting a spotlight on multi-instrumental talent David Freiberg.

Freiberg was a founding member of a San Francisco area rock music institution, Quicksilver Messenger Service, who went on to play with other Bay Area rock institutions -- Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, and the bands they were an important part of for so long, Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship (that's him on the organ on the timeless "Miracles").

Freiberg's impact on classic rock music can especially be felt when you hear the Jefferson Starship song "Jane" played on the radio.  Freiberg shares writing credit on that one.

Freiberg is still flying on that Jefferson Starship to this day.  It's cool to see Facebook status updates from him that talk about catching a flight from the San Francisco airport to some far-away show, keeping the memories and those classic songs alive.

It's the classics that deserve to be kept alive.