2001 began with a series of interesting and varied musical assignments. NAMM came and went with an enjoyable series of appearances with keyboardist Vince DiCola and “Chicago” lead vocalist and bassist Jason Sheff for the Alesis folks. Once again I found myself probing the depths of the new Midi machinery that Alesis came out with and praying to the Patron Saint of Midi to bless me with divine inspiration or at the very least, intervention. Sandwiched in between was a real highlight and a breath of acoustic relief for me. I found myself playing real acoustic drums behind the unlikely aggregation of lead singers Jason Sheff and Bill Champlin (Chicago), Alex Ligertwood (Santana), and Bobby Kimball (Toto) playing songs from each of their groups. They were kind enough to lend their vocals to a couple of pieces from the “Thread” record, which they performed beautifully. Vince performed on keyboards of course and rounding out the group was Lance Morrison on bass and Doug Bossi on guitar from Don Henley’s band and Whitesnake respectively.
Following quickly on the heels of that was a surreal pair of concerts for a Los Angeles Fundraiser benefiting inner city youth. This time I was backing up a truly bizarre configuration of individuals ranging from the singing and dancing doctors of “E.R.”(Yikes!), Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” notoriety, Karla DiVito, Meatloaf’s great female vocalist, to Eddie Van Halen. This was loosely termed a musical revue, as there was a propensity of other notable “theater” type sorts who came and did a turn. Jon Bauser, lead singer of Sha Na Na and his son get a special mention for a very unique version of “Bridge over Troubled Waters” that might have given Paul Simon reason to reconsider the wisdom of penning this in the first place. Still it raised a lot of money for a very good cause and who can argue with that. Eddie’s turn was by far the most unusual, exciting and loud part of the evening. I always say there is nothing like a nice segue from “Send in the Clowns” to “Hot for Teacher” to get peoples attention. But amazingly people dug it and even stayed to the end of the song! It was an absolutely fantastic band to play with and we played everything from Stephen Sondheim’s intricate arrangements, which might be equivalent to if Frank Zappa wrote for musical theater to big band swing arrangements, bizarre stop/go theater pieces, rap and even some rock for the young people. Finally all that time playing in Broadway pit orchestras pays off! A good time was had by all and it’s not everyone who can say they were nearly run over in a parking lot at 2 am by a speeding Eddie Van Halen in a pickup truck.
Before leaving for Europe with the band I did some interesting session work, first for a Japanese instrumental group called T-Square who were like an eastern cross between Steely Dan and Larry Carlton-very challenging, interesting music. Following that Vince DiCola asked me to go in the studio with him to record the racing theme for the Formula One races to be played before each event. Wonderful arrangement of an exciting, high energy track with Bobby Kimball’s vocal on top. Squeezed in one last, highly enjoyable session with Valerie Landsburg, a very talented composer and vocalist for her new CD before leaving for Nashville with Tull to film a show at the Wild Horse Saloon for the TNN Network.