About a year and half later I got my second call from Charles Mims, Jr. Now, at eighteen, I am a veteran. Well, at least compared to the naive kid who got fired from the Q tour for being underage. Charles was producing Patrice Rushen’s record “Patrice,” which was to be her breakout recording into the R&B scene, and Charles also happened to be Patrice’s boyfriend. They wanted me to come in and overdub an alto solo on the track “When I Found You,” a pop ballad.
I showed up at the studio with my ax and met the very sweet and beautiful Patrice, whose smile lit up the room. After a few nostalgic words about the Q tour I didn’t do, Charles handed me the chart, which was eight bars of chord changes over the A section. I had very little experience fitting into a pop vibe, being a hard-bopper at heart, but loved Dave Sanborn and Hank Crawford. So when I recorded my first pass I was trying diligently to sound like them.
“Hey, man,” Charles interjected from the control room through my cans, “Sounds like you’re trying too hard to sound like someone else. Just be you, man. That’s why we called you.” Take 2: I did my thing. Maybe too much of my thing. But it was closer. “Yeah, man. Sounds good. Let’s do another.” Take 3 felt pretty melodic and smooth, and I managed to sneak in a couple bebop licks.
I went into the control room. Patrice swiveled around in her chair and asked me which one I liked best and I said definitely the third. She agreed. That was that. Thirty minutes in the studio and I was back into my car.
When “Patrice” was released I ran down to Tower Records and bought a copy. Once outside the store I excitedly ripped off the cellophane and looked for how my name appeared on the jacket. Like most pop records each track had it’s individual list of credits. I skimmed the list of musicians and didn’t see my name. I scanned the whole record and couldn’t find it anywhere. Background vocalists, finger-snappers, hand-clappers, they were all on there. Could it possibly be the worst of all scenarios: they didn’t use my solo? Very likely.
When I got to my Lower East SIde railroad apartment I marched straight to the turntable and slapped the record on and dropped the needle down on “When I Found You.” I listened while the flugelhorns set up the vibe. (We used to call them the “Malibu” trumpets for the imagery they created of couples walking romantically on the beach.) Patrice’s voice came in and was sweet as her smile. I waited patiently as they continued through the bridge and back to the last A section. I remembered that when I recorded the solo it had started during the very last bar of the song. It was almost there. I waited, now leaning forward a little. The sax came in, and there it was, my Take 3, the keeper, the one that was most like me. Although, according to the record it was most like Kim Hutchcroft who was credited as the alto player because of his background horn work on the track. Not sure if he was happy about this error or not. Or even noticed or cared.
But I felt dejected. One of my first recordings and not even a mention. I remember writing Patrice, pointing out that I hadn’t been credited and she apologized and said they would correct it on the next printing, but it never happened.
Fast forward more than thirty years. I am backstage at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall in a Brooks Brothers suit, between sound check and concert with Wynton and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Cats are finishing up dinner, trying reeds, playing chess, warming up, etc. Victor Goines found a quiet moment at a spare piano, noodling around. All of sudden he plays something very familiar to me. I listen for a minute and recognize Patrice’s “When I Found You.” Wow, I had almost forgotten about that song.
I walked up behind Victor and I said “Patrice Rushen, right?” Victor replied without looking up, “Yeah, I used to love that song. I remember when it came out, I was a teenager.” I said “Yeah, I know. I’m on it.”
Victor kept voicing out the chords and melody. “What do you mean you’re on it. You’re on this recording?” I told him I had played the alto solo on that track. Then Victor did something that caused my jaw to hit my chest: he started singing my solo! He knew it almost as well as he knew the song. Here was eight short bars I practically forgot about, and realized it had touched someone more than three decades before. Perhaps other people felt the same way. Maybe teenagers were trying to lose their virginity with this in the background. Adult folk were having pool parties with it blaring out, loud enough for neighbors to poke their envious heads over the fence. People patted inspired rhythms with their hands on the steering wheel on the way to work. Couples were walking down the street in the late 1970s hand-in-hand, whistling my solo in unison, falling in love.
Ok, maybe I’m making too much out of this.
Anyway, Charles Mims, Jr. created a couple very unique experiences in my life, and I want to thank him, wherever he is.
Here is a link to the recording: