Name: Jeff Frankel
Early Years/Education: Early years/Education: I grew up in Oceanside, Long Island [New York], and I started playing the drums at around eight years old. My father, Danny Frankel, was a big band drummer, so he was pretty much my educator and teacher. At around thirteen, I started playing professionally for him on his gigs, which were mostly casuals.
My dad started teaching me all different types of styles through these gigs. He had a very successful business in the Tri-State area, and I’d have four to five gigs every weekend. Dad would hire great musicians from the New York session scene at that time, like Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano, Ronnie Cuber, and Chuck Loeb; and a lot of guys from the Woody Herman band as well as recent Berklee graduates. It was great. Anton Fig was my dad’s second drummer, so I got to know him pretty well. I played in Dad’s band from age 13 to age 22. It was really cool.
Besides working for my dad, I had my first band, which was a cover band with guitarist Jimmy Crespo, who worked with Aerosmith (he took Joe Perry’s place) and David Lebot, a really amazing keyboard player who went on to become the general manager and vice president of Avid and Digi Design (designers of Pro-Tools). I toured the club scene around the Northeast with that band, and also had kind of a Led Zeppelin style cover-band with Dee Snyder (Twisted Sister). My background was mostly rock, but my Dad helped me to understand all types of music, and I’m really grateful that he did, because there are a lot of players that can only play one bag. He said, “You gotta be able to play everything.”
I learned a lot by just playing on the bandstand. When I’d go into New York City as a kid, I would go to 7th Ave. South often and sit at a table just a few feet from some of my favorite drummers, including Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Steve Jordan and Anton Fig. A lot of my musical education was either “on-the-job” or by going out and hearing these guys play. I felt like that was an amazing education for me.
San Francisco: I moved to San Francisco in 1980. My dad’s business was starting to wind down, so he and my brother opted to move out to California as well. I’ve been on the West Coast ever since. In SF, I started to develop myself more as an artist. I was good friends with Johnny Baldwin, who was the drummer for Starship. He recommend me for a bunch of gigs, the first of which was playing with guitarist Amos Garrett.
I did a lot of touring with Amos, and from there I started playing with a singer named Davy Patterson (Gamma). I also played a lot with Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, and Kingfish (Bob Weir). In the course of living down there, I was really busy playing with lots of different people. I’ve got a really well-respected name in the Bay Area. I had done an amazing amount of work and recording with really great people in San Francisco, and ended my run there playing in the backing band at Slim’s. It was a high-profile gig, one of the best in the Bay Area. I got to play with some of the greatest blues musicians in the world.
Portland: I moved here in 1991. I had toured through Portland a few times, and I really dug the city. My brother had moved up here after my Dad passed away in 1989, so it was sort of a turning point for me. When I got here, I immediately started hitting the jam sessions. I was the new guy in town and was welcomed with open arms. I started playing with people like Margo Tufo, Curtis Salgado, and Lloyd Jones.
Then I started going into the Candlelight every Sunday night and sitting in with Paul deLay. Paul was going to prison soon and was just waiting to see when they were going to take him away. He asked me to join his band but warned me that it might only be for a short period. He didn’t really know. It didn’t last very long, only three months, but then I ended up playing drums in the “No Delay Band” with Linda Hornbuckle and Paul’s backing band for a couple of years, touring all around the Northwest.
Tom Grant: After I left the No Delay band, I started playing with Patrick Lamb, and that’s where I met Tom Grant. I started with Tom’s band in 1995, and I’m still playing with him. It’s been a really great gig for me. Tom is highly respected in both the smooth jazz and straightahead jazz idioms. He’s been sort of my guide and helped shape and hone the way I play today. He’s been a pretty good teacher! We’ll be going into his studio soon to start recording a new album with Dave Captien. We’ll also be doing a workshop and concert together at Lower Columbia College in Longview on May 1. We also do a lot of work with [singers] Shelly Rudolph and Nancy Curtin.
Favorite Recordings: Buddy Rich - “The Big Band Machine”; Steely Dan - “Aja”; Billy Cobham - “Spectrum”; Tony Williams - “Believe It”; Miles Davis - “Kind Of Blue”; Herbie Hancock - “Headhunters”; Allman Brothers - “Live at the Fillmore East.”
Discography: Amos Garrett - “Live at the Town Pump” (1982); Espresso - “Sound Cup” (1983); Luther Tucker - “Shrimp Boat” (1983); Stu Blanic - “Live at the Crown and Anchor” (1984), “Under The Big Top”; Margo Tufo - “Still Crazy” (1991); No Delay - “Live at the Waterfron Blues Festival” (1993); Fred Stickley - “All About Horses” (1996); The Flying Stickleys - “Behind The Hanger” (1999); Renato Caranto - “Blues for Ama” (1994); Rue De Blues - “Deep Play” (1996), “Rue II”; Patrick Lamb - “For The Love” (2000); Tom Grant - “Tune It In,” “Life Is Good” (2008), “Delicioso” (2011).
Upcoming Projects: I had my own R&B /Funk band, Metro, up until about a year ago, and now I’m pretty much freelancing. And of course there are the jam sessions -- every Thursday at The Blue Diamond in Portland, and at Tommy O’s in Vancouver every Sunday.
I have an original project that I’m going to start working on. I have so many good connections with people that I grew up playing with in New York, and the technology now is so good, I can record something here and send it to them over the internet and they can blow a solo over it and send it back. It’s going to be a pretty interesting project. There are all of these tributaries of people that you can get to play on your record because they all have their own home studios up and running.
I’m also a huge Allman Brothers fan, and I will be recording an Allman Bros tribute in the near future with a lot of people from my past.
-- by Tim Willcox