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 alwayss 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 couIdn’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 plaaing 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 impressove. 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 laughs.
“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 all-around musician.
“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. ur 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 Jirn Keltner. In January of ’72, Dean called me to do a session at Leon Russell’s house on Skyhill. Another friend frum 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’ 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. Iwas 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 Porcao 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 questioned it.
“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-ta-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 assernbled 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 colect 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 off.
“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 own interpretation.
“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 interprctation 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 to”.
“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 only this 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 planet.
“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 young players.
“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 memories.”
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 another track.’
“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. Party 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 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 roomlist 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’vec 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 classi ‘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 next tune.”
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 gooove. 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 fire .”
“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 cliche’ 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.
“Everytime 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.”