The Hunt for Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Guitarists

Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003 created a list of the Top 100 Guitarists.


I have seen 33 of those guitarists perform live. The number of times I have seen some of them play is included in parentheses. The hunt continues…;)

3) B.B. King (9)
4) Eric Clapton (3)
9) Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
10) Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones
11) Kirk Hammett of Metallica
13) Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead (2)
14) Jeff Beck (2)
15) Carlos Santana (13)
23) Warren Haynes (7)

24) The Edge of U2 (3)

28) Stephen Stills
30) Buddy Guy (4)
31) Dick Dale (3)
40) John Fogerty
41) Clarence White of the Byrds
42) Robert Fripp of King Crimson
48) Joe Perry of Aerosmith (2)
49) John McLaughlin
50) Pete Townshend
52) Lou Reed
54) Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane (4)

58) Dickey Betts
61) Ike Turner
65) Hubert Sumlin

66) Vernon Reid, Living Colour
69) Steve Howe of Yes (3)
70) Eddie Van Halen
74) Johnny Winter
81) Derek Trucks (3)
82) David Gilmour of Pink Floyd
83) Neil Young (2)
91) Robby Krieger of the Doors (2)

97) Robert Randolph (2)


Patti Smith, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, A Salute to Robert Frank, An Artist and a Friend

My wife and I attended the Patti Smith concert at The Metropolitan Museum of Art(The MET) on Saturday October 17th, 2009. It was an evening of pure enchantment.


I wanted to share with you some of the images from our day at  The MET. As time and schedule allows I will update this blog post with further thoughts, observations from this day of connecting with Robert Frank, Black & White, The Americans Exhibit, Patti Smith, the music, the poetry and a Robert Frank film we also attended, Me and My Brother.

One thing I learned actively about yesterday was contrast, how Robert Frank uses that technique in his photography. When Patti mentioned she had dressed in black & white for the occasion I flashed on the contrast below.

Americans 79 Chicago 1956

The Americans 79 Chicago 1956 pattismith046e

I was hearing the song Gloria whilst I found my way to my seat in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium for the concert. What really struck me was that I had just seen earlier in the exhibit on the second floor, the picture of this car with the saying in the back window, “Christ Died For Our Sins”. I immediately flashed on the contrast as I heard, playing in my head, the line Patti sings in Gloria,Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”. It all seemed to fit together so perfectly after that, Patti Smith, Robert Frank’s photograph, contrast, Robert Mapplethorpe’s photograph of Patti, Catholicism and my love of music 🙂

Helge Lien Trio – Norway

Music is constantly being defined and reinvented around our planet every single day. With ever watchful eye and ears aimed to sounds that set direction, we turn the music of our heart across the Atlantic to Norway.

Allow me to introduce the Helge Lien Trio, a piano trio certain to add a rich dimensionality to your listening pleasure. They are an innovative jazz ensemble that communicates the feeling of the mysts of the fjords where the trolls reside through their musicianship. Considering I have never been any closer to the actual fjords than the Norway Maelstrom attraction at Epcot Center that is no “small” feet 😉

Their album, Hello Troll, has earned them the prestigious Norwegian music award, “Spellemannprisen 2008” in the jazz category.

Listen and purchase here:

Gregg Rolie, Santana, Woodstock at 40

I found this picture of Santana’s original keyboard artist, Gregg Rolie, on Gregg’s Web site. As a devout Santana fan and  a Woodstock nation member I just had to share it with you on my music blog.

The picture of Gregg Rolie  by Barry Z. Levine, who was one of the official Woodstock photographers. Barry Levine and Linanne G. Sackett collaborated together on a fantastic book, The Woodstock Story Book . You can find the original photograph on page 88 of their book, which they lovingly signed for us at The Gathering of the Vibes in 2009 😉

©2009,  Linanne G. Sackett and Barry Z Levine, All Rights Reserved

My friends on the Moonflower Cafe made me aware that the Gregg Rolie Band has a new CD, Rain Dance, a live CD, which is  available on CD Baby. Below is the CD cover, if you click on the cover image it takes you to the CD Baby order page for the CD and the MP3 download files. It’s a very accurate representation of The Gregg Rolie Band Live whom I have seen and can testify to 🙂Gregg Rolie Rain Dance

The Spirit of Woodstock at 40

Another Montage

“Going down to old, old Woodstock

Feel the cool night breeze

Going down to old, old Woodstock

Going down to give my baby a squeeze”

(From the song Old Old Woodstock, written and performed by Van Morrison, Copyright 1971, Caledonia Soul Music, Warner Brothers Music Corporation)

Being a member of the Woodstock generation my soul is deeply connected to the Aquarian exposition that was held August 15, 16, 17 and 18, 1969 in White Lake, NY. Woodstock signifies a defining moment in the evolution of rock music.

Live music has been my passion for 40+ years. Woodstock is the bedrock of live music, the festival that defined our generation, establishing strong values of peace and love.

I recall the summer of 1969 very well. I graduated from Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, Connecticut that year. It marks our 40th class reunion this year. I met my wife in January 1969. We have been together 40 loving years.

I didn’t go to Woodstock. I was supposed to attend. I didn’t have tickets. A friend, Alan Miller was supposed to pick me up in his VW Micro Bus on August 14th. But Alan Miller was not a reliable hippie. It turns out he had made arrangements to take twin sisters to Woodstock. Instead, I learned afterwards and understood where his priorities lie.

Perhaps this was for the best, as I don’t know if I would have survived the flat blue acid, the green acid or the brown acid being distributed that weekend. Having never done hallucinogens I was fearful and paranoid of the mind alterations they could do to a person. Supposedly 200,000 of the 400,000+ people took acid that weekend.

Woodstock has always been an integral part of my psyche.

The Woodstock journey began when my wife gave me the gift of the 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD. We sat down to watch it together in July and the magic of Woodstock overtook us.

I started collecting books, buying magazines and purchasing music about the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock. The books led us on a further journey to visit Woodstock in August. We had a Woodstock 40th Anniversary week, August 9th through August 14th that took us on a special trip back to the garden.

That trip led us to the The Museum at Bethel Woods, Center for the Arts, a Celebrating Woodstock 40 book signing and photo exhibit at Morrison Hotel Gallery and The Heroes of Woodstock concert at Foxwoods Casino. The legs of that journey are described next with pictures and special memories.

I hope you enjoy this trip and the reviews of the books, music and the Woodstock movie. The combination of media and live experiences embody The Spirit of Woodstock at 40.

I. The Museum at Bethel Woods,  Sunday August 9th, 2009


A picturesque, historical farm that is now a national landmark and museum. The Woodstock museum is a rich, multimedia experience. The Woodstock exhibit (scan Main Exhibit Gallery) immerses you in the garden of time and magic.

The first portion of the exhibit is entitled The Sixties, where we are taken back to the timeframe of transistor radios,  Top 40 radio,  the Beatles, and 45 r.p.m. records spun by the popular disk jockeys of the day (Murray the K,  Scott Muni, Cousin Brucie). This exhibit represents important signature memories of my early teenage years growing up. The museum has put together various viewing booths with channel selections that allow the visitor to witness characteristics of the Sixties.

The exhibits flourish the sentiments leading up to the Woodstock event, which is the core presentation of the museum. There are lots of memorabilia, photographs and a rich set of information about how Michael Lang, Artie Kornfield, John Morris and the investment backers, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman rose above the various challenges to bring us Woodstock.

There are some great exhibits that recreate Woodstock for visitors. There is a Merry Pranksters bus that you walk onto and watch a video of their journey from New Mexico to White Lake, NY.   Being a die hard fan of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, having read and absorbed his novel, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, I loved finally being on the bus.

The other exhibit that enthralled me was the large semi-circle with a huge panorama view of portions of the Woodstock film displayed on the wall. It was entitled “The Festival Experience”. We sat in the shadow of recreated towers just like the Woodstock audience did. The recreation of the rainstorms, complete with thunder and lightning, made for a very surreal setting. Yes, it felt like you were right there at Woodstock as the artists played large than life before us.

The Woodstock movie theater projected a twenty-one minute film, “Woodstock, The Music”, with many rare videos and music appearances from Woodstock. The film is unique from the re-released Woodstock movie.  “Woodstock, The Movie”, has many interviews with artists who played Woodstock such as Carlos Santana as well as contemporary artists like Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (who we had just seen the night before in concert at Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Ct.).

We spent five hours at the Woodstock museum and then we headed over to the Woodstock monument on the grounds. A very cool thing happened on the way to and at the monument. We got a thunder and lightning storm, then it rained, which I felt was very appropriate. Right behind the monument is the field where the audience sat and where the stage was constructed.  Sacred ground indeed.


II.  Celebrate Woodstock 40

Morrison Hotel Gallery

313 Bowery, NYC

Thursday August 13th, 2009

MHG Woodstock Poster305

We attended The Morrison Hotel Gallery event, which featured Woodstock Festival Executive Producer Michael Lang and official Woodstock photographer Henry Diltz (who is one of the principal founders of The Morrison Hotel Gallery, which has become a strong , recognizable brand for music photography art.)

It was our first visit to the Bowery Gallery as we have become customers of The Morrison Hotel Gallery in SoHo. Our son works in SoHo and we feel a very strong connection now with the neighborhood and its businesses.

We noticed on our way to the Bowery Gallery that a street sign on Bowery indicated Bill Graham way. I wondered if that was in memory of the late Bill Graham of Fillmore East/West fame. Certainly Bill Graham has a special place in our hearts as the individual who made live music concerts a reality. Bill Graham also played a principal role at Woodstock helping Michael Lang and Artie Kornfield manage and coordinate the event (as did John Morris, production coordinator who learned the ropes working for Bill Graham running the Fillmore East.)

When we arrived the autograph signing was underway, we smiled when we saw John Sebastian gazing at the Woodstock photographs mounted on the gallery walls. I approached John Sebastian and asked if he would sign The Road to Woodstock book I had brought with me. He did so with a charming smile and I thanked him with a “God Bless You ,John”. It was only fitting John Sebastian was there as he is pictured on the cover of The Road to Woodstock in his tie die splendor.

We bought another copy of The Road to Woodstock  book to have Henry Diltz, Micheal Lang and Holly George-Warren sign it. Each person was very cordial. Henry was a playful soul, with a twinkle in his eye that belied his keen photographic sense. Holly George-Warren is a music author that I deeply respect and admire. I was very honored to meet her.

Michael Lang, the Woodstock Festival Executive Producer signed the book next for us. I shared with Michael that I was very appreciative of his vision of producing Woodstock. I informed him I had graduated from high school forty years ago and that my wife and I had met 40 years ago as well. He smiled up at us and then I shook his hand. I got a nice vibe from Michael and it was a very proud moment for me to meet him. Having attended 275 concerts in 40 years, I couldn’t help but flash on how instrumental the Woodstock Festival has been in forming the foundation of live music for millions of fans all over the world.

We then got lost in the photographs on the wall and drinking in the ambience of the evening. It was a sizeable crowd. The event then moved to the selection of the raffle prizes. It was very cool to see Michael Lang, John Sebastian and Henry Diltz up on the platform laughing and smiling as the prizes were awarded.

The Boys of Summer

I especially enjoyed the audio by the late Walter Cronkite about the Woodstock event as a nightly news story from 1969. Michael Lang seemed very moved by the slide show and I could feel him smiling when we all cheered when he was shown on the screen.

Michael Lang Peace

I was fortunate to get a photograph with Michael Lang during the event. Here we are flashing the peace sign, notice my big smile.

I am very grateful for The Morrison Hotel Gallery for inviting us to this event. We had a lovely time.

III.  The Heroes of Woodstock

Foxwoods Resort Casino

MGM Grand Theater

Mashantucket, Ct.

Friday August 14th, 2009

Heroes of Woodstock

Concert Review

The evening began with Country Joe McDonald as Master of Ceremonies. I have always wanted to see Country Joe McDonald perform and wish I had seen him in his hey day with Country Joe and the Fish. Country Joe McDonald organized the Heroes of Woodstock tour and served very well as a snarly, in your face, MC. He has a great sense of humor coupled with a sardonic wit. He teased us by starting to say, Gimme An F, but he held back as he would do the Fish Cheer/Fixin to Die with us later on.

He sang a couple of songs, then introduced his friends from San Francisco, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Big Brother and the Holding Company represented the music of Janis Joplin, who played at Woodstock with her Full-Tilt Boogie Band. Sam Andrews lead guitarist of Big Brother played with that nucleus at Woodstock, so therein lies the tie-in to Heroes of Woodstock.

Wood_JoeCountry Joe McDonald entertained us after Big Brother’s set, as the stage was set up for Canned Heat. Country Joe led us through the Fish cheer, which was fun to do ,  Gimme an F, Cimme a U, Gimme a C and Gimme a K, what’s that spell, FUCK. He then performed I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag.

Canned Heat performed next and they were very true to form. There were three members of the original CannedHeat in attendance, Harvey “The Snake” Mandel, lead guitar, Larry “The Mole” Taylor, bass guitar and Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra on drums.

They did a fine set with Going Up The Country, On the Road Again and Work Together.  What a great hard core blues band Canned Heat is


and they really

laid down the boogie for us. They were spot on and I loved hearing them play the classic hits and feeling the blues they make.

Ten Years After was next. Ten Years After Now consists of Leo Lyons on bass, Rick Lee on drums, Chick Curchill on keyboards (these are the original members of Ten Years After) and Joe Gooch on lead guitar. It took Ten Years After a little while to warm up., but once they reached their energy level they caught fire and they crowd was right here with them. They performed “Going Home” admirably. I especially liked how animated Leo Lyons was on bass. After their set I went out to the lobby and had them all sign my Heroes of Woodstock poster.

Heroes of Woodstock Poster #2

Jefferson Starship completed the evening playing the classic Jefferson Airplane tracks, “White Rabbit,” “Somebody to Love”. Tom Constanten joined them on keyboards so they did “Turn On Your Lovelight” to cover the Grateful Dead base of Woodstock.


Heroes of Woodstock Mementoes

Autographed Country Joe McDonald Photograph with GimmeAnF guitar pick

Country Joe #1

Larry “The Mole” Taylor, Canned Heat Autograph

Larry Taylor Autograph

IV. Woodstock Book Reviews

Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock

By Pete Fornatale

Publisher: Touchstone Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster

ISBN-13: 9781416591191

Back to the Garden

(Review pending, I haven’t read this book yet. As soon as I have read and digested this book, I will share my thoughts about Pete Fornatale and his  writings about Woodstock.)

The Road to Woodstock

By Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren

Publisher: Ecco Books, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN: 978-0-06-157655-3


(Review pending, I am in the midst of reading this book. After having met Michael Lang and Holly George-Warren, I want to be certain to do their collaboration justice with an accurate, well thought through review. I plan to write their book review next.  Watch this space for an update within the next week. Ed Jennings, 8/17/09)

The Woodstock Story Book

By Linanne G. Sackett and Photographs by Barry Z. Levine

Publisher: Channel Photographics/Brunswick Institute Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-615-28523-8

Woodstock Story BookMy wife and I met Barry Levine and Linanne Sackett at the Gathering of the Vibes on July 25th in Bridgeport, CT.  We spoke for a little while and I felt compelled to purchase their book through our meeting. They are two warm, loving people who have put together a candid picture story of how Barry saw and captured Woodstock through his camera lens. Linanne added her prose as accompanying thoughts to her husband’s pictures. The combination of the two in loving collaboration works very well throughout the 176 pages.

I especially liked the foreword by Wavy Gravy as Wavy was the master of ceremonies at the Gathering of the Vibes (GOTV). In many way GOTV is a sister music and arts event that served perfectly as a prelude to Woodstock at 40.  Wavy Gravy’s role at Woodstock is legendary and there is a very paternal feeling Wavy creates for music festivalgoers, when you are in his midst.

The photographs are unique; they form an up close and personal view of an event of enormous proportions and significant ramification for generations to follow.

Woodstock, Three days that rocked the world

Edited by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsbury

In association with The Museum at Bethel Woods

Center for the Arts

Publisher: Sterling Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-4027-6623-7

Woodstock Book

I have found this coffee table sized book invaluable in writing and researching my article, The Spirit of Woodstock at 40. Like other points of integration in this article, I like the fact that the authors worked with The Museum of Bethel Woods, Center for the Arts who serve as an authoritative source as the Woodstock museum on the Woodstock site.  The points of integration this book signifies are that we visited the Woodstock museum on Sunday August 9th, 2009 (see the separate story elsewhere in this blog posting), so we know how authoritative the book is in relationship to the museum curators. The other point of integration is that John Sebastian who was at the Celebration 40 event we attended in NY City was quoted as follows:

“Woodstock was beads and colors and flowers and sunshine and beautiful people”

The contents are based upon a timeline, as is the museum.  I loved the foreword by Martin Scorcese who was an NYU film student in 1969 and an editor of Woodstock. His personal story about Woodstock put the film making process in perspective. Of course Martin Scorcese has overseen other major music documentaries such as The Last Waltz, (The Band and other guests celebrating a classic music concert), No Direction Home (Bob Dylan), Martin Scorcese Presents The Blues (in conjunction with PBS and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the blues), and Shine The Light (The Rolling Stones in concert at the Beacon Theater). Realizing that Woodstock provided the impetus for these other historic music documentaries is a wonderful feeling to share with Martin Scorcese.

The book is structured with careful organized thought as it defines the Woodstock Venture, the project team and the venture capitalists who invested in Woodstock. We get great glimpses into Max Yasgur and Micheal Lang’s relationship, learning how instrumental Max Yasgur’s Farm was as the ultimate location of Woodstock.  We learn about how the famous Woodstock poster came together. We learn how the sound of Woodstock was constructed by Hanley Sound (with all its challenges and hurdles). There are numerous photographs of the stage construction, which was worked on right up until the last minute of the concert itself.

The book then takes on a chronological perspective of the musical acts that played Woodstock, complete with the date/time the artist started, everyone who played on stage during the set, which instruments they played and the entire set list of their performance. We begin with Richie Havens on Friday August 15th at 5:07 p.m., Richie and his band played 2 hours and 40 minutes, with eight encores. We are then taken through beautiful color and black and white full pages of all the artists who performed at Woodstock. I found this book wonderful to follow along with the six CD set, Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm.

I especially liked the pages about Bert Sommer, an artist who started as an actor with the musical Hair on Broadway. Bert Sommer is one of the artists (like Sweetwater, Quill, The Keef Hartley Band, etc.) who were ignored by the original Woodstock movie and soundtrack issuances in 1970. I actually booked Bert Sommer to perform live in concert at my old college, Norwalk Community College in 1971.

The photographs of each Woodstock act are stellar, as are their words from their memories and their hearts from that experience.  All in all, a great book for those who like organized research, history and beautiful photography in timeline fashion.

Woodstock Vision

By Elliott Landy

Publisher: Backbeat Books

ISBN-13: 978-0879309657

woodstock vision

Elliott Landy’s book, Woodstock Vision, is a delight to the mind and senses. Eliott takes a comprehensive view of Woodstock, NY and its artisans over the decades.

There is a special 98 page section, “Woodstock An Aquarian Exposition, 3 Days of Peace and Music, August 15, 16, 17, 1969, Bethel, New York”. There is an introduction in classic, cosmic form by Jerry Garcia. Captain Trips felt the presence of invisible time travelers from the future had returned to witness Woodstock, its music, its vibe and its tribes.

Elliot’s photographs captured the event with marvelous color and imagery. His use of the wide fish eye lens offers a great panorama of the spectacle of the event. The writings of John Morris, stage announcer and production coordinator are insightful for those who seek to know more about the history of the events surrounding the stage and artists.  The interview with Michael Lang, who hired Eliott Landy to be one of two official photographers (Henry Diltz being the other official photographer), revealed what it was like to be the Festival Executive Producer.

Elliot has been judicious in choosing key individuals who provide their thoughts and memories about Woodstock 1969. Lisa Law, photographer and Hog Farmer tells us what it was like to feed 400,000 plus people.

The commentary from Richie Havens in the afterword is a wonderful testament to the event. Entitled “The Essence of Woodstock”, Richie recalls what his day was like. Richie Havens opened the Woodstock Music Festival, playing for two hours and 40 minutes. Little did I realize he created Freedom ad-lib as a result of his view from the stage.  Richie came to the realization that the freedom of the early sixties was finally being exercised at Woodstock.
VI. Woodstock Music

Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm

Six CD Set

Rhino – R2 519761

CD Set

Rhino Records has released a six CD(actually DVD Audio) boxed set that is a chronological anthology that definitively captures the live sounds of the Woodstock stage and its audience, amazingly well. Andy Zax and his team assembled this four-year project with great care. The music is represented faithfully from the pair of eight-track recording systems that were manned by infamous recording producer Eddie Kramer that weekend.

The packaging is a delight to the senses. Each of the DVD’s is brightly colored with the Woodstock dove and guitar image from the festival logo designed by Arnold Skolnik.  The eight hours of music and stage announcements envelops the listener deeply in the Woodstock experience. The 80-page booklet that is included complements Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm by including the complete listing of the entire set list by artist in order from the beginning of the Woodstock festival to the end. This is a real treasure to own and have.  It is titled “The Complete Band Order and Set List”. This two page documented list has been the subject of lively debate for decades, even amongst the artists, their management, recording crews and the festival producers. Country Joe McDonald has always been adamant about when he did the The Fish Cheer ( Gimme an F…) We now know it was Saturday August 16th in the afternoon, after Quill and before Santana.

There are only three groups who did not allow their music to appear on this recording, The Band, The Keef Hartley Band and Ten Years After. Of those three the rarest music to be heard and found was The Keef Hartley Band and The Band. I finally heard portions of each of their sets live on Sirius Satellite’s Woodstock channel this past weekend.

My favorite tracks of the 95 tracks in total are Canned Heat’s, Woodstock Boogie (28 minutes of heat), Mountain’s Theme For An Imaginary Western, The Rainstorm, captured so perfectly I find myself covering up and saying, No Rain, No Rain, Blood, Sweat and Tears, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy and of course Santana’s Soul Sacrifice. I love the fact that 38 new tracks have been uncovered and added to the music of Woodstock since the first Woodstock triple album was released in 1970.

If you want the Woodstock 1969 Festival in all its audio glory this is the recording you must own!

VII. Woodstock Websites

VIII. Woodstock Event Artist Lineup

I have attended over 275 concerts in the past 40+ years. I have had the opportunity to see 17 of the 32 acts that played Woodstock perform live at various concerts over four decades. The artists shown in italicized text are the ones I have seen live in concert. I’ll keep trying to add to that list over the years we all have remaining, God willing.

Friday, August 15th, 1969

Richie Havens


Bert Sommer

Tim Hardin

Ravi Shankar


Arlo Guthrie

Joan Baez

Saturday, August 16th 1969


Country Joe McDonald


John B. Sebastian

The Keef Hartley Band

The Incredible String Band

Canned Heat


Grateful Dead

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Janis Joplin

Sly and the Family Stone

The Who

Sunday, August 17, 1969

Jefferson Airplane

Joe Cocker & The Grease Band

Country Joe & the Fish

Ten Years After

The Band

Johnny Winter

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Monday, August 18, 1969

Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Sha Na Na

Jimi Hendrix

Bill Ortiz, From Where I Stand, CD Review and Interview

Artist: Bill Ortiz

Recording: From Where I Stand

Label: Tangent Records

Author: Ed Jennings –

clip_image002Bill Ortiz’s debut CD, From Where I Stand is positioned as “An amazing mix of Neo-Soul, R&B and Nu-Jazz, from the trumpet player of Santana.”

Listeners are in for a unique experience of sounds and vibrations awaiting them on From Where I Stand. There is a mature depth to the soundscapes mined by established musician, composer, producer Bill Ortiz. Bill’s collaborations with San Francisco based co-producers, Lloyd (The Platinum Finger) Richmond and Steffen Franz (Stand Out Selector) yields a positive, diversified result. This audio CD will take you to new places; exposing you to beats, rhythms you’ve been longing to hear. Let’s examine the meaning of the musical genres and qualify those trends in relationship to the recorded tracks.

Neo-soul is a musical genre that fuses contemporary R&B and 1970s-style soul with the elements of hip-hop. Neo-Soul music is essentially modern-day soul music, with fashionable attitudes and sensibilities. It differs from contemporary R&B in that it’s obviously more soulful, and it also tends to have deeper messages and meanings than typical current R&B.

Nu-Jazz is a new era in music, blending ethereal soundscapes with hypnotic rhythms and sensuous instrumentals.

(The tracks reviewed are categorized Neo-Soul, Nu-Jazz and R&B with the following symbols.)

Neo-Soul = n§, Nu-Jazz = √∫, Rhythm & Blues = R/ß

Right from the first note of the initial track AyeJaye , you know where you stand with your musical guide Bill Ortiz. You are swept away on a magic carpet ride of orchestrated funk. Very quickly, Santana band mates, Benny Rietveld, (Bass) and Karl Perazzo (Percussion), pick up the rhythm on this track carrying you in a danceable direction. Bill Ortiz steps right in on top adding a rich layer of trumpet sounds. The various well-sequenced samples and audio effects round out this tune.

Little Sister, Little Brother R/ß is reminiscent of an old soul standard laden with honey. Regina Espinoza’s vocals intermix with the instrumental mood like a well-steeped late night cup of tea. The more you sip of this blend the more relaxed you become.

The songwriting/production partnership with Lloyd (The Platinum Finger) Richmond reaches a high point with Ease My Mind . The track does just what it sets out to accomplish by creating a mellow groove that puts you right at ease. Its like old friends who haven’t seen each other in awhile falling right back in step naturally as if no time has passed. Kenny Byars (Vocals and Song Co-Author) adds the right touch of modern soul with his spirited voice. Bill Ortiz’s trumpet playing echoes the sentiment expressed with extra flourish.

The instrumental track, Full Circle exhibits Bill Ortiz’s versatile skills with the trumpet, Arp Synth, Moog Bass, and samples. It’s a lively, upbeat composition smartly complemented by the other musicians onboard Peter Horvath (Wurlitzer Piano), Jubu Smith (Guitar), Sly Randolph (Drums, Midi Drums) and Jesus Diaz (Congas Bata, Percussion).

Slip Into This starts off sounding like an old vinyl record to help in the transition from vintage soul to neo-soul. With no hesitation the funk builds then sustains itself throughout the track. Mone’t Owens provides just the right saucy soulstress vocal to spice up this selection with a repeatable chorus.

Let go, relax your mind, unwind and slip into it

Don’t worry if you felt that this track was too short or that you didn’t get enough pleasure from Slip Into This. Three tracks later we are treated to a hip-hop/rap remix, Slip Into It (Yay Area Remix) , with Mone’t’s vocals treating us again. She is joined vocally by Joshua Richmond Durham aka Fivehunnet Rap as MC.

Judgment Day is infectious as a rescaled, fast-clip, reggae tune with Bill Ortiz playing flugelhorn and muted trumpet. A little later on Judgment Day morphs into a dub track, Judgment Dub (Ras Dru Remix) with Rocker-T on vocals and lyrics, Ras Dru on Nybingi Drums. The dub track evidences how diverse a recording From Where I Stand truly is.

In Every Breath is a tribute to the late soul musician Donny Hathaway. Church Boy performs the vocals over a well-crafted, measured jazz instrumental riff. The track then shifts to a soul funk that personifies the classic touch of vocals, piano and keyboards that are signature Donny Hathaway.

I Still Believe is an inspirational track that closes out the recording. It features vocalist Linda Tillery invoking a charismatic spoken word rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from Oslo, Norway (1964). The music that embellishes the architect of peace’s words strengthens how timeless Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is 45 years later. It is a fitting way to end From Where I Stand as the truth rings out a poetic wisdom that encircles every heart that listens.

Interview with Bill Ortiz, conducted on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ed Jennings, Interviewer –

Ed: Bill, I love your new album, From Where I Stand, I was pleasantly surprised by it. I feel the dimensionality of the recording is uniquely diverse and that your music is a very replay able work of listenable art.

Bill: Thank you. Hopefully this CD has a thread of identity with my voice as a trumpet player throughout all the different tracks. I started playing gigs professionally in my high school years, which was in the mid 70’s. During that era the music business wasn’t so compartmentalized as it can be now. Many jazz musicians were experimenting with other genres, blending their music together with R&B, funk, rock and other styles. In addition, it was also a very important moment, not only in music, but also in other aspects of cultures, with the tail end of the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement. It was generally a very progressive time in the culture of San Francisco as well as the country.

When I first started playing gigs, pretty much all the musicians I was playing with were interested in playing all kinds of different music. Whether it was blues, R&B, jazz or whatever, it didn’t matter. It all comes from the same place anyway.

Ed: How did you choose the musicians you wanted to record and play with?

Bill: For the most part they were people that I was playing with at the time. Generally, the musicians I picked were the ones that I knew could deliver the sound and direction I wanted for that particular song. I know a whole lot of great musicians, and sometimes it’s not a matter of whether a person can play or not, it’s if they are right for the song. You want to have somebody that’s going to know where you’re going with the composition, and have the common vocabulary with you to bring out what you are looking for in the song.

In addition, in order to properly support your solo, it helps if they understand your conception and direction as a soloist. This stems from having that common musical view to understand where you’re going.

The guitar player I used on most of the tracks was John “Jubu” Smith, a great musician out of Oakland originally. I started out working with Jubu with Peter Apfelbaum and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble. After that, we worked together for a few years with the R&B soul band, Tony! Toni! Toné! I believe he started out as a gospel and blues player early on, but very quickly became a superb jazz musician-now of course he’s just a complete musician. It was just a no-brainer with his playing providing the certain element of what his voice brought to the table.

Ed: On the first track, AyeJaye, I like how you have Karl Perazzo (Percussion) and Benny Reitveld (Bass) from the New Santana on board. It’s a nice segue from the major work that you do with the New Santana Band.

clip_image004Bill: Right. The funny thing is that Karl Perazzo and I have been playing together since I was like 20 or 21 and he was around 17, so we have a very long history of playing together, long before playing with Carlos. Benny Reitveld and I played together first in the mid 80’s with Pete Escovedo, after which he went off to play with Miles. We’ve had a long musical history as well.

Ed: How long have you been carrying some of these songs and sounds inside of you before you put them onto the recording?

It’s taken me four or five years to get this done because I’ve been so busy working with Carlos Santana on the road. Few of these songs might pre-date that a little bit as far as when they were first written, but pretty much I’ve been working on it the last four or five years.

If I hadn’t been so fortunate to be the road as much with Carlos, I would’ve finished the project quicker, but I’ll take that trade off any day. When you’re traveling so much and you’re home for a month and then gone for a month, it requires balance. It’s of course, a great honor and joy to play with Carlos so you get to it when you’re able to.

I have say I’m blessed right now to have some really great people working with me on a business level. I have a good friend of mine that has his own distribution company. His name is Steffen Franz and his company is IDC. We also co-produced two tracks on the album. It’s a rare thing in the music business when you have someone that is not only interested in the numbers and the pure business aspect, but is also on the same page of what you’re doing artistically. Steffen is supportive of independent musicians trying to make a statement musically and otherwise. I’ve also been fortunate to work with Ben Lang, Christopher Austria, Haley Meijer, Kurt Kunselman all also at IDC, publicist Christopher Buttner of PRthatRocks, and radio promoters Adam Leibovitz of ASL Music Media and Brian Gerhard of Massive Music America.

Ed: Your timing could be good as there appears to be a richer vein of jazz being mined and explored by listeners right now. I think your recording will do well with all the different tracks that I hear. It’s such a different time of music distribution and music listening. You never know what’s going to click with the audience that’s out there.

Bill: Yes. Things have changed so much over the last couple of years the way independent artists and independent record companies have a little stronger footing now, especially with the rise of MySpace, Twitter, imeem, ReverbNation and Facebook. In addition to standard advertising and distribution, the fact that you can be up in all these sites and tie people immediately into iTunes or CD Baby or whatever music social networking site that you’re working with is a big plus for the independent artist.

I just got word from Steffen today that From Where I Stand is available on iTunes as of this morning, which is great. The official release isn’t until July 14th, but part of the plan is to be up a couple weeks before the official release just to get everything moving, and get a feel for initial interest and other related activities.

Ed: I’m really pleased to see how many people you have become friends with already on Facebook, which is going to be a great catalyst for you.

Bill: It’s really quick. Facebook is great. MySpace is fun because you send out all these friend requests and you’re able to not only connect with people who might buy your new music, but you become aware of the incredible amount of great music all over the place that is grass roots of any kind of music. You hear reggae from Australia or hip-hop from Finland and it’s just incredible stuff.

It’s nice to have ways now for the public to not only to listen artist’s music but also to connect with the artist themselves. The social network sites create an option for artists not to be so removed inside their little ivory towers.

Basically, I kind of look at the music thing the same as Carlos. You get to the point in your life when you really value the bigger picture, and music is one of the few things that can balance the scales. It’s important to me to put something out there with a positive and unifying nature in a time that is starving for it.

Ed: You’re very proud of the I Still Believe track. Your influence for the song, is it from the days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or is it more because when you are with Carlos Santana you’re very focused, as he is, with being an architect of peace?

clip_image006Bill: I think it’s all of it. First of all, I’m old enough to have seen first hand as a kid the impact of Dr. King’s life and his passing, and what the strength of his words accomplished for the world. To be able to take those words, which are as much or even more relevant now, and put them out there again in a time that they are needed now more than ever, it’s an honor. So that’s part it.

Part of it also I was touching on before, Carlos talks about music being a healing force which brings people together. You see it at our concerts, when people are listening to our music it’s touching their soul and transcends language, religion or culture.

If you take it a step farther, you then see it as an artist, that it’s not the ego. It doesn’t really even play a role but gets in the way instead. To me, it’s not about the actors, it’s about the act, and at that point it’s almost like you’re a conduit of something that comes from outside of you and through you. Whether you want to define that as pure creativity, divinity or whatever, you connect with that. It’s something definitely that is beyond yourself.

Ed: The song Judgment Day that is a reggae tune first and then is done as a dub mix second, Judgement Dub, I really like that combination. I liked when Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule did a whole dub based recording, Mighty High. I always felt that was a great experiment/risk for that jam band to take. Then to hear you do that treatment on your recording I thought was equal validation of dub as a re-mix experiment.

Bill: Thank you. It was something actually I kind of thought of doing maybe a couple of weeks before I was going to master. I really like when artists release not only their standard release, but dub releases as well, such as Garvey’s Ghost, by Burning Spear.

I liked what Branford Marsalis did on his first Buckshot Lefonque record. He had one song where they had two or three different re-mixes of the same song. It’s a way of taking a look at an object from different angles and stressing different things on it. If you’re listening to the two versions of Judgment Day, it’s the same song, but it’s a whole different interpretation of it. I was blessed to have the reggae artist Rocker-T provide some great lyrics and vocals, as well as have engineer and producer Ras Dru providing his vision with a great re-mix plus playing Nyahbingi drums.

Ed: The song Slip Into This, the seventh track on the CD, it starts off like an old vinyl record. Was that a vintage sound you were trying to achieve on behalf of the listener?

Bill: I worked with a Bay area writer on that particular tune whose name is Lloyd Richmond. He’s an incredibly talented and gifted writer and producer. We worked on a number of tunes on the record. That was a song he wrote and co-produced with me, it was his idea to throw in the vinyl sample. It ties in with how he and I were hearing not only that particular song but also the overall record. You take different influences, put them into a funnel and have them come out the bottom as your sound.

Taking elements of great classic R & B and soul music of the 60’s and 70’s and incorporating it with straight-ahead jazz, hip hop, neo-soul, and everything from the John Coltrane to Donny Hathaway, that was the concept. Therefore, the vinyl noise was kind of a nod to that classic period of R&B and jazz.

Ed: How much influence has nine years of playing with Santana had on the shape and sound of your recording?

Bill: Playing with Carlos had an influence on my improvising. When I started working with him in 2000, obviously, I was already well defined as far as my sound and my concept. But he has a way, not unlike Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis, of peeling away unnecessary crap in your playing and being more efficient with what you play. Every note you play means something, not preconceived, but just being very focused and every note meaning something.

I’ve never been the musician that was the “look at me, look at me” type. When I’m soloing I don’t to try to play on top of a groove, where the music stays the same and you’re pretty much just using that as a vehicle to play on top of. I’d rather play within the groove. That’s one of the things early Weather Report was doing, the role between the soloist and the ensemble becoming a little blurred. I love the organic nature of that, so even if you’re the soloist, there’s more conversation going on between people that are playing with you, and the music is different every night. I love spontaneous musical events. It’s enjoyable creating texture and moods more than creating a canvas for me to showcase myself on. Both approaches are valid and there are musicians who can do that much better than I

Ed: I don’t think a lot of people understand how hard everybody works with rehearsals prior to the show. I’m sure you probably had to put in some practice time before Europe because you don’t just walk out to the concert stage and step right into it.

Bill: In addition to that, just playing trumpet is a very demanding instrument. In a way it’s like you’re an athlete. If you don’t practice every day, you lose your control of your embouchure and then that’s it. I think Dizzy Gillespie was once quoted saying, “If you miss one day you know it. If you miss two days everybody knows it.” And it’s true.

It’s always a challenge on the road playing enough to keep my chops in tiptop shape so I don’t get a little rusty. So as far as the hard work we do, it’s not only the work that we do on stage and the rehearsals- it’s the years of playing the trumpet to get to the point of being having the skill set to handle the requirements of the job.


Ed: Bill, one of my favorite moments of you on video is the Supernatural DVD when you walk out the shadows during the rehearsals to watch Wayne Shorter play.

Bill: I can remember that moment. Since that day we’ve been blessed with playing with Wayne a number of times, such as touring Japan with him and Herbie Hancock during the Emissaries Of Peace Tour in 2005. But that was the first time I had played with him, so it was an incredible treat to see one of my heroes doing what he does.

You can learn a lot by the intangibles, how even before Wayne starts playing, how he approaches the moment. Through watching him I got a different level perspective of his thought process. I think at that moment it was a rehearsal, and I wasn’t aware that they were filming. I just walked by and they were playing and it was like, “Okay, here I am. I’m going to sit here listen to this moment of magic now.”

Ed: Tell me about the music you play when you’re not touring or recording with Santana.

Bill: Besides playing my own music I also work with an excellent jazz singer named Lavay Smith . She’s a Bay area person with a band co-led by her pianist Chris Siebert, called Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. I have a whole lot of fun playing with that band. Their basic approach is jazz and blues from the 40’s through the 60’s, with a lot of their music being influenced Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie tunes, and stuff like that. They have some really nice four horn arrangements, done by Chris Seibert, as well as David Berger , who does arrangements for Lincoln Center.

I also work with Karl Perazzo and the great conga player/educator Mike Spiro, who co-lead the Latin band, Conjunto Karabali . So, that’s a lot of fun. I do a lot of session work and freelance stuff, too. Hopefully with the CD coming out I’m going to be doing more and more of my own shows.