Q&A with veteran saxophonist Brad Jenkins - from Criteria Studios in the early 70s to the San Francisco Rock & Roll scene of the 60s

"Music has a huge impact on everyone’s lives. A song can ease a tear down your cheek as well as bring a smile at the same time. It can take you to a time and place long ago and far away. It can remind you of the calm you desire. Imagine a romantic movie without music to inspire the emotion ahead or a scary movie with dissonant chords that don’t resolve."

Brad Jenkins: Peace, Love & Saxophone

Brad Jenkins is a saxophone player currently living on The Avenue of the Giants in the Humboldt Redwoods of Norther California. He travels up and down the coast playing with various musicians. He is also a Music Teacher at Agnus J. Johnson Elementary School in Weott. Brad has a private music studio in Miranda where he teaches private lessons for beginning piano and most wind instruments as well as Theory. Brad Jenkins started studying and playing music at a young age in Canada. He is a versatile saxophone and flute player, who has recently played with such legends as Lester Chambers, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Barry “The Fish” Melton Band, Jerry Miller (Moby Grape), Terry Hagerty, Harvey Mandel, Peter Walsh, Norman Spirit Greembaum, David LaFlamme (It's A Beautiful Day) with Linda, Toby, Gary Duncan (Quicksilver), Les Dudek, Shana Morrison, Kathi McDonald (Brad recorded with Kathi and Sam Andrew), Roy Blumenfeld (The Blues Project), David Aquilar, Banana (The Youngbloods), Tony Saunders, Michael Hinton, Greg Douglass, Andy Kravich, Ron Emerson, Jim Dyke, Nose and the other Dirty Butter Band members, Bob Brozman, and many more.                   (Brad Jenkins / Photo by Rich Saputo)

Having experienced everything from Criteria Studios in Miami in the early 70s to the San Francisco Rock & Roll scene of the 60s, Brad has developed a unique soulful style. During the late 70s and early 80s Brad played with several working bands touring the country, including Cruz Control, The Reactors, and Vout n About. Brad's journies in music have revealed memorable connections; he has been fortunate to meet some of the greatest in the industry. From meeting Count Basie in 1986 to living with the founding members of Criteria Studios fame, the stories are endless. In 2007, Brad donated and built the website for the Summer of Love 40th Anniversary. He also had the honor of playing with Essra Mohawk in the morning of that day and later with The Jerry Miller Band. Over the years Brad has been a sound engineer in various situations. He spent several years as sound man for Henfling's in Ben Lomond CA. Many world class musicians passed through and were mastered by Brad.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The Blues and Rock Counterculture helped open my eyes to a different perspective regarding how we all relate to one another. I felt hope and trust in coming out the other side of any situation. In the cold winters on the Canadian Farm, I would listen to an old Shortwave radio and surf the channels. I found music from other countries and some of the older blues players that we would never hear on the AM radio scene that was the norm. The San Francisco Sound from the 60s caught my ear and my curiosity. I listened deep trying to hear the secret message that I thought was buried in the song. I am not sure if this curiosity guided my journey to California when I left the farm at 16. Later in time I would just ask them about the hidden messages as I had somehow become part of the scene and played with many of my childhood idols. I remember listening to Spirit in the Sky thinking it was really groovy… ironically, my last gig before the virus, was performing that song with Norman Greenbaum himself, 50 years later.

What were the reasons that made the 60s to be the center of Blues/Folk/Rock researches and experiments?

Everyone was ready for change and the Gov was not providing the right change for the open-minded youth that had a different understanding of “right from wrong”. The Golden Rule had worked its way into song in subtle ways and those that were hip to the ‘60s vibe heard it loud and clear. Some were aided by drugs that opened doors to the soul and let the music deeper into their consciousness. I was young during the ‘60s and often reluctant to the change that was happening. But I was easily able to jump on that train when the time was right… referring to “People Get Ready” of course, performed by my friend Lester Chambers. And again, I refer to this song with Lester because it was also part of the performance at the last gig, we all shared before Covid.

"The affect I would like music to have on people is that a smile becomes infectious and some goose bumps and peach fuzz stands up straight in private places and deep in your soul! I tell students and others that music has been good to me; it has opened many doors and leads you to many places off the beaten path of life." (Brad Jenkins, Sonoma CA 2016 / Photo by Lilli Heart)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

When I landed in California after hitchhiking down from Canada, the first person I met was Robert Peterson (RIP). Bobby was a writer and wrote Unbroken Chain and a couple of others with Phil for the Grateful Dead. I was 17 and soaked up the excitement of the time. The next summer I landed in Miami the same way by chance, and first met my long-time friend Albhy Galuten. He took me into his home which he shared with Karl Richardson. The 2 of them went on to do big things at Criteria Studio. I will speak of this experience later in this interview. The next and perhaps most significant is a year later back in California when I met another life-long friend Robert Marron (RIP). Bob and I played together off and on in many settings until he left us 7 years ago. He gave me “that best advice” you asked about, and that is to “Listen”! In other words, what he meant was: don’t just start playing. Listen first… get the feel. Unless you already worked the arrangement out. And finally meeting Count Basie shortly before his passing was a tremendous honor and blessing.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I will keep this short if I can. When I publish my book, it will reveal many stories and adventures but for now I will mention a few that stand out from recent years. 2007 I played at the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love with a couple of acts. Started in the morning with Essra Mohawk. She goes back in the music scene and has written some great songs. Later that day I joined my old friend Jerry Miller from Moby Grape and he played as only Jerry can. In that line-up was David Laflamme from It’s a Beautiful Day, Tiran Porter and Dale Ockerman from Doobie Brothers, John Fuzzy Oxidine, Ed Vance and Brian Auger. The next special occasion was my birthday 10 years ago. David and Linda Laflamme and the rest of It’s a Beautiful Day played in my backyard to a small gathering of friends. I love playing along with David and we have fun. Finally, for now, in the Studio with Sam Andrew (RIP) from Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin Cosmic Band, recording together for a project with Kathi McDonald. Sam and I were in different rooms with glass between us. We played together for 2 takes and Mario Cipollina mixed it into a magical finale. Also, on that project was my friend Snooky Flowers (RIP) from Janis’s band. Well since I mentioned Sam, I am reminded of what an honor it was playing for his Memorial with The ‘60s Allstar Band… we gave him a powerful send-off.

"Bring your horn on board when you fly! Flew to Reno for a gig once and my sax ended up in Seattle. Don’t noodle on stage before a gig. If you are playing in a bar or tavern, always tip the bar tender at the beginning of the show. Later when it is busy, the bar tender will see you and remember, and you won’t have to wait for that glass of water or whatever." (Brad Jenkins & Snooky Flowers / Photo by Steve Roby)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Being able to perform live is most missed of course! And my Teeth! Being a sax player, teeth are part of that embrasure that makes the solid tone. I have dentures now; after using a lot of glue I have good tone and intonation, but I find myself being somewhat reserved in my solos. This is new and I am trying to work through it. My hopes are to gather and play with as many of my dear musical friends as I can, and my fear is that there are so many of you that I will miss somebody.

What has made you laugh and what touched you from your time in the Criteria Studios in Miami?

What has made me laugh the most is being on stage with the wonderful Peter Walsh (RIP). Recently passed. Anyone who has shared the stage with him will know what I am talking about. A funny and fine man that knew how to entertain the band and the audience. Criteria Studios in North Miami was an important part of my growing up in a way. I was 18 and very impressionable and all the amazing people in that circle were kind, humble, accomplished in what they did and very easy going. I was a wandering when I landed at Albhy and Karl’s house with their lovely ladies Harper and Candy. My time at the studio was usually me squatting in a corner out of the way, paying attention to what was going on, listening to discussions about the song, magical cut and splice of the big fat tape that was the memory of the song. I noodled with Albhy a few times on harmonica with him on piano. I did not have a sax on this journey and was like a mouse in your pocket listening and learning from some of the greatest. I left just before Eric Clapton and the gang started working on 451 Ocean Blvd but was at the house while plans and excitement were growing. I recently wrote a short story for Albhy at his request and I can’t really share it here, but it will be in his book and mine eventually. Aside from Criteria, there are stories of Miami life and the wild and high times of the day… but I will keep that for another story.

"Being able to perform live is most missed of course! And my Teeth! Being a sax player, teeth are part of that embrasure that makes the solid tone. I have dentures now; after using a lot of glue I have good tone and intonation, but I find myself being somewhat reserved in my solos. This is new and I am trying to work through it. My hopes are to gather and play with as many of my dear musical friends as I can, and my fear is that there are so many of you that I will miss somebody." (Brad Jenkins & David Aguilar, California 2017 / Photo by Melodye M Hudson)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Bring your horn on board when you fly! Flew to Reno for a gig once and my sax ended up in Seattle. Don’t noodle on stage before a gig. If you are playing in a bar or tavern, always tip the bar tender at the beginning of the show. Later when it is busy, the bar tender will see you and remember, and you won’t have to wait for that glass of water or whatever. Don’t go back to the hotel and listen to the soundboard mix after the gig and criticize each other. Don’t take your sax outside after the gig in a quiet downtown setting and start blowing into the night as fans follow and cheer. That is frowned upon by law enforcement. My fans joined me in the pokey though.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music has a huge impact on everyone’s lives. A song can ease a tear down your cheek as well as bring a smile at the same time. It can take you to a time and place long ago and far away. It can remind you of the calm you desire. Imagine a romantic movie without music to inspire the emotion ahead or a scary movie with dissonant chords that don’t resolve. The affect I would like music to have on people is that a smile becomes infectious and some goose bumps and peach fuzz stands up straight in private places and deep in your soul! I tell students and others that music has been good to me; it has opened many doors and leads you to many places off the beaten path of life.

"The Blues and Rock Counterculture helped open my eyes to a different perspective regarding how we all relate to one another. I felt hope and trust in coming out the other side of any situation. In the cold winters on the Canadian Farm, I would listen to an old Shortwave radio and surf the channels. I found music from other countries and some of the older blues players that we would never hear on the AM radio scene that was the norm. The San Francisco Sound from the 60s caught my ear and my curiosity."

(Brad Jenkins / Photo by Humboldt Tony)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Back and tell stories to Mr. Alf Grimes, high school music teacher. He made me play Trombone and Baritone because he didn’t like saxophones. He said they are never in tune and I now understand. It takes a while to develop good sax chops. And the old saxophones had terrible intonation.

Brad Jenkins - Home

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