Jazz Monthly: (Laughs.)
AT: No, seriously. I listened to it and I was like “Wow, this is amazing.” So I said “That’s it” and so she said “Okay, cool, well, I’ll re-do the vocals” and I said “No, I like this” and she was very adamant about re-doing the vocals because she did all of the vocal parts and she just felt that she could do a better job, and I said “You know what? This is it for me. I’m happy with it.” I went in and did my thing as a producer and I finished the record up, did not let her hear it until it was mixed, and I sent it to her and she was still like “No, Al, I wanna re-do the vocals” and I said “No, just wait and hear it.” She listened and she was like “Okay, I see what you mean.” And, I mean, sometimes that first take or that first stab at something is always the best, you know?
Jazz Monthly: Al, you are so right. I didn’t mean to cut you off, but you said it right there.
Jazz Monthly: And I know some people this is gonna sound like a broken record to them. But I’m a firm believer that there is nothing better than the first take.
Jazz Monthly: There is something about it and I encourage artists all the time. If you’re going in the studio, turn that tape on when you come out of the restroom!
AT: Yeah, certainly.
Jazz Monthly: When you first walk in the door, hit record.
Jazz Monthly: Because there’s something so beautiful about a first take of anything. And I just recently had this conversation with someone.
AT: Yeah, yeah. Because a lot of times, man, when you re-do things, it just becomes sterile and you start to think about it.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah.
AT: And not to say that you won’t come up with good results, but there’s something magical about that first take because it’s fresh and you’re gonna approach it from where you are in that space in time.
Jazz Monthly: Right, it’s totally uninhibited. I mean, there’s no forethought.
Jazz Monthly: And I think sometimes artists will try too hard to capture something.
Jazz Monthly: When if they just let themselves go and let it happen, it flows just tremendously.
AT: Certainly, certainly.
Jazz Monthly: So that’s a very cool story, man, wow, and I just love Oleta. She’s a great person to start with.
AT: Yeah, a beautiful, beautiful person.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and her husband, too, is a cool cat.
AT: Yeah, John’s a good guy and drummer as well.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, very cool. Talk to me about what your brother, Lionel has meant to you and your career.
AT: He’s always been an inspiration to me and he doesn’t even know it, but I always looked up to him and I always tried to hang around even though he’s a couple years older than I am. I always tried to hang around him and his friends and just mimic the things that they were into. He was into the Jimi Hendrix thing, the Rock & Roll thing back when we were getting started. So I went through that whole phase and that era of trying to be rock stars, in the basement no less, but we had a lot of good times and we learned a lot from those experiences and they helped me to be who I am today.
Jazz Monthly: Very cool.
AT: So he’s a great big brother and I love him dearly and a good guitar player
Jazz Monthly: Yes he is, man, because when I heard him on “It’s Good to Have Friends” and “Te Quiero,” I was like wow, this cat’s got some chops.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, so that’s a true blessing, I know.
Jazz Monthly: And you know I gotta mention my boy, Mr. Lenny Price, on “Forever Love.”
AT: Yeah, man, he’s a phenomenal saxophone player and he came in and laid it out.
v Yeah, man, he and I go back a ways and whenever I hear anything about him I get excited because he is one of those sterling cats that you gotta love, you know?
Jazz Monthly: With a lot of talent.
AT: Yeah, he really does have a lot of talent and we play together in Earl’s band, so we’re actually out on the road now and we’ll be playing together tonight.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, exactly, man. There’s something else I wanted to ask you about. You have been in a lot of bands with a lot of A-List artists. Do you take something different from each one of them or is it that some of them are somewhat similar?
AT: Oh, definitely, definitely, and every situation is different and I’m glad you brought that up because playing in Earl’s band is different than playing in Kem’s band or Oleta Adams’ band or even playing with Bob (James), for that matter, because the music, even though there’s differences, I approach them from a different place. Even though I’m the same guy and I bring the same thing, it’s a different discipline for me as a sideman, as a bass player. In Bob’s gig I get to take a lot more chances. It’s one of those gigs where he constantly pushes you and challenges you every night to just open yourself up and try different things whereas Kem’s gig is basically a very disciplined, structured type of situation. Obviously he’s singing and I don’t really get a chance to open up as much.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and improv.
AT: Even though the energy is different, his gig is actually one of the most energetic gigs that I play on but, again, there’s a different set of discipline. The same with Oleta. Yeah, and more than anything, Smitty, I try to respect the music first and foremost.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely, I love that.
AT: Because it’s not about showing all your chops and I’m this hotrod, I can do all these tricks and things, because it’s all about the music at the end of the day and being a bass player, it’s my responsibility to make the artist feel good, feel comfortable, and to make the music feel good, so I have to be very conscious of that, but when it’s solo time, it’s my time to step out, then I can do my thing. But first and foremost my job is to hold it down, make the music feel good.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, man. Well, see, that’s why they’re all after ya. (Both laugh.) See, it’s that respect and that extra mile of caring about each given situation because not everybody feels the way you do.
AT: That’s true, that’s true.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, I’m not putting anybody down, but there are some that wanna put themselves out there. They’re trying to make a name and all of that.
AT: Certainly, certainly.
Jazz Monthly: But here you are caring more about the music that you’re involved with at that given time.
AT: Mm-hmm, exactly, and you will make a name by being that person, trust me, because people will want to use you and work with you, and a lot of those disciplines are learned in the studio recording records and you can’t just do anything you wanna do when you’re supporting a vocalist, say, for instance. You can’t step on the music. It’s not about how many notes you play, it’s what you play.
Jazz Monthly: Right, and I think that you hit it right on the head, man. That is so cool. And now you just gave me an explanation without even knowing it why you are so loved and appreciated and respected in this business.
AT: Oh, man, well, thank you. A lot of the times it just comes naturally for me and I guess a lot of it has to do with my personality as well.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, yes indeed. And your music can be heard on television too, right? And radio?
AT: Yeah, yes.