Sitting down to speak with Lon Price for this interview was easy. We planned the interview for some months before and the conversation just flowed. Each time I had ready my next question for him, he would launch into another captivating facet of his long career as a sideman. There was little need to ask questions. The information poured out from him like water over a damn. He has a story to tell and feels it must be told.
Often we spoke of the business of music and the place of the saxophonist within it. At times, the interview strayed into more poignant issues. Discrimination, racial prejudice, addiction and the ugly side of the music business all made their way to the discussion table during our short time together.
He is a man who has done a lot of living and plans to do much more. He has much to say to the younger players out there and we ought to listen. In his own words, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
Lon, my first exposure to your playing came on the 5th floor of Berklee back in 1982. My good friend and I would constantly listen to Brecker and Sanborn as well as your recording of “We’re In This Love Together” with Al Jarreau. I just dug everything about it. The studio effects, the production values – it really set the stage for the type of playing I aspired to do at that time.
I try to be melodic in the studio. That solo is really a paraphrase of Jarreau’s melody. It was a comp track constructed from about six different takes. It wasn’t one complete take. The engineer did a comp track, pieced it together quickly right on the spot and then I played it again.
Let me tell you something about that studio effect. That was not a chorus effect. It was me playing the solo twice. I knew going in that they wanted to double track it. I kept the improvised lines simple knowing I would have to do it again. Even so, I’m never looking to show off technically when I solo. I really didn’t find that particular solo hard to double.
I’d have to listen to it again to see if I could hear the punches.
Well, I can’t. I played the freaking’ thing (laughs) and I can’t even tell. The engineer would punch mid-lick, during a legato, eighth note run and you still couldn’t tell.
I’m sure you had no idea at the time how popular that solo would become. Were you happy with the results of that session? Were you content with those edits or did you accept that it was out of your control after you recorded?
I was happy with the result. I felt we had something that was going to work with the song.
How did your association with Al Jarreau originally begin?
I got the first session on This Time with Al Jarreau through the musical director, Tom Canning. Tom was a keyboard player I knew at North Texas. We did that first session at the producer’s house. When I walked in, they told me that I was their last hope. They had tried Jerry Hey, Larry Williams and Pete Christlieb on the tune but hadn’t gotten the solo that they wanted. I said, “Thanks for not putting’ the pressure on me or anything.” They already hadn’t been happy with Christlieb and these other GREAT players. They asked if I wanted to hear what the other guys had played but I declined and just did my thing.
Years later, some of us expatriate North Texan’s got together for what has become sort of an annual dinner. Tom Canning told the story of how I was called for the session. I never knew this story for some 20-odd years. They asked Tom if he could recommend anybody and he mentioned me. They said, “Who’s Lon Price? We need somebody who’s going to lend credibility to the project. He’s a nobody.” Canning said, “If he doesn’t give you what you want, I’ll pay his fee out of my own pocket.” I never knew that he had put himself on the line like that just to get me in the door. I guess I got lucky and played what they wanted. At one point, there was a lick that I played, (laughs) and as soon as I played it, I said, “Man, that was lame!” They said, “We dug that. We really like that.” (laughs) It was some sort of altered scale that was really outside for the genre but they said, “Oh no, we dig that.”
They called me back to play on We’re In This Love Together and Teach Me Tonight when the Breakin’ Away project came up.
You can find Lon Prices’ “Memoirs of a Working Musician” on his hompage at: http://www.txstnr.com/gpage2.html
….YOU CAN READ THIS COMPLETE INTERVIEW IN JAN/FEB 2006 ISSUE OF SAXOPHONE JOURNAL. Contact dornpub.com for subscription information.
Used by permission.
© 2006 by Dorn Publications, Inc.
Jan/Feb 2006 , Volume 30, No. 3