I’ve known Chieli (Key-elli) for longer than I can remember. I watched him grow from a young kid sub guitar player in one of my early Jenny Burton bands to simply one of the best in the world. Widely known as the leader of the Grammy-nominated contemporary jazz group Special EFX, which formed in 1982, Minucci & Special EFX have recorded a combined 23 CDs, 6 of those being solo releases – many on Dave Grusin’s GRP label.
I’ve worked with many guitar players in my life, but Chieli has always been my first call. My engineer for many years and I used to have a running understanding: “When Chieli arrives at the session and starts to take his guitar out of his case, that’s when you begin to run tape, that’s when you begin to record.” Because everything that came out of this guy’s axe was gold.
I always marveled at his ability to immediately understand music and where it was going. It got to the point in our sessions where I wouldn’t even write out a chord chart for him. Normally when a musician starts to work in the studio, the first thing you do is play down the song for him. You listen together, then discuss the style, point out the things you want to hear, go over the chart and then begin to work.
With Chieli, you simply start by playing the song through the first time in record. If you don’t, you’re gonna miss something great. And then in those first takes, I would just sit there in awe as he played great stuff, right in the pocket. But the real magical mystery was that he would play along with the song, never having heard it before with no chart – and it would be good! How did he know where it was going? How did he know what chords to play? Some great musicians just play and live so much music that they just intuit the stuff. Chieli Minucci is one of those special folks.
I’m very proud to be a small part of this man’s 24th and 25th album. He’s been such a huge part of my music for so many years, it’s time I gave something back.