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John Beasley: Everyone Loves John

Scott Mitchell By

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AAJ: What is a typical day like for you when you are working at home?

JB: At home: wake, chant, breakfast, practice one hour, work, bike ride from Venice to Pacific Palisades and back, cook, drive to gig, hang with family/friends, bed.

AAJ: Can you name some of your most memorable live performances?

JB: I was in a band called Audio Mind with [drummer] Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Tavaglione, [bassist] Gary Willis. We had amazing gigs because we would improvise whole sets.

With [bandleader] Sergio Mendes, we played in this Roman amphitheater in Ceaceria, Israel, with the beach as the backdrop. [Singer] Dianne Reeves brought the house down when she sang "Bridges," by [Milton] Nacimento. With Steely Dan, we had audiences singing back to the band.

Last year, I was asked to direct the Monk Institute's 25th Anniversary Gala at the Kennedy Center. I arranged a 20-min medley of all Monk songs, which was performed by Monk Institute's winners over their history. [Singer] Aretha Franklin was the honoree, so I arranged another medley for [singers] Chaka Khan, Kurt Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves and Jane Monheit. The house band was a dream: [bassists] Christian McBride and John Patittucil [drummer] Terri Lyne Carrington, [trumpeter] PPAmbrose Akinmusire}},[guitarist] Kevin Eubanks with Gretchen Parlato singing backgrounds. The jazz icons also played: [saxophonist] Wayne Shorter, Herbie, [bassist] Ron Carter,[saxophonists] Jimmy Heath and Joe Lovano, [trumpeter] Terence Blanchard.

AAJ: What were some of your most memorable recording experiences?

JB: Steely Dan—the musicianship and the aura from [Walter] Becker and [Donald] Fagen; John Patittuci—we would do all-nighters in the studio (7pm to 6am) to finish records; my Positootly record with [drummer] Jeff "Tain" Watts,[bassist] James Genus, and [[reed multi-instrumentalist] Bennie Maupin—we were in New York and we just jived; El Negro Hernandez and Robby Ameen records because we were always laughing; Producing Chie Ayado's 4 records in Tokyo; Working on live TV shows.

AAJ: Favorite recording studio or studios?

JB: Capitol, Stage M on Paramount movie lot, Rose at the Record Plant, Abbey Road. I used to do a lot of recording at the old Motown Hitsville.

AAJ: Favorite venues to perform live?

JB: Blue Note, Tokyo; Piazza in Perugia.

AAJ: Do you remember your early jazz influences?

JB: [pianist] Bobby Timmons, [trumpeter] Thad Jones / [drummer] Mel Lewis, Quincy [Jones] , [organist] Jimmy Smith, Blood, Sweat & Tears.

AAJ: How did jazz impact your life as a young musician?

JB: No groupies!

AAJ: How does jazz impact your life today?

JB: I cook the way I play!

AAJ: Who, in your opinion, are the ten most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century?

JB: Impossible...but here are some: [pianist] Jelly Roll Morton, [trumpeter/singer] Louis Armstrong, [composer] Jimmie Lunceford, [pianist] Duke Ellington, [singer] Billie Holiday, [saxophonist] Charlie Parker, [pianist] Bud Powell, [trumpeter] Dizzy Gillespie, Miles [Davis], John Coltrane, [drummers] Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, [keyboardist Joe Zawinul, Freddie Hubbard, [bassist] Jaco Pastorius , [rapper] D'Angelo, [singer/keyboardist] Stevie Wonder, Irakere, Jimmy Smith, [keyboardist] Chick Corea, [bassist] Larry Graham, [singer/guitarist] Prince, [pianist Thelonious Monk, among others.

AAJ: The dreaded desert island question. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring 10 albums with you, which ten albums would you bring?

JB: Narrowing from a world catalog of centuries of music from different genres is always tough to do, but here's what comes to mind immediately: Miles Davis, Nefertiti (Columbia, 1967), John Coltrane, Crescent (Impulse!, 1964); Ivan Lins, A Noite (EMI, 2005); Quincy Jones, Walking in Space (A&M, 1969); Weather Report, Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977); Duke Ellington, Piano in the Foreground (CBS, 1963); Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis, Consummation (Blue Note, 1970); Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life (Tamla, 1976), D'Angelo, Voodoo (Virgin, 2000); Bobby Timmons, Soul Time (Riverside, 1960).

AAJ: If you had the ability to play on stage with an all-star line up of musicians (past or present) who would they be? JB: Miles, [blues guitarist] John Lee Hooker, [alto saxophonist] Bird [Charlie Parker], [singer/songwriter] Joni Mitchell, Duke Ellington, Elvin Jones, Stevie Wonder, [singer Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Wayne Shorter, Milton Nascimento, Ron Carter, [drummer] Bernard Purdie, Jelly Roll Morton, Dizzy [Gillespie], [conguero] Patato Valdez, [drummer] Billy Higgins, Rolling Stones, The Meters.

AAJ: What songs would you play in this fantasy concert?

JB: Anything they would want to play.

Photo Credit: Scott Mitchell
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