Having played and recorded with literally all my favorite jazz artists, from Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young to Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis has always been an iconic musician to me. When I met him in the late 1990s he was in his mid-to-late 70s. Terry Holmes, his close friend and manager, convinced Herb that recording with me would be an enjoyable experience, so we booked a few days in Jack Gauthier’s Lakewest Recording Studio in West Greenwich, R.I.
I originally wanted to cut two tracks with Herb for an album of duets with different guitarists. Not knowing Herb personally, I was a bit nervous about playing with him. We used Marty Ballou on acoustic bass and Marty Richards on drums; both are versatile players with impressive backgrounds in jazz, blues and all sorts of roots music. Terry Holmes came along with Herb and provided us with solid old-school acoustic rhythm guitar on most tracks. I’m not sure what the first tune we cut was, but directly after that first take Herb looked at me and said, “You know, you can’t put just any two guitar players together and have it sound like this.” I was immediately put at ease, and from that moment on played with confidence knowing that Herb approved of our instant musical friendship.