Meet The Band

Wednesday, February 28
2018

Kevin Hays – Keyboards

WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
Well, I’m not sure if it was my first but early on in the mid-80’s, while still in high school, I landed a gig at a soul food restaurant in the meat packing district of NYC. As I recall it I would play for 6 hours, was paid $60 and got 50% off the ribs (theirs, not mine).

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
I just started this past year, doing a couple of private gigs. This is my first tour with James, and I’m super-excited!

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
My first tour was in 1986. I left Manhattan School of Music after being invited to go to Spain with a NYC band that was heading over there. It was very exciting to encounter all the new people, places, food and other wonderful things!

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?
A netti pot. Gotta keep those nasal passages clear!

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
Enjoying the crudités backstage. And I usually take a little quiet time to get centered.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
Well, this is my first tour with James but so far it’s been a joy. He has such open energy and a heart that shines through, musically and personally.

Sunday, May 11
2014

Steve Gadd – Drums

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WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
My first gig was an appearance on the Mickey Mouse Club in California, 1957. (Editor’s note: In Steve’s 1957 appearance on the Mickey Mouse Club he both tap danced and performed a drum solo!)

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?

My first job with James was a recording session in the mid 1980s.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
My first tour was with the School Band of America in 1961

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?

Running gear.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?

Going to the bus and taking a nap.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
I like touring with James because the music is great and the hang is fantastic.

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Photos: Spencer Worthly, Michael Drazdzinski

Saturday, May 10
2014

Michito Sanchez – Percussion

WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
My 1st gig was at a Latin Supper Club in West NY, New Jersey called “El Liborio” around 1975. I was 14 years old. I was so lucky to be playing with Cuban music legends Facundo Rivero and Rolando Valdez. I played every Friday and Saturday night including the floor show. Awesome times!!!

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
I believe it was May of 2011 when I was asked by Luis Conte and Jimmy Johnson to sub for Luis while he attended his daughters wedding.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
My 1st tour or touring experience was with Nell Carter (from the “Give me a break” TV show) She was an amazing singer and had an awesome band. Many of who are still working and playing at a very high level.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
Pre-show or after sound check/dinner routine has always been the same for me. I go for a walk and enjoy a short cigar and a coffee.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
Touring and working with James has always been on my Bucket list! For me it’s an honor sharing the stage with James and this band of absolutely amazing Musicians!!!

Saturday, May 10
2014

Luis Conte – Percussion

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WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
1st gig at Club Chez Pico, in mid LA. I was 18. I think I made 25 bucks that night; I thought I was the coolest dude.

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
First worked with James in 1998 in the Live at the Beacon Theater concert.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
1st tour with “The Hues Corporation” (they had that hit song “Rock the Boat”). I was 21.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
Eat and chill.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
Touring with James is great. He is a great guy, the music is beautiful and everyone on the tour super-cool. It is a great band.

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Photos: Michael Lutch, Eric Korenman

Friday, May 9
2014

Jimmy Johnson – Bass

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WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
I joined the musician’s union when I was 13 years old and sometimes needed a note from my mom to get out of school: “Jimmy has a recording session today…”

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
My first JT tour was in 1990. I was introduced to James by drummer Carlos Vega.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
My first traveling work as a musician was with Henry Mancini as early as 1974 / ’75. My first bus tour experience was with Michael Johnson (no relation) of “Bluer Than Blue” fame, probably in ’78 or ’79.

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?
An umbrella?

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
Aside from pacing around a bit, I have no specific routine.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
The great vibe of this band and crew is a reflection of our boss – it comes from the top down. It’s a pleasure to work with such a talented group of people sharing the goal of making good music for all to enjoy.

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Photos: Michael Lutch

Thursday, May 8
2014

Michael Landau – Guitar

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WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
I started playing in the dance clubs in Los Angeles when I was 16, the band was called “Spring Fever”. We were an R&B cover band, matching outfits for everyone, white leisure suits with wide bell bottoms… I was the youngster in the band, I was pleased…

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
I believe it was 1991. I started the same time Jimmy Johnson, Valerie Carter and Kate Markowitz joined James’s band, Carlos Vega brought us together.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
It was with the Keane Brothers in 1976, we opened up for Charo (the “Cuchi-Cuchi” Lady) in Las Vegas, again, I was pleased…

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?
Loose leaf green tea.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
I usually buy guitars on eBay, check my email, sell guitars on eBay, have a bite to eat, watch Walt and Luis smoke cigars, pester the road manager about guest list tickets…

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
He’s the groovy-est guy on the planet. I get to play with this incredible band every night. I couldn’t be more pleased!

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Photos: Michael Lutch

Thursday, May 8
2014

Walt Fowler – Keyboards/Horns

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WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
My first gig was playing trumpet in a jazz combo comprised of teenagers at the National Stage Band Camp, Portland Oregon. I was 13 years old.

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
I first worked with James in 2001 on the Pullover tour. I first met James on the phone, he called one day in early 2001 and asked me if I would be interested in playing on the Pullover tour.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
My first tour was with Frank Zappa and the Mothers, 1974. I was 19 years old.

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?
My must-have item is my trumpet (ha). Actually, it’s my golf clubs.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
My pre-show routine has usually been walking around out in front of the venue before we play, checking out the people coming to the show.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
I enjoy touring with James for many reasons. A couple of them are that it’s so much fun, the music is so great, James is so cool, and I enjoy being surrounded by the finest musicians in the world.

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Photos: Michael Lutch

Tuesday, May 6
2014

Lou Marini – Horns

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WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
My first paying gig was with a little wedding band around Canton, Ohio when I was 13. Rock & Roll, baby!

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
First JT gig was New Year’s Eve 2000 in Raleigh.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
First tour was 2001, a great long tour.

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?
Can’t think of ‘one’ special thing but I’m very particular about choosing books to bring. Always print and a mixture of classics and new.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-TOUR ROUTINE?
My pre-tour routine is calculating the number of shows and planning my packing so I never wear the same thing twice. Silly, but, humor me.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
Touring with James? First of all the music and the challenge and delight of making it night to night with this wonderful band. Then the hang, not only with the band but the crew too. That begets the humor and the laughter. Finally, as an art lover, the opportunity to visit museums around the country; for me, a delightful bonus!

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Photos: Michael Lutch

Monday, May 5
2014

Larry Goldings – Piano

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WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
My first playing experience with James, and when I first met him, was during the October Road recording sessions. Producer Russ Titelman brought me in to play piano on James’ song “Mean Old Man.” I started doing some sporadic orchestral gigs, for instance, James with the Boston Pops, and other similar orchestral settings. This was around 2001 or early 2002.

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?

2002.

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?
A portable recording setup, such as a small keyboard, mic, small hard drive, so that I can write music in the hotel room or tour bus.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
I make sure I can get a power nap in. I like to do some stretches, and lately some arm and hand exercises which seem to keep some low-grade tendonitis at bay.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?

JT is one of my musical heroes, and his music touched deeply me as a kid, and continues to do so. To perform with him nightly feels as though I, perhaps vicariously, am helping to carry on a legacy that is uniquely American, one that touches millions of people. I am also inspired by James’ genuine gratitude that he has for his fans, and for the powerful gifts he has been given, as a musician and communicator. He is a solid human being, highly evolved, highly intelligent, and very generous. It’s good to be around someone like that.

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Photos: Eric Korenman, Michael Lutch

Sunday, May 4
2014

Andrea Zonn – Vocals/Fiddle

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WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
My dad and I formed an acoustic folky band called FourthStream in my hometown of Urbana, IL when I was about 11. We used to play a couple of different venues on the U of I campus: Nature’s Table and Trino’s.

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH JAMES?
The first time I sang with him, we didn’t actually meet. We sang harmony together on a song Maura O’Connell recorded, called Love Divine. Later, James came to pick me up at my hotel, and took me to his house to sing through some songs before my first gig. Ha!

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST TOUR?
My first year with James was 2003.

WHAT ONE SPECIAL ITEM DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE ON TOUR?
Aside from comfy slippers, my must-have item is a small stack of violin music for practicing, which includes works by Bach, Ysaye, Saint-Saens, and Ravel. This does not mean I actually practice, mind you, but it does mean constant reminding that I should.

WHAT’S YOUR PRE-SHOW ROUTINE?
I like to spend about an hour getting ready before a show. Kate and I share a dressing room, and we tend to be pretty low-key. We usually listen to some music and hum along, or do vocal warm-ups, or just sit quietly, getting centered as we get ready. Unless one of us says something funny. Which is often. Because we’re really funny.

WHY DO YOU ENJOY TOURING WITH JAMES?
There’s just none better. As an artist, James is unsurpassed. As a human, the same is true. The band is unparalleled as well.

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Photos: Michael Lutch, Elissa Kline Photography