“When you have a focal point for a record, it becomes your guiding light,” says pianist David Garfield concerning his tribute to the late drummer Jeff Porcaro, Tribute to Jeff, a daunting project on the Zebra label that brought together the talents of 78 musicians.
A guiding light was essential, because the process took Garfield more than two years to organize and produce. Among the luminaries collaborating with Garfield are Boz Scaggs, David Benoit, Larry Carlton, Vinnie Colaiuta, Brandon Fields, Dave Weckl, Joe Sample, Peter Erskine, Steve Lukather, Eddie Van Halen and a host of others. Most of the cuts were made in Los Angeles, with trips to Nashville and New York to complete the project.
Garfield, 41, who lists his original influences as Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea, credits rock for leading him to jazz, and maintains there’s a strong connection and influence between the two genres: “When I was listening to Jethro Tull as a teenager, they did a tune called ‘Serenade to a Cuckoo.’ I loved it, and discovered that it was written by Roland Kirk. That tune led me to jazz!”
Garfield has gigged with the group Los Lobotomys since 1985 with friend and former Toto guitarist Steve Lukather. The experience has reinforced his opinion about the rock-jazz connection: “90 percent of the people in rock know all about the jazz cats,” he says. “If you put the best rockers in a room with the best jazz musicians, they’d get along fine.”
So how does Garfield classify his music? In truth, he doesn’t: “I suppose my music sounds like jazz to rockers and like fusion to jazzers, but I’ll never try fitting into an established format. That may work against me, but I’m developing my own sound, and it’s getting more refined. This tribute to Jeff is the best thing I’ve done.”