Four decades into an accomplished career that has seen him record and tour with many of the brightest stars in the contemporary jazz, R&B and pop galaxies as well as front his own bands and solo albums, keyboardist, songwriter, producer and arranger David Garfield still feels like an outsider.
“All my life, I’m just trying to make music that I really believe in and can get really excited about. It’s never fit into one particular category thus, in many ways, I’ve spent my whole music career outside the box. It’s never been intentional and it’s not like I’m trying to be different just to be different. I’m just trying to be creative while striving for the highest level of musical and artistic integrity. In the long run, my career has taken place outside the box,” said Garfield, about “Outside the Box,” the extensive collection of recordings that he’s curating featuring a stellar cast of A-listers and premier session players that will be released on his Creatchy Records label.
The multi-part, genre-crossing project spanning various types of jazz, R&B, pop, country and rock will unfold in a series of record releases beginning with the March 23 release of “Jazz Outside the Box,” a straight-ahead jazz set with performances by Randy Brecker, Michael McDonald, The Doors’ drummer John Densmore, Tom Scott, Jason Scheff (Chicago), Will Lee, Eric Marienthal, Steve Ferrone, Vinnie Colaiuta, John Clayton, Michael Thompson, Brian Auger and Charlie Bisharat along with the accompaniment of full horn and string sections.
The second outing, “Jamming Outside the Box,” slated to drop this summer, has already spawned a Billboard No. 2 single with “Go Home,” showcasing a sizzling lineup on the Stevie Wonder original comprised of Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, guitar aces Paul Jackson Jr. and Tony Maiden (Rufus), bassist Freddie Washington, fellow keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, and horn players Marienthal and Stephen “Doc” Kupka (Tower of Power). This disc will be comprised of smooth/contemporary jazz cuts, including the second single presently climbing the charts, “Jamming,” a remake of the Bob Marley classic showcasing guitarist Mike Campbell (a member of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers) and saxophonist Brandon Fields (The Rippingtons, Tower of Power). Icons David Sanborn and George Benson are among the luminous guests on the album, the latter for whom Garfield has served as music director since 1986. Other prominent players in the mix are Rick Braun, Nathan East, Marcus Miller, Ray Parker Jr. and Rickey Minor.
Presently rising up the Mediabase country charts is a preview of “Vox Outside the Box,” a set of vocal songs that will be the third release of the series. “I Lied” is one of two songs Garfield wrote for the project with legend Smokey Robinson and radio programmers have been swift to embrace the cinematically sweet ballad with adult contemporary crossover potential (http://bit.ly/2BolVeF).
The fourth component will be “Stretchin’ Outside the Box,” which Garfield describes as “more adventurous with extended intros and special arrangements, a record perhaps geared towards musicians and music enthusiasts. It’ll have more fusion plus bonus tracks and alternate versions.” Garfield is also planning a seasonal selection entitled “Holidays Outside the Box.”
“Outside the Box” includes some of the final performances from the late guitarists Chuck Loeb and Larry Coryell. Their passings are part of what sparks Garfield’s inspiration for this enormous undertaking.
“The truth is we’re all getting older, and I wanted to gather all these great talents together while everyone is still alive, active and accessible,” said the St. Louis native and longtime Los Angeles resident. “I think that this will be the last time I’ll have the chance to do anything like this, especially of this scope and magnitude. The feeling I had throughout the project - from session to session, even as the personnel changed - was that we were collectively creating a powerful sense of community through the music.”
Despite all that he has done and achieved, including composing music for television, film, commercials and several international organizations, “Outside the Box” feels like it will be a career capper for Garfield, a crowning musical statement that he hopes will have a lasting impact. “I’m thinking about both the present and future, putting these tracks out in the world for consumption now, but in the hopes that after we’re gone, musicians who come up years from now will know what it was like to set up a Fender Rhodes and a drum set in the garage and play. Despite all the technology we have at our disposal, that’s where the raw energy begins. That energy is the core and driving force behind these songs, which to me truly represent not just the incredible musical legacy of Los Angeles, but various music communities from around the world.”