T Lavitz: Back to School
AAJ: I was going to ask you if you had considered a saxophone at all because I can imagine a saxophone working very nicely in this music.
TL: I know, me too.
AAJ: Who would you have liked to play sax?
TL: Well, this is the thing. I knew [saxophonist] Michael Brecker casually and I asked him a couple of times over the years and do you know what he said? No [laughs]. But he said, "Only because you're asking me now and I can't do it now, but that doesn't mean never. I want you to ask me again because sometime I'm going to say yes.
Steve Morse, Joe Zawinul, Michael Brecker, [bassist] Jaco [Pastorius], [guitarist] Pat Metheny, the early Pat Metheny, these were my biggest influences, and of course [pianist] Herbie Hancock and all those great keyboard players. Michael Brecker was up there as one of my main people.
But there are a lot of great sax players out there. I've run into two sax players in the last few months who are amazing; one lives in New York City and one, believe it or not, lives in the country, in New Hampshire, up north, in the middle of nowhere. They're not name players but they are amazing. It makes me see that there really are exceptional musicians out there. It's unfortunate that we have to always think about how big is this guy's name to put him on a record. It's not right. In a perfect world you take whoever you like.
AAJ: In a perfect world. This album is a bit of a sonic jigsaw puzzle in the sense that bits were recorded here and bits were recorded there and then everything was brought together; don't you miss the old style of everyone being in the studio for three days or a week, and that atmosphere?
TL: The last word you said, atmosphere; I got to tell you, I used to dream about someday recording in a real studio and all that stuff. This was when I was a teenager. And then, when it finally happened, it was everything I dreamt about, because the atmosphere of sounding the best you can, because of the equipment, with other musicians coming together and the whole vibe, including the hanging out and the going out to dinner, whatever. So yeah, of course I miss that.
I'll tell you though, with the advent of all the technology, I'm the kind of guy who likes to work alone and it's done when I think it's as good as I can do the solo part. You know, when there's other people around you think you're holding people back. They both have their advantages.
AAJ: Let's talk about Steve Morse. He doesn't spare the horses on "On Fire and "Portrait, where his playing is just fantastic; you two go back almost thirty years to the Dixie Dregs, who have reformed sporadically and toured again. Are there any plans for the Dixie Dregs to record a new album?
TL: Well again the technology. I know that Steve uses the same software that I use and I want to say to him, because I know how much he likes to work at his own pace, "Why don't you send me some song ideas and let me learn them, and maybe put some demo keyboard parts via the internet, and then when we get together in the studio it'll go that much smoother because I'll know what I'm doing.
You know what? I would love it. There's been no talk of it because he's always traveling with Deep Purple.
AAJ: Steve was a brave guy for stepping into [guitarist] Ritchie Blackmore's shoes in Deep Purple. Talking hypothetically for a moment, if you had to step into the shoes of a pianist/keyboard player of a classic band, which band would you have liked to play in?
TL: Well, in the last twenty years say, I think I would have loved to play in a band like Little Feat, because those keyboard parts are just great and that's because of Billy Payne.
I loved when Chester Thompson was in Tower of Power, maybe just his influence for organ, that funky, two-handed style. I always thought that must be an incredible band to play in because they are so tight.
When I was fifteen I first heard Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and I remember thinking 'Wow! I wonder if some day I...? You know? And then when you see them live [keyboardist] Keith Emerson would be spread out like he was flying, one arm going this way and one that way and he'd be facing the audience with an intense kind of stare. I remember being a teenager and thinking, "OK, that's it. That's the coolest thing! As a keyboard player, you know, it was like all the guitar players did with people like [guitarists] Jimi Hendrix, or Jimmy Page, or Clapton. You know, Steve Morse told me that he saw the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the school cafeteria. Really! When he saw [guitarist] John McLaughlin he could tell he had a dream too, and that day changed his life.
AAJ: The school cafeteria? I never knew the Mahavishnu Orchestra had ever fallen on hard times.
TL: They were hired to play a concert at the university where we all went in Florida, Miami, and it was raining so they put it in the giant lunch room. You know, I used to see Jaco Pastorius play right there too. All these great people played there.
AAJ: You were lucky.
TL: Oh, Jaco was the bass teacher at the school. When I went to university [guitarist] Pat Metheny and Steve Morse; [bassists] Andy West and Mark Egan; [violinist] Allen Sloan, you know, the Dixie Dregs; Bruce Hornsby and Bruce Hornsby's band[drummer] John Molo and a couple of other guysthese were all the students and teachers.