T Lavitz: Back to School
AAJ: Quite an environment, no?
TL: It was really magical. I didn't know it at the time. I came out of high school and I didn't know that much, and I just assumed that this was how it was in every city. So it was a very magical time.
AAJ: When I asked you about what band you would have liked to play in I thought you might have gone for the Grateful Dead; you've obviously got a close affinity with their music, having recorded several albums of their songs.
TL: Do you know about my one day? I actually played with them one time. It was the last few days of August, or the first few days of September 1990; Brent Mydland, the keyboard player, had died and Bruce Hornsby of all people recommended me to them because he was going to play with them.
And there was a guy who I later became friends with, [keyboardist] Vince Welding, and I got auditioned the day after Vince Welding auditioned, so I did play with them for one day. They were shocked that their keyboard player had died and they talked to Bruce and he said he'd do it for a little while as a guest.
They said they needed to get somebody else too and my name came up. Bruce said: "Oh yeah, I know that guy from when we were younger. He'd be great. So they actually called me up and I went there, north of San Francisco where they had a place, you know, the limo and the whole nine yards.
I never get nervous, but I have to tell you I was nervous. There I was, just me and them in this rehearsal studio. The problem is my singing, which is non-existent. So it was fun while it lasted.
AAJ: You've done three albums of Grateful Dead music; is there another one in the pipeline at all?
TL: I have to tell you that we actually have a full, new album and it just needs to be mixed. We don't have a deal for it so we just put it on the back burner when [drummer] Rod [Morgenstein] and [guitarist] Jeff Pevar got busy again, because he plays a lot with Crosby, Stills and Nash. It's really good. It could be the best one because we really took our time with it.
AAJ: What Dead material are you visiting on this one?
TL: Do you know "Freeway Jam, by [guitarist] Jeff Beck? Well we did "Truckin', but we did it like that if that makes any sense. We did "Uncle John's Band it's really, really nice, sort of like Pat Metheny. Then I did "Friend of the Devil, with almost classical-type jazz piano and bass, and Rod plays a washboard. It's really so pretty and emotional. Really nice.
Now that you talk about it, it reminds me of how good it is. Why is it just sitting there?
AAJ: What's the difficulty with finding a label for that?
TL: I think it's just a matter of everybody getting together and deciding who's going to mix it, which engineer. Possibly on a similar label to School of the Arts, you know, an independent label. I'm sure they would give us enough to make it worthwhile to sign it over. I don't know what we're waiting for because we finished it in December, 2006.
AAJ: Talking about mixing, on School of the Arts you pay tribute to Wayne Starnes who mixes, masters and co-produces the album. How important was his role in the project?
TL: I have to tell you that I worked on that album for six months and at the end, except for drums, we knew every note, seriously, every note. He plays guitar also so he would say, "This bar, this beat, you play an F#, is that what you want there? I mean every freakin' note! It's a lot of notes, so he was integral.
With audio files you can actually cut and paste. If something needed to be a little tighter I would cut the other instruments, or cut the piano and move it a little bit. With audio you can do that now, not with MIDI. So we did all these intricate things, move after move after move, and we would update them; we started calling the songs by their title followed by their date, because every two or three days a song would change a little bit and to keep track of it was getting crazy.
Wayne was very organized and he has a very good ear because I think the fidelity is really good. And that's down to him.
AAJ: It really does sound tremendous. Do you have any plans to tour with this line-up to promote the album?
TL: Well again it's about scheduling. I didn't know how good it would come out. I thought it would be good but I never realized until it was done how good it was going to be. I really haven't been in touch with anybody. These guys travel so much, and they're going in three different directions.
What I would want to do is email them and see if there's a way to find a mutual time where there is a month or two of open time.
AAJ: It would be a tremendously exciting live event.
TL: Just learning that material would be exciting. I would love to have that pressure.
School of the Arts featuring T Lavitz, School of the Arts (Magnatude, 2007)
Dennis Chambers/Jeff Berlin/Dave Fiuczynski/T Lavitz, Boston T Party (Tone Center, 2006)
Jazz is Dead, Great Sky River (Zebra, 2001)
Dixie Dregs, Californian Screamin' (Zebra, 2000)
Jazz is Dead, Laughing Water (Zebra, 1999)
Jazz is Dead, Blue Light Rain (Zebra, 1998)
T Lavitz, Gossip (Wildcat, 1996)
Dixie Dregs, Full Circle (Capricorn, 1994)
Dixie Dregs, Bring 'Em Back Alive (Capricorn, 1992)
T Lavitz, Mood Swing (Nova, 1991)
T Lavitz and the Bad Habits, T Lavitz and the Bad Habits (Intima, 1989)
The Dregs, Off the Record (Ensoniq, 1988)
T Lavitz, From the West (Passort Jazz, 1987)
T Lavitz, Storyline (Passport Jazz)
T Lavitz, Extended Play (Macon, 1984)