MD: You clearly have a very special relationship with the great Quincy Jones. You've won multiple Grammy awards together. You’ve made some of the greatest records ever with Quincy. How did that relationship evolve? What do you feel is the essence of Quincy Jones and his remarkable success? Can you share a couple of your favorite projects you've done with Quincy?
JH: As I said earlier, Quincy heard about the Seawind horns through the musical grapevine and asked us to play and arrange on his “I Heard That!” album. From that one song, and David Foster’s recommendation, he asked us to work on the Brothers Johnson album called “Blam”. That was our first full project with him, and the first time that Gary Grant and myself on trumpets, Larry Williams and Kim Hutchcroft on saxes, and Bill Reichenbach on trombone worked together with Quincy. There were a few tunes that we recorded that had some of the longest fades I have ever played, and the horns, with some next to impossible parts, played the tunes all the way out to the very end. I knew things were good when we came back to the studio the next day ; Quincy and his great engineer, Bruce Swedien, were listening to the song with the five minutes plus long fade at ear splitting levels. Damn, that sounded good!!
Quincy's success is due to his musical vision. He sees each project from the beginning all the way through to the finished product. And he calls the best people to do what they do best, allowing everyone to add his personal musical touch to the project. He treats everyone with such respect that people working with Quincy want to do their absolute best for him. Of course, every session with Quincy is as good as it gets, but Michael Jackson’s have to be at or near the top. As Quincy said, everyone playing on these sessions was at the height of his career, the songs were incredible, Bruce Swedien’s engineering was ground breaking, and Quincy’s production was second to none.
MD: You are my favorite horn arranger ever. It is immediately apparent that you have exceptionally good ears. When you are called on to arrange something for a project, how often are you able write your charts in advance and how often are you doing things on the fly in the studio?
JH: Thanks for the nice words on my arranging. Fortunately, I have perfect pitch and that helps enormously in writing. I have very rarely been given a chart of the rhythm tracks, and when I have, they are usually wrong. So I can quickly take down the chords of the rhythm track and begin working on the arrangement. Hopefully people give me at least a few days to live with an arrangement so I can fine tune it, like the Jarreau charts. Most of the time, I get a couple days at least. Sometimes it needs to be written in the studio because of last minute scheduling, or the producer adds an extra song at the session. Gary Grant says that some of my best charts come out that way, but I'm not so sure. I did an arrangement on the spot for the 40th anniversary CD of Earth, Wind, and Fire a couple weeks ago. It turned out pretty well, but with a little more time spent, I could have developed it a little more.
MD: Which arrangers have had the most influence on you?
JH: I never studied arranging and never saw myself as an arranger, but in Seawind someone needed to write something for the horns to play so I started there. Then Seawind began to play some Tower of Power, Brecker Brothers, and some top 40 tunes, so I would transcribe the horn parts. Listening to all of those and having to write them for two, or at most three, horns in Seawind was a terrific teaching tool. Then when I started to work in LA, I began to seriously listen to any and all horn parts to see what worked and what didn't. I had also played in many of big bands and knew which arrangers I admired. Among them were Billy May, Billy Byers, Sammy Nestico, Nelson Riddle, Johnny Mandel, Marty Paich, and all of that generation who understood how to voice chords, make them really sound, and write figures that felt good to play. When I came to LA, as a player, I got to work with lots of writers and see how they were writing — Gene Page, Tom Tom 84 (with EWF), James Carmichael (with Lionel Richie), and a very well-respected jingle writer, Don Piestrup. I did hundreds of sessions with Don and learned much of what I know about the orchestra from him — he was as good a writer as any of us has ever worked with, in any and all musical genres. David Foster, as a producer, has also been very influential in how I write, since I worked on so many projects with him — he is very involved in all the charts, from rhythm section to horns to strings. And of course, Quincy — he taught me not to step on a vocal and showed me some voicings that changed how I wrote. Nothing earth shattering, but some tips from the old school writers that I needed to understand.
MD: I think to a certain degree the three-trumpet/ two-trombone configuration has become your signature horn section sound. What led you to this combination?
JH: Again, I mentioned earlier that Jay Graydon didn’t want saxophone in the section for the Jarreau records, so that is how that 3/2 section started. I originally used two trumpets, two saxes, and one trombone for most of my early writing on Quincy’s sessions. With trying to compete with the synthesizer revolution and the budget crunch of the industry, I paired it down to two trumpets, one trombone, and one sax. With that combination, the section is a little more flexible and, including double tracking which I always do, can cover any type of situation that is called for.
MD: Do you remember how your relationship with Bill Reichenbach got started?
JH: Maybe Bill can remember better than I can, but I think we met as players on a session and just connected. When I heard Bill play, it was easy to understand why he should be on every session I would have. He has (or as Allen Vizzutti used to say, "you HAD such a great sound at Eastman!") a great sound, a great understanding of the time feel, and is a great musician. What's not to like?
MD: In addition to the exceptional writing and state of the art playing, your section gets the best pure brass sound I've ever heard. Can you describe your approach to recording the section?
JH: When we worked with Quincy, Bruce Swedien was his engineer. Bruce goes way back with Quincy to Dinah Washington and Count Basie, so he has heard it all. Bruce had acquired microphones throughout his career, and they are in pristine condition, so when we went in to record with Quincy, I had never heard horns sound so good. I asked Bruce what he was doing differently than other engineers and he said nothing — yeah, right!! His mikes were a key to the sound, so I started picking his brain a little about them, and about his recording process. What little I found out and understood, I tried to apply to other sessions, mainly as to what mikes were going to be used. Then in recording with David Foster and his engineer Humberto Gatica, I also learned what can be done with a little processing and after-the-fact equalization and compression. With just a little bit more knowledge, I was able to incorporate that into how we now record our horns. My approach to recording is to play as intensely as possible, with the tune permitting, of course, so that intensity is transmitted when the song is mixed and the horns are placed in proper perspective. I think it was Bruce Swedien that told me that a whisper turned up loud is still a whisper, but a yell turned down softly is a yell. So with that in mind, the section plays at or near full volume, and even if it is mixed in the background, that intensity still comes through.
MD: What microphones do you like to use to record brass?
JH: Depending on the situation, my favorites are Royer ribbon mike, Neumann km54, Neumann 47 tube, Neumann FET 47, Telefunken 251, AKG C12 and a few others, sometimes depending on what is available at the studio. After playing on a session with Alan Sides, a great engineer and owner of one of the finest studios in LA, Ocean Way, I asked him what microphone I was playing into. He told me a Neumann km54, his favorite trumpet mike. It sounded so good that I have eventually bought three. I also have played many sessions on a Royer 121, which Bruce told me about several years ago. Depending on the type of music, I go back and forth between the Neumann km54 and Royer for trumpets (with one mike on two, or even three, trumpets), and the Royer is always good for trombone.
MD: I'm a big Toto fan. What's it like working with those guys?
JH: Jeff Porcaro was one of my favorite drummers to play with, and I did many sessions with him as the drummer in the rhythm section before Toto was formed. The same goes for David Paich and Steve Lukather. They were all at the pinnacle as players and decided to form Toto. Fortunately for me, they asked me to arrange horns for them and "Rosanna" was the first song we played. David is such a great musician, and with his father's guidance, knew exactly how to work with the horns. We did several sessions with them and recently I arranged a David Paich tune for George Benson. It is always great working with musicians of this quality.
MD: In 1983 I was on Buddy Rich's band. My roommate and good friend, the late bass player Dave Carpenter, played a Bill Champlin cassette for me called Runaway. That album, Earth Wind & Fire's Faces and the first self-titled Yellowjackets album were my first introduction to your writing and playing. After hearing Runaway, I became a Jerry Hey fan for life. Unbelievably great playing and writing! Bill is one of the great singer/songwriters and also seems very generous in terms of how much space he left for the horns. How was the experience working on that project?
JH: Bill's Runaway album was the second of his solo career and was produced by David Foster and engineered by Humberto Gatica. Again, the best of the best with David Foster and Humberto and the horns. I am also a big Bill Champlin fan and that goes way back to the early Sons of Champlin. I had listened to those songs and Seawind even performed a couple songs from those records, so I knew what Bill liked and what David Foster was expecting. David is very involved in the horn parts and always adds his magic to the project, even on the horn sessions.