I'm not much for the usual pretentious politically correct bios that publicists write for artists so I decided to write my own bio and wax some humor and philosophy and at the same time tell you what I've been up to so far this life time. Please do not take me seriously as I sure don't.
I was hanging out in the Spirit Universe Between Lives Area Waiting Zone contemplating with my spirit advisors what script I was going to write for my next journey into the love - hate - war - peace - male - female - greed - money - sex - have-to-make-a-living-and-pay-taxes - physical universe when all of a sudden it came to me: Why not go to Earth (there are other planet options but none have a dichotomy such as Kenny G and Miles Davis both being heralded as the greatest jazz instrumentalists of all time which puzzled me) and incarnate into a biological unit in an all American hamburg town such as Erie, Pa which was off the cross roads of success and had little support of the arts. That would indeed be a challenge and could be a catalyst to learn many spiritual lessons once I forgot who I really was. The veil of amnesia was a necessary part of every incarnation as otherwise how else would one come back lifetime after lifetime and be able to start anew. The overlapping identities and experiences would be totally confusing. It would be like trying to play chess with one's self which is impossible unless you could forget your last move and your future intentions. Anyway…I thought this would be quite a challenge. I'll hide in this mistake by the lake (Erie, Pa) and see if I can still manage to learn life's more important lessons. Sounds easy when your on the Spirit side but once you incarnate… quite a different story!
I had observed that most everybody was pretty robotic in this neck of the woods. They never followed their dreams but instead were content to a) get a 9 to 5 job that had its security, steady pay check, benefits, sick days and vacations, b) come home after a hard day's work and not only read the paper, tabloids and watch TV but actually believe what they read and saw, c) play bingo and the lotto, d) glibly confess their bad deeds(sins) not because they knew they were wrong but because they were afraid of punishment in the afterlife. They made donations to appease their souls but then went right ahead and committed the same "sins" again and again with no lasting realizations. Then if that didn't do them in and it usually did, they'd e) go to doctors and/or psychiatrists who hooked them on prescriptions drugs( part of the conspiracy of the huge pharmaceutical companies… nah they're very altruistic!) for anything and everything so they could either numb their awareness which gives one a false sense of temporary happiness and/or be free from pain until they got fat and inactive and eventually developed Cancer or Alzheimer's or had a heart attack or a stroke and either died or had to give up all their money to a greedy nursing home who really wanted to love and care for them. And now "they" have a new insanity being disseminated-where if kids were found to ask too many questions and be too active in school, well then they are suffering from a disease (ADD Syndrome - a made-up syndrome of course) and they should be on drugs too. Why not ? Their parents were!
I figured if I could figure my way out of this sea of lies con job then I would really learn life's important lessons and graduate (death) summa cum laude back to the Spirit Dimension. What a challenge.
So on Jan 31, 1948 in Erie, Pa at Hammot Hospital after careful planning, I took over bio unit ID Tag John Novello Jr, agreed to the total veil of amnesia which is part of any incarnation contract, got a swat on the ass to welcome me to this dimension (lucky me) and began spirit boot camp once again. My first three years were pretty robotic and I fully was duped that I indeed was this baby bio unit John Novello Jr. I cried and drooled and ate and slept and shit my pants and everything. (Adult bio units - spirit/mind/body machines - always assume babies are so sweet, innocent and helpless but hmm… if they only knew they were immortal spirits like the rest of us simply reoccupying a brand new bio unit and getting used to its sensations and motor controls etc.) But when I was three years old, my spirit muscles started to flex a little.. not as good by the way as my friend Mozart's flexed when he was three, but at least they flexed. I happened to be in front of the TV (thanks to inventor Philo T Franswarth) and I saw Dick Contino, the famed accordionist, playing Lady of Spain on The Lawrence Welk Show. I screamed to my parents and pointed to the screen and they thought I meant that I wanted to play the accordion. What I had meant was I wanted to play the keyboard (organ to be exact) as I had been very successful at this in other life times and I guess I was beginning to penetrate the veil of amnesia (spirit muscle flex) and rise to the challenges my new script had created for me. My parents God love them thought that I wanted to play the accordion and since I wasn't articulate and stubborn enough at 3, I did just that. But instead of getting a regular squeeze box teacher, I was fortunate enough (part of the script in hindsight) to study from Basil Ronzitti, a good friend from the spirit universe, who actually wrote brilliant accordion transcriptions of serious composers from Bach to Schoenberg which exposed me to great music at an early age. I played believe it or not in an accordion chamber group and it was quite an experience.
Basil entered me into a national accordion competition and I came in second place only because my mind went blank playing a 22 page Rhapsody and I improvised my way through the dilemma until I remembered where I was. One of the Judges wrote in red on my music "nice job of improvisation. You should consider a career in jazz." So that part of the script led me into asking Basil about jazz and off the deep end I went! But one day I heard a bare-murmur-to-primal-wail absolutely righteous sound. What the hell was this? It was a Hammond B3 organ and little did I know that I caught the "organic" virus and have been infected ever since! To those who haven't been infected either as a player or a listener, I invite you to research just a fraction of the artists and groups that have used this unique instrument - the Hammond/Leslie combination.
I put a couple of bands together while I was hanging in dreary Erie and one of them Symon Grace & The Tuesday Blues got discovered by famed producer Roger Karshner from the band The Outsiders. We got signed instantly and released a single entitled 'You Won't Get me Workin' which went to number 7 on the East Coast. All looked too simple but I guess that wasn't the lesson I was supposed to learn at this time. The lead singer got drafted and the record company dropped us like a hot potato when they found out he was unavailable. The resultant loss and depression was so intense that it motivated me to discard "commercial music". I then formed a progressive organ trio called C.J. Bri and wrote all original music. Boy was that fun. I really started studying all the great cats: Jimmy Smith, Keith Emerson, Bryan Auger, Keith Emerson, Peter Robinson from Quatermass, Jack McDuff, Larry Young, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Al Cooper, Matthew Fisher, of Procol Harum Oscar Peterson, Mark Stein, Felix Cavilier, Chester Thompson, Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, Jan Hammer, Lee Michaels etc. Wrote some good shit if I do say so myself but I just couldn't get that band a national deal and so after studying some serious composition from Dr. Paul Martin at Edinboro University (another sweet spirit friend who just made his transition), I moved to Boston to further study my craft and hang out with other obsessed musicians. Who would have thought that 25 years later in Los Angeles I would revisit this project with different players…. This time the band was called Niacin! I guess the lesson was never give up and follow your heart and passion, huh?
While in Boston I studied composing and arranging, synth programming, jazz improvisation from Gary Burton, Ray Santisi and Charlie Banacos during the day and at night I played in strip clubs playing standards behind strippers. (Hey, it was tough but somebody had to do it!:) At one of the strip clubs I met another incredible spirit named Gary Peterson who was and still is an absolute m… f…. organist. I'd go down and sit at the bar and watch this cat play especially his pedal work and ignored all the naked chicks. They all thought I was gay until I started a relationship with one of the them. This was really a fun time of my journey as I studied music all day, played it all night and had a great view if I do say so myself! About this time my spirit muscles were beginning to really exercise and I was seriously interested in philosophy especially if it helped my playing and composing. I eventually through a friend and through a communication I had with Chick Corea discovered Scientology which is an applied religious philosophy. Man.... this accelerated my spiritual learning curve into warp drive and my playing along with it! My inner voice which I had learned to really trust was serving me well and now it was saying "It's time to move to Los Angeles" and so away I went.
No sooner than I arrived in the City of the Angeles did I meet my soul mate Gloria Rusch and get a big gig with a new disco band (like we needed another one!) called A Taste of Honey! Within a few short months we had the number #1 song in the world Boogie Oogie Oogie! Boy was that wild. One minute I was broke and then rich and famous and it wasn't even music that I liked and boy was I f…. up!. "Did I write this part of the script?" I thought to myself. There must be a lesson here but it was escaping me at the time. Anyway that gig led to many other gigs with Donna Summer, Manhattan Transfer, Ramsey Lewis, Edgar Winter, Ritchie Cole, Chick Corea,… now there's a talented muther and what a great dude. I wrote him a letter one day from an address on the back of one of his records and he wrote back. We became pen pals and eventually hooked up. I programmed his Synclavier for awhile and did some gigs and recordings and to this day we have maintained a very special relationship. In fact, after I had come off the road with all of these other artists I decided it was time for me to do my own thing again like I did in Erie with C.J Bri as I hungered to get my melodies heard. So I began teaching to support myself and eventually wrote a huge tome called The Contemporary Keyboardist which has become the bible of contemporary keyboard studies. And Chick Corea wrote the forward. "Wow.. life is full of surprises when you follow your heart" I thought.
That brings me to the present. I built my dream studio called Studio 2B3 and am writing and producing away. I started a film scoring company called Lunatek Music with famed composer/sound designer Alan Howarth Niacin is working on its 6th CD; I have a new solo CD that just got released on Holographic Records called Threshold (link); am producing an incredibly talented female singer named Carmel Helene who really rocks; working on a new keyboard instructional manual and of course I continue to learn those lessons.
My motto is: Life is for learning lessons; not for accumulating things but where the hell are the strippers?!"
To be continued….