Had a little back and forth emailing with Jon Anderson today. I first met him in 2005 when I got the opportunity to play a gig with him during the NAMM convention in Anaheim. We've stayed in touch and have sent musical ideas to each other. When I heard his voice over my music that was something really amazing for me personally. Such an iconic sound to his voice... and he's still 'got it' too. Bizarre that he's not IN Yes right now when he was such a huge part of it but... I don't go there. I just love and respect the music they've made.
Here's me playing "Long Distance Runaround" with Jon Anderson, Nick D'Virgilio and friends.
Are you getting the feeling that it's not a good Squids Travels blog post if I don't mention some famous rock names? Me too! Well, I guess that's part of the fun. But it won't always be that way. I hope you don't get too used to the Squids trademark namedropping thing. But while we're at it I might as well tell you the story behind that gig with Jon Anderson!
It started with a guy I know named Randy Fuchs who was helping to put together an event at NAMM that was sort of a 'guitarist oriented gig' with Nuno Bettencourt, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jordan Rudess and all sorts of musicians. IK Multimedia and Sonic Reality were among the sponsors of the event and when Randy told me Jon Anderson was going to guest with Nuno I said "Ask Jon if he'd also do a tune with me". Turned out the answer was YES! (yeah I know... that was only the squillionth pun made about the band name since its first existence). Jon gave us two songs to choose from. It was either "Long Distance Runaround" or "Your Move". I quickly chose Long Distance and later on Steve Ferlazzo, the keyboardist for Nuno's band, said to me "You beat me to it! I wanted to do that one too!" and they ended up doing Your Move instead. Good to be quick on your feet is the lesson there. No hesitation!
Now, somehow being the "MD" of the opening part of the gig I was able, with Randy's help, to put together an interesting mix of musicians on stage starting off with me, Nick D'Virgilio and Stan Cotey who were essentially reuniting playing together since the last time we did which was in 1994 with Kevin Gilbert as "Giraffe" at Progfest performing The Lamb. Then Jon Anderson would join us on stage followed by former members of Earth, Wind & Fire, Ricky Lawson, Neil Zazza a full horn section... it was getting pretty crazy and somehow I convinced everyone to end the set with "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (with full real horn section). But... unfortunately Yngwie Malmsteen took up the entire sound check to jam with his band! No one could tell him to stop (partially because it was so loud!) So... We didn't have a single run through of anything and it quickly went to a 'plan b' and that was to scale the set back to what we all knew best. Forget about "Owner" with everyone on stage with a horn section and not a single run through. But we DID do "Broadway Melody of '74" by Genesis and "Long Distance" without a run through and that was brave enough (especially doing a Yes song with the guy who wrote it and sang it originally!). A bit nerve-wracking but we made it and Jon loved it. Larry Dunn, Sheldon Reynolds and the rest of the Ex-EWF guys did their thing... it turned out to be a great show. But no one knew what sort of tough spot we were actually in there! I had to keep things together both musically and psychologically between everyone. So for me it was an even bigger success personally... plus of course it was a thrill to play with all those guys.
Me with Patrick Moraz (ex-keyboardist for Yes's Relayer album)
Another interesting 'progstory' about that day is that Patrick Moraz who I've met a few times before had come up to me at the SR NAMM booth to ask for tickets to come see me play with Jon Anderson! How cool! How bizarre!!!! An ex-Yes keyboardist asking me if he can come see me play with his old bandmate? What planet is this??? Definitely was a trip. Anyway, Patrick went to the show and loved it! He was so grateful to be there because apparently he hadn't talked to Jon since the 70s when they did 'Relayer'. So I played a part in their brief reunion backstage. A fun esoteric prog moment to share with those who are fans of that album (one of my faves growing up and Moraz is a fantastic keyboard player).
There are quite a few times I've had the opportunity to put two musicians together where it meant something to them and I think it makes for good storytelling so I'm sure you'll be seeing more of that in future blog posts. There's a really good story behind this video but I'll have to save it for another time!
I hope I've satisfied the expected name-dropping quota. My company Sonic Reality's motto is "Sample Everything" and that philosophy extends into other aspects of life as well, particularly with music-related experiences. So there's a rather unusual variety of one off events to tell you about... and that will only lead to more name-dropping so be prepared! You have been warned. Have a great weekend! - Dave