Category Archives: Vocalist

Billy Watson

Artist Profile:

Billy Watson

billy_watson_1Take a blues harp, a sense of humor and a wacky delivery that really sucks the audience in, and you have the talent of Billy Watson.

This show features Billy Watson jamming at the Copely Auditorium in Balboa Park in San Diego with Rob Whitlock on Hammond B3, on guitar, James East on bass.

Billy Watson exudes the feel of his enigmatic, irreverent, and -- above all -- energetic livebilly_watson_2 shows, for which he has built some notoriety. Billy chronicles the spirit of the blues, maintaining its fun-loving traditions while attracting the interest of modern audiences. Watson's International Silver String Submarine Band consists of an ever-rotating cast of standout musicians. The musicians' playful demeanor and lively antics give a fresh take on the classic blues format, Watson's lyrics ranging from serious and heartbroken ("Your Funeral, My Trial") to trivial and diabolic ("You Ain't Getting Any Younger"). The bandleader's rolling harmonica gives billy_watson_3 "Disinterested Wedding Song" a sound full enough for a band twice this size; and on the cover of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love Watson improvises the lyrics and cackles menacingly, making up for Eric Clapton's absence by playing the entire guitar solo on his harp. Watson's spastic harmonica is truly a joy to behold.

Billy Vera

Artist Profile:

Billy Vera

billy_vera_1Billy Vera & the Beaters began in early 1979. Not long after moving to Los Angeles to write songs for Warner Brothers Music, Billy Vera ran into his former bass player from New York, Chuck Fiore. Chuck had moved to L.A. two years earlier and had been playing around town with some good musicians from the local studio scene. He suggested that Billy drop by one of the clubs one night to sit in.

After renewing their old friendship, the boys found themselves commiserating about their lack of female companionship and figured out that both had "done well" in that department when they were in bands. "Why don't we start a band....we can meet some girls!" became the rallying cry -- and the Beaters were born.billy_vera_2

It was decided that they model the group on the old Little Richard and Ray Charles 50s bands, which included four horns. For a little spice, Billy thought to make it an '80s version of Bob Wills, not limiting itself to any one genre of music. To help bring this off, the early version of the Beaters included the steel guitar of Steve Fishell (later Jeff "Skunk" Baxter) to offset the R&B sound of the horns.

After several months of gigs at local beach clubs, the Beaters were asked to perform every Monday night at midnight at the world famous Troubadour in West Hollywood. "We took the worst night of the week, Monday at midnight, and purposely did no advertising. We wanted to create an underground buzz within the hipster community, so that the opinion makers could discover us on their own," says Vera, "we figured it would take around six weeks to see if they wanted what we had to offer."

billy_vera_3Apparently, they did. By the second week, the Hollywood cognoscenti were lined up at 11:30 outside the Troubadour to see what became, over the next year, the legendary Billy & the Beaters midnight shows.

Soon, every musician worth his salt was begging to join the band or at least sit in. "We didn't want to be perceived as that kind of band; we wanted to be seen for what we were: our own thing," says Vera. Indeed, the only performer to ever join the Beaters on-stage at that time was Rickie Lee Jones. Vera explains his choice: "I sensed in her a kindred spirit. She was one of the few singers I'd seen who approached performance the way I did, from the inside out."

That year, 1980, was the year of the Knack and all those "new wave" bands. Record labels were signing any four piece combo with skinny ties. Interestingly, after their rounds at new wave clubs, A&R men would inevitably wind up at the Troubadour to catch the Beaters' set. "I'd see them out there tapping their feet and digging what we were doing, but nobody was reaching for his checkbook."

By the end of the year, "new wave" had run it's course and the record companies were looking for something new and different and the Beaters were nothing if not different. "Capitol and Polygram began sniffing around, sounding like they were about to make an offer, but I ultimately chose to go with Alfa because [A&R man] Lorne Saifer understood what I was trying to do," recalls Vera.

It was decided to record the band "live" because that's where their excitement was best showcased. When a deal could not be cut with the Troubadour's management, the Roxy on the famed Sunset Strip stepped in.

For three nights, Wally Heider's recording trucks captured the excitement of Hollywood's favorite sons, playing to a packed house of fans who had come to see them every Monday night for a year. The resulting album, Billy & the Beaters, with it's bold black and white graphic design, was an instant classic, begetting the hit single "I Can Take Care Of Myself."

Meanwhile, Alfa's owners in Japan were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their American management and began to pull the plug, leaving Billy & the Beaters' follow-up single, "At This Moment," to founder on the lower reaches of the charts.

A second album, cut in the studio, was deemed unacceptable and remains in the vaults to this day. Billy's old mentor from his Atlantic Records days, Jerry Wexler, was deputized to produce a Billy Vera solo album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, combining several Beaters with Southern Soul veterans of countless records by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.

By the time of the album's release, US Alfa was a sinking ship, unable to give the record more than perfunctory promotion and it sank with hardly a trace. For the next four years, Billy Vera & the Beaters played Southern California to loyal crowds, until one day came the golden phone call.

"This guy calls me and says he'd been to see band the over the weekend," recalls Vera, "He'd heard us do a tune which he wanted to use on this show he was producing called Family Ties. "The song, of course, was "At This Moment."

After the first episode in which the song was used, in the fall of 1985, Vera received "a bag full of mail" from NBC. This encouraged him to canvass major labels in hopes he'd be allowed to re-record it as a single.

When he'd been turned down by virtually everyone, a meeting with Rhino Records chief Richard Foos, whom he knew socially, resulted in a commitment by the label to reissue a compilation by Vera of the most requested items from his two Alfa albums.

Vera tells it from here: "By the time Rhino released the album, we missed the summer reruns. Then Lady Luck stepped in and, in the first show of the 1986 season, "At This Moment" was used on the episode where Michael J. Fox's character loses his girlfriend. The story of the song: boy loses girl, matched the story on the episode and, bang, America went nuts."

In one of those rare instances of a true grass roots uprising, the public responded to the song and propelled it--without promotion or payola--to number one on the national sales charts.

Concurrently, the band had been working on a pair of movies, Blake Edwards' Blind Date, starring Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger, and the ABC movie-of-the-week, Tonight's The Night.

Director Bobby Roth recalled editing the film as "At This Moment" barreled up the charts: "I kept getting calls from the network brass, telling me to beef up Billy's footage in the movie. By the time I was finished, it looked like a Billy Vera video!"

The success of "At This Moment" changed the lives of Billy and everyone in the band. One of Vera's dreams, of appearing on American Bandstand, finally came true, thirty years after he first watched the show. Dick Clark and his wife Carrie became staunch fans and supporters, including the Beaters on a number of Clark's productions and utilizing Billy as a presenter on his American Music Awards.

Many television and movie appearances followed, including  one as a western swing band in the film version of Dan Jenkins' Baja Oklahoma , in which the Beaters back Willie Nelson and Billy was cast as the drunken ex-boyfriend of Leslie Ann Warren.

As free agents with a number one record, calls began to pour in from record company presidents. Vera chose Capitol Records after a call from head honcho Joe Smith. Another old Atlantic Records pal, Tom Dowd, was hired to produce the album, Retro-Nuevo, which spawned a top ten Adult Contemporary hit, "Between Like And Love. "The tune, along with Billy's "Hopeless Romantic," from the Rhino album, were used extensively on the NBC soap opera Days Of Our Lives.

Vera performed two other songs from the album, "Poor Boys" and "Ronnie's Song," in his featured role on the CBS series Wise Guy , which concluded with his character being reluctantly shot in the back by one of the show's leads.

Despite this exposure, the album failed to ignite and, before too long, Billy Vera & the Beaters were back playing Los Angeles area clubs, playing the music they love for their loyal following.

From mid-1990 to early 1991, Billy and the band were tapped to be the house band on ABC's venture into the late night talk show field, Into The Night , starring Rick Dees. Our boys got to play with many musical legends, including Mel Torme, Merle Haggard and had the honor of being conducted by composer Henry Mancini on his classic, "Peter Gunn Theme."

 

Angela Vicente

Artist Profile:

Angela Vicente

angela_vicente_1Most know me as a jazz vocalist, but I have secretly written songs for my own entertainment that are of the not-jazz genre. They are my therapy.

I don't pretend to be good on guitar, my voice is my home. I have been learning how to let go of the drive for perfection, however, and I am content to make music for its own sake, embracing the imperfections as a distinct part of the beauty. angela_vicente_2

Andy Bey

Artist Profile:

Andy Bey

andy_bey_1Listening for the first time to Andy Bey is like stepping into a quiet, still lake. Your foot first parts a surface that’s smooth and tranquil, but you can’t really tell from that surface how deeply your foot must go to reach bottom. The first time you hear Bey’s delicate yet muscular voice – alone, accompanied only by his own piano, or in larger ensemble contexts – it’s like stepping into the edge of a lake that you think goes down only two feet, but finding out it’s eight feet deep. You’re submerged, lost in the deep music by surprise, almost before you know it.

Bey’s jazz and blues may be smooth, but they’re nothing like "smooth jazz." Born in 1939, the Newark (NJ) native was a genuine child prodigy as a pianist and singer, garnering appearances at the famed Apollo Theater and on television’s "Spotlight On Harlem" and "The Star Time Kids," sharing stages with the likes of Louis Jordan, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, before he turned 18. He then formed a vocal trio alongside his sisters Salome and Geraldine and embarked for Europe; Andy & The Bey Sisters were celebrated regulars at The Blue Note in Paris and other venues in Europe from the late 1950s into the early 1960s, when they returned to the U.S. and continued to perform and record (for RCA and Prestige) until the trio disbanded in 1966.

andy_bey_2For the two decades thereafter, Bey recorded and performed with such notables as McCoy Tyner, Lonnie Liston Smith, Thad Jones / Mel Lewis, Eddie Harris and others. He was featured vocalist on Gary Bartz’ acclaimed Harlem Bush Music projects and for an extended period with Horace Silver, including Silver’s The United States of Mind album sequence. In 1991, Bey returned to Europe to teach vocal instruction in Austria; he remained there until ’93, when he returned to the States to record his "comeback album," accompanied only by his own piano, called Ballads, Blues & Bey.

AThe release of Ballads, Blues & Bey in 1996, and his subsequent Shades of Bey, recorded with Bartz, Victor Lewis, Peter Washington and other jazz notables and released in 1998, heralded Bey’s "renaissance" in the business he’s been in for nearly five decades. Which leaves Bey somewhat bemused: "I never went away, actually. I don’t know about this "renaissance." It’s…well, it’s new in a sense, but it’s not like I left the business."

One of the great unsung heroes of jazz singing, Andy Bey is a commanding interpreter of lyrics who has a wide vocal range and a big, rich, full voice. Bey enjoys a small following that swears by him; nonetheless, he isn't nearly as well known as he should be.

Amber Whitlock

Artist Profile:

Amber Whitlock

amber_whitlock_1Amber Whitlock is an accomplished singer that currently leads a jazz quartet in the San Diego area. Amber's recording credits include long standing house vocal section leader for the T. K. Studios, Fattburger (Enigma) and Mildred Douglas, Alphonso Johnson's producer (Polydor). Amber continues to add to her musical credits daily and is continually involved in recording projects based in San Diego and L.A. She's married with talented keyboard player Rob Whitlock. This show features Rob Whitlock on Hammond B3, Peter Sprague on guitar, Tripp Sprague on sax, Kevin Koch, & Kevin Hennessy.

Amber Whitlock is writing and producing partner to Rob Whitlock for their many projects along the way, as well as being his wife. A session singer since the mid seventies, Amber has been singing Jazz and Popular music for years and is well seasoned and mature in her approach.amber_whitlock_2

Her voice is creamy & reaching and she has been known to bring feelings to the surface that you didn't know you were having.

Her debut release cd "The Colours of Life" includes original songs as well as covers of "Betcha' By Golly Wow" the old Philly Sound classic, "When She Loved Me" by Randy Newman, and a unique version of "When I Look In Your Eyes" from the original Dr. Doolittle musical, with an incredible & unusual solo from Anthony Jackson on bass.

Original song "Queen of Mediocrity", features guitar god Scott Henderson tearing a hole through the dark corners of your brain. And Jazz great Michael Brecker joins Amber on the title cut playing with such soul that it permeates your very existence. Rob teams up with Amber and acoustic bassist Trey Henry to underscore with tenderness and simplicity "When She Loved Me", an almost classical endeavor. Other songs include a gorgeous gospel choir of LA's top singers & a vocoder solo by Rob, playing along with friend & guitarist Brian Price.

There are two Old School Duets featured, the first with Jim Gilstrap of Stevie Wonder fame ("You are The Sunshine of My Life"). Jim always brings it on home the very first time around with his warm rich baritone voice, and luscious falsetto. "Until Now" features a favorite partner of Amber's, Leonard Tucker, who blends with her like milk with honey for a playful romp echoing the classic group SEA BREEZE.

Having enlisted the immeasurable talent of Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, tasteful grooves on the title song, ballads and even one song in seven, are delivered; reminding us why Sting, Faith Hill & Frank Zappa, among others, count Vinnie as their favorite drummer. Cliff Almond, also one of the nation's powerhouse drummers, is one with Anthony whether playing swing, salsa, fusion or pop. Here he rocks out on "Too Cool To Fool" and instills mystery and vision to "When I Look In Your Eyes".

amber_whitlock_3The cd is reminiscent of the warm sounds of the 70s and early 80s old school soul and jazz, and can be listened to intently for nuance of musicianship, or used as a soundtrack to your own busy life. Either way the sounds and songs are soothing, inspiring and haunting. Original artwork is by Lanet and photography by Rob Whitlock. This cd is enhanced with an original short movie about the making of the Sketchin' projects created by Amber, with artwork by Julius Pastorius and others.

Influences include: Billie Holiday, Roberta Flack, Phyllis Hyman, Nancy Wilson, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones and many others.

Currently Amber is listening to Diana Krall, Norah Jones and Madeline Pireaux...

Alfred Ortiz

Artist Profile:

Alfred Ortiz

alfred_ortizAlfred has a long history of playing with Latin greats such as Poncho Sanchez, Banda Brothers, Scott Martin, Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto, Rob Thomas, Candi Sosa and many others.

Alex Ligertwood

Artist Profile:

Alex Ligertwood

alex_ligertwood_1His voice is recognized literally the world over as the lead vocalist of Santana. For over 16 years with Carlos Santana, Alex Ligertwood provided his unique sound and interpretation on 12 albums. He earned Gold Records for four of those Santana efforts, and scored Top 40 hits with six albums and/or singles.

Alex shares Santana's soulful R & B style, which is clearly evident on the Santana hits "Winning" (Zebop), "All I Ever Wanted" (Marathon), and "Hold On" (Shango). His live rendition of the classics like "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va" scored Gold with Santana's "Sacred Fire: Live In Latin America Album."

There's something deep in the soul of Scotland that produces great blues and R & B singers. Some of music's top vocalists over the years -- from Rod Stewart to Maggie Bell to Alex Ligertwood -- have come out of that musically fertile land.alex_ligertwood_2

Alex Ligertwood grew up in the rough and tumble city of Glasgow. For him, it was a place just east of Detroit or Memphis. He loved American music, especially Motown, Rhythm and Blues, and Soul. R & B was raw, electric, and didn't hold anything back. His musical idols included the legendary Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye -- good company for a budding vocalist. alex_ligertwood_3

Alex began his musical path by performing with local R & B groups in his native Scotland. In the mid-sixties he was a member of the critically acclaimed R & B group, The Senate. This group included the late drummer Robbie Mcintosh, who would later be known for his work in the Average White Band which toured Europe as the supporting band for Ben E. King.

It didn't take long for others to recognize the Scotsman's natural talents. One of the first to spotlight Alex's big soulful voice was Jeff Beck. He promptly made Alex lead vocalist for the Jeff Beck Band in the early seventies. Next up was a stint with another legendary British band, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express. Over the years, Alex recorded several albums with Auger's jazz-rock unit, singing and co-writing with Auger. During the same period, Alex performed and recorded with fellow Scottish soulmates, the Average White Band.

In the late seventies, Alex served as vocalist/guitarist and co-writer with the Narada Michael Walden Band and the David Sancious & Tone Band before joining Santana in 1979. Alex brings a vocal intensity that feeds the volcanic playing of Carlos Santana. He has recorded and co-written numerous albums for Santana, including: "Marathon", "Zebop!", "Beyond Appearances", "Viva Santana", "Shango", "Spirits Dancing in the Flesh", "Milagro", and "Sacred Fire".alex_ligertwood_4

Alex has been musically associated with Santana for more than eighteen years. This clearly exhibits the regard that Carlos Santana holds for Alex's musical talents. A perfect showcase for Alex's vocal power is "Somewhere in Heaven", a ballad from "Milagro", co-written by Alex that brings both sides of Alex and Santana together -- the lyrical and the fiery -- in a passionate, spiritual tour-de-force.

His vocal talents have also been featured on the Spyro Gyra album "Dreams Beyond Control", an honor considering that Spyro Gyra is strictly an "instrumental band". Alex has also recorded on albums with Ben E. King, Didier Lockwood, Carly Simon, The Dixie Dregs, Michelle Colombier, Jeff Lorber, Billy Squier and many others.

Alex currently resides in Southern California. He is currently working on solo projects, as well as performing with his band Metro. He is also working on side projects with various other bands, including live performances with the David Garfield and Friends Band, Billy Cobham and Friends Band, and with Jason Scheff in the bands Painted Rhythm and Border Patrol.