I met Jerry Hey for the first time in 1983. It was at a recording session for a Manhattan Transfer CD in Los Angeles. Jerry wrote the arrangements as well as bringing his state of the art horn section to record. It was quintessential Jerry Hey. Brilliant writing and spectacular playing. He became one of my heroes that day and has remained so ever since. It was a pleasure to sit down with Jerry last summer to gain insight into his approach to playing, writing and the business of music.
MD: Looking back on your time at Indiana University, what did you take away from studying with Bill Adam, both musically and personally?
JH: I was very fortunate to have studied with Mr. William Adam. I hadn't originally planned to go to Indiana, but a trumpet player friend, whom I met when I was in high school at Interlochen summer camp, said he was going there and that there were some good teachers, including Louis Davidson, first trumpet in the Cleveland Orchestra for 23 years. Originally I was scheduled to take lessons from a teaching assistant of Mr. Adam's, but I auditioned for the orchestra and placed second; I was called into Mr. Adam’s office and he told me that I was going to be his student — how lucky is that? I was at Indiana for two and one half years and those years were the foundation of everything I know about trumpet and life itself. Mr. Adam is, without a doubt, THE finest person I have ever met. Not only is he able to make anyone believe that he or she WILL be the next greatest trumpet player, but he will also teach you the important points of dealing with the daily trials of life. He treats everyone with a smile, a nice word, and a twinkle in his eye, and I try to emulate him. There is a reason that he has so many students have been successful — he is the greatest teacher.
MD: Could you share some of your memories of the period after leaving IU, joining Seawind and then eventually moving to Los Angeles?
JH: At Indiana I met Larry Hall, a great player and my life-long best friend. He had graduated from Indiana and gone to Hawaii to play some shows there. I just happened to be in a lesson with Mr. Adam, and Larry called, asking if I was interested in going to Hawaii to play in the shows with him. Since I was in the middle of my junior year, I asked Mr. Adam's advice about leaving school. He thought that I had learned and progressed enough and thought it would be a good move to go to Hawaii with Larry. So I left on my 21st birthday to go to Hawaii. Eventually, there were several players from Indiana who went over to Hawaii to work and we formed a band that was an outlet for us to play something other than shows. Included in this band were Larry Hall, Larry Williams, Kim Hutchcroft, all from Indiana, and Gary Grant, who had also come over from LA to Hawaii to play shows. Rounding out the band were Ken Wild, a bassist living in Hawaii, and Bob Wilson, a drummer who had been in the service. We played free concerts around Honolulu, eventually heard Pauline Wilson sing on Kona, and decided to form what was then called OX (later Seawind). As OX, we played in several small clubs around the Honolulu area and on some of the outer islands. And in those clubs we had many musicians, who were either on tour or on vacation, come in to hear us and even sit in to play with us— Abraham Laboriel, Neil Schon, Jeff Porcaro, Lee Ritenour, and Harvey Mason Sr., as well as many others. Harvey Mason took interest in the group and talked us into moving to LA, and he produced our first two albums. Seawind was basically a training ground for me as a player and also as an arranger, which I had never done. With Seawind, it was an open book and anything was possible, so it gave all of us an opportunity to experiment and find out what worked and what didn't. Seawind is still one of the best musical experiences of my life.
MD: What were your first few years in LA like? How soon after you landed in LA did you start working in the studios?
JH: I moved with Seawind to Los Angeles in January of 1976. Gary Grant had moved to Los Angeles about one year earlier and since we played together in Hawaii for four years and became great friends, he helped me begin working in the studio scene. Also, Chuck Findley, Dalton Smith, and Larry Maguire, who had all visited Hawaii, recommended me to writers and contractors in LA. Seawind played at the Baked Potato in LA a couple days a week and many musicians came in to see us there, so the horn section got some notoriety around the underground musical circles. Then, Quincy Jones, who finds out about the newest talent before anyone else, called me asking if I were interested in arranging one of his songs for an album. WHAT?? Are you kidding me?? Of course!! I took that golden opportunity and got to work with the late, great Snooky Young on my first Quincy Jones session and on one of the first big-time sessions I did. From that session, my relationship with Quincy blossomed, and we did several albums together — Michael Jackson, Brothers Johnson, Donna Summer, Rufus, George Benson, Patti Austin, James Ingram, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, and many others. I also worked with David Foster on his first big production, Bill Champlin's solo album “Single”. With David's career as a producer just beginning to explode, I forged a good relationship with him, working on Earth, Wind, and Fire's "I Am" album and several others. Through those two connections, my playing and arranging career started to flourish.
MD: A couple of my favorite CDs, Al Jarreau’s Jarreau and High Crime, were recorded more than 25 years ago. They still showcase some of the best horn section playing and writing of all-time. Can you share with us the experience of making those records?
JH: The Al Jarreau records are a couple of my favorite projects, too. Jay Graydon, a highly-respected studio guitarist and musician, produced these records and called me to arrange the horns. Jay preferred to work at night because of fewer distractions, so the sessions would start at around ten or eleven at night and go until six or seven A.M. We were young and that wasn't too difficult, but sessions during the daytime, which had been booked earlier, definitely suffered. Jay suggested the three trumpet, two trombone section, not wanting the “sax buzz” (in Jay’s words) in the blend of the horns; I can say that for those tunes, it was the correct call. I called my favorite players—Chuck Findley, Gary Grant, on trumpets, and Bill Reichenbach, and either Charlie Loper on Lew McCreary, on trombones. With the great musicality and jazz-oriented harmonies of Jay's production, great songs, and David Foster's influences, I had plenty of chances to fully use the abilities of this great horn section.
Jay gave me a copy of the rhythm tracks a couple weeks before the sessions, so I had plenty of time to work on the arrangements. In the studio, Jay was a perfectionist, making us play it several times until it was as good as we all knew it could be. But Jay's studio was as dead as a closet and we had really to work to make it sound like it does, resulting in many headaches. Can you say Tylenol with codeine?? Fortunately, Bill had been to New Zealand where it was an over-the- counter medicine, and he just happened to have some. Good thing, too, because we all needed it around six in the morning, especially after the tune called “High Crime”. I remember laughing at the trombones trying to play some of the trumpetistic, fancy licks I wrote. The funny thing about it was that they were making it!! Their playing was incredible on these sessions. And playing with Gary and Chuck was like wearing a favorite pair of old shoes— things were just right. Dynamics, cutoffs, phrasing, intonation, sound, you name it, the stars were in line for the three of us on these sessions.
Jerry Hey is a virtuosic trumpeter, arranger and orchestrator whose illustrious career has spanned four decades. He is a multiple Grammy award winner and has played on thousands of CDs, motion picture soundtracks and television shows. The myriad of artists he has recorded with includes Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Earth Wind & Fire, Seal, George Benson, Toto, Joni Mitchell, Lionel Richie, David Foster, Dan Fogelberg and Seawind, to name just a few.
He is a long time resident of Los Angeles, CA.