|Hall of Fame|
North Hollywood, California -- 1997
How about that Elvis suit and L.A. blond hairdo? I hardly recognize myself!
Tonight Show percussionist/vocalist Vicki Randle and I were performing a benefit concert together at a club in North Hollywood when this snapshot was taken. But we had actually met years earlier and would cross paths many times in the future.
Soon after I moved to Los Angeles, a keyboardist friend of mine invited me to go to a taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno at the NBC studios in Burbank. The year was 1992 and Branford Marsalis had just taken over as leader of the Tonight Show Band. My friend knew guitarist Kevin Eubanks and he gave her passes to the show.
After the taping I was introduced to Kevin and he in turn introduced me to the rest of the band, including Branford Marsalis and Vicki Randle. Kevin told us that he was going to Branford's house for dinner later and asked if we wanted to join them. My friend bowed out, but I couldn't pass up an invitation like that!
As I wound my way up into the Hollywood Hills, I could hardly believe that just one year earlier I had moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles and now I was about to have dinner at Branford Marsalis' house! When I arrived I noticed a serious lack of furniture. If it weren't for the unpacked moving boxes stacked about, we wouldn't have had a place to sit while enjoying our cappellini pasta with shrimp. Brandford was a pretty decent cook, but awfully slow to get settled into his home which he had lived in for six months already!
After dinner the three of us gossiped a bit about Jay Leno and the members of the band. Then Branford began to torture us with opera music, his obsession at the time. We sat on the floor of his living room while he played track after track, singing along with certain parts and declaring the profundity of the music. Finally, I couldn't take anymore and bid both Kevin and Branford goodnight.
But I digress...back to Vicki Randle. After meeting at NBC Studios, we bumped into each other now and then in the L.A. music scene or strolling along the Venice Boardwalk near where we both lived. Ironically, it wasn't until I moved to San Francisco in 1999 that we really developed a musical affinity and friendship.
When I began playing alto sax with the Montclair Women's Big Band, I was pleased to discover that director Ellen Seeling often flies Vicki Randle up from L.A. to be our special guest vocalist. I find Vicki to be so charming and superbly talented onstage that my own playing seems to kick into high gear whenever we perform together. Some musicians just have a chemistry and musical affinity with one another that creates magic onstage -- Vicki and I have that.
For more about Vicki Randle, go to www.vickirandle.com.