Behind so many great recorded pieces of music and so many Big Name musicians, you will find a bunch of phenomenal session musicians.
It is rare that these names get the recognition they deserve for the contributions they make.
Many Big Names will happily pass out the credit to the session musician, hence why they are often referenced as ‘the musician’s musician’. For instance, Keith Richards in his autobiography never stops crediting the side-musicians, including his friend Bobby Keys.
Sometimes, the session musician gets known to a wider audience too, such as the Funk Brothers, who were the sound of Motown, in so many ways.
However, the majority of the session musicians just do their thing, are respected by a small community of fellow musicians, and rarely get noticed outside of this community.
I had the huge pleasure of meeting one of the great session musicians recently. His name is Garnett Brown.
Garnett has played his Trombone on albums by Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Muddy Waters, Roy Ayers, Terry Callier, Doug Carn, Duke Pearson, Airto, Jon Lucien, Donny Hathaway and many more…
You will find him on Flying Dutchman, CTI Records, Atlantic, Milestone, Blue Note, ATCO, Chess, Cadet, Liberty, Strata-East amongst others.
Aside from the joy of meeting him, it was fascinating to have his perspective and stories on the creative process. For instance, on Jon Lucien’s version of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage (Song for My Lady), the Horn Section was asked by the producer Dave Grusin to stand on the stairs in a corridor, to get a better sound than he was getting in the studio.
Garnett was both modest of his huge commitment to music, and truly engaging. A real joy to have met him.
In terms of recognition, many of the albums he performed on carries his name. However, this is not the case for most session musicians.
The great battles that many session musicians have is to get name recognition on the tracks they appear on. This was a problem in the days of vinyl. It became even more of a problem with the arrival of the CD, with pressure on space was often cited as the reason for the name disappearing off the CD booklet.
Now with the shift to digital, the battle is even more fierce. There is nothing easier to provide all the information on the session musicians with every track. Yet the link between what is heard and who has contributed to the sound, is becoming less and less strong.
Any campaign to highlight the contribution of the session musician should be supported. I will be interviewing Garnett Brown and will post it up very soon. My little effort to support the session musician starts here.
One last thing…
After meeting Garnett the first time, I took some time to work out how many albums I have that feature his work…
A handful maybe? Nope. A very very large stack. He has played on some of my favourite albums
Here are just a few: