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Read Jeff Young, keyboardist with Jackson Browne, Steely Dan + others: Something Else! Interview >>
Jeff Young is a long-time collaborator with Donald Fagen and Steely Dan, adding keyboards and backing vocals to a series of tours after appearing on the New York Rock and Soul Revue. Along the way, he’s also worked with Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Himmelman and Shawn Colvin, while holding a lengthy tenure with Jackson Browne. (Young, in fact, co-wrote much of the latter’s 1996 project Looking East.) During a recent Something Else! Sit down, we discovered his intriguing musical story …
PRESTON FRAZIER: Jeff, many of our readers are familiar with your name from your work with Steely Dan/Donald Fagen or Jackson Browne, but are not as familiar with you. Please tell us about your musical upbringing (where you were raised, did your parents play music, formal and informal music education).
JEFF YOUNG: I was raised in Mount Vernon, New York. My mother could play Mood Indigo on piano, my father was a natural blues singer who loved Bobby Blue Bland and to go to the Apollo Theatre in Harlem where he would take us to hear James Brown, the Motown Revue, Joe Tex, etc. They came to New York after WW11 from Alabamba.
PRESTON FRAZIER: When did you start playing music? What was your first instrument?
JEFF YOUNG: My brothers drums until he kicked me off of them and suggested to play piano.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Who are your musical influences?
JEFF YOUNG: I am a big fan of Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis...
PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us about your musical involvement with The New York Rock and Soul Review (Jeff Young and the Youngsters)?
JEFF YOUNG: Donald Fagen just hired me and my band to be the rhythm section first, then I suggested two additional horn players and he and Libby Titus found the other musicians. The original band was : Me - Keyboards & Vocals, John Hagen - Tenor & Soprano Sax & Vocals, Drew Zingg - Guitar & Vocals, Lincoln Schleifer - Bass, and Denny McDermott - Drums PRESTON FRAZIER: Talk about the music of Gospel Of Colonus. (feature drummer Leroy Cloudin I think…) Did that lead to your tenure with Steely Dan and the Donald Fagen solo tour?
JEFF YOUNG: Donald first heard me with the band of the Gospel Of Colonus and liked my organ playing and singing. It was a big gig in New York.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us about how you became a long standing member of Jackson Browne’s band (replacing Scott Thurston). You along with the band also co-wrote one album.
JEFF YOUNG: Jackson heard me play and sing on a Shawn Colvin tour about the time he and Scott were looking for one more musician to join their band. They choose me. I was in the band working from the “Looking East" album to the present "Standing in the Breach" album and tour.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Talk about how you define your role in his current band and develop your parts.
JEFF YOUNG: As little keyboards as possible and more backing vocals. PRESTON FRAZIER: "Songs From a Red Wurlitzer" in 2006 was my first Jeff Young CD but you had a couple before that. How did your solo career come about?
JEFF YOUNG: I wouldn't call it a career, but just a desire to be true to the fact that my songs represent me more than other work for hire.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Your new album, "Choose Your Own Unknown" Is self-released and self-produced. How does it differ from Red Wurlitzer? How can our readers get a copy?
JEFF YOUNG: It's available on CDBaby in the U.S. and directly from me.
PRESTON FRAZIER: What was the primary instrument you used to write the album? The album as an intimate and organic feel, what was the feel you wanted to invoke?
JEFF YOUNG: Wurlitzer piano and lyrically things that are important to me. Blues and black history.
PRESTON FRAZIER: What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
JEFF YOUNG: A 3 week tour of Germany is in the works for September and a CD release show Jan. 28th at Molly Malones in L.A. PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us your top 5 favorite albums.
JEFF YOUNG: Sam Cooke - Night Beat, Traffic - 2nd Album, Tony Williams Lifetime - Turn It Over
Joni Mitchell - Hejira, Miles Davis - Jack Johnson, everything by Marvin Gaye.
.........................................................................................................................................................................Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Chicago. firstname.lastname@example.org