Smooth JazzNotes

Jeff Golub


Jeff Golub’s style brings a bluesy twist to rock and soul with a jazzy spin. Rock, blues, and jazz intersect bringing a lot of cross-over fans to Smooth Jazz. Known for his unique solo guitar style, Jeff shares the stage on one song on his new CD with Randy Jacobs who plays rhythm guitar, as Peter White did on “Pass It On” from “Soul Sessions”. Jeff’s strong rock influence gives him a clean bluesy, rock sound that is preferred by fans who followed rock years ago and have migrated into contemporary instrumental music. Jeff’s guitar encompasses lyrical, almost vocal like qualities, with his instantly recognizable sound.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Jeff attended the Berklee College of Music. He moved to New York City in 1980 and immediately started getting calls for work as a sideman, playing with some of the best, including Tina Turner, and Vanessa Williams. This led to long term gigs first backing Billy Squire (1981 to 1984) and then Rod Stewart (1988-1995).

Jeff released his solo debut, “Unspoken Words” in 1988, and in 1994, recorded a CD with his band, Avenue Blue. Touring at the time with Rod Stewart, Rick Braun was playing trumpet on the tour and served as producer of Jeff’s Avenue Blue CD. This served as a platform to highlight Jeff’s phenomenal guitar playing, inspiring him to become a solo artist, releasing two more CD’s with Avenue Blue, all produced by Rick Braun. Jeff began recording under is own name again, in 1999, releasing “Out of the Blue”, This being the first of six solo CD’s graced with his identifiable style of guitar playing. In 2000, Dangerous Curves, spent 12 weeks in the top 20 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart, and contained a #1 and a #2 NAC (new adult contemporary) single. Again in 2002, Jeff kept the momentum going with his next album, Do It Again, which peaked at #8 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart and boasted his hit remake of the Average White Band's "Cut the Cake" (which spent an impressive six weeks at #1on NAC radio).

Jeff’s new CD on the Narada Jazz/Blue Note Label Group is a collection of electric and acoustic blues, contemporary jazz, rock, and pop. This is Jeff’s second CD with a New York City theme, about which he exclaims, “I embrace living in New York City and I think Grand Central has got a real New York vibe to it”. Grand Central was primarily recorded with a live band in a New York studio utilizing the musicians Jeff jams with at small, informal club gigs around the city when he’s off the road, giving it a fresh, spontaneous sound. The interaction between the musicians is something uncommon today where music is produced one track at a time by a lone musician playing to a tape.

Jeff wrote or co-wrote nine new songs for this new CD; and selected three classics to record, Sly Stone's “If You Want Me To Stay”, George Harrison's “Something”, and the Four Tops soulful, “Ain't No Woman (Like The One I Got)”, on which he shares the guitar duties with Randy Jacobs and saxophonist Richard Elliot shines. Other Smooth Jazz heavy hitters contributing are Rick Braun (trumpet, flugelhorn), Kirk Whalum (sax), Philippe Saisse (piano), Stephen Ferrone (drums), Mitchell Foreman (keyboards) and Luis Conte (percussion). Jeff produced most of the CD himself with Steven Miller, adding a few tracks produced by Rick Braun and Paul Brown.

Seeing Jeff in concert is always a treat as he possesses the polished stage presence of a rock star without the ego. His wild blond hair and vibrant on-stage presence make him a favorite with the ladies, while his bluesy guitar riffs add to his all around appeal. This year he will again be co-headlining the highly regarded “Guitars & Saxes” tour where he will be joined by Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright and Tim Bowman. Dates around the country will sell out fast so get your tickets early!

SJN: When do you first find music and what instrument were you originally drawn to?

Jeff: Guitar! I was eight years old and went to see the Grand Old Opry when they came on tour to Akron, Ohio. I was immediately attracted to the guitar playing.

SJN: Were your parents into music?

Jeff: My Dad was a country music fan. Neither of them played, but they liked music.

SJN: Do you have any siblings who are into music?

Jeff: No, I am the only musician in the group, although, I have been told that my grandfather who I never knew was a singer in the church, a well respected man, but he died before I was born, so I never met him.

SJN: Did you play in bands in high school and if so, what kind?

Jeff: Ah ya, my first gig I was ten. I played professionally on weekends with rock bands, we played school dances. By the time I was 16, I started playing in nightclubs and pretending that I was older than 16 to get in. I always knew that the guitar was the profession for me.

SJN: You studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music, what inspired you to take that course of study?

Jeff: The first inspiration was hearing Wes Montgomery play. I was about 16 when I heard my first Wes Montgomery record and that sort of changed my whole outlook on music. But, I think that made me decide to go to Berklee to go to school. I went to Boston when I was 18 to play with a band. That’s when there was a lot of people living in Boston, like Pat Methany and Mike Stern, really great guitar players and it made me realize that I had a lot to learn. It was inspiring to see such great musicians and it made me realize that I had to study a bit.

SJN Then you went to New York and began playing with rock bands. You hooked up with Billy Squire, how did that come about?

Jeff: His drummer had heard me play and recommended me for an audition. That was interesting because I really didn’t come to New York to play rock music. I had been pretty much engrossed in jazz and that’s what I wanted to do, play jazz. I came to New York for more of that purpose, but then I ended up working with Billy Squire it was stuff I had been playing since I was a kid, so I knew how to do that and I was able to pass the audition. But, what I think was good for me, why I’m so glad I did that, is it made me realize that playing rock guitar again, I realized, I really like this, it’s not something I want to leave out of the person I am. Even though I love jazz, I love rock guitar. I don’t need to forget about one to embrace the other.

SJN: How did you get an invitation to join Rod Stewart’s band?

Jeff: That was 1988 and I had left Billy’s band a couple of years before that and I was working in New York as a session guitarist, working on peoples records and studio work, commercials and such. He had some friends, Carmine Rojas, the bass player, and his other guitarist, Eddie Martinez knew me and that it would be a good match, so they recommended that I have an audition. They sent me a plane ticket to Los Angeles to audition. We played a couple of minutes and he said, ‘Oh you got the gig, let’s go to the pub’.

SJN: You learned the ropes from Billy Squire and Rod Stewart, please tell us about some of the most inspiring moments of your association with these two artists?

Jeff: It was inspiring working with Billy because that was the second time I ever recorded a record. I had been in the studio once before. The second record I do sells 3 million records! That’s not the typical flow of things. That was very inspiring for me to immediately walk into this incredibly successful situation. He wanted his band to play on the record, so he was going to let us work in the studio until we figured out how to do that and it was a really great education. With Rod Stewart, I’ve always been a fan since he was playing with the Jeff Beck group, I have loved his singing. It was pretty much always inspiring to hear him sing. We wrote a lot of songs together over that period of time, I was with him from '88 to '95 and we recorded a lot of records together and wrote a lot of songs. I would not always agree with his decisions that were being made musically, I might think something else and we might argue like musicians do when working together and then Rod would sing, and as soon as he would open his mouth, I would say, ‘Wow, he deserves to have it anyway he wants.' (laughs) It’s not that he is the greatest singer, but what he has is a way to touch your soul with what he is feeling and that is about the most important thing an artist can have.

SJN: Don’t you still work with Rod occasionally?

Jeff: I did a number of TV shows with him when he was doing the standards since he knew that I liked that kind of music. I left in '95 to form the band Avenue Blue, but he knew that jazz had always been an interest of mine. It worked out that we did a bunch of TV shows in 2003 and he was just getting ready to leave on tour and the guitarist who normally plays with him, Paul Warren, had some conflicts that he couldn’t resolve so he was going to not do it for a while, so he asked me if I was interested in playing and I told him that I could do it for three months of the tour because I didn’t have any commitments then. it was winter and I don’t work that much in the winter, but summer I had concert dates of my own, so I couldn’t keep going for the full year of the tour, but I did fill in for three month. And then, at the end of 2003, I went back for two weeks to go to England to record a live DVD with him, “Live In the Royal Albert Hall”, which I was very flattered to be asked to do that, so I went back to do that, but in general, I’m not able to do that!

SJN: Rick Braun was also in Rod Stewart’s band and you recorded your first Avenue Blue CD in 1994 with Rick Braun, which inspired you to go solo. Can you tell us how that came about?

Jeff: Rick and I met on the tour and we realized that we had similar interests in music, that we both liked contemporary jazz, so we worked on his first record while we were on tour, we wrote his “Intimate Secrets”, we recorded a fair amount of that in cities on tour when we had days off, we wrote a lot of songs for that record. He had left Rod Stewart’s band to pursue his solo career already and I was still in the band and I had a couple of weeks off in Los Angeles. Rick was producing a lot for the Mesa/Blue Moon record label and he suggested that we do a record in my time off. The record label went for the idea and 11 days later we had the first Avenue Blue record.

SJN: I understand that you and Rick, not only have worked together these many years, you are best friends. Please tell us about working with him?

Jeff: Yes, that makes it great for us to work together. We are good enough friends that we WILL argue. That’s the way really creative stuff comes about, is if you are both willing to make a stand in what you feel. No matter that kind of artistic fights we get into, we are family and we will always be friends, we can’t screw that up, so we are willing to both express our opinions.

SJN: How is it different playing the big stadiums with Billy and Rod to the intimate Smooth Jazz venues with the meet and greets of today?

Jeff: I prefer playing the smaller venues. Maybe I wouldn’t say that if I had never done the big venues, since I had done that for so many years. I did that from the 1980’s when I started with Billy Squire to '95, for 15 years, all I played was 30,000 seat arenas, so that was pretty common place for me, it wasn’t a big thing, so I don’t miss it. What I did miss playing the big arenas was that it was really hard to make a personal contact with somebody who is the 20,462 person sitting in the back of the auditorium. I would much rather be in a venue where I can pretty much see everybody’s eyes, and I can make eye contact and make a personal…I can feel whether we are all together in the music, or not. It’s not just me showing off on a stage, it’s us all being a part of it.

SJN: You play in small clubs in New York when you aren’t on tour. What inspires you to do this?

Jeff: That’s something most New Yorkers do, which is why I love living here. New Yorkers don’t seem to worry about appearances very much, like if it looks like you are playing someplace that is below your status. There are a lot of clubs that don’t advertise so you can do it under the radar without it being a big promotion and this is the place where most of the really good music happens. Places that it’s word of mouth that something is going on. I find it a really fun thing to do and so do most of my friends, to go set up where there are no expectations. There is an audience, so it’s fun, you can interact, but there’s no expectations of what is going to come off for the evening, so you can experiment, and that is where I learn what does work and what doesn’t work for my live shows where people do pay money. Rather than experimenting on people who are paying to see the show, it is experimenting when there haven’t been investments from the audience. I went into a club a couple of weeks ago and Norah Jones was in there in a little club that holds 50 people, she’s in there setting up her own mic. I’ve seen Chris Botti in the same clubs I frequent. People just do these gigs because they love the music. Since they aren’t advertised, you are actually able to do it and make it fun. Sometimes, I do put them on my website, like the day of, so if someone is coming to New York, check that out!

SJN: You have an open door policy when you record which is how Steve Perry came to play on “Soul Sessions”. Can you tell us what this is?

Jeff: Some people get very precious about what they are recording and they don’t want anyone to listen to it until it’s done. They have their ideas set and they want to record that and get that down. I don’t agree with that. But, I like to make it as much of a party as possible. I like having people coming in and out of the studio. I like to have a lot of musicians show up and hang out and sometimes sit in. Say Mindi Abair would bring down cookies and red wine and she would end up singing on a track. Steve Perry stopped in and ended up singing on a track. People just do that, they just happen to be there and it’s really not premeditated, it’s just about hanging out. Sometimes microphones get set up. I think that is when the magic happened, unplanned things. That is one of the freedoms of playing jazz music.

SJN: Your new CD “Grand Central”, recorded live in the studio, has a very spontaneous sound with interaction between the musicians. Please tell us about Grand Central?

Jeff: I really wanted to embrace the whole idea of living in New York and the camaraderie with the musicians that I know in New York, the spontaneous jams that happen. I booked some studio time and took in a band of guys I regularly do that with…just end up sitting in with at clubs. I tried to recreate that as much as I could with the microphones on. I also told the guys in the band that I wanted to make it a group improvisation, not them laying down a backing track for me to play solo over. I told everybody, if you have an idea, go for it, we are recording this together and I wanted everybody’s input. I wasn’t sure where things were going to end up, but I was very happy where they did.

SJN: The first single is “Hello Betty”. Please tell us about this song?

Jeff: I wrote it with Rick Braun and the idea was to write something fun was the only prerequisite we had. The title comes from a Dentyne commercial that used to run when I was a kid. These two brothers sitting on the stoop of their apartment building that looked like Brooklyn, or some city scene. One brother is about ten, and the other is about 16. The younger asks the older one, ‘Hey, why do you chew that gum that gives you fresh breath? What’s so important about fresh breath?’ And the older one says, ‘You’ll find out about that in a few years!’ Right then this really cute girl walks by and he pops a stick of Dentyne in his mouth and says ‘Hello, Betty!’ and starts following her down the street.

SJN: Speaking of NY, let’s switch to your personal life for a minute, when you aren’t on the road, how do you spend your time?

Jeff: I have a wife and two sons, who are four and six, so I really spend most of my time being a family man when I’m not on the road. Running the kids to and from school. Going to the park with them. I know that I am gone a lot, so when I’m here, I try to be as involved as I can.

SJN: Besides your apartment in New York City, did I read somewhere that you have a home on Long Island?

Jeff: Yes, we have a house in the Hampton’s, the beach area, two hours east of New York. As soon as the kids get out of school for the summer, the family moves out there. They stay there all summer which is my high touring season, so I go in and out of Long Island.

SJN: What is your favorite escape?

Jeff: Long Island, the beach, I love the beach. I love sunsets. I love taking my dog for a walk on the beach at sunset, that’s probably my favorite escape, ever.

SJN: Describe your perfect day?

Jeff: Well, first off the sun would be shining. I’d say the Long Island summers are pretty much the perfect day. If I can get up with the family, have breakfast and goof around at home and then maybe take a bike ride, go to the beach, have a beautiful sunset and take my dog for a long walk on the beach and my wife would cook a wonderful dinner, Audrey is a great cook, and a nice bottle of wine.

SJN: What kind of dog do you have?

Jeff: A Tibetan Terrier. His name is Little Charlie Parker

SJN: You are co-headlining Guitars & Saxes again this year with two new players. Please tell us what we can expect from this new show?

Jeff: I love the show, Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum. Tim Bowman, I just recently met and he is great, but I knew Gerald and Kirk before that and I would have been really upset if I had done all the Guitars and Saxes and I hadn’t done this one. I’ve done a lot of stuff with Kirk and I am a real fan of Gerald’s. Everybody took it very seriously; we did a lot more rehearsal as a band this year. We have a lot of stuff that isn’t self promotion as much as the four artists individually. We worked up a lot of segments. We have an acoustic segment where Tim and I play acoustic guitars and Gerald and Kirk play obviously. We pull up four stools and we do very intimate segment of the show like that, which has never been done on Guitars and Saxes before, as far as I know. The second half of the show is pretty much things we have worked up together. It is arrangements that we have put together as a group.

SJN: Besides promoting your new CD and touring with Guitars & Saxes this year is there anything else on your agenda?

Jeff: No, that is pretty much filling up my time. I honestly haven’t started thinking about the next CD, yet. I really love this CD and I am very happy this the way it turned out. I want to enjoy that before I start thinking about any material for the next one, so I haven’t started writing or working on anything yet.

SJN: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to speak with us.



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