LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) Denny Seiwell, drummer and producer, has had his shares of accomplishments, from playing with everyone from Paul McCartney to Donovan to James Brown, but he’s here to talk about jazz. Specifically, his latest jazz album from the Denny Seiwell Trio, Boomerang, which dropped in September.
“It’s probably the highlight of my career,” Seiwell told CelebrityAccess, and that references a career that brushes all genres, from jazz to rock to funk, with Seiwell leaving his mark on the history of all of them. His first recording was a 1968 jazz record with JJ Johnson and Kai Winding, and recordings with jazz greats like Astrud Gilberto and Stanley Turrentine. That was when he was recruited, along with guitarist Hugh McCracken by Paul McCartney to join a project that became Wings and the first album, Wild Life. That led to the second album, Red Rose Speedway, and the worldwide hit “Live And Let Die.”
From there, Seiwell’s credits include working with the London Symphony Orchestra on The Who’s rock opera Tommy, film scores for movies like “Trading Places” and “The Postman,” and a career performing with acts like Joe Cocker, Art Garfunkel, Billy Joel and John Denver.
Now he’s performing with guitarist John Chiodini (credits include Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” tour, and tours with Celine Dion, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Nina Simone and Barry Manilow) and organist Joe Bagg (Madeleine Peyroux, Larry Coryell, Bobby Hutcherson).
The album, released on Quarto Valley Records, is available at Amazon.
Seiwell is also promoting the reissues of Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway and was kind enough to share a few anecdotes with us from his years working with, well, everybody.
Is the Denny Seiwell Trio currently signed with agency or management?
We are not signed with a management or agency now but we are talking with both. We’ve done a show locally here, just a little fun show. We had Edgar Winter come sit in with us at the end of the show at a place called Bogie’s at West Lake, Calif., right where the fires have been. We haven’t really booked anything. My organ guy is on tour with Jeff Goldblum and they’ve been hitting all the talk shows, and in Europe. He’s been in Asia with somebody else. So we’re looking at the beginning of the year and when we are signed to an agency so we can start going out and playing with the trio.
What song on the album do you consider the most technically difficult?
The opening track on the record, “Cheetahs & Gazelles,” written by my guitar player, John Chiodini. That one is challenging to perform. It’s filled with some drum solos and odd stuff, but it’s not hard for the listener to the enjoy; it’s still accessible to the jazz listener.
I’m thoroughly thrilled with this record. It was recorded in a very short time because we’re all pros and we had a great studio, and a great mixer, and I’m really happy about it. It’s probably the highlight of my career.
Well, that’s saying somethin’
Musically, shall we say. It’s not going to reach some of the critical acclaim of the stuff I’ve done but, as far as touching my heart, this is the best playing that I could muster up and I’m not a drummer to do a lot of solos. On this record the guys said, “Look, this is a drummer’s trio. You should have a little more time of you playing some wild solos while we vamp.” I took on that challenge and I’m happy with what I came out with.
Where would you like fans to go for a purchase?
At Amazon it’s in LP and CD form. It’s on all of the streaming services but, if you buy the LP, it’s really nice. The artwork on the album and CD is beautiful. Inside the LP is a download card. It only has eight of the songs but inside the jacket is a download card where you can download all 12 of the songs on the CD.
For a jazz record, it’s been selling really well in Europe and it’s doing good in the U.S. We haven’t heard about Japan, Australia, yet. But it’s doing well and getting great feedback.
Can you go into how “Live And Let Die” got on the album and how Paul learned of it?
Sure. We, as a trio, made our first record, Reckless Abandon, in 2012. John Chiodini said, “Well, you’re best known for your work with McCartney. You played with a Beatle. So why don’t we revamp a couple of Paul’s songs for the trio?”
So we dug around some songs that Paul’s recorded and that I was on, and stuff I wasn’t on, like “Coming Up.” When it came to recording the second album, Boomerang, I thought, well, we should do at least one Paul McCartney song even though we wanted original content. So why not do the track I’m best known for, “Live And Let Die”? When you think about it, the boom-BA-chick fits right into an organ groove. We figured out how to do most of the parts in a jazz genre. It’s kind of my arrangement and we knocked it out.
Then I sent it off to Paul, and he heard it and loved it. He wanted to hear it as soon as I told him about it. I think it’s one of the outstanding tracks.
Of all the people you played with, does any one stand out as being the most down-to-earth?
They’re all so different! Leon Russell has always been one of my favorites but I would have never called him “down to earth.” He was such a unique individual. And Rick Danko from The Band. I played with him for many years. I just loved Rick. He was a good drinking buddy when I used to drink but, you know, I played with so many darned people it wouldn’t be a fair answer to pick one of them out of the herd. I loved them all.
Paul McCartney was phenomenal in every regard – to sit around and have drink with, to make music with, to watch him compose music. He really got my attention as probably the most brilliant guy I ever had an opportunity to work with.
And then there was another guy who’s no longer with us named Jerry Williams that I made a record with back in the ’80s. Supremely talented musician/singer/songwriter. That record is call Gone. It was a tremendous record. Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn were on it. Jeff Porcara did half the drumming and I did the other half.
I played with so many great artists that it’s hard to pick one out as a favorite.
I don’t know nuthin’ about nobody but would have ventured to guess John Denver or Billy Joel.
John Denver was one of my very first pop records. He was one of my first recordings. He was a sweetheart. Billy Joel was a confused kid. I started producing his very first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor. Michael Lang from the Woodstock festival asked me to produce Billy. I started in the studio with him and he was very talented, very unique, very young, very troubled. A brilliant writer, piano player but Paul called me halfway through the album and said, “I need you back in London” and I had to leave that project, which broke my heart. I wanted to see it through and it would have been my first opportunity to produce a new record.
So they’re reissuing the Wings early albums?
Yeah, it’s going to be a big deal. You can go to PaulMcCartney.com to see what the reissue is all about. It’s pretty extensive. I’ve been helping with a bunch of interviews. It’s amazing. There are bonus tracks of our 1972 European tour. They took 20 live tracks. We had the Stones’ mobile truck come and record near the end of the tour and they picked 20 songs that we did live that have never been heard. Paul mixed it and remastered all this material. I’m dying to hear it myself. It comes out Dec. 7.
There is also some video of a cartoon show that we were working on called “Bruce McMouse.” I had to act in this thing. I never acted on stage before; I had to act with an imaginary cartoon character in my hand.
There is a 128-page that comes with each reissue, one for Wild Life, one for Red Rose Speedway. There is also a 64-page book that comes with photos from our trip to Morocco when we were planning the TV special.
I can’t wait. I should get a box set delivered to my house shortly, probably within the next two weeks. When you see the heavy-lifting in this, it’s pretty incredible.
Anything to coincide with the releases?
Nothing at the moment. I hear a lot of fans they would love for Paul to get Wings back together but Henry (McCullough)’s gone, Linda (McCartney)’s gone. But a lot of fans want to return to those early days and enjoy that period of time when Paul was putting Wings together but I don’t know if there is any possibility of that.
But I sure would be up for it; it was great fun. We were a small family band, making our way, starting from scratch and trying not to be compared with the last Beatles record, you know? It was a pretty amazing time. We were there in the best and worst times but nothing of great memories of everyone involved.