JamBon is the brainchild of long time Sonia Dada keyboardist Chris “Hambone” Cameron. The group unites former members of Sonia Dada, Liquid Soul, and Weather report. As Cameron says, “It’s wildly eclectic, and really funky. Drop the Meters, Rufus, and AC/DC in a blender, then stand back and pull the switch.” This is an amazing group of very talented musicians who were handpicked for this band. They are all studio/session musicians who have played on innumerable albums and toured with the greats of rock, soul, funk, and jazz. In addition to Cameron’s work on Sonia Dada, many of you readers from Chicago may be familiar with his work with the bands the Chicago Catz, and Chevere.
They will be playing at Evanston SPACE, Friday December 27th. This is a show not to miss as it is a special treat to hear such a group of accomplished musicians at the top of their game performing together. It will a twelve piece band including a superb horn section.
You can visit jambonband.com to get more information about the band, listen to excerpts from their new album, see the trailer from the DVD and see the band in action, get concert/tour information, and purchase the CD and DVD.
I had the great pleasure to interview Chris “Hambone” Cameron and we engaged in an hour long conversation where the time just flew by. He has had a wide ranging and an amazing career.
RC – I listened to the CD and it is outstanding. What prompted you to finally release a CD.
CC – I had tunes that had been in a movie but never released on a record. I had a pile of tunes for Shawn (Christopher) and Michael (Scott) too. It was just time to do it and like I said, once I did the DVD, it was the first show we ever did in Chicago with the horns on board. Once we did that everyone said, “Oh man, the horns are so cool.” So I started the world’s largest band and put a horn section on top of it.
RC – As I was listening to your CD I was trying to figure who the band sounded like and you are kind of indescribable, to put it mildly.
CC – My blurb on the web site says you put the Meters, AC/DC, and Rufus in a blender then hit the switch. It’s just a record we needed to make. It’s all R & B to me I suppose, I have been fortunate enough to be a studio rat and get to work with a whole bunch of different people, people I grew up with making records with and listening to. I didn’t feel compelled to get the thing to fit. You could take half of the record and stick it on Alligator (laughing). The other half of the record, Bruce wouldn’t know what to do with. But that’s the part of the fun of it for me and so great about the band. I have these wonderfully versatile players and singers. Everybody is all studio rats. The collective resumes are ridiculous. Jose (Rossy), the percussionist who basically talked me into starting the thing, in addition to being with Weather Report, he was the band after Jaco, so Victor Bailey and Omar Hakim did a few, two, three records in the mid-eighties, but before that he (Jose) was with Robert Palmer for a few decade, Labelle, and he’s on a million records; with Chic, he’s on all those records, he’s recorded with Cameo, and Talking Heads, he’s just a great record maker and a positive energy source.
RC – When did you start getting interested in music and starting in music?
CC – I was an obsessed tennis player until maybe freshman year of high school and then the “boogie woogie bug” bit. I still don’t know what happened. I grew up in Libertyville, which is not exactly a hot bed of R & B. I was drawn to it. There was a used to be a juice bar on Wrightwood, called “Alice’s Revisited,” where a lot of the blues cats would play. I would be down there when I was 15 or 16 and all I wanted to do was play Chicago Blues for years. Otis Spann was really my guy, who was Muddy’s (Waters) piano player. I remember the day I heard that record. He made that record with James Cotton , the James Cotton Blues Quartet, which was on Vanguard. Had a great version of Rocket 88, an Ike Turner tune. It was a quartet Otis Spann, S.P. Leary, PeeWee Madison, who played a teeny bit of guitar, and James Cotton, so no bass player, and the piano was just roaring on that record. I was just, man.…that still kills me if I put that on now. That was the genesis of it.
I got the nickname Hambone in Mobile, Alabama. So the nickname was born in the Deep South. My brother is a guitar player, who went to little liberal arts school, a Jesuit College in Mobile called Springhill. And I would go down and play in a few of his bands over the summer when I was in high school. This nickname mutated out of a few other names and the next thing you know I was stuck with it. Born in Libertyville, and Chicago Hambone, born in the Deep South. It wound up sticking and one thing led to another and my first record date was when I was 22 at Curtis Mayfield’s place on the North side, at Curtom. And actually Shawn Christopher, who sings in JamBon, her brother is Gavin Christopher, and Gavin wrote some of the early Rufus hits. That was my first record date, Gavin’s second solo record for Curtom. I was overdubbing clavinet with the Tower of Power guys, after that I basically never looked back. And after that, Harvey Mandel, you know Canned Heat, he had an amazing band called Pure Food and Drug Act, with Sugar Cane Harris, an electric violin player who played on all the early Zappa stuff. A real phenomenal band, I used to go see those guys when I was 16 and then I was playing with Harvey a couple years later. Once John Mayall came into town and it was cheaper for him to hire Harvey’s band to do this Midwest run of dates, so we did these shows, and he loved the band so much we became the new band. A couple months later, Sugarcane, a colorful character, to say the least, got out of jail and got his gig back. We were playing Old Chicago, a giant shopping center with an amusement park inside in Bolingbrook, which eventually went down the tubes, with somebody taking a gazillion dollars loss. I played there with Chuck Berry and also we were out there with Mayall. And unbeknownst to Harvey, Mayall had thrown Sugarcane in. So we’re playing a set and out walks Sugarcane with a fiddle and it was an amazing moment because there was a lot of history there. So it was a crazy thing because I used to see these guys when I was sixteen and think why aren’t they bigger than the Stones and then I was twenty two and I was playing with all of them. It was very, very cool.
RC-How did you develop your talent on the piano?
CC – I always really worked since I’ve been fifteen. I was playing professionally, playing gigs, that’s what I did. I went to Eastern Illinois University for a year, I played in the jazz band. But I wasn’t really destined to be a classical player or a teacher, although now I am adjunct faculty at Columbia College. Years of working and you play with people that can kick your butt at something and you learn. I have been playing in Chevere, the Latin jazz band I am in, since 1978. I didn’t know a lot about playing Latin jazz until I hooked up with Alejo and those guys. You learn what makes a given style of music work. That was one of the things I loved about being a studio musician, the variety of it. That aspect of it was very cool. The learning aspect of things never stops. I always say my ongoing jazz education is 35 years of being in a band with Howard Levy, who is the music director for Chevere, and is an amazing cat. I am definitely the R & B rat on that bus.
RC – I am pretty amazed by all the varied things that you have done in your music career, you are an accomplished musician, performing and writing music, played with some musical greats, written movie scores, and even had roles in movies .How did all that happen, how did you diversify so much?
CC – I was lucky, number one. I don’t know there is a quick capsule answer, other than I was fortunate enough to hook up with people who liked what I did. You cultivate relationships and if you are a studio player that’s what you have to draw on. Making the most of the opportunities that you get and finding out what it is that makes a given style of music work or what you can bring to a project or record to make it work. A lot of the film stuff I have done, I have been fortunate to work on a lot of Andrew Davis’ movies and that is a family connection, because his brother Richie, is a great, great R & B session guitar player in Chicago, has a band called the Chicago Catz. Richie and I worked together for years and wrote stuff together and gradually over time we got the opportunity to do a lot of cool stuff in Andy’s films. Under Siege was the first one that I did for him, and we’re on camera in that. You’re on a battleship in Mobile, where I got the nickname. Hanging out with Tommy Lee Jones and the band, which was the Big Twist rhythm section, which was Wayne Stewart and Tony Brown on bass and drums, Richie on guitar, Gene Barge, “Daddy G” who was the house tenor player for Chess, and produced a lot of “We’re Gonna Make It for Little Milton,” he did “A Quarter to Three” for Gary U.S. Bonds, he has worked with a gazillion people. Gene is on the gig, and Hiram Bullock, who is gone unfortunately. He was the original guitar player on David Letterman. He’s on a lot of the great Steely Dan records, David Sanborn, just really wonderful, funky, he could play anything, he could do Hendrix, straight up jazz. That was the band. Tad Robinson was a wonderful harp player. Andy is a music lover so we were basically a means to get the bad guys on the battleship. So I had the hollowed out Rhodes with the gun rack in it. The ex-CIA guys were showing me how to hold the rubber guns. “We’re B flat right?” “OK and this is going to rifle up and out, so you have to hold it like this.” “OK, thanks, man.” You wonder what these guys were up to before they became movie consultants. Don’t ask!
I’ve been very fortunate get to play with a lot of people I grew up listening to. To record with Mavis Staples was amazing. The list is long. Dave Mason was a gas. I did Letterman with Dave Mason. Sonia Dada did about fifty shows opening for Traffic, which was great fun. When I was growing up, my stuff, I loved Booker T. and the MGs, which is what got me into the Hammond, I loved Traffic, and I loved Otis Spann. That was my stuff. So pretty much everything I do comes from that R & B starting point.
RC – What was your most satisfying musical experience or, said another way, what are you most proud of?
CC – Boy, that is difficult, I suppose the tunes that I’ve written and have got out there. The Commodores cut one of my tunes, “Solitaire.” We’ll be doing it at the show at SPACE in Evanston (12/27). I’ve waited twenty five years to play that live. We finally did it at the last gig and it really was a gas. It’s really hard for me to pick…I love JamBon. I love the band, because it’s really a wonderful bunch of players…it’s my band. I’m partial, there is no avoiding that now. It sort of worked out to the point that I hit critical mass. It’s something I had to do. They’re a really great bunch to play with. I work with these guys in a variety of contexts and they’re real versatile and they get it. I don’t have to legislate a lot of stuff. It’s just you hire the right people and let them be who they are and let them play. That just what I try to do. It’s like you got a garage full of Maseratis, you got to let them burn the carbon off their pistons a little bit.
RC – I am always interested in the creative process. As a songwriter what seems to inspire you when you are creating new songs?
CC – Well, it’s all over the place. My old line was I always try to write with somebody that has a deal. I’ve always written. Some of the tunes, the ballad, “Sands of Time,” which is a track I love. That was in A Perfect Murder, the Michael Douglas movie. It was written as source music, so it’s in there and was mixed far back. Tad Robinson who I co-wrote it with did a wonderful take on it. But I thought I just loved that song, I wanted to play it and put it on a record. I thought Shawn could do a thing with this. It was like it was made for her. That was a situation where that gig they wanted something sort of “Otis Redding-esque.” They didn’t want to license Otis so that was like we need something with that kind of a feel. In that the case you were writing to fit the scene that it fits into. But it’s really all over the place. “Too Much Barbeque” I wrote for Big Twist, and that’s the one tune I sing on the record. If you watch the DVD, Barb (Cameron) says that’s your “Ringo song.” You know where they let Ringo sing one tune. I wrote that for Big Twist in 1981, but I was out of the band by the time they finally got around to cutting it. I said I can do that one. Having Michael, Shawn, and me in the vocal garage is like you got two Lamborghinis and a VW bug. They’re so good, it’s like I’m gonna sing (laughing). “Barbeque,” the kids like that one. That is the medley of my hit. We did that first take. No punches, played, and sang it in one piece, the only overdubs are the horns and a little bit of percussion. On the record we did all the basics in two days at CRC, everyone singing and playing at the same time, like the old days. It took the better part of a year to finish it. I was calling in my coupons all over time. A lot of the lead vocals and solos are on the track, live when you did it. That is the way I grew up making records. Now it gets done, everyone passing the cake around, one guy does the strawberries then you put it on the internet and this guy’s doing this, it’s not the same as having a roomful of musicians playing at the same time and the singer singing. I love that ensemble energy. It’s doesn’t happen that way much anymore. The facilities to allow that to happen are sort of going away. Just because you can endlessly fiddle with something after the fact does not necessarily mean you’re improving it. I like to capture a performance from the point of view of being a producer. I’m happy to say that is why that record feels the way it feels.
RC – Shawn really blew me away with her performance of “Soul Deep” on the CD.
CC – I’m glad. I can talk long and hard about this. The ongoing marketing of this venture is an education in itself for me. I love that one. It was written for her specifically. I cannot speak highly enough of her and Michael. They are both great R & B singers. As a writer to be able to write for those voices, it is a great thing. She just has a natural sense of who she is, how to interpret a song, how to interpret a lyric and not over sing things which a lot singers do on the Star Search/American Idol shows. Here’s a melody, here is what the melody is, and you respect the melody. When you vary it counts for something…it counts for something. I get goose bumps when she does it. It’s like working with Mavis, she’s at that level and so is Michael. Alan Burroughs (AB), the second guitarist sings the third part and he had never sung background until we did the record. Shawn and Michael said let AB have a go at it. He had done phenomenally at it and that it is a great thing.
RC – I have one more question here and then a bunch about the upcoming show. Do you have any interesting stories/anecdotes about working with some of the greats?
CC – Oh, God! How much time do you have? Who do you want to know about? Chuck Berry story? The Letterman story? That’s a good one. I had been recording with Dave Mason from Traffic, of course I’m pinching myself through the whole process. I can’t remember who we hooked up, but he had been living here (Chicago) for a while. He was being managed by Jim Tullio, who’s been a buddy of mine for many years ago who I had met when he was producing Big Twist. They had a management thing with him and I had recorded in three or four different studios. He’s doing Letterman and he had a record out on MCA. Stevie Winwood had guested on his record, doing that sort of “Arc of a Diver” soprano sax synthesizer type thing, which was more prevalent on his (Winwood’s) solo records. That is one of the things I know how to do, and so I was hired. I had to cop verbatim the solo in the middle of this tune and I could do my thing in the other places. So it’s me, Jimmy Kreiger, and Dave. Jimmy Kreiger wrote “We Just Disagree.” He’s passed. I think Phoebe Snow was on that too. It was us and the Letterman Band. Basically you come in, you do it once, the Band has a call. It’s like a live show, even though they’re taping it. We do the run through and it’s going great. The NBC stagehands, in between performances have to move my synthesizer, I am only playing the featured number, Dave Mason is sitting out there with the band all night. They have to move my synthesizer which I had flown out, it is a Memory Moog, a specific one that I am using. You can’t touch anything because it is all union guys. They don’t unplug it, they drop it on its face on the concrete, about 45 minutes before we’re supposed to hit. And I’m like, Oh, God where am I gonna get another of these in that amount of time. So I put it back on the stand, plug it in, and it’s still working. So they’re counting down the tune, “we got two minutes” and I’m looking over and they have me on the wrong tape marks. All I see are guitar players’ asses in the distance and the twelve strings. I say, no guys, I am supposed to be over there on the other tape marks. So they move it over to the other side and they’re counting down. Now when you’re doing this thing you need the pitch wheel and the filter pedal. Those are the two essential components of doing that sound. So as they are counting it down I realize that the filter pedal is out. I reach around the back and the jack breaks in my hand. At this point there are two inputs on the Memory Moog so if you are not using them together you can theoretically use either one, so I decided that I would try the other input. I quick slam the jack in and the tune starts with the camera an inch from my nostril. So it’s like, pow, have a nice day, enjoy the show. And of course, everyone back in Chicago has their VCR rolling, it’s not a gig you want to screw up. So the things working; we’re into the tune, and my teeth are chattering for the first half of the song. It went fine, we are back home, watching ourselves on TV the same night. I am at a recording session in Streeterville Tuesday and everyone is going “Mr. Letterman” so I punch up the patch put a few licks on it and the whole machine goes down. Open it up and there were $500 of cracked circuit boards. Their management had to go after NBC to get the money. So that is my Letterman story, relax and enjoy your NBC experience.. That moment when the jack breaks off in your hand, I love live performance….that was a Meister Brau moment. I live to tell the tale.
RC – Let’s talk about the upcoming show at SPACE in Evanston, Friday December 27th. I understand you will have 12 musicians performing at this show. How did you all get together? It’s like herding cats to get all those people together.
CC – It is basically it was time for me to make a record. Purely at a creative level, I was at a point where Sonia Dada had run its course. Dan (Pritzker), the leader had mothballed it and was off working on movies. It was natural for me to keep working with Michael and Shawn, because I love what they do and I had a bunch of material there. It went back and forth and finally, I just had to do it. I told my wife, I’m chopping off the front of the house, making records and starting a band. I got everybody together. The first gig we played was a private party that somebody wanted me to put a band together for. It was very fortuitous how the guitar chairs came together. Tommy Sanchez, the Liquid Soul guy, had just moved back from the West Coast. We had played together a bunch and I had a Grammy nomination with him in 2000 with Liquid Soul. I pretty much came in with them and did the records. I did not tour with them as it was logistically impossible. Tommy is great, he is a very versatile guy, is a studio musician, but he can really rock. Alan Burroughs I had met through Richie Davis. Alan is just a really soulful cat. He has a great, old school sound and is also a fine jazz guitarist. It also turned out he was our third voice. We did this gig, and I was able to multi-track record it and as I was listening to it back, the chemistry was just undeniable. It was like everyone had been playing together forever. So it was like Geez, how do I not make this record. We played up at Northwestern. They had a B3 summit night and they had a choir guy from the South side, a jazz trio from the Green Mill, and I was like the R & B guy. I asked if I could do it with a little bigger group. That was the first ever live public performance. A chunk of that is on the website, under JamBon TV. There was just no way getting away from it, the CD was something that needed to happen. We went into CRC and made the record and I cashed in my coupons all over town. It took two days to do the basics and a year to finish it. I mixed it at my buddy John Ovnik’s studio at “Deaf Dog,” back when he had one of eight Focusrite consoles ever made. That board is now in Barcelona. The last gig that was done on it was mixing my band. A really wonderful console. I took my time with it, did it with the people I wanted to do it with and the rooms that I wanted to do it in. And the rest of the marketing thereof is an ongoing adventure. I’m wearing a whole lot of hats. I pretty much spent my whole career focusing on writing and playing. And now given the state of the music business infrastructure it is a whole other deal. We put it out and all the old Sonia Dada fans really dig it. They appreciate that it’s where the roots are, but it’s very much its own thing. We do a little bit of the old band stuff, three or four tunes in a set, but JamBon is very much its own entity. It’s just really fun. I’m hoping we will be able to play more. I get lots of emails, ‘when are you coming to Denver and when are you coming back to the Fillmore in San Francisco?’ It’s big and cumbersome. It’s very cool and it is a great joy to get to be able to do and I am hoping we will be able to do it more.
RC – Your music is so unique. I have seen you described as a combination of AC/DC, Metallica, Rufus. Is that how you describe yourself, just kind of a mishmash of things? Indescribable?
CC – I just love music. I have made almost every kind of record there is. I am not a classical musician, I love listening to it, that’s not what I do. I am an improviser by nature. I didn’t have any criteria other than it had to be a song I felt good about, that it sounded like the band. That is one of the great joys of it; is that it can go to a lot of places. And that is what is great about having this bunch of musicians. It’s hard to find guys that are like really skilled R &B, jazz , funk, “fusion-y” kind of cats that also get, hey, sometimes Rolling Stones eighth notes. Like “Soul Deep:” if you look at the difference between “Soul Deep” and “Wrecking Ball.” It’s the same band. If you look at the DVD, there is no auto-tuning, no fancy pro tools sneaking around. Just here’s the band and a couple of cameras. That’s what is so much fun about it. For me, it was always the business that tried to compartmentalize everything. They want to make a record; everything needs to sound like this. This is your pigeon hole, these are your radio stations, this is your marketing segment, this is your demographic. I like a lot of different kinds of stuff. I am fortunate to have put together a band of guys that get it all. It’s a real privilege for me to get to play with these guys and have them play my stuff. I hope there is a life ongoing and I would love to make another record, doing more stuff. There is a lot of untapped creative power.
RC – The musicians in the band are extremely talented, you have written the music, so how do you let them express themselves in the band? Is the song just the framework and they say let’s try this, let’s try that?
CC – It varies. Part of it is that is what is so cool about it. It is the right bunch of guys. In certain cases, I have a pretty good idea of how I want people to function. But you also look at it that I have been a sideman on a million projects, hundreds and hundreds of albums. These guys come from a similar background, the song is the thing. Khari (Parker) and these guys can play a ton, but they are about playing songs. That was one of the things I was thinking about, about this interview, what is my philosophy. Part of it is I am an improviser, but also I love songs. I love a great lyric and a great melody in a great song, I also like having that as a jumping off point for improvisation too. I don’t like having every show be a carbon copy of the show before. I like giving people room to play. I like being in the moment. I like not having a net. That is the way I try to create the environment for all these players to populate. Put people in a situation where they feel they fit and let them do their thing. Over the years when I have worked with other artists, I like being able to bring my whole game with me to the ballpark. Where you walk in and you go, what is the perfect way to frame this song? It’s just a great bunch and it was like that just from the beginning. I have to credit Jose Rossy, he’s the one guy I bring in from out of town, and he had talked me into starting the band, he’s the percussionist. He knew some crew guys in Denver, and Sonia Dada was out there. One of the singers had some personal situations that took him out of the equation so there was an open bunk on the bus. So Jose came and sat in and just was uncanny with his ability to fit into to what was going on. So the next thing you know he played his way onto this gig. We did the last couple of tours together and after that we were back and forth. He had some friends that were working on a song label and I sent him some song demos. He said, “What are you doing with all these songs, man? Start a band.” One thing led to another. I have been lucky to work with a number of great percussionists and he is a very unique cat and he is a master record maker. You don’t hold onto the gigs he has had, you don’t play with Robert Palmer for ten years, Labelle for ten years or Weather Report for four or five years unless you have the whole thing. He has an orchestral background, but he plays songs. He’s uncanny in his ability to enhance something, And sometimes it is not what you play but what you don’t play. He is great at that and the same really holds true for everybody in the band. What draws me to people is people who sound like themselves but also have a sense of ensemble. If you are a studio player, that is really what matters. It is not how much great stuff you can play. Can you play the perfect thing for this record? Can you frame this song? Can you bring out all the emotion inherent in what something somebody wrote. It’s a skill that they all have. I’ve likened it to having a Lamborghini in the garage under the blanket, you don’t get to drive it that often. But when you take the blanket off, put the key in and whoosh. It purrs, let me adjust my leather seat. It’s a cool thing. I am hoping we can get a bunch of people out and do this all the time. I think it’s worth pursuing….so I am! I have 56, 000 other things going, thank God we have some shows, cause the record is the tip of the iceberg for me; there’s so much more that can happen there. I’m just looking forward to playing. On the basic, fundamental, that is what I got involved in music stuff for.
RC – I have always enjoyed horn bands, especially funk rock, such as Cold Blood and Tower of Power. I noticed on the CD and DVD that you have a killer horn section, which I understand will be with you at the SPACE show on the 27th. Can you tell me a bit on how you formed the horn section?
CC – (Laughing) Like I said, I fought it, as hard as I could. I already knew the core unit of the band; I have two guitar players, both of them can rock and both can do the R & B thing, I got the rhythm section, and if I put horns on the whole record, everyone is going to want to know where are the horns on the gig. So fine, I put them on five tracks. We did the first show finally where I had a budget to put the horns on. It was then like the napalm on the cake, once you do it that way, it’s ‘Oh Man!” .Especially after we did the DVD; that was the second show. That was the second time we ever played together, it’s a lot of my charts. I have a few other guys who contributed chart-wise. My horn orientation is coming from two places, the Memphis Horns and Tower of Power. That’s my stuff. King Curtis Live at the Fillmore with the Memphis Horns, that record, and Tower, I love that stuff. Steve Eisen and Mark Ohlsen have played with me in Chevere for years. But Mark was in Big Twist with me in 1981 and Steve is probably the most recorded tenor sax player in town. He’s the sax player on “The Super Bowl Shuffle” by the Chicago Bears. He’s recorded with Styx, he’s recorded with Mavis, he’s playing with the Ides of March now. He played the solo on “Solitaire,” on the Commodores track that I had, which was 1988. He’s great. Andy Baker is playing trombone on the gig; he’s on the DVD too. He runs UIC’s jazz program. He’s like the hard core English jazz trombone player, but he’s been perverted by my evil rock band. And he loves it. So that’s totally cool. I wrote him that now you’re the Grand Poobah of jazz at UIC, the evil specter of my rock band is creeping in. Jerry DeMuzio is playing barrie (baritone sax) on these gigs. He’s just coming off the road with the Tonight Show Band, Doc Severinson’s old band, which is still out there. Jerry is another studio rat; he’s done a million sessions. He’s going from playing alto in the Tonight Show Band and he’ll be playing barrie on our shows. Steve Eisen played barrie on the record in addition to the tenor. And on the DVD, his daughter Maria played barrie, and she’s a monster. That’s actually my favorite part of the DVD, is Maria, because I have a great shot of them. We had a great cover of “I’ll Take You There” by the Staples. I put a barrie solo in the middle of it. Steve is great, I liken him to the “Randolph Scott” of the saxophone, he’s not very demonstrative, but an amazing player. So Maria is blowing the barrie solo and the whole place goes nuts and you see Steve crack a big smile. It’s great, two generations in the horn section. The thing with the horns is that once we did it with them I have yet to be able to do it without them. That’s the name of that one.
RC – What’s the deal with you wearing those crazy hats while playing? How and why did that start?
CC – The hats! The hats! Somebody gave me one, I forget. Ah, my wife got me the first little dragon hat, it just sort of became a thing with Sonia Dada for a while. That was a great band too. Dan, the leader, was very much a Grateful Dead fan and that was his aesthetic. I come much more from the James Brown school; if you’re not playing somebody should be talking to the audience. It just sort of became a thing. Then there were some cute little kids in Philadelphia that found the same hat. I’ll toss one on every once in a while and I think part of it is because if you are a keyboard guy you’re kind of in a static universe. Especially if you bring as much crap out to play a show as I do. You’re basically behind a space shuttle’s worth of gear. To have any kind of visual impact you have to go sort of overboard.
RC – Maybe you could put a cape on like Rick Wakeman.
CC – (Laughing) No, I don’t do that! That’s my line, you’re stealing…..I say no cape, no fog machine, no Rick Wakeman. I didn’t have any of those records, although I loved “Fragile.” That was a record. No, Traffic was always my English band. Although I do have another humorous side, I do a project called “Riser Rock”, which was totally arpeggiated versions of old R & B songs. The occasional silly hat may enter the fray. There’s nobody policing it but me anymore. There are a few in the bag.
RC – What can the concert goers expect from the show?
CC – Man, well it’s gonna be a unique event. It’s gonna be funky, that much I can say. It will go everywhere we like to go. It will be hopefully a good soulful experience with some songs that they can dig into. Then there will be a healthy portion of ‘no net blowing’. I like to get everybody out on the end of the diving board and push them off. We’ll do a lot of the stuff off the record and I got a couple of new ones that I have in the hopper that I’m bringing out. We also try and toss out the occasional old soul chestnut. We’ll probably do three or four Sonia Dada tunes too. It will be a fun night. I’m very much looking forward to it.
RC – If the readers want o learn more about you and the band, where can they go to get more information?
CC – The best place to go to is JamBonband.com (the band’s website). There are pieces of the record up there, and there is a link to the DVD trailer, which is a good energy snapshot of what the band is into. If you really want to go poking around there is a link to my side and you can see all the people I have been lucky enough to work with.
RC – They can also order the CD “JamBon” from this site as well?
CC – The CD is on there, the DVD is on there. The DVD has been great as I can get it to people, just in terms of marketing the thing, here it is. There’s not a lot of fancy…..it’s just the band. It’s a live performance, warts and all, as I said, no auto-tuning, no sneaky pro tools editing, it’s a show. I’m really happy with both of those, I am hoping we can do more. It’s kind of like steering a blimp as it’s a little cumbersome to move it around. But it’s a great thing. We love playing together and I think that energy radiates out to the audience any time we do stuff. We want to be doing it more. It is one of the big frustrations for me is everybody digs the record they just want to know when we are coming to New York (for example). OK, it’s getting seventeen people across town takes doing. But it’s ongoing, but the key to it is that we have to play, that has to be what drives everything. I’m hopefully going to get some other booking people on board with the thing.
RC – You keep the upcoming gigs updated on the website as well?
CC – Yeah , we do. The Acorn is a real cool room, it has an amazing old Barton Theater organ. I have played there a few times. It is very different than SPACE but there are parallels as the place is cool, it caters to music lovers. It’s a great room, very quirky and cool. Just getting the band out of state is a big deal. We’re hoping that we will get people out there and we can do it more.
RC – There’s a link on the website where they can purchase tickets to the show?
CC – There are links on the front page of the website. You can click on it and it will take you to the websites of both venues. Go to the website and anything going on with the band that is the place to find out.
The marketing side is an ongoing education for me. The music business is being reinvented as we watch. I got flown out by ASCAP (American Society of Composers And Publishers), I have been a member since around 1976. They flew me out to be part of their legislative lobby a couple years ago. They needed people from specific legislative districts. My name kept popping up on the radar as I have done so many things. It was a cool couple of days where they had a big concert with all of the ASCAP writers performing their music in the Library of Congress. You had Dion and the Belmonts, JD Souther playing some of the Eagles songs he had written, Hal David (Burt Bacharach’s lyricist) singing “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and he’s like ninety…..very cool. But then we went around and meeting with the various legislators about intellectual property rights and the new media. The steelworkers are in from 11:15 to 11:30, then it is the ASCAP folks. . Very interesting. It is kind of like the wild west out there. You’ve got iTunes now, it’s a different age. I do my best to adapt. As for as the band is concerned we made the record we needed to make, we need to play more, and hopefully we will get to do another one.
RC – You’re so right, the best thing about concerts is where the band stretches out and improvises on their tunes. If they play a note by note replaying form the album you might as well be home listening to the record. You want energy and excitement the shows.
CC – That’s the thing. For JamBon, part of it is the aesthetic, it is a live thing. We do a little bit with loops as there are couple things I use those on. I want people playing; I don’t want machines doing stuff people should be playing. The level of musicianship in this band is something. I will go to battle with these guys anytime, anywhere. It’s just fun, we love playing together and people get that. I like to blow, when I get done with the show, especially with my band…..I’m not leaving any bullets left in my gun. I want the others of the bandstand to feel the same way. I’ll just turn the bus left at any moment and turn somebody loose. That is the fun of it. You keep everybody on their toes.
RC – Any final comments?
CC – I have so many more stories in the hopper. I can’t speak too much about this. I couldn’t be more creatively or emotionally invested in something.
RC – I can see the passion you have about your music and this band, it is just great.
CC – This is all I would be doing, but I have 27,000 other things going on all the time. As difficult to mount, as cumbersome as it is, everybody’s there, it is so gratifying. I can’t tell you how much stuff other people have going on, but they are there. The band is the Spruce Goose of rock and roll (Howard Hughes’ 7,000 ton monster balsawood plane)…how does it fly? Well just watch it. It’s like the 1927 Yankees of R & B. It’s the guys on the record. They’re hand picked, I am glad we are just able to play. As far as the record, I would not swap anybody out. It’s a really stellar bunch of musicians.
(Interview by Peter S. Sakas)
(Photo by Paul Edmisson)