prasa > Modern Drummer, grudzień, 1992
Modern Drummer, December 1992
Jeff Porcaro: A Special Tribute
By Robyn Flans
On August 5,1992, incredibly, we lost drummer Jeffrey Porcaro to a heart
attack. Even as I write the words, it seems inconceivable. To those
who knew him, the pain of his loss is excruciating. Jeff was one of the
most vibrant, vital people on the face of the earth. His entire
demeanor radiated energy and spirit. He had a way of expressing
himself--a sort of mocking cool that couldn't help but sound hip--and a
huge contagious laugh that I vow to always remember. He was
opinionated, at times controversial, sometimes eccentric. Always, you
knew where you stood with him. He had away of making you feel so
special that it made you just want to be around him. The moment he
entered a room, he lit everyone up. He defined charisma. Jeff touched
music with the same magic. It was inevitable that his warm, emotional,
and passionate personality would come through his playing. If you
listen to Boz Scaggs' "Low Down," "Jo Jo" or "Lido Shuffle," Steely
Dan's "Gaucho," Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin'," or any of Toto's
music (most notably "Georgie Porgie," "Hold The Line," "You Are The
Flower" from Toto I, "Rosanna," "Africa," "I Won't Hold You Back," from
Toto IV, and "Pamela," "These Chains," and "Anna," from The Seventh One,
then you know the keywords that describe Porcaro are feel and groove.
It just always seemed to be the perfect part for the song, from the very
romantic "When I Need You" (Leo Sayer, Endless Flight) to the more jazz
attitude of "Your Gold Teeth" (Steely Dan, Katy Lied).
This is why I've never made any bones about saying he is my favorite
drummer. Oh, sure, there are drummers who have technique for days.
(Actually, if you ever had the chance to see Jeff play at the Baked
Potato--where he was able to stretch out more than usual--you might have
been surprised to see him play in a way you didn't know he could.) But
for the most part, Jeff's playing was not about chops, it was about how
it made you feel inside when you heard it. It was heart and it was
soul. He set a standard that made artists, producers, and musicians
want to work with him.
I want to thank all those who participated in this tribute to their
beloved friend, at a time when it was difficult to barely string two
words together: David Paich, the keyboardist for Toto; David Hungate,
the bass player in Toto's first incarnation, who recommended Jeff for
his first big gig with Sonny & Cher; Steve Lukather, guitarist for
Toto; percussionist Lenny Castro, Toto's ghost member; Boz Scaggs,
whose new album Jeff was in the middle of producing; Jim Keltner,
mentor and dear friend, with whom he played his first session (Jeff once
said he threw up on the way into that session); producer Gary Katz;
Paul Jamieson, who did Jeff's cartage from 1976 to 1988; and colleagues
Mike Baird and Vinnie Colaiuta. All were dear friends in addition to
being business associates. Some of their stories are very personal in
nature, but offer an insight into the person, the drummer, the friend,
and the loving family man that Jeff was to his wife, Susan, and their
three children, Miles, Christopher; and Nico.
And as I write this, I keep thinking how Jeff would be embarrassed by
all of our babblings. Sometimes his modesty even bordered on self-
effacement. In my 1983 interview with Jeff, he made one of the most
ludicrous statements anyone has ever uttered: "My time sucks." Maybe he
really just never knew that his time-his incredibly felt, deep-in-the-
pocket, fiery, yet soulful time was much of the reason he was called to
work for the gamut of artists from Barbara Streisand to Bruce
Springsteen. But Jeff always would rather give anyone else the credit.
His modesty never allowed him to wear attention well, and he insisted
that his playing was just a stolen combination of his influences-Jim
Keltner, Jim Gordon, Bernard Purdie, John Bonham, John Guerin, Paul
Humphrey, and his dad, Joe Porcaro. He may have absorbed his heroes'
playing, but what Jeff overlooked was that he had synthesized those
influences into a style--a playing personality--all his own. It was a
sound that will live forever.
"I was about 14 years old, and I was auditioning for a band Jeff had
called Rural Still Life. My audition song was "Feeling Alright", the
Dave Mason song that Joe Cocker sang. I remember hearing Jeff play, end
I couldn't believe how professional he sounded at such a young age. I
had been sitting in with professional musicians because my father was a
professional musician, so I had been playing with the best drummers
already. I thought I was pretty good at the time, so when I met someone
else who was excellent, it was pretty impressive. I was real
conservative. I was doing stable work in my parents' barn, so I was kind
of a country bumpkin. And here was Jeff with the American flag sewn in
his jeans, long hair, and a headband...that public school look," he
"It was instant chemistry because I had played drums for a little while
when I was younger and then switched over to piano. Immediately I could
relate to his time, and vice versa. When you lock in time, it's a
magical thing. We hit it off immediately.
Just about every time we were together was magical and fun. There were
a lot of one-takers. "Rosanna' was done in one take. It was all
spontaneous jamming on the end. Jeff had this ability to do things in
one take. A lot of time we would redo our parts, but Jeff's part was
usually right on the first take. '99' was done in one take. He used to
change his kit a whole bunch too. In the early days, he'd change bass
drums or put together all sorts of strange drumkits. Sometimes he'd
open the heads up and put newspaper inside, always looking for
different sounds on the drums, always experimenting.
"Whenever we were touring, he'd always manage to put some kind of clinic
together for us to play at. He went out of his way to meet young
drummers and help them in his spare time. That's really unusual,
because it's very tiring on the road.
"It's important to listen to him and realize that if you want to play
drums, he was one of the best there ever was. Learn to be open-minded
and musical, which is what he was. He wasn't just a drummer, he was an
"I've played with a whole lot of drummers, and he's the best I've ever
played with. We never had to talk much. Everything was just understood.
our communication was non-verbal. It was mainly just eye contact
between him and me. He was the brother I never had."
SELECT TRACKS: "On our new album, there's a song called 'Jake To The
Bone' that everyone ought to check out. It's one of the best things
he's ever done. 'Gaucho' with Steely Dan was very good. There's an old
album by Tommy Bolin called Teaser that Jeff played on, which not too
many people know. I also liked 'Dirty Laundry' with Don Henley."
"I moved to LA in late 1971 to work on the old Sonny & Cher show. Dean
Parks, who I knew from college, had been in town for about a year and
had been telling me about this incredible drummer he'd worked with named
Jim Kilter. In January of '72, Dean called me to do a session at Leon
Russell's house on Skytel. Another friend from school, Sal Marquez, was
the artist, Bobby Torres was producing, and Jim Keltner would be playing
drums. The bad news was that we would be starting at 10 or II PM., we'd
probably go all night, and it was a spec demo. But it was a chance to
work with Keltner, so that was cool.
"When I got there, the rest of the band was already running the tune.
The drums were somewhere in another room. I plugged into a direct box,
put on some phones, and was amazed. I had never heard a drummer like
that--great sound, taste, ideas, energy, perfect execution, and grooving
like there was no tomorrow. We played through the tune and into a long
fade--the groove evolving logically, getting outside but always under
control, and rock-solid. I'd never experienced anything like it.
When we quit playing, I heard a deep voice from the direction of the
drum room say, 'who's the bass player?' I couldn't tell whether the
tone of voice indicated approval or sarcasm - and twenty years later I'm
still not sure - but I was sure that I wanted to hear this guy play some
more. I opened the drum room door, ready to meet Keltner, and almost
tripped over a young kid - he looked about 14. I looked around. There
was no one else in the room. He stuck out his hand and mumbled 'Jeff' s
something - it sounded like 'Vaccaro' or 'DiCaro' - in an incongruously
low, world-weary hipster voice. Here was this seventeen-year-old kid
who didn't talk or act like a kid, and who played like God. I was
thoroughly confused by then - and still hadn't met Keltner.
"We did three tracks that night. When we left, the sun was shining
brightly. I wasn't particularly tired...l felt like I could listen to
this 'Jeff' kid play forever. I still feel that way.
"Jeff had that rare combination of a brilliant mind and a sensitive
artist's soul. To many he became the standard by which drummers are
judged, yet to refer to Jeff only as a drummer is to somehow understate
the case. He was a composer, arranger, and a formidable wit who
happened to express himself through his playing.
"Words cannot begin to express my sense of loss. We had some wonderful
and hilarious times. For me, like many others, music will never be the
same without Jeff around. If there is any consolation, it is that his
life's work - the thousands of records he made and the songs he wrote -
will stand forever as an indelible monument to his genius, and an
inspiration to future generations of musicians. Those of us who had the
great privilege of knowing Jeff and working with him can know that, for
a while, we walked with a giant".
SELECT TRACKS: "Everybody knows the obvious things - Steely Dan, Toto,
Boz Scaggs. Jeff was particularly proud of the Steely tracks he did.
Here are some of my favorites that are less well known: Colin
Blunstone's Never Even Thought; Bill Champlin's album Single; and
Diana Ross's album Baby It's Me. The last work I did with Jeff was on
an instrumental album I did for MCA (Canada) in 1990 entitled Souvenir.
The track entitled "The Leap" is a good example of the freer side of
Jeff's playing. He didn't think he was a jazz drummer, but he was one
of the best."
"If it wasn't for Jeff, I would have no career. I was in a band in high
school with Steve Porcaro, and through him I met Jeff, and he just took
a liking to me. Jeff was the guy who told Boz I should be hired. He
was the guy who got me on my first dates. He was the guy who talked
Paich into having me in the band. I owe my whole career to him.
"One thing about Jeff is that you always knew where you stood with him.
If he was angry with you or disagreed with you, it was right to your
face. He would also be the first person to give you a hug and kiss and
tell you how much he loved you. There was never any vacillation or
bullshit about him. We had words - usually when I would be doing
something stupid. He'd bust my chops if I was being an asshole, like
you are when you're young. There were a couple of times we'd disagree
on a musical thing, but not very often. We were the guys who used to
sit up in the double-decker bus on the road, listening to Hendrix. I
spent a lot of quality time with Jeff. I may as well have been his
flesh and blood. He was my best friend.
"He spent so much quality time with his kids, too. He would spend hours
making models with the kids. He'd get up early and stay up late with
little Nico and let Susan sleep. He'd write lyrics and hang out with
Nico. He spent so much more time with those kids than a normal parent
would in a whole lifetime.
"We co-wrote this whole new album as a band, so as a writer, there's so
much of Jeff in it. It's not just David and me writing the songs.
There's some real stretching on it. It's some of Jeff's best work on
record, I think. We were all really proud of it.
"We were so excited about the new album. The tour was all sold-out in
Europe. The family has asked us to do it, so we're going to do it, and
Simon Phillips is going to play. Susan wanted us to do it, and Joe
Porcaro took us all aside and said, 'Jeff would have wanted you to.'
It's not like we put together a tour after the fact; everything was
already sold-out. Hopefully it will help the family. We're giving him
his share as if he were there. At first I thought it was in bad taste.
I couldn't imagine playing with somebody else. But I thought, "If I
passed away, God forbid, I'd want them to grab somebody and follow
through with what I started."
"Jeff was Toto's spiritual leader, he was the final word. 'What do you
think, Jeff?' We wouldn't necessarily always agree on everything, but
most of the time we did. He would just always know. He'd say, 'There's
just something not right about the groove. Why don't you rebalance this
here and do this?' and all of a sudden, what sucked five minutes ago was
now happening. He just had that ability to polish a turd.
"There were slot of guys who played faster or with more chops, but there
is no living soul alive who played a groove like that. When you think
of drums, a lot of people think of technique, but really drums are a
rhythm instrument, and the basis of all music is the rhythm. And the
basis of all grooves is the drums. I could play just straight 8th
notes, and he could play something and it would make me sound Godlike.
It's all finesse. It's that little extra something. You either have it
or you don't. He was touched by God when he was born."
SELECT TRACKS: "On the new record there's an instrumental called 'Jake
To The Bone.' There are some unbelievable grooves on this new record.
'Gypsy Train is the second-line meets Zeppelin."
"We first met an a Diana Ross session. It seemed like we had known each
other all our lives. At the end of the session, he said, 'Listen, I'm
working with Boz Scaggs, and we're getting ready to go out on the road.
Would you like to check out the gig?' I said sure, so I went down to
the soundstage and set up. I was under the impression that it was an
audition. We were playing, and it was going on really long. I finally
said, 'Jeff, what's happening? Nobody is telling me anything." He
said, 'Man, you had the gig before you came here tonight.' He had
talked to Boz and had convinced Boz so bad that Boz never even
"I remember the time we had the blackout in New York in the summer of
'77. We were on stage with Boz at Avery Fisher Hall. During the fourth
tune the power went and I remember looking over at both keyboard
players. When you pull the power out of a B3, it doesn't shut off right
away. It goes down slowly. I looked over at Jeff like, "What the hell
is going on?" Crew guys were running around, and all of a sudden the
lights went off. Jeff and I were the only ones still playing. And
we're thinking the lights were going to come back on any second. But
nooooo! Then they started screaming, 'Drum solo,' and Jeff got off the
stage immediately. You know how he was about drum solos.
"He had a hotel room on the 8th floor. I was on the 19th, so we spent
the night in his room with a bunch of friends with all the windows open,
just watching New York go completely mad. It was the wildest.
"Playing with Jeff...I had worked with a few drummers before him, but I
had never known anything about locking in - not just playing the same
rhythms, but locking in heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul. Constantly when
we were playing live I would have my back to Jeff, playing my timbales,
and we'd come out playing the same lick, as if we were reading it off a
piece of paper. When you find a soul mate, you know it. It hits you
over the head like a bolt of lightning. It's just mental telepathy. It
was scary. We not only did that when we played, but just in hanging
out. We always thought along the same line. That's probably why the
Porcaros took me into the family. I left my mother and father in New
York, struggled out here for a while, met Jeff, and then all of a
sudden, I had a family.
"He was an incredible artist as well. I used to follow him around the
studio. He would doodle on pieces of paper, and I would take them home.
Some of it was kind of crude, but it was deep. He always looked at
things with a different eye. He did seriously incredible caricatures.
In fact, Miles Davis wanted one of them, and Miles gave Jeff one of his.
"Ever since he has passed away, I have been wondering what the future
will hold. I don't know if I will ever feel that groove again with
anybody else. I think it's one of those things that is just gone
forever. Fortunately he did leave an instructional video. There are
some guys who will come close, but he just had his own inflection of the
way he did things. The little riffs he did on the snare drum with the
left hand - the stuff between the snare drum and the hi-hat - was just
incredible. Nobody has ever done it. Just those little grace notes
that he would do on the snare drum when he would do a shuffle.
"The shuffle was the thing everyone was always on top of him for, but he
hated shuffles. He was always telling me, 'I hate solos, I hate
shuffles, and I won't play in odd time. I'll just keep the groove.
That's why guys like Vinnie Colaiuta are around,'"
SELECTED TRACKS: 'Rosanna,' D.J. Rogers - there's some incredible funky
stuff on that. The stuff we did with the B-52's that just came out was
great. We worked on the title track, 'Good Stuff'. We were in the
middle of a Paul Young project. That was the last thing I did with him.
And of course there's the Silk Degrees album, and the Toto IV album."
"I met Jeff through producer Joe Wissert. I had assembled a body of
material and was getting ready to start the Silk Degrees album. Joe had
been hearing a good deal about these young musicians - Jeff, David
Paich, and David Hungate - who had been playing mostly individually, but
had been doing some sessions together. He thought they might be the
nucleus of a great section, so we got together on a session to see if it
would work. Obviously it did, and they were the section that made the
Silk Degrees album with me.
"The real surprise and joy of working with those guys was that they
shared my enthusiasm for contemporary urban black music. We were trying
to do something that not too many others were trying to do - the white
boys listening to the other side of the radio. Jeff, David, and David
had a feel for that stuff. 'Low Down' was just a natural for them.
David Paich and I wrote that one, knowing that there was someone there
like Jeff to carry it.
"Jeff approached his role more like a songwriter, a singer, or an
arranger would approach the song. He did a lot more than just keep
time. He actually moved me as a singer through the song. Everybody in
the band would know what was coming up in the next few bars, because we
could feel it in the way he anticipated, the way he moved us toward it,
like a rider moves a horse.
"'Harbor Lights' was a song for which he was greatly responsible for
setting the tone. That was a songwriter presenting a song and getting
back an interpretation from the musicians that wouldn't have been
possible without his unique interpretation. I'd throw it out in the
air, and this kindred spirit would collect it and transpose it back to
me in a way that would give the song new meaning and new life.
"I could say that in general about the way Jeff absorbed things. I
think a lot of drummers would say the groove he set up on a song like
'Lido Shuffle' was a classic shuffle. It's a very elusive little time
that he plays. It sounds simple, but it's really not easy to execute.
A lot of drummers recognize that Jeff had this shuffle that was unique.
It's probably the hardest of all the grooves to keep, and Jeff was a
master of that. 'Jo Jo' was another very elusive groove. It took a lot
of innovation and creativity for a drummer to pull some of those grooves
"First and foremost was Jeff's energy and enthusiasm. You would gain a
sense of confidence as an artist working with someone you would feel was
a kindred spirit. Jeff found the heart of what you were trying to do.
I know enough about Jeff to know that that was not true of every session
he walked into, but if it was something he emotionally tied into - music
that touched him - he loved to help interpret it. He made it his own
piece. It had his signature on it. He danced a song. He sang a song.
He paraded your own song in front of you through his eyes, through his
"Any collaborative work reflects the soul of the person who is
collaborating. Jeff was a collaborator, and any drummer trying to
consider himself a part of a high creative process has to consider
himself a collaborator and bring his personality and interpretation to
it, not just a set of drums that sound like everyone else's, or what
it's supposed to sound like. It's not about what it's supposed to sound
like; it's the individual's interpretation. After his energy, Jeff's
interpretation was the important thing that all artists should aspire
"I met Jeff when he'd just turned 17. It was at a session for Jack
Daugherty on May 31, 1971. We were double drumming with Jack's big
band, live at A&M Studio A. My first impression of Jeff was that he
seemed older than his years - very cool - and he seemed to carry himself
with an unusual amount of confidence. But the self-effacing guy that
he's always been was evident even at that early age.
"While I was messin' with my gear, Jeff sat down behind his drums and
played a riff around the kit that startled me. It was an inside-out
sort of thing - real smooth and precise with a lot of force behind it.
I asked him if he could play it again - to see if he really knew what he
was doing! He played it again, note-for-note, and I said, 'Man, where
did you get those chops?' He told me his dad, Joe, had let him play his
drumset when he was still so little that his feet barely reached the
pedals. He also said that a lot of the older studio guys were telling
him he played too busy, too loud, and too fast. I told him, 'You're
onlythis young once - you've got plenty of time to refine your playing
later - so play all the stuff you feel, the way you feel it-now!' I
thought of him as my 'little brother' from then on. And even though he
played on a few big records in the meantime, it was when I heard 'Low
Down' from Boz Scaggs' Silk Degrees album and later 'Hold The Line' by
Toto that I realized Jeffrey had become one of the baddest cats on the
"Music aside, one of the things I loved most about Jeff was his
selflessness. He was always taking care of someone else's needs. And
he hated seeing anyone being taken advantage of or treated badly. He
was always giving things away and offering encouragement to sincere
"Jeff's playing will be studied and enjoyed for many years to come,
alongside of all the greats. His overall musicality and incredible
timekeeping will be emulated. But for those of us fortunate to have
known him well, he 'II be very much alive in our hearts and our
SELECT TRACKS: "'Low Down,' 'Hold The Line,' and "Africa'. ""Africa'
was actually a loop of a pattern he played, but it was still his
imagination. I remember being at a session down the hallway, which was
when I would see Jeff. When I would walk by the door he'd say 'Come on
in a minute,' I'd feel so privileged to be privy to what was going on.
I'd listen for a bit, and I would just be so knocked out by how
beautifully he was playing that I couldn't even remember the names of
the artist or the song."
"We were recording tracks for Steely Dan's Gaucho album at A&R. It was
Jeffrey and three other musicians. In those days, we would record
tracks forty, fifty, sixty times until Donald [Fagen] felt he had a
track that was steady enough. In those days ['79], we didn't use click
tracks, and the kind of click track that was available, Jeffrey hated.
We played the track for quite a long time that night, and at about 11:00
or so, Donald said it wasn't working for him. When that happened, it
was usually the kiss of death; we'd never try the track again and the
song would be lost. So at 11:00 he and Walter [Becker] felt they had
exhausted that track and were going to call it a night. Jeffrey and I
were upset about that, because it was definitely going to hit the can,
and we loved the song. Donald said, 'Okay, you guys stay, and if you
cut a track that you like, call us and we'll come back".
"We stayed there most of the night. I had a chart, and Jeffrey would
play a take, and I would hear eight good bars - not that all the bars
weren't good, but I tried to think like Donald. But I would mark those
bars, and then the next four good bars. We did about seventy takes. We
finally left at about 5:00 in the morning, and the next day I went to
the studio with Roger Nichols and Jeff, and we literally edited this
track bar by bar. I had all these markings on my chart...it was a fluke
that I made a track that felt good. We called Donald, and they came
over late in the afternoon and couldn't find anything wrong with it And
as nonchalantly as he had left the night before, he said, 'There's
"The style of music that I liked was compatible with Jeff. I never
found myself in a room thinking, 'This isn't Jeffrey's thing,' although
he would say that on a couple of occasions, mainly about shuffles.
Having done a TV show, as he did when he was so young, and having to
read charts for these various people - if you could put it out there, he
could play it. I was never in the studio with Jeffrey where it didn't
work. Part of the style of records I make was Jeffrey. Now I've got to
figure out something else.
"When we met in '73 and started making the many records that we made -
I've made more with Jeff that weren't Steely Dan than that were - I
never never went to the studio feeling anything but, "I know I'll get
this track.' It's funny, the only record I didn't work with him on in
years was the one I recently finished with Laura Nyro - and that was
because Jeffrey told me I should hire Purdie."
"I remember the time in '8I when he lent me $10,000, interest-free, to
buy my home.
"I remember in '77, working for Jeff when he was with Boz. At the time,
the Silk Degrees album was the top album in the country, and we played
six or seven nights at the universal Amphitheater. One night after one
of the shows, hanging out late, I was driving Jeff home in my '60
Corvette, and when we left, we took a wrong turn on purpose and drove
through the whole Universal tour at 1:00 A.M.
"I remember the only time I saw him uptight before playing a show was at
the University of Alabama when all the guys from the Muscle Shoals
rhythm section came to see Toto. I remember the tension in the air in
the dressing room before the show. It was the only time that I ever saw
the guys nervous.
"I remember one time in Japan, we were all in Jeff's room at 3:00 in the
morning. Jeff decided he wanted to mess with somebody. So we took the
room list and picked out Scott Page, the saxophone player. It was Jeff,
Lukather, [tour manager] Chris Littleton, and me. We went to Scott's
room, and Jeff knocked on the door. We were at the sides of the door
where Scott couldn't see us. Scott said, 'Who is it?' Jeff said, 'It's
me, help me. I'm messed up.' Scott opened the door, and we grabbed
him. All he had on was a towel. We pulled him out of the room, stole
his towel, and closed the door behind him. As we turned and ran down
the hall, we saw Page, face to the door of his room, screaming, 'Hang
up, hang up.' He had been talking to his wife long distance. He had to
go down to the lobby nude to get the bellman to let him in.
"I love you and miss you, Jeff. I really cherished our friendship.
With his passing, certain grooves should be retired. But I know he's in
the heaven house band playing with Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, John
Bonham, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
SELECT TRACKS: "'Jo Jo,' from Boz Scaggs' Middle Man, 'Rosanna,'
'Waiting For Your Love' from Toto IV, and Steely Dan, 'Gaucho'.
"I remember one day I was sitting at home, and he called me up and said,
'Why don't you come over, I want to show you something.' I went over
and he said, 'You've got to dig this.' He put this record on and he was
going, 'Dig this, dig this,' at some fill that was playing. I'm going.
'Yeah, okay.' He said, 'That's you, man.' For the next three hours, I
was putting on records he played on, going, 'Yeah, but dig this.' It
was this major bond thing. And for every one I played of his, he played
one of mine. It was incredible. That just tells you about the person
he was. To have someone call you over to their house to say, 'This is
how much I groove on you,' is unbelievable. It just blew me away.
"Another time, I was at home and the phone rang and it was Jeff with the
classic 'What're doing?' I said I was just hanging and he said, 'Be
here at the Record Plant' like now,' and he hung up. He had been in the
middle of a date, had gotten up and said, 'I can't play this shit, call
Baird.' He got on the phone and had already called cartage to set my
drums up, and called me. I got to this studio, I listened to what Jeff
had played, and it was great. But I went ahead and played the track.
When we finished Jeff came out, shook my hand and said, 'Thanks buddy.
See you later,' and he laughed. I walked out and he continued on to the
SELECT TRACKS: "The tune that sums up Jeff's finesse and musicality is
'Calling Elvis,' from Dire Straits' last album. I was listening to
Michael Bolton's "When A Man Loves A Woman,' which Jeff played great on.
But to me, Calling Elvis' just defines his style. It's pure Jeff. Also,
one of his best was Bot Scaggs' 'Lido Shuffle.' I remember thinking to
myself, 'Okay, they put some kind of reverb or digital delay on his
snare, and that's how he got that shit.' Then live, hearing him play
it, it was like, 'How is he doing it now?' On 'Rosanna,' he obviously
played some great stuff. He copped it from Bernard, but it was his
interpretation that somehow epitomized that groove. It was obviously
his touch that put his signature on it."
"I'll never forget the first time I met him. It was the first time I
saw him play on a date. It was at Crimson Sound in Santa Monica, on Tom
Scott's Street Beat album. My dear friends Neil Stubenhaus and Carlos
Rios were on that date. I was new in town. Evidentally, they had been
spending some time on this tune, but by the time I got there, they had
changed the groove, although I was hearing it fresh, right? They
started playing and I just freaked. Jeff sounded so amazing. The
groove was so ridiculous, so hip. Neil introduced me to him. They were
on a break before they went back in to try it again, and he was like,
'Man, I can't play tonight, I'm tired, man.' Well, let me tell you - if
that was tired, then I'm lucky to even be playing, because that was on
"He put his reputation on the line for me more than once. I owe a large
part of my career to him. I'll never forget the time we were recording
Pages. He seemed so happy for me, almost proud. He let me use his
drums to record with. In fact, he insisted that I use them for the
record. When I got bumped from the record, he was livid. And he
recorded some of the record too. And in my heart of hearts, I couldn't
be happier that he did, and proud that it was him - one of my all-time
biggest heroes - because I learned so much from him, I was so thrilled
to be around him. His presence alone spawned excitement and hope for
us, because he was the cat; he was in it deep, and he had it all.
People listened to him, and he set the standard and kept it. His stuff
didn't get old. He is timeless. Sometimes you get people who, well,
they document things and that's it. Like you don't update or modernize
or modify the Mona Lisa. You just don't.
"There was the time I was playing with Karizma at the Potato, and Jeff
was in the audience. I closed my eyes because sweat got in them.
Finally when I could open them again, I looked down in the middle of the
tune and Jeff was on the floor underneath the hi-hat, lying down looking
up at me, cracking up. I looked down and saw him there and just lost
it. It was because my hi-hat had broken. He had actually climbed over
the counter, behind the drums, and by the time I could open my eyes, he
was fixing it. Who else would have...you know? I mean, that's how he
was. He'd be the first guy to help you with anything.
"We had so much fun when I guested briefly on Los Lobotomys. Double-
drumming with Jeff was one of the high points of my career and my life.
I finally got a firsthand glimpse at what it must feel like for
musicians to play with him. It was like floating on a cloud. I know
that sounds clich, but it was an unbelievable feeling.
SELECT TRACKS: "'Jo Jo' and 'Gimme The Goods' with Boz Scaggs - he
plays this really fast 32nd-note thing at the end that is incredible;
'Gaucho' with Steely Dan, 'Rosanna' with Toto, Bill Champlin's solo
album; 'I Keep Forgettin'' with Michael McDonald; James Newton Howard
& Friends, which is an instrumental album that is amazing, and Michael
Bolton's 'When A Man Loves A Woman.' When I heard the fill in the
middle of that song, I knew it couldn't be anyone other than Jeff.
"Every time I hear him, it's that same excitement, that same joy. He's
there forever now, in my mind, my heart, my memories, and with the
tremendous prodigious body of his great music that he's left us all. I
miss him terribly right now. I miss you, Jeff."