Danny Federici

The E Street Band's Keyboardist Releases His Own Self-Titled Album Based On Smooth Jazz

Since his beginnings with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, Danny Federici's keyboards have been the atmospheric backdrop to some of the greatest songs ever written. A member of a band that was a team, playing for the victory represented by a beautiful song. Federici, and fellow keyboardist Roy Bittan, sputtered off notes in the background, giving grasp and added feel to whatever their band mates offered.

On his new album, re-issued under the title "Danny Federici", the focus is on him after years of playing behind one of rock's most attention-drawing musicians. He takes full advantage of his newly-found spotlight with thoughtful keyboard runs that stand as proof of his growth and dedication as a musician.

It's rare to find a solo artist from any genre so on the same page as his listeners. Many fight hard to push their own limits, sometimes loosing the focus of their original vision. On this release, Federici's vision is clear, even as his limits are pushed within the confines of his compositions.

While a different format than rock music, this smooth-jazz-based album is one where Federici expands his horizons and broadens some old piano motifs. The latter is achieved on "Flemington", a song with a Jersey-rooted melody that scampers and rolls in true Federici signature style.

Federici avoids self-indulgent tangents on this effort, avoiding the dull and emphasizing the interesting. His note selection is melodic, but remains daring. At this stage of his career, Federici has honed his use of speed and timing down to a science. Melodic keyboard sweeps are found on the album, well-placed and used selectively where appropriate.

Federici chose to write songs unlike typical solo-based material. The music builds off hooks and choruses, retaining these themes during solos. This creates a steadiness that is pleasurable, as well as sensible. He expand smooth jazz's limits musically, and also emotionally, with an originality required by this style. A fun effervescence weaves throughout this release, leaving the feeling that an upbeat vibe was felt by those involved with the recording.

Federici is a master of providing the carnival scenery to Springsteen's boardwalk tales. On this release, he rides his own carousel. One filled with spirit, heart and maturity.

What were the circumstances behind you re-issuing the new CD? I know it was issued before under the name "Flemington"?

Right. What had happened was: I was dealing with a record company, I was new to the business, I had never released a record before. I had done "Flemington" and didn't really intend to release it.

I was sort of doing something, like closing a chapter in my life. And, some friends of mine said, 'Why don't you try to get a deal on this thing? Because it's a good record.'

So, I ended up getting a couple of offers from companies to put the record out. And, I went with a New Jersey company, Music Masters. And, what happens is they're mainly a mail-order-based record company. They do a lot of classical and a lot of jazz mail order, like Columbia House. But they had just established some connections with BMG Distribution. So, I figured that I might be the vehicle or the testing grounds for this new partnership that they had gotten. And that really didn't turn out to be the way I thought it would be. The record really didn't get out into the stores. It never got over to Europe. It never really worked.

You know, I had high hopes for a lot of people hearing this record, and they never really put it out there for me. So, after about a couple of years went by, I had been out playing some concerts for the E Street Band and I ran into this fellow Bruce Resnikoff, who's the President of Universal.

And I was telling him, you know, I had a bunch of ideas for a whole bunch of things. Television, music, some Christmas music, you know, on accordion. I said, 'You know, and I've got this album, which nobody's heard.' And, he said, 'You know what. We'd be glad to put it out for you, if you want. At least we'd get it in the stores and stuff.'

I said, 'Well Jeez, that's a whole lot better than it sitting on my shelf.' Really, you know. And, it's funny, sometimes you think it is, sometimes it ain't. Because having a record deal doesn't mean a whole lot today. Sometimes you can do better on the internet, than you will with a record. They're so big, that you're just a little fry. And, unless you really get out there and work that record, you know, even having it in the stores doesn't mean a lot because people aren't going to go look for it ... on their own.

So what happened was, I had been partners with this fellow Michael Cates for a while, who's my sax player and producer. I told Michael about Universal. I said, 'You know, they want to put this record back out.' So, he goes, 'Well, maybe we should spice it up a bit. You know, re-master it and write another song.'

When I did the record, I really didn't think about any conventional markets. Like, where it's going and who's it's for. When you play this kind of music that I play, which is instrumental jazz, unhappily you have to design it for a certain type of radio. Um, the songs have to be ...they can't be too short. People like to listen to them for a while. You know, it's a lot of stuff that's in the background. It's the kind of music you can put on that makes you feel good when you're at home relaxing.

So, cutting the song shorter isn't ...There's a little bit of a formula to it and I didn't do any of that. And so, partnering up with Michael was really terrific because he said, 'Well, you know, we can write this song, which has pretty much kind of got all of the elements of what they're playing on smooth jazz radio.'

And, so we did that and then Universal sort of gave us carte blanche as far as changing the cover. And, I took some photos. I mean, we changed the whole thing around. Re-mastered, it sounds better than before. And I've, no holds barred ... I tell everybody going out there, that this is "Flemington", but we put another song on it and made it sound better.


That's a funny thing, too. I didn't want to [make people think] that I was trying to pull a fast one.

You didn't want them to think it was a totally new album?

Right. But the funny thing about it is, there's a lot of people out there that bought "Flemington", that think this is a whole new album. I played some shows and they come up to me and they go, 'You know what, we have your last record, [but this] sounds really good, it's even better.'

You know, sometimes I go into the explanation of, 'Well guys, you know it's really the same record.' But, sometimes I don't. I say, 'Ok, thank you very much.' (Laughter.)

Anyway, so they were kind enough to say, 'You know what, we'll put it back out there for you.'

How many units did "Flemington" sell?

You know, I don't think we sold too many. I think maybe a couple thousand of records. Especially for a small record company ... I think they had a couple of artists that they tried to do this with before and had bad luck. So, they were a little leery in printing up a whole lot of records real fast.

How's the re-issue doing?

That's doing surprisingly well! I mean, plus I have a band. And I go out and I play. And I sign CDs. And, that really helps. That's really a terrific thing.

[As] a matter of fact, I have had my own band and this is really quite a really terrific experience.

Can you talk a little more about that? About having your own band and going out and touring on your own?

Yeah, sure. Well, Michael, who's been my producer and sort of, like, real instrumental at helping me see some of my potential, and also telling me that you're playing too long or too loud. You know, it really helps to have another ear.

I made him the musical director of my band, so he put the whole darn band together, because I'm probably basically lazy and I wouldn't have gotten around to it. And also he gets the privilege of hiring and firing. I don't have to do that, I'm the good guy.

He's had a couple of jazz bands himself, so he's been through a lot of players. He knows the good ones. Not only musically, but ones that have good personalities, that are fun to work with and fun to be around. Because I'd rather have that, than a virtuoso who's ridiculous on stage.

So he put some people together. We had two guitar players from Texas. Our drummer and bassist were here in LA. We have another bassist on the East Coast, which saves a little bit in expenses. Because that in itself is quite an ordeal. I wasn't used to this.

But, I mean, for us to go and play, it's quite an expensive ordeal. We have to fly a couple of guys in from Texas. Other guys have regular jobs and they have to take off. So you got salaries. You got hotels. You got airplanes. You know, you got per diem, it's like, wow!

Yeah. So you kind of have certain musicians waiting in certain regions, different regions, of the country?

Well, the only other person we have is the bassist on the East Coast and if we get some gigs back there it does help with expenses because, you know, $300 for an airline ticket, a couple hundred bucks for the night, and a hotel. He lives down the street. It really, really adds up because it's quite an ordeal to get him there.

I mean playing is a blast. That's the funny thing about being a musician. The things you do to actually get on stage are just incredible.

I often tell people I don't get ... I play for free, I get paid to get there. You know, and put up with all the bull, all the legalities of everything. Playing is the total benefit of the whole thing.

What led you to making a jazz album? [The CD] is predominantly jazz, is shifting from ... I know the abundance of your work is in the rock field. What led to the shift?

Umm ... I started off as a classical accordion player when I was seven years old. And, my mother basically pulled me around by my ear and showed me off to the neighbors. I had a whole little career going. I think she wanted me to be friends with Wayne Newton and play the Vegas thing, you know? And be the snazzy accordion virtuoso kind of guy. But I was real good at a real young age. And then, when I turned into my early teens, she was kind of like my stage mom. She kind of rented a place, a local hall in the town. Got a couple of musicians together for me to play with, and we had a little rock n' roll band. And, I was playing the accordion and it wasn't going over. I say it wasn't going over ... the girls weren't digging it.

Then, I bought this thing called the Cordovox. Which was way back when they had an accordion that sounded like an organ. You didn't have to squeeze it. You could just turn it on its side and play the keys like an organ. And I use to turn it over on my amp. And then I could stand up and I could move around. And that was definitely a big hit with the ladies, that made it a whole lot better.

So that's pretty much how the transition happened. But, as I say, I studied probably eight or ten years classical accordion. Reading and writing and going to a conservatory in Philadelphia. I was pretty much on my way to do this classical accordion thing, until the Beatles and Rolling Stones and all that stuff just hit. I ended up having a professor come into my school, who was sitting in for another professor. He said, 'Just sit back, I wanna play something for you.' And he played me jazz and blues on the accordion. I had never heard anybody play anything but polkas and Russian and Italian songs and all kinds of intricate German things on accordion and I was floored. I quit music lessons in like two weeks after that.


I mean, I always wanted to play between the lines. I always, you know, I could play the music on the sheets. But I always wanted to be able to take what I had learned and be able to bend notes and have my own timing. There's a lot of people out there that can read like champs and they can't do that.

So that's really where my roots are. They're really jazz and bluesy based. Some of my favorite accordion music I play with a band in LA every once in a while, Zydeco. That's very, very bluesy rock n' roll, jazzy, you know, Tex-Mex kind of stuff. It's really great.

So it's just ... a chance to return to your roots more? Just to focus on that?

Yeah, it is. I get a lot of people when I play live that come and go, 'My God, you can really play that thing.' You know, I play organ and I get to play a long time. And I get to front the band and it's just a whole different thing. People are like, 'Wow, we didn't know you could do that.'

So, after all this time, you know, I could go out there and just play what I want and say what I want. One of my favorite lines is, 'So this what it feels like to stand in front of the band.' Bruce got a kick out of that one.

How much room do you have? Do you pretty much have total freedom to ... write how you want to and experiment how you want to, like when you're on stage?

Depending on the mood of things. You know, if people are digging on it, we'll play longer. We'll stay longer and let some more people play. You know, everything has a melody, a chorus and a verse to it, and we always get back to that. But then we get a little avant-garde from time to time.

Depending on the crowd ... I mean, I played this gig at a club called Spagatini's a couple of weeks ago. And it was my best show ever. It was really great. I mean, I sat there and it got to the point where I really connected with the audience, which was only two feet away. Like I was in their living room. I had my elbow on my keyboard and I was telling jokes. It was just a fabulous experience!

I mean, we had this lady who drank too much and came up on stage. And I told the audience, I said, 'You know, we actually bring her everywhere we go. Just in case the music is not doing so good, we can get a few laughs out of you guys.' It was just fantastic. Just great. It was a great, great thing to do.

So there's a difference between playing to 20,000 [people] from playing to a couple of hundred?

It's quite a difference. I mean, you know, you could hear everybody. I play a lot of dinner theatres, these kind of jazzy venues. If I play outside, they bring families and it's outside, and it's people doing different things. So, in this particular case, you know, they had dinner. They had friends and they talked. And here I'm playing an intricate part to what I think to be a mellow part of the song and I hear this lady telling jokes or something over my left side. But then the guy next to her is, like, totally into the music. So I focus on the guy who's totally into the music and try [to] tone her out. So, there is a lot of dynamics that go on, you know.

But, then when you get them quiet later on and they're all yours it's just, you know, it's worth the trip.

It's kind of a closer way to react, you know, you can see their reactions a little better.

Yeah. It's kind of like, you always look to somebody to work off of. Like a public speaker or something. You try to find somebody that's working and eventually you work your way around the room. And you hope that they're all going to look like that first guy, you know. (Laughter.)

So I haven't had any bad ones yet, which is really good. There's been some tough ones, but I haven't had any bad ones.

Do you play a variety of different-sized rooms? Maybe just a few people some nights and a whole load of people another night?

Yeah. We'll play from ... I guess Spagatini's will have a couple hundred people maybe. Then we played the Pony which, I don't know how many people that place will hold. Then we played a place called the Conduit in Trenton. That's a pretty big place. And I think we're booked into a couple small theatres. That's gonna be interesting in itself.

I'm doing a benefit for my hometown's school in September. Actually, I'm the guy, kind of like Bruce in a way. You know, he's famous in Freehold [New Jersey], I'm kind of famous in Flemington [New Jersey]. That's my hometown, by the way, that's why the album is called "Flemington".

They're doing a "Welcome Home, Danny" day over there. So, I'm going to try and raise some money for the high school and buy some computers and some other stuff. And, that'll probably be in the auditorium.

You know, so that's gonna be different. I'll be talking to a larger audience and probably won't see as many faces as I'm use to seeing now.

So when you play those huge concerts, it probably isn't as easy to connect, I guess. What's the difference there?

You know, there's always ...You get to see about ten rows and there's always those people in the first few rows that you can connect with. You know, some people I don't know how they do it, but I see a lot of the same faces! At a lot of the shows.

As a matter of fact, I remember last year, there was a gal and couple of her friends that came to, it seemed like, every concert. Every other one. It got to the point where I was, like, I would look at her and go, 'So you did something with your hair today, it looks different, it's alright.' Or, you know, 'You've got sunglasses on today, what are you doin'?'

You get a personal thing going on with some of these people. They're part of the family.

On your new CD, it sounds like there's a lot of improvisation going on. Is that right? Did you guys improvise on the CD?

Yeah, actually, even Michael tells me, I have the tendency to not repeat myself. As I say, a lot of people design these songs with a verse, chorus and all that. I just played it, because I didn't plan to put it out.

And then, after we did it again, I figured, I'm not going to change anything, it sounds fine. I still like the way it sounds. Yeah, there's definitely that, you know.

Did you let some of your backup musicians do some improvisation? It kind of sounds like there's some soloing going on between some of the other players and stuff like that.

Yeah, just a little bit. Guitars were actually the hardest thing to do. Now Nils [Lofgren] was playing on a song and, ah, it was funny because I put the guitar on last. I really didn't know what to do with him, I don't play guitar.

A lot of these ... I played on a lot of these. Like, I have a lot of aliases on this record. Like Charles Slone [listed as the percussionist] is me.

Oh, really!

And, um, just because I didn't want to seem to self-serving on my one record, you know, 'Everything by Danny.' Because I played bass, I played percussion. And, I wrote all the parts and I had people come in and play them. Pretty much everything, except for the guitars. And that was the most difficult part to do, because, as I say, I don't play guitar. But Nils came in and in almost a half an hour, played his butt off, the most perfect thing.

The other guitar player, John DeFaria, also played great on it. And some of the new guys, Todd [Parsnow, guitars] and Juan Van Dunk [bass] on "Erica," were just players that are used to playing this kind of music. So they play all the kinds of parts that you hear on smooth jazz records. Which is like the wah-wah pedal. All these things that I would never even think to do.

Yeah. Do you write a lot of songs on Cakewalk or do you just chart them out the old fashioned way?

I actually did it on Studio Vision. I recorded a lot of the stuff in my house. I have a little pool house and I did a lot of it on ADAT's. A couple of ADAT's and some Mackie boards. I brought the drummers in. And then we transferred all of the stuff from the ADAT's to big tape. Gave it a warmer sound. That way, some of these pieces took forever.

I mean, some of these pieces were created a long, long time ago. When I first came to Los Angeles I was trying to get involved in the movie business and television. So I wrote a lot of instrumental pieces. And I started hearing very similar stuff on the radio going, 'I could do that, this is what I'm doing already!'

So, that's how the whole idea came about. It was like, 'You know what, some of the people I hear on the radio, I can do better.' So, I gave it a shot. It's a very scary process though. It's like sending your children out into the world and people are going to tell you, if they're being good or not. Or, you know, they're going to critique them. (Laughs.)

So, that's why, when I finished the record and didn't put it out, it was a very easy thing to do. But then, when someone talked me into putting it out, that was a whole other ball game! Are people going to like it? What are they going to tell me about this?

So, and the few people that have heard the record have been very favorable. I'm lucky.

So when you first did the record, you weren't planning to release it? You were just planning to do it for yourself?

Yeah. I did it and lined it up. I had my own record label at the time called Deadeye Records. Two of my friends that were involved in Deadeye, talked me into putting it out.

It's not an easy process. It's like building something. You need people around you to help you do that. To keep your enthusiasm going. That's what Michael's great for, with me. When I have downtimes, he'll just pick me up and vice versa.

So, I work well with partners. You've got to force me to work. I don't like to work. It's very hard for a musician. To do just stop what you're doing, go in the studio and just start writing music. Bruce does it all the time. It's an unbelievable amount of discipline.

To kind of psyche yourself into that, I guess, emotional mood that you want to create the album as?

Well, not even that. In the beginning just, 'Let's get some ideas.' Then you have those days when you go in and you can't think of nothing. And then you have those days where you come in and what you thought of ain't all that good. So, it could be very hard.

You're going in, you think you know what you're doing and you can't remember a damn thing. And it just ain't jelling that day and you're like, 'Ay, yi, yi!'

So, Michael was pretty helpful there? In kind of helping to get some ideas out.

You know, I think the best thing is. Is, you know, just to ... I put stuff down all the time. That way you can go back and say, 'Well, we've got a lot to choose from.' And then you can go, 'Well, that one's not so great, but this one here, this is real good.'

So, as a matter of fact, we've probably got six or seven tunes done for a new album already.

So, do you plan on releasing a new one soon?

You know, Michael wants that to happen, but I'm lazy again. (Laughter.) He's been really on me to do this. I would like to be able to do this before the fall.

How much of a challenge is it writing songs that don't have words in them? Just writing instrumentals? Is there something you try to convey when you don't have words?

That's a very interesting question. It's easier for me, because I'm more instrumental ... I'm one that never really listens to lyrics. People will say, 'You know what Bruce is talking about?' And I'll go, 'I'm not sure what he means, but ...' I just don't listen to lyrics. I listen to the music. I don't have a hard time putting music together. But the hard part is ... Some songs that I write, the only way I can recognize them is to give them a number. Like, say, number 35. And then, people say, 'Well, you know, what's that song about? Where were you and what were you thinking?'

And, I gotta tell you the truth. Sometimes, I just give them a story. Like ... It was a really nice day and I was thinking about my father. You know, sometimes I'll make up a story, because some people want a story. But some of them are totally created in four walls and they need a name. You've gotta give them a name.

I did "My Little Cow", which is a story about my first daughter. This is a true story. And I was in Wisconsin ...Well, what happened is, I did the song and I thought to myself, 'I should have a song about my daughter.' You know, most guys that write lyrics can put their name in the song. I couldn't do that. So, I just happened to be in Wisconsin. And we went over to see this Indian cow, that supposedly is the next calling by the Indians. Anyway, this Albino cow, out in the middle of nowhere. And I'm thinking of my daughter, which she's going to hate me for down the road. And she was just so little and so cute and I thought, 'Oh, my little cow is a cute little thing.' And there we go, number 35 ended up being, "My Little Cow."

And now, I'm probably going to have to do one for ... I have another daughter. I'm going to have to do one for Harley. Because when they get old enough to understand that Harley doesn't have her own song, they're going to be really upset with me. And the two girls are that way.

But that's the truth of the matter. It's easy to write the music, it's just hard to title it.

So there's not always a meaning to the songs, sometimes they're just kind of something that poured out of you?

Unfortunately, that's the truth of the matter. (Laughs.)

There's nothing wrong with that, though.

But it doesn't give you much to talk about, when you go on the radio.


You know, 'How did you come up with this song?'

When you go out live, do you actually tell some stories about the songs that do have certain meanings?

Yeah, I do. As a matter of fact, I talk about "My Little Cow," and "A Doorman's Life," which was about my father. My father was a doorman, when he was really young, in New York City.

A couple of little things I talk about. I don't talk a lot about that stuff. I just sort of try to ... Every night's different, you get to feel off the audience and they sort of lead. They lead the show, really.

How have the songs developed live? Have they changed a lot live? Since you've played them out, have they developed at all or have they kind of stayed the same format as the CD?

Oh, no, they're a little different to perform. Whether it's certainly louder and up tempo. The players that we have are different than the ones that are on the record. With some of the other songs that I do, they're spiced a bit. I mean, we go and we play in these places that have, vocal bands and rock bands. We get up there and we just turn it up and kick some butt. Even though it's instrumental, it still kicks butt. You know, I think our hardest thing is probably to play in a little jazz club and keep it quiet.

When you're writing, how do you decide ... because you [have] played a whole bunch of instruments and a lot [of] keyboard instruments, how do you decide what to put where? Is it more spontaneous or do you plan it out a little?

The tones of instruments are real important. In other words, I'll probably write a song ... I'll fool around with a synthesizer and the tone, I'll hear a tone that'll make me start writing a song. Whether it be a piano or a some kind of synthy sound or something. I mean, I just play around with a synthesizer for, oh, I don't know, maybe in the first ten minutes of me playing around is usually when I get the idea. And if it doesn't come to me then, then I gotta walk away.

But the sounds will dictate what the song is going to be. Say you put a sound that sounds like an acoustic Spanish guitar. It's kind of makes you play with a little Spanish kind of feel to it. Or then I'll put a bass on it and I'll just start thumping around on a bass.

They're all built differently, depending on what I pull out for a sound. I mean, I could start with the bass first and then start building it. Then you could start building this house and get halfway through it and then you realize, 'You know what, this ain't going anywhere.'

And, it's just a lot of experimentation. And then I'm lucky enough to put the accordion on top of stuff. You know, if it works or not, it sort of gives it a continental flair. Which I kind of like.

You know, bringing some acoustic instruments into some of the electronic instruments. That's why I pretty much use a real drummer on my album, because most of these smooth jazz records are all machines.

How has your keyboard playing developed, since you first started playing? And maybe your earlier days playing; how do you compare them?

I think I've gotten tastier in my old age. I don't play as fast. This is what happens. Even when our band first started, we used to be like, you know these hot rod guys. Who could play faster?

And as you get older, and you play more, you tend to think about your notes a little more. It's like talking. You think about what you're going to say. If somebody says something, you sit back and think about it for a second. And then, you choose your words. Well, it's the same kind of thing. And ultimately, you can create more with ten notes, than you can with 50. If they're just those right ten notes.

Have you ever thought of making a solo album with vocals?

No. (Laughter.) No, I used to sing background stuff in a couple of bands. You know, when I was a kid, I probably sang a couple of songs here and there. Here's the thing where you have to consider down the road. You gotta look at the whole picture. You gotta think about, 'Well, if I do this, then I gotta go out and sing it. And I gotta remember the words.'

There's a whole lot more that goes on with that. (Laughs.) Yeah, as I said, I'm basically lazy. So, you know, I'm like, 'Oh, let's try to get the easy way out here.'

Who are some of your musical influences?

I like a lot of the old R&B players like Junior Walker. [David] Sanborn I love, saxophone player. I actually like some country music. I work out a lot in the gym and all I listen to is country music on my little radio because of the beats. Man, there are some really happening country people these days.

Oh, let me think ...you know, I'll tell ya, lately I've been listening to a lot of the smooth jazz radio and it gets a little tiring. I mean, they tend to, I don't know, just play some of the same stuff too many times. It's becoming a little too commercial for me. I've been hearing a lot of talk about satellite radio.

Apparently, for a lot of genres, it's suppose to be really good. So, I have to investigate that.

As far as instrumental music, do you listen to a lot of stuff that's longer and solo-based or just a lot of melodic, shorter material?

Probably shorter, more melodic. I'm trying to give people something to come back to. In other words, you have a nice melody and you have a nice chorus. Then, you can always take that somewhere else for a little while, but always come back. Where, if it were real avant-garde jazz, it's hard for people to follow it sometimes.

If it sounds good and it's nice, I think people want more of it. Just as much as it can be a little tiring for the musicians, I think it's the way to go. It's the old, give 'em what they want.

[In reference to the Holiday Shows at Convention Hall last Christmas with Bruce Springsteen and the Max Weinberg 7.] When you guys go up on stage, is any of that planned out, or is it more spontaneous?

For me it's spontaneous. I think for Max and his band, they rehearse all that stuff. They're pretty much the back-up band, so some of the other players can just walk in and jump on.

I love to do that too. I don't have to think about it much. I can just be part of the fun and show up. And walk off and take a break. Oh, I love it! It's great! (Laughs.)

Supposing I happen to know everything.

Cool. So it's kind of a fun thing for you to just kind of get up and play a little bit?

Yeah, it is. It is. If you're up there all the time, you're not so special. So I can kind of get up and everybody says, 'Hey, yeah, great!' And then, I can go away and go have a soda and come back.

Do you do a lot of spectating too? Like watching the other guys?

Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. That's a lot of fun, going out and watching what's going on.

Who are some of your favorite local, or even Max Weinberg musicians, that you watch?

Max's guys? Well, that whole band he has on Conan, was pretty much our horn section.


Many, many years ago. And, you know, Mark Pender and Richie "La Bamba" [Rosenberg]. All those guys are really part of the whole big family and they're just excellent. Max has turned himself into a hell of a drummer too. Playing on that thing every night. I think he's one of the strongest players in the band today. He definitely turned that last tour around, big time!

What was it like playing on that tour? What was it like getting back together and reuniting?

It's the best one we ever did.

Really? Wow!

The fact that people are older. People know what's important. When you're in the thick of it, you tend to forget what you've got. How good it is.

But, when you don't do it for a while and you come back. You realize what's important. It hits the right notes. You don't have egos to deal with anymore. We had kids on the tour. We took our children all around the world.

We'd be in a whole city for a week. So we'd plan activity for the kids to go to. Museums, different shows. Just really, really nice! No hurry, you know, take our time. Have a good time. It was just wonderful! I can't say anything bad about it. You know, everybody is healthy. We still move ok. (Laughs.)

You know, I'm lucky, I'm one of the guys who gets to sit down. You know, Bruce has to go out there and bust his ass every night. I'm like, wow, I'm glad I picked the organ.

Do you think the crowd's growing along with you? You know, they've been watching you guys play for years.

Well, we've brought in a lot of new audiences. We have quite a range. 15-year-olds to 55, 60-year-olds. We have some older people I see once in a while. And they're certain fans that are older, that haven't gotten out of their house in many years. And they've waited to see this. And, I think it made it really, really special for them to get out and do a little, 'Wow, you know I can still move! OK!' So, it was fun for everybody.

How do you think the band's grown? Since playing with them before, have you noticed a lot of changes and stuff like that?

I've noticed people playing better now, than they did before. I think it has a lot to do with personal projects, people doing their own stuff.

Because, when we were a band, that was playing all the time and so closely connected, I myself didn't listen to a lot of other music and then hang out with a lot of other rock n' roll people. Pretty much self-contained.

Being on our own, we're out there playing our own music. Making our own CD's. Really getting a chance to push our own stuff. I don't mean musically, but just our limits. Then we came back into this thing and we all added something different and better to it.

What other musical projects were you doing in between this time period?

I do all kinds of little things. I'm actually putting a CD together right now of some accordion music. All kinds of different accordion styles for television. In other words, if someone is looking for an Italian Restaurant. They can pull out a Danny Federici CD, with me playing a little something like "The Godfather," if they needed the background. And, I do German, I do Italian, I do French, Austrian. It's all different types. Zydeco.

It's all different types of sounds and different kinds of playing on the accordion. It's a popular instrument again. And I'm working on another record. Occasionally, I look at other talent. But not so much.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.