Harvey Mandel

(1992)

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In the early 1990's, shortly after my runs with Hedzoleh Soundz

and Escola Nova de Samba, I wasn't playing in any band. I had

a few projects going, like the Grammy All-Star band, a group of 

San Francisco Bay Area musicians put together to play for the

NARAS Grammy Nominees Party. George Michaelsky was one

of the keyboard players, and being a fellow pot smoker, we hit it

off. During that performance, blues guitarist Harvey Mandel sat

in, plugging into an amp meant for guest guitarists' short cameo

appearances, but Harvey wouldn't leave the stage, and another

amp was supplied to the other guests.

     Not too long after that, I got a call one night from George, who

told me he was at John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room, playing

with Harvey, and if I came down, he could get me on stage to sit

in. I went right down there, and there were a number of guitar players

that sat in ahead of me. All of them tried to "battle" Harvey with

their best lead licks, a losing battle as Harvey was very flashy and

really had his own sound dialed in. I was listening to the rhythm section; Squid Vicious aka Bobby Scott on bass and Chris Sandoval on drums. When it came my turn, I did was I did best in those days;

I played rhythm and found a good groove with Squid, Chris and

George. It went well, and I started to leave the stage. Harvey said

"You can stay", and I sat in for the rest of the set.

      A couple of days later, I got a call from David Gross, Harvey's manager. He said that Harvey had a new album that he recorded

in Chicago called "Twist City". There was another guitar player on that record, but he wasn't available, so I was asked to learn his

parts and show up to a rehearsal. The parts were right up my

alley, and I came up with some more rhythmic parts for some of

the songs. I showed up at the rehearsal and we played the album

down like a set, and it clicked. David told me afterwards that I had the job, and that our first gig would be at Buddy Guy's club in Chicago.

We would fly there in a few days.

      I was a little bit stunned, because I hadn't been able to fly in an

airplane for several years due to a sinus condition. I didn't want to

turn down the gig, so I called my doctor. He prescribed a heavy-duty

decongestant, and told me to take it, go to the public pool, and try

to hang out on the bottom to see if I could take the pressure. It worked! A few days later, we flew to Chicago and jammed at

Buddy Guy's. The next gig was headlining at Slim's, a club owned

by Boz Skaggs and the place to play at that time. Over the next

couple of years, we played fairly regularly at New George's in

Marin County, where we were joined by either Howard Wales 

or Greg Allman on B-3. We flew to Austin, Texas to play at 

SXSW opening for Johnny Cash on the last night in the original Antones, we played a headline spot at the Chet Helms benefit at Maritime Hall with many famous Bay Area musicians, We played very

good gigs, mostly between Santa Cruz, Marin County, and

Sacramento, with one trip to Park City, Utah. 

     It was a strange relationship with Harvey. I was told early on

not to discuss musical or band issues with Harvey himself; I

should discuss those matters with David, the band's manager.

One day, Harvey had something come up and didn't show up

to rehearsal. Since Squid also played with The Caribbean All-

Stars, a Bay Area reggae band, and we were set up to record, we

laid down some rhythm tracks with Afrobeat, Ska, and Calypso

grooves. As a producer, I could hear in my head Harvey playing in his

normal way over these grooves. I had also written the blues songs

"Mr. Rhythm and Blues", "Bad Case of the Blues" and "You 

Used To Love Me" specifically for Harvey's style, so we laid

down tracks for those songs, too. My friend and engineer,

Ashley Brigdale engineered the session.

      I gave the tape to the manager to give to Harvey. David

got back to me. He told me that Harvey had "zero interest" in

any of the material. I joked "So, you think there's a chance?"

      In the couple of years that I played with Harvey, all of the

gigs were well-paying, with good accommodations. David Gross

was a fantastic manager. At first, it was a tight set with a great

singer/blues harp player/front man. Soon thereafter, it was no

singer, and with the exception of a very few actual instrumental songs, it was just Harvey riffing over our rhythm section with

keyboard players sitting in on about half the gigs. We recorded a

few songs during that time at rehearsals, but nothing that was released. Chris and I both left the band for other projects and

I never heard from any of those guys again. The tracks and songs that Harvey wasn't interested in became songs on my Jimmy Foot The Instrumentals Vol. II, and Life Speaks albums.

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