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My Sideline as Taxi Driver to Jazz Royalty

In my nearly 25 years in the music recording industry, I worked on only a handful of Jazz recordings, but one of those few times, I was truly fortunate to be able to work on an album with some of the biggest names in Jazz.

I believe it was either in late 1978 or early 1979, that I was booked to assist an engineer named Phil Sheridan, a prominent Toronto recording engineer at the time, and he  worked with a lot of jazz musicians and was one of the “go to” engineers for those  albums. He and I had worked together previously on “jingle” sessions, and he liked my attitude and work ethic, so he personally asked for me to assist him on his latest project- a new album featuring Oscar Peterson on keyboards, Joe Pass on guitar, Louie Bellson on drums and Nils Pederson playing acoustic bass. The producer was Norman Granz, and the album was to be recorded in 3 days total.

The studio was Sounds Interchange on Adelaide St., and one of the studio’s big attractions for serious pianists, at least, was it’s 9 foot Petrof grand piano, which I thought was the most magnificent piano I had ever heard. So I was quite excited thinking that I would be witness to one of the world’s great jazz musicians making new music on this wonderful instrument…little did I know….

The first day of recording rolled around, and the delivery service that brought equipment into the studio delivered a Fender Rhodes electric piano, bright and early before the session. I was aligning tape machines and  preparing for the session, and when I saw this ELECTRIC PIANO being delivered, I thought “that’s weird..oh well, I guess there will be some Rhodes piano in some of the songs”. Wrong. Oscar and Norman Granz had decided to do a complete album with Oscar playing ONLY Fender Rhodes electric piano! On top of that, on a couple of the tunes, Joe Pass, one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time, brought out a wah-wah pedal to plug his guitar into and my mind was completely blown!

In any event, the recording went smoothly with only small issues like  distortion emanating from the wah-wah pedal and arrangement changes to some of the songs to complement these different instrument choices. One early evening as the session was wrapping up, a thunderstorm was raging outside, and Oscar and the other musicians asked that a cab be called to take them back to their hotel. Twenty minutes later – no cab, forty minutes later – no cab. The studio staff had left, the engineer and producer had left earlier as well. The musicians were getting frustrated with the delay, so I came up with the bright idea that I could drive them back to the hotel in my car, which on that particular day , happened to be my mother’s Ford Galaxie 500, which I had borrowed from her, as my car was acting up.  They looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and someone said “Sure kid, get us to the Sutton Place Hotel pronto!”

So here I am ,19 or 20 years old, driving Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass and Louie Bellson in my mother’s car, trying to be SO careful, as I figured if I got into an accident and someone was hurt, I WOULD BE LYNCHED! I had Joe Pass beside me in the front, and Oscar, Nils and Louie wedged tightly in the back…Well, we made it to Sutton Place just fine, and as the guys said thanks and goodbye as they got out of the car, I knew I would have a great story for my archives -when I was a taxi driver for Jazz Royalty. Incidentally the album was called “Night Child” and I don’t think it was a huge seller for Oscar or Pablo records, but it sure rated as one of the highlights in my recording studio experiences.

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