Smitty: I’m very happy to have one of the great piano players here at Jazz Monthly When it comes to making great music, he has the hands of a skilled surgeon and the heart of the bravest innovator. His virtuosity is beyond compare. He’s just produced a wonderful new album. It’s called Hands On and, trust me, you can feel his hands all over this one. Please welcome Heads Up recording artist, my man, Mr. Bobby Lyle. Bobby, how ya doin’?
Bobby Lyle (BL): Great. Thank you so much, Smitty. I appreciate you having me, man.
Smitty: It’s always a pleasure to talk with you. It’s great to bump into you sometimes at different shows and to see the respect that you have earned of your peers because I think you get more shout-outs than anyone when you’re in the audience at home.
BL: Well, a lot of times when I’m not performing, that’s what I like to do. I like to go out and support my friends and get a chance to listen to them play because we all kinda came up through the ranks together, so it’s just great to see everybody doing well.
Smitty: Absolutely, my friend. I remember one of your great projects, The Journey, that was a hit album, what, back in 1990? That’s an album that no one will ever forget, and I know how you feel about that project, it’s very special to you. But how are you feeling about this one? Do you have that similar feeling coming out of this one as you did when you came out of that project?
BL: Well, The Journey was a very deep and heartfelt project, mostly from the standpoint because that was about a year after I’d lost my first wife, and so a lot of what was going on inside of me ended up coming out in that music. I can’t really say that I’ve had that kind of deep emotional feeling since then, but I do have a very special feeling about Hands On because of the way I was able to work on it and also being with a new and fabulous record company who I feel very strongly is going to really give me the push with this record to give it a good chance in the marketplace.
Smitty: Yes indeed, man. You certainly are with a great label. You’ve got some great cats over there. I can’t say enough about Dave Love.
BL: It really is and I have to thank Mr. Marion Meadows for helping to steer me over there.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Oh yeah, Marion. What a cool cat, huh?
BL: Yeah, he’s very cool. He gave me Dave’s number and he said “If you’re looking for a label, this is the guy you should call.”
Smitty: (Laughs.) Well, Dave comes highly recommended, that’s for sure.
Smitty: So, now, with this new record, I also had thoughts of another record that you and I talked about yesterday and that’s Straight and Smooth and what a unique concept that record was and what you did with that record was something that created something truly unique. I mean, you were, what, at Billboard as a smooth jazz and traditional jazz artist simultaneously. Everything that happened to that record was truly breakthrough in so many ways.
BL: That’s true. From what I understand, that had never happened before.
Smitty: You once said that you were just a musician trying to keep real playing alive.
Smitty: And you always want that sense of live energy. Can you talk a little bit about that and what that means to you?
BL: Well, part of the appeal of jazz in the first place is really based on that live energy and the interplay that people see when they go and witness music live, and I think it’s very necessary to take that whole thing beyond what you do in the studio because in the studio you’re thinking more about the perfection of the arrangement and the sound and how everything ties together melodically. But live and in person you can have a much larger sense of freedom and just kinda take off from those studio arrangements and give people some real energy, real live energy, and musicians feed off of that. So that’s why there’s no substitute for that whole phenomenon.
Smitty: I must say, with this latest album, you captured that because the energy’s there and you can feel the compositions, you can feel the studio, and just feel that whole interplay between the musicians, and I think it takes a special musician to pull that together and to be able to communicate that to the audience through a recording. I think you did that very well.
BL: Well, thank you so much. I’ve always assumed the role of wearing those different hats when I do go in the studio as an artist and also as a producer, which puts you in a situation of being like a traffic cop. (Both laughing.) You have to coordinate everybody and give them a sense of direction. I guess it’s like being a director on a movie set where you have to explain everybody’s role to them and what their relation to that particular track is going to be. And you call various people because you feel they can give you what you need for that particular song.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely.