away from the hustle and bustle of the music industry. He formed Coastal Access as a side band to his day job with the Rippingtons when he lived in the OC, Orange County, California. He released his first two solo recordings, "Remember Catalina" (1995) and "Walk A Mile" (1996), signing with Native Language Music a year after leaving the Rippingtons in 2000. “Hyde Park '(The Ah, Oooh Song)'” from his label debut "Another Door Opens"(2000), hit #1 for over eight weeks on the Radio & Records chart. He later released "Simple Truth" in 2002, "Peace Of Mind" in 2004, and his latest, "Play" in 2007.
Kim Waters, saxophonist, composer and producer, was around in the beginning, shaping the genre we know today as Smooth Jazz. Having sold over a million records, he ranks among the top five best-selling instrumentalists in contemporary jazz with top ten singles on all of his 13 albums. Inspired by his musical family, he started playing saxophone at the age of 13, after playing the violin for five years. Sliding between Smooth Jazz, Smooth Urban Jazz, and R&B, he has worked with Al Green, Issac Hayes, and Gerald Albright, to name a few. His discography: “Sweet & Saxy”(1989) “All Because Of You”(1990) “Sax Appeal”(1991) “Tribute” (1992) “Peaceful Journey”( 1993), “It’s Time For Love” (1994) “Home For Christmas" (1994) “You Are Not Alone” (1996) “Love’s Melody” (1998) “One Special Moment" (1999) “From The Heart’ (2001) “Someone To Love You” (2002) “Streetwise” (Various Artists (2002) "Streetwise II" (2003) "In The Name Of Love" (2004) "Streetwise/ Slowjamz" (2004) "All For Love" (2005) "Streetwise Does Dre" (2005) "You are My Lady" (2007) "Streetwise Sexy Love" (2007).
Steve Cole is a classically trained saxophonist who studied music at Northwestern University and business at the University of Chicago. Steve performed a solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of 18. His love for Jazz, Pop and R&B, led him to abandon classical music and accept work as a session player where he did national commercial spots, contributing to a number of soundtracks, and composing with keyboardists Bob Mamet and Brian Culbertson. Steve released his first solo CD, "Stay Awhile” in 1998, garnishing three hit songs, two #1, "When I Think Of You" and "Say It Again," and a top 5 hit, "Where The Night Begins". Steve’s second CD, "Between Us" (2000) produced two more #1 hits (“Got It Goin’ On" & "From The Start) and his third CD, "NY LA" (2003), showed Steve’s talent again with “Off Broadway” and his rendition of the classic “Waterfalls”. Steve's Narada debut, "Spin", was released in 2005, and the next year, "True" brought Steve back to his roots. He has worked with Boz Scaggs, Junior Wells, Wayman Tisdale, KMFDM, Rick Braun, Peter White, and Brian Culbertson besides heading his own band.
Smooth Jazz Notes caught up with The Sax Pack before their concert in Stockton, California where they were relaxing after soundcheck. These guys are great fun to be with, lots of laughter and joking around.
SJN: Jeff, we understand that you came up with the idea of the Sax Pack? Can you tell us how this came about?
Jeff: It started actually as a joke. I was watching an HBO remake of the Rat Pack with a friend of mine. I turned to him and I said, 'I love those days, I wish I could recreate that.' He was joking and said, ‘That’s it, the Sax Pack’. I said, ‘thank you very much’ and the next day I called both of you (looking at Kim & Steve).
Steve: Yes I remember. I was driving in a car.
Jeff: And Steve said ‘Jeff who?' (all laugh) I called them because we were friends and I wanted to work with people I enjoy being with. We hang out together, but we had never played together, so we thought that might be fun. Let’s just try and see what happens!
SJN: What did you think when he came to you?
Kim: My first response was, ‘Jeff, I’m not cheap, how much are you going to be paying me?' (everyone laughs) I told him that I don’t come out for $20!
Steve: And I told Jeff that whatever Kim makes, I needed to make double that!
Kim: Yes, he leads a very sophisticated life sitting around drinking Heinekens. No really, I thought it was great because I am a fan of Jeff and Steve, as well, so it was a great opportunity and it gives us all a break from having to do the whole show by ourselves. I was all for it!
Jeff: So here’s the job description I posted on Craig’s List! Wanted, two burning saxophone players, play a third as much, make twice as much money, and you can drink on the job. They answered the ad! (everyone laughs)
Steve: You know, I wasn’t familiar with either of them. I had to look them up on Wikipedia, wikeeeepedia. (everyone laughs)
SJN: We’ve heard you have fun backstage. Can you share some backstage experiences?
Steve: No we cannot! (everyone laughs)
Jeff: Before, we were always doing jazz festivals and we would be hanging out backstage just having drinks and laughing and we said, ‘Let’s do this onstage?’ That’s the deal we have a lot of fun, but it’s true we get down, roll up our sleeves, and sweat a little bit on stage too.
SJN: You have recently released the first Sax Pack CD, self titled, The Sax Pack. Can you tell us about the CD?
Kim: I think the CD is a great piece of work. A piece of work that we really shared everything together. We went to the studio. We wrote all the songs together, we recorded everything on one microphone. We were all in the same room together, in the studio together. I have to admit this was the easiest record I ever recorded in my whole career. No questions about little details, we just did it.
Jeff: These days you can, you do things remotely, because Steve was in Chicago, Kim, at the time was in Baltimore, and I was in Seattle, so we were spread out, so we thought maybe each guy could write a song, but we thought, ‘No, that’s not how we do things. We need to be physically together and collaborate ‘old school’ and that’s exactly what we did.
Steve: Ya, from the songwriting to the performing, the guys came to Chicago and hung out at my place.
Jeff: He has a beautiful palace.
Jeff: Steve has like 15 bedrooms, but he made Kim and I stay in a hotel.
Steve: I got you a great deal! The hotel was called the Hotel Sax. That’s why I put them there.
Kim: If you want a good hang out, that’s the good place to hang out!
Steve: We had fun, we wrote a lot of music, hung out, ate and drank.
Jeff: We were all in the same room together and I’d hit a drum beat on the computer to get things started. Then Steve would sit down and do some funky bass stuff, I would add something cool, then Kim would help out on Rhodes, and off we went..
Steve: Ya, we wrote the music really old school, sitting together, writing, coming up with music together.
SJN: So, the songs are all written by all of you?
Jeff: Da, da, da, da, da, da, that hook which is the, Fallin’ For You, chorus hook, the first part was Steve’s idea, then I was thinking keep playing this note, da, da, da, da. I was thinking one melody and he was thinking another, so we put them together and wa-la.
SJN: The first single, Fallin’ For You, is doing well. Have you decided which song will be the second single?
Jeff: I vote for ‘A Little Bit Closer’.
Steve: Ya, ya!
SJN: What are your favorite songs on the CD?
Steve: Everything is beautiful!
Jeff: That do you think of 'The Sax Pack'? It has an attitude about it. Its got a strut, its got a swagger to it.
Steve: You know, we should play that!
(Jeff jokes about running and adding it to the show. While Steve says that this is how they work.)
SJN: How is it different playing with an ensemble then playing by yourself as the headliner?
(lot’s of joking around for two minutes)
Kim: Yes, it’s definitely different because we don’t have to concentrate on doing the whole show by ourselves. We can play together. It’s hard being one person up there blowing your brains out for an hour and a half.
Steve: The only thing about doing your own show is you can get a word in edgewise. (lots of laughing again)
SJN: Do you inspire each other?
Jeff: Absolutely, this is what this is all about. It’s about the chemistry that we have, bringing whatever you have to the party. The energy of the show escalates towards the end. It’s about all of us working together to build the show. It’s just wonderful!
Kim: Compared to many other package tours, we are on the stage primarily all the time together, which is much different than most package tours. We’re playing together, it’s a complete show!
Steve: We’re actually an ensemble which is a unique format in Smooth Jazz, other than Fourplay.
Jeff: The thing we try to focus on is not only sharing the playing equally, literally the conversation, talking about the music, and talking about our life on the road. It’s fun!
SJN: We are wondering what other artists have inspired you.
Jeff: The truth is, starting at home base, both of these guys inspire me a great deal. I’m in the middle of recording a new Rippington’s CD and Russ gave me a gospel song to record. The whole time I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, Steve should be playing this.’ Steve owns the gospel stuff! As I’m playing I find myself being Steve Cole!
Kim: I have so many different people, Jeff and Steve. I grew up from the old school guys, Charlie Parker, Grover Washington. I speak collectively for all of us that this music goes back along way. We don’t just study contemporary players and I think you can hear that in our music.
Steve: The best advise I got was from one of my Dad’s friends. My Dad was a tenor player and he had a bunch of musician friends. They said, find the people who you love to listen to, then figure out who they love to listen to. Then listen to those people and find out who their favorite people are. And keep peeling to back. We have a real respect for the tradition of the music we play. Although we play a more contemporary version, it has that foundation.
SJN: What do you have planned for the future of The Sax Pack?
Jeff: We would like to do a Christmas CD. Actually I’m Buddhist and Steve is Jewish.
Steve: Ya, so it would be a holiday album.
(The discussion when went to which holiday they wanted to celebrate and Steve suggested Groundhog Day or Boxing Day.)
Jeff: We signed a deal for three albums. We are still touring on the first one, but I would like to do a Holiday album, and I’d like to do a live DVD.
Steve has some great ideas for merchandizing…
Steve: Yes, we are going to have bobble-heads.
Jeff: You know that would be great!
Steve: We could have one body and three heads! We are going to have tee shirts. We’ll have fish, a special breed called the Sax Pack fish that chases its tail constantly around in circles. There’s a CPR doll that they are making that is going to be in Jeff’s likeness, which should be pretty cool. We have a special scent for air freshener. It’s going to be Sax Pack scent. It will be the post show conglomerate of all of our sweat. We also have Sax Pack underwear that you wear on the outside of your clothes.
Jeff: For blood banks, we have Sax Pack blood, and Kim’s is a little more expensive because it comes with the alcohol already included.
(Ok, we just had to include some of the joking around. As Steve spoke Jeff and Kim started laughing which escalated with each item.)
SJN: Do you have any tours and projects with other people?
Kim: I have a new CD coming out in November.
Steve: My new record is going to be with the symphony orchestra. It will be out next year some time.
SJN: Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to share with us and we hope that each of you will sit down with us alone in the near future to delve into your separate careers?