When David Garfield moved to Los Angeles in 1974, he wanted to make music his way. These days, he’s making a lot of music, with people like George Benson, Smokey Robinson, Boz Skaggs and many others. He has also had a successful solo career with many interesting projects. David will appear with his band, The Cats, Thursday, October 19 at Bogie’s in Westlake Village. Showtime is 7pm. Besides David Garfield on keyboards, The Cats are Leslie Smith (vocals), James Harrah (guitar), Brandon Fields (saxophone), and Steve Ferrone (drums).
David sat down recently with The Los Angeles Beat to talk about his career, his music, the upcoming shows and the release of his new song, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s classic Go Home. Go Home is currently charting high on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart. It features the Grammy Award winning Kirk Whalum on tenor sax and Paul Jackson Jr.on guitar with other personnel including the great Stephen “Doc” Kupka on baritone sax (founding member of Tower of Power) and Greg Phillinganes on clavinet (keyboardist for Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson). From the intro of drums and tenor sax to the soulful vocals and dynamic conclusion, Go Home brings new life to a classic song.
Q: You’re known as a keyboardist, but you’ve produced and arranged for many musicians. Is that the source of your statement, “I make music”?
A: Yes. I came up with the slogan “I make music” from going over whatit is that I did. what I do is write music, I get people together to rehearse it, play it, record it; and then I perform it. So it’s like all three stages of the product. I’t’s simply “I make music” but the long form is that I write it, I arrange it, I rehearse it, I record it and I perform it. It’s all part of the same vehicle!
Q: Outside the Box is the start of your upcoming studio project. What is it and who are you working with?
A: The project is going to be entitled Outside the Box. You know how they talk about thinking “outside the box”, That’s going to be the title; and on the cover I’m going to be standing next to a box. The concept of the project is that I do a lot of different genres–I do things differently, I don’t fit into a narrow lane, it is actually a cross-genre record, it crosses 4 or 5 genres. the people that I’m working on the record with, the list is like ridiculously long. I’ll give you some of the highlights, but there’s no way I can name them all—there’s over a hundred people.
Some of the highlights are Smokey Robinson; George Benson; David Sanborn; some of the members of Tower of Power; members of the Zac Brown Band; the original drummer for the Doors and founding member, John Densmore, who does drums and spoken words on one song; I’ve got the original guitarist for Steely Dan, Kenny Diaz; Jim Keltner, who is an iconic rock studio legend from the Plastic Ono Band with John Lennon, he was part of the Traveling Wilburys; Steve Ferrone from The Heartbreakers; it’s a crazy list of people.
I’m so lucky, I keep finding other people to work on it. I just asked the guitarist from jethro Tull, Martin Barr, to participate and he said he would be honored. Every week I get a new person involved, so it’s ongoing, it hasn’t finished yet. Because of the way we have technology now, I can release the record in little bits here and there, I don’t have to wait for the whole thing to be done to put it out, which is working well–I’ve already got stuff out and I’m not even done with the project.
Q: What’s in store for everybody at your October 19th show at Bogie’s in Westlake Village?
A: We’ve been playing live shows since 1975 and we have a very nice rapport with the audience. We just play good music, we do a little a little jazz, a little funk, some R&B, some with a Latin influence. Of course our drummer is Steve Ferrone from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers so there’s a little bit of rock too. We have a wide variety of material going, including songs from our new record, and going all the way–I’ve done so many records, oh man it’s crazy! I probably have 10 or 15 records of myself and my groups and we cover as much material as we can, but we also cover also cover other groups. Actually, we’ll be dedicating the night to Tom Petty’s memory. I’m going to do one Tom Petty song in an instrumental version as a tribute to him. We’ll dedicate the night to his memory; it will be a good way to honor him.
Q: Tell me a good road or session story…….
A: Oh God, oh boy, I can tell you a thousand! I’ll tell you one of each. Here’s a road story. My first night with George Benson we had played the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1986 and for the encore. we came back out on stage; and Herbie Hancock and George Duke also came out on stage and jumped in with us to play. Two of my favorite keyboard players and my heroes all of a sudden appeared on stage with me. That’s actually recorded on video, on DVD. That was an incredible memory.
As a studio memory, just recently working on my project, over at Capitol Records Studios at Hollywood and Vine, I was in Studio C fixing one of my songs and in the next room there was another artist working. Bryan Addams was producing. I forget the artist’s name, but Ringo was in there with them. At some point the girl took a break and Ringo comes walking in, into my session. I know him a little bit, but I was just blown away. I wish I had told him to sit down or start playing on one of the songs. We were in the middle of something and he started saying, “What’s all this jazz? What’s all this jazz?”. It was like, surreal, a surreal moment.
Then the same day, Steve Perry, the former lead singer from Journey showed up in my room. He wandered in my mix room and hung out with us for hours. It was crazy, like—-I’ve felt so blessed that I’ve gotten to know some of these wonderful musical icons. He just happened to be in the studio that day, for some reason looking at rooms. He wasn’t working in any of the rooms; he came in my room because he knows me and he knows the engineer. He was real comfortable, just hanging out, making suggestions—“turn this up, turn that down”—ha ha ha ha ha!
Q: Is working as a Musical Director for artists like George Benson a different challenge as opposed to just being a band member?
A: Oh, yeah! Oh, yes it is…….When you’re Musical Director you have an interesting responsibility of organizing the music and the band. My duties include finding band members; like one guy quits or one guy can’t be there, I find the right member–and they have to be the right members that George is going to be happy with, so you have to know what he needs and find it. Then I have to organize rehearsals and I have to—say George says, “I have to do this song”, I have to get out that song. learn it and arrange it, write out a chart, rehearse the band and so forth, so I’m like George’s vehicle to do what he wants to do musically. It’s a tremendous responsibility and a whole different role.
The Musical Director has a lot of responsibility, but at the same time you get a lot of attitude from the band, you have to deal with all the attitudes like “Oh, I didn’t learn this song” or “I printed it out but I forgot to bring it”. It’s almost like having kids in school and being a teacher! You don’t want to be in that role but you have a little organizing in the band. Most bands, you don’t have that kind of problem, but some bands, you have to make sure stuff is done right. It’s Quality Control. It can cause bad relations with the other musicians, but the good side is that the artists that trust you because they know they’re going to get what they need is a wonderful thing. George has tremendous confidence in me, he really believes in me. Over the years I’ve shown him through my actions. I’ve brought great people into the band, anytime he wants to learn a song…..a couple of times I wanted to lower the key but he didn’t want to lower the key, but he was willing to do it and some times he really thought it was so much better. I kind of go back and forth with him in the role of assisting him and trying to facilitate things. If he calls me and says, “ I want to do Ray Charles’ Georgia today, then I make it happen. I don’t say no, in fact George’s manager said the other day, “Whenever I ask something of you to do, you never say no. You always say yes”. It’s my job, you know?
A: Oh my gosh!!!!! Interesting musicians…..Freddie Hubbard, Willie Bobo, those were two of my big breaks in the beginning; and they were both very interesting. Very interesting, very colorful. Boz Skaggs–he is an enigma of his own, he is just–he is very particular, very very particular; and at the same time very very sweet. He’s a very nice guy, very sweet, very talented, but very particular. Extremely particular!
I’ll tell you a story. One day we were playing Saratoga ,the Mountain Winery up there in the Bay Area; and every day–we had four days there and I thought we’d do the gig the first day and then just hang out for the rest of the days and have a ball; every day he called me up to go out to the venue. “Let’s try a different piano, let’s try another keyboard:; every single day, all afternoon, because he wanted to be satisfied with the piano the first night. We spent every day, hours sound checking, trying out pianos and electronic keyboards, the whole four days. It was a trip. But hey, that’s Boz!
Let me mention Smokey Robinson, because every time I work with Smokey Robinson he tells me an incredible story. His stories are priceless! Part of the story of musical history, you know. He’s definitely up there. You know they used to have to go to performing school in Motown. Did you know about that? Motown had a school for all their artists, they had teachers, they had props, they’d work on stage presence, how they stood, how they moved, how they looked at the audience, their dance moves. They called it Performance School. And they all had to go their, all their artists, every week. Part of their contract.
Q: You formed a special relationship with studio drummer and founding member of Toto Jeff Pocaro……..
A: When I moved to town in ’74 Jeff was the talk of the town. He was the number one session drummer; he was in Steely Dan and went on tour with them. Everyone talked about him like he was a God. The Gold Standard. A year later, I got to go to the family house and meet his younger brother Steve, a keyboard player; and we’ve been good friends ever since. I never knew him that well in the beginning but I was just in awe of him. The first time I played somewhere he was in the audience and I went up and said hi to him. We had kind of a mutual clicking world, he seemed to like me but I didn’t like him. Then over the years we got to be friendly a little bit; and I actually invited him to play on my first record I ever made, on one song; and it was wonderful. Then, after that, we started playing together at the Baked Potato in North Hollywood, for fun we’d play what they called fusion music. Kind of instrumental rock-jazz; and we were playing once a week and that’s where we struck up a real friendship. and we became kindred spirits.
We enjoyed playing together, we enjoyed hanging together. he brought me in to do things with him, he had me participate in an instructional video which is on YouTube. We did the instructional video in the ‘80s and he brought me in to do a clinic with them once and he brought me to the NAMM show to perform for Pisces Cymbals; so he started bringing me into a lot of things. And then we had a band together, Los Lobotomys, where we played all the time and made a record. So we had this great musical friendship that was growing, because he was friends with a lot of people–he’d played with Bruce Springsteen back then and Bruce was trying to get him to join the band. Jeff turned him down. Right around that time, Jeff was starting to recommend me and pull me into more things and then he died suddenly in 1992. August 5th, which was a real blow.
Years later, I did a lot of work in Japan, I was touring over there all the time with my group and as Musical Director for a lot of people. This company approached me to do a Jeff Pocaro tribute record and I thought, if someone’s going to do one, I should do it myself and make sure it’s done tastefully. That was my reason for doing it. I was friends with him, I was very close with the family and then I thought, let me do one that’s tasteful. So I accepted the offer and I decided that I was going to do the record, basically pick ten of the best drummers in the world in all that Jeff loved and do a song with each one of them, because Jeff was in all of them as the drummer, right? I mean, a tribute to Jeff should be about the drums.
I was worried that somebody would come in and do some cheesy thing where they did Don Henley song or a Bruce Springsteen song and it would really be about the famous people that Jeff played for. But this was truly done in a tasteful way I believe and I brought in Boz Skaggs, Michael McDonald, I brought in Don Henley–you know, everybody wanted to be in on this thing, Richard Marx–I had people getting mad because they weren’t on it! I had Eddie van Halen, Little Feat, that was amazing! I was so blessed to know Jeff and I was so blessed to get to play music with him in quite a band, both live and in the studio with him; and I was quite blessed to be able to do that tribute record, which is still rather popular; it’s still on all the digital media like Spotify. People still dig it.
Q: Steve Ferrone from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers is playing drums with you at Bogie’s. Does he give the band more of a rock edge?
A: He gives the band a tremendous solidity. He is a real solid drummer. He does give it a bit of a rock twist, but the thing about Steve is that he–his original group was the Average White Band, so he is truly coming from funk and jazz. But he’s British and from the era he was, they were all rockers by default, without even trying to be a rocker either. I’d say he gives us a little–he gives us some oomph, but he also brings that big arena kind of presence to the show.
Q: Do you have an instrument of choice?
A: I play piano and electric keyboards. Do I prefer the piano to the electric keyboards? It’s hard to say. I’m endorsed by Yamaha and I have been for a long time. I use the Yamaha electric keyboards, I really like the sound they have. I primarily use that and I augment it with a Fender Rhodes which I bought in 1973 and it’s been been refurbished. I also occasionally will play a real organ, or a Wurlitzer in studio. One of the things about my project that is so fun is that I brought in a lot of other keyboard players that I like to work with. I’ve had to collaborate with these guys on organ or on other instruments and that’s been a lot of fun.
I can tell you one thing. If I only could have one instrument and I was on a desert island, one instrument to play and that was it, I suppose I would go for the piano. because the piano by itself has a richness and a depth that is very sweet. That was my first instrument when I started out. When you play live with groups and they’re electronic you can’t hear the piano, so if it were my choice playing with a group, it wouldn’t be the piano, but me, if it’s all I’ve got, I would take a piano.
Q: What’s exciting in the future for you?
A: Finishing this record, completely finishing all the different tracks and then doing some more expanded live performances around the world behind this record. My websites, DavidGarfield.com and Creatchy.com are a place people can go to get all the other information.
What I’d like to say is that I’ve done music for 44 years. when I started out growing up in the ‘60s they used to play all kinds of music on AM radio, it was not limited to a genre. I remember listening to Jefferson Airplane, then Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra and the Monkees and the Who. Top 40 Radio was not limited to a genre. I’ve watched over the years that music has now fallen into these genres. They’re like lanes that people try to get you to do your work in. I’ve always been against the grain, I moved out to California in 1974, I was 18 years old. I wanted to start a band and I wanted to play true music. I wanted something to do. I wasn’t trying to copy anybody, I wasn’t trying to find a gimmick. right around the time I started my band and Jeff Lorber started his group, I remember hearing him on the radio. He got a lot more popularity and has a nice run of a career, but I always stayed true to what I was doing which was just a little more esoteric and eclectic. I wouldn’t change it, I wouldn’t change it at all. The body of work that I’ve done; when I leave the planet, I hope that people will enjoy it for years and years to come and I think its all been pretty good.
So where this take it to–I’ve played rock, I’ve played jazz, I’ve played funk and I’ve played R&B and it’s all music. I don’t think you can really cordon it off into different genres. People make up names for genres but it’s really subjective, so my new record is cross-genre. I’ve got a song going to country radio, I have a song that’s in the Top 20 for Smooth Jazz radio, I’ve got stuff that’s going to Adult Contemporary; and I’m so proud of that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that music is made of just 12 notes and there’s 4 beats to the bar. People may not have names for it, but my goal is to just create great music, so with this record I’ve gone out on a limb and spent a fortune and it’s taken a couple of years, but there’s amazing music with different collaborations from different sides of the musical spectrum. I’ve played everything from Duke Ellington songs to David Bowie songs; I’ve got an Adele cover and a Stevie wonder in it. There’s a lot of original stuff. It’s really quite satisfying to me to keep the flavor, the artistic side of it and the integrity.
Q: Thank you, David. Keep making music!
David Garfield and The Cats will be live at Bogie’s in Westlake Village on Thursday, October 19. There will be a second show at Bogie’s on November 14. Showtime: 7pm to 10pm. Tickets $15. Info: (818) 889-2394 or visit http://www.bogies-bar.com/.