I'm not certain just how this all happened, but, in 1981 I was still searching for a direction on the electric guitar and it led me to go back to the most basic sound, the one I began with when I was 19 yrs. old and at U.C.L.A.! It was pretty simple, just plug into an amp with a Gibson, dial in a little reverb, and play! I had owned a Gibson 335 for many years, but was so linked to my Telecaster and its sound that it was hard to change. I began as a Gibson player and decided to go back to it for the warmth and body of the sound. I was also ready to surround myself with a totally different group of players in conjunction with a new spirit of making music....something much looser, something not so married to having everything neatly in place and perfectly played(not that I was ever the best at that!). Some phone calls were made, and two of my favorite players and I were to get together to "see what happens." Those players were drummer Steve Jordan, and bassist Anthony Jackson. I also felt that I wanted to include the brilliant and unique percussionist Manolo Badrena. Manolo and I had recently worked together on Mike Mainieri's recording "WANDERLUST," and I just knew somehow that he was the right player for this new concept.
We used to meet to 'rehearse'/'jam' at Steve Jordan's loft in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. I'm still not certain just what to call what we did....but, we would just begin to play.....sometimes ideas or grooves that didn't seem to have a place in any other musical setting. Here you had four very unique perspectives on music making....and four of the most stubborn maniacs one could gather in a room, but somehow it was working. It was magical! I would always record CSTEs of each session and bring them home for study. As the months went by, I just KNEW that we had something exceptional, and I wanted to get it recorded before we actually figured out just what it was that we were doing. So, with the help of our old friend George Braun, who put together deals for Japan, we were able to record on a weekend in November of 1981, and to this day, "EYEWITNESS" remains one of my favorite recordings....perhaps THE favorite. Only five tunes....not one with a real ending.....but, the spirit and approach to music-making was the best I'd ever felt. No matter where I have traveled, there is always a drummer or bassist who, when speaking with me, reveals that he has been influenced by the work of Anthony Jackson and Steve Jordan on the three recordings we made together. The word "genius" is a pretty scary label to throw out there without great thought and care, but, in my opinion, Anthony Jackson and Manolo Badrena possess this gift.....the moods and textures they are able to create are just not of this earth. I treasure these musical friendships.
In 2015, as part of his Rediscovery reviews series by, allaboutjazz.com's senior writer John Kelman wrote an incredible review of the "EYEWITNESS" album from 1981.. The review points out how this recording has informed and influenced all of Steve's work right up to the present. If a generation or two has missed the "EYEWITNESS" album, this is a great opportunity to rediscover it!!!
And, as if this wasn't enough, the French magazine MUZIQ, in a fantastic column by Peter Cato, also sang the praises of the Eyewitness as a group, mentioning all 3 recordings and making a case for a musical relationship to the Rock group The Police! Very interesting!!
Photos: Manolo Badrena, Anthony Jackson, and Steve Jordan - by David Tan