Colin James and The Little Big Band
Johnny Ferreira Interview By Joao Manuel, Lisbon, Portugal Check out Johnny's new cd Rock & Roll Saxophonist
Colin James and The Little Big Band CD, how did it come about?
Well, we had been playing a lot of rock and blues type music for several years in Colin's band from around 1988 to 1993. Colin was a big fan and good friend of Stevie Ray Vaughn so at that time the influence was obviously there. Shortly after spending some time with Stevie we spent a little time on the road with Keith Richards who was out touring to support his CD "Talk is Cheap". That little stint got Colin's band rockin real good, Keith was a good influence on all of us.
Then the idea of recording swing, jump blues, big band type stuff was being talked about, getting back to our roots so to speak which wasn't unusual for us cause that's the stuff we were playing when we started out playing together around 1986.
Who were the people involved in The Little Big Band?
At first we were going to do it with a big band, like one from the 40's, you know, 15 or 16 piece, Then while talking to the Canadian big band leader Tommy Banks he said Oh, you guys want the little big band... that's a term used back then cause when the big bands started to struggle financially they stripped it right down to 7 or 8 pieces. It was still the basic instrumentation but only 1 sax, 1 trombone, and 1 trumpet instead of 5 of each of these... they still wanted the sound of a big band but were forced to go on the road with the little big band.
Colin was a big fan of the Roomful of Blues from Rhode Island so their horn section agreed to come and record with us, Colin and a couple of us from Vancouver, myself and bassist Norm Fisher. John Rossi the Roomful drummer was along as well cause our original choice had to bail because of other commitments... this was Charlie Watts who all of a sudden had to go rehearse for the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge tour. oh well, can't win em all.
The horn section in the Roomful of Blues at the time was just awesome; Greg Piccolo on tenor sax, Doug James on baritone sax, Ritchie Lataille on alto sax, Bob Enos on trunpet, and Carl Querfurth on trombone. A little later on Greg Piccolo left the Roomful band and eas replaced by Sax Gordon Beadle, we of coarse missed Greg a lot but after hearing Gord everything was alright!
The keyboard duties were shared by Reese Wynans from Stevie's band on piano and the Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell on piano and hammond organ.
How long did this version of The Little Big Band stay together?
We actually did several shows with that exact line up, with either one or the other keyboardists. Then we got fellow Canadian Eric Webster to play keyboards cause the other guys had way too many commitments. The Little Big Band project was originally going to be a quick recording and no touring but ended up lasting almost 2 years. It was a popular project and a whole lotta fun. A very valuable experience for me and meeting and working with those players from the other side of the continent was a great learning experience. I still enjoy keepnig in touch with some of them, especially the sax players; Gordon, Doug and Greg... really good people as well.
The album has a very natural. organic sound, and you get credited as a co-arranger... how did that all come together?
It does sound really good. I don't take any arranging credits though. I was the middle man between our producer Chris Kimsey, Colin and the Roomful horns, you know just writing the charts of the road map and horn lines we were going to play. When we got into the studio it was very straight ahead cause whatever the Roomful guys played just sounded perfect right away. We would literally just sit in the hallway or lounge of the studio, listen to a demo or some other version of the song a few times and go into the recording room and play it once to get the arrangement together, then by the 2nd or 3rd pass we'd have a perfect take. There was rarely any time to go back and do an overdub fpr a solo, believe me Greg Piccolo and I tried to talk Chris Kimsey into it but he would say no, your solo sounds good. We argued a couple times and he once gave in and gave us a 2nd chance to lay down a better solo but it never was any better so we just kept the original.
Chris Kimsey had some kind of affiliation with the Stones didn't he?
Yes, he produced an album for them in the late 70's called "Some Girls". That's the one I know about, there maybe more I don't know.
Was there a difference between performing on stage with the Little Big Band and Colin James' regular band?
Oh yeah. the Little Big Band was a 10 piece band and the other band was a 5 piece. Having those extra musicians including 6 horns on stage just made it huge for sound and energy... It was a ball every night.