Serve Somebody: Phil Driscoll

Musically it’s a short journey from blues to gospel, or as some might say from Saturday night to Sunday morning.  They’re both, when good, music you feel deep in your soul, which gives voice to the emotions you sometimes can’t find your own words to express.  This connection between the musical genres is fully evident when some of my musician friends in LA recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s, “Serve Somebody,” for me last year.

They had shown up as a favor to me, to lay down some blues songs I could record on video.  I’ve called it Boyd’s Blue Adventure session, but it was really up to the guys to play whatever they wanted.  One tune, which I posted previously, called, “Case of the Blues” was made up on the spot, but all were done without any written score to keep them on the same page.  Instead they were on the same wave-length musically, and that connection is what made all the songs that day work so well.

Phil Driscoll couldn’t resist the opportunity of having these great musicians in his studio to take the blues over to the Gospel side with, “Serve Somebody.”  Phil is on keyboards, trumpet and vocals: with Hadley Hockensmith guitar; Bill Maxwell drums, Greg Mathieson organ; Michiko Hill piano; and Pee Wee Hill bass.

Case of the Blues

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The band had just finished making up a song out of nothing, out of thin air.  Where there had been total silence suddenly there was music, good music, a tune than engaged you, had you feeling the beat and moving your body.  It sounded like a song that had been crafted and perfected over time, and yet it had been created on the spot in one take, even though when it began no one had any idea where it would go or how it would end.

Bill Maxwell the drummer said to Abraham Laboriel the bass player, who had shown up only minutes earlier in time for this last song of the session, “Let’s do a slow blues number.  Abe you start us off.”  With those words as his only guide Abe began a little improv riff on the base.  A few bars later, Greg Mathieson added some organ, then Bill started laying down the rhythm and Hadley Hockensmith began layering in a very soulful guitar.  Finally, right on cue, Phil Driscoll began to sing, mashing up lyrics from two or three songs and making up a few of his own.  Later in the song Phil would add more texture to the music with his trumpet.

I call this number, “Case of the Blues”, based on some of the lyrics, but as Greg said when they finished, “It’s called the blues, but when you play like this it leaves you smiling and happy and feeling great.  Case of the Blues does all that and more; it also left me feeling amazed at the talent of my friends and what they can instantly create from nothing.

Open Hands: Meet the Band

Individually the members of the band Open Hands have enjoyed great success playing and recording with some of the biggest names in music, but together as Open Hands they are at their creative best.

Good musicians who can look at notes and lines on a sheet of paper and transform those hieroglyphics into beautiful music always impress me, in part because that ability eludes me.   Even more impressive to me are the musicians who can hear a tune in their head and then reproduce that melody on an instrument.  But there is another skill that a very few musicians possess that to me takes playing to a whole different level, to a realm only the most talented inhabit.  These are the musicians who start with notes on a page and them begin to improvise as a group and somehow make it all work together, or sometimes they don’t even have the notes as a jumping off point, they just call out a key and go to work.  That’s the kind of musicianship that describes Open Hands.

In this video the members of Open Hands demonstrate their technical skills, show their improve ability and talk about how they do what they do. This is an introduction to Open Hands: Greg Mathieson, Justo Almario, Abraham Laboriel, and Bill Maxwell.