George Benson

George Benson is a very good ping pong player. I discovered this while covering the Free Jazz Festival in Sao Paulo Brazil. I could hear the ball bouncing and saw a crowd gathered around the table in the lobby of the Maksoud Plaza Hotel. After the guitarist dispatched two opponents and started to walk away, […]

Patrice Rushen

Patrice Rushen scored a minor hit with the song “Forget Me Nots,” but when the tune was remixed for the Men In Black motion picture soundtrack, she had hit the big time. Many people did not know that Rushen was a Southern California piano prodigy who had been making jazz fusion and funk records for a […]

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana did more than just talk about the power of music to affect social change, he put his money where his mouth was. Carlos and his wife Deborah were big supporters of Communities In Schools in Marin County, California, and paid for a music teacher at San Pedro Elementary School in San Rafael for many […]

Geddy Lee

Geddy Lee was already a decade or more into headlining big arenas with his band Rush, but the bassist/vocalist clearly liked talking about the old days. Heroes of progressive rockers everywhere, Rush (along with British groups Yes, Genesis, King Crimson) made it cool to play odd-times, and made it sound so easy. Drummer Neil Peart […]

Al Jarreau

Al Jarreau, vocalist extraordinaire, supported himself mainly working as a social worker in San Francisco in the 1960s and ‘70s. His inspiration to become a full-time singer came from seeing the reaction to his work with a trio led by pianist George Duke. Jazz fans were filling rock clubs with enthused listeners. Those two remained […]

George Duke

George Duke grew up in Marin City, California, an unincorporated community developed first to house Sausalito shipyard workers during World War II. He attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, already excelling in music, and went on to classical studies (trombone and piano) at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Stints with Cannonball Adderley and […]

Joe Pass

Joe Pass played with ‘em all. Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, the list goes on and on. But as amazing a guitarist as he was, Joe Pass was also very practical and down to earth. Old school class. His father was not musical, but he saw music as a way of Joe getting out of […]

Ginger Baker

As Ginger Baker stormed out toward his barn I wondered if the interview I’d flown to his ranch in Santa Barbara to get would indeed happen. But after half an hour of discussing polo ponies, the drummer was feeling like talking music again, early jazz and blues, the idea behind Cream, and the African influence […]

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock had just released his first album for the Mercury label, after a long recording career with Blue Note and then Columbia Records. I was excited to get the chance to speak with him for the first time in 1995. Herbie’s album’s had always been rhythmically exciting, but this one especially caught my ear […]

Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin was the lesser known of several acts that night, but before the evening was over he was the one everyone was talking about. It was a one-night jazz event in San Francisco, at a steakhouse off Market Street unaccustomed to having live music – and it sounded like it. McFerrin took the stage, and […]