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Hot! Episode #17

Episode #17

Recording Date: June 27, 2004
Location: Milkboy Recording Studios, Ardmore, PA

Emedin Rivera – Percussion
Dominic Miller – Guitar
Howard Levy – Piano, Harmonica
Doug Wimbish – Bass
Demetrios Pappas – Keyboards
Will Calhoun – Drums


Shape of my Heart                    BUY
Rush Hour                                 BUY
Open Jam                                   BUY
Howard’s Duet                           BUY
Otis                                           BUY
You Are My Salvation                 BUY

Buy This Episode on DVD

One day I read a glowing review of a new album release by Dominic Miller, best known for being Sting‘s guitarist for the past 15 years or so. It was for an album called Shapes that featured him performing classically oriented material, primarily on acoustic guitar. It prompted me to go out and pick it up. I loved it…so much so that I said to myself that the next time Sting comes to Philly, I’m going to reach out to Dominic for a Studio Jams taping. Well, as fate would have it, a leg of a Sting tour was passing through Philly but a few months later. Upon learning that, I immediately contacted his management, told them about how much I was enjoying his Shapes album, and quickly locked Dominic into a taping session – for it to take place in the afternoon of the day when Sting would be performing in Philadelphia. And so it all began.

Howard Levy

Next, I learned that an old Chicago-based musician friend of mine, Howard Levy, would be in the area around that same time. I thought it would be interesting to add him to the mix as well. Howard is a world-class harmonica player who is perhaps best known as one of the original members of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones. He is also a tremendous piano player. Howard was thrilled to be asked and quickly agreed to participate.

Will Calhoun

For the rhythm section, I decided to invite drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Doug Wimbish. Together, they added so much of the punch to the rock band Living Colour. I knew Will’s manager (at that time) so reaching out to him was easy…and it was actually Will who suggested his friend Doug for the bass chair. Cool. Both of these guys are monster players with serious chops, so I had every expectation that the session would kick. I then added another good friend, Emedin Rivera on percussion and Demetrios Pappas on keyboards.

Dominic Miller

Throughout the session, Dominic pretty much took the lead…first suggesting an instrumental take on his song Shape Of My Heart, followed by another two short originals, Rush Hour and Otis, both tunes with a strong rock feel. Dominic led the group through short rehearsals for all of these. Unfortunately, Dominic had to then leave after these songs, as he had to make it to that evening’s concert venue for soundcheck. But the rest of the group stayed, and continued to play…much to my pleasure.

Doug Wimbish

After a short break to get Dominic out the door and on his way, we regrouped in the studio for the second half of our session. Doug simply started  a solo bass lick and used a number of repetitive electronic effects…some very cool stuff. After everyone else joined in individually, it quickly became a fresh, freestyle, and very interesting Open Jam. We recorded it in that one outstanding and spontaneous take, with plenty of great solo passages. After that, Howard then proceeded to lead the guys through the changes – and an arrangement – for one of his originals…a song called You Are My Salvation. It was a very nice, melodic ballad, with plenty of Howard soloing on harmonica.

Howard Levy

It was then almost time to end the session. But before we did, I wanted Howard to do something very special for us…accompany himself on piano as he played harmonica. An impossible task for anyone, except Howard. It was incredible to both watch and listen. I simply called it Howard’s Duet. To listen to it, you would think you were listening to  a couple of wonderful musicians playing together…not a single musician playing the piano with his right hand and holding and playing a harmonica in his left. What a truly gifted musician he is.

When it was all over, I remember feeling that this session had an unusual and different vibe to it than many of the others we have taped. Rather than an all out “jam session” with plenty of improv, this turned out instead to be a group of guys learning a few songs together, with little room for spontaneous improv. Not a bad thing at all…just different.

– Tom Emmi / Producer

“I absolutely LOVE this program! It’s great to see our heroes close up and realize that they are people too…with wrinkles, bad hair, nervousness, etc.”

— N.C.