Nick: Hello, Jerry. How are you these days?
Jerry: Hi Nick. I’m doin’ well. Thanks for asking.
Nick: We’d like to start by asking about your involvement in The Flock back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I believe you were first you were The Flock’s roadie before you joined the band. Tell us something more about this, how did it all begin?
Jerry: I was friends with the band before we started working together. We were from the same neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. They were a working band and needed a “schlepper”. Being young and out of work, I guess I fit the bill! As a roadie, I would check out the guitar rigs after setting up the gear (guitar being my second instrument). I guess the band, which had basically been a cover band, was beginning to stretch out and write and play original material. My friend, and one of the founding members of the band, Rick Canoff, “encouraged” me to plug in my violin, join the band, and play both instruments. This added to a shift in the musical direction they had already begun.
Nick: With The Flock you recorded two albums, the self-titled one in 1969 and a year later an album called “Dinosaur Swamps”. What are your impressions of these two records now, after 40 years? How much you’ve been involved in the making process of these albums?
Jerry: I have mixed feelings about the recordings that we did. On many levels, I am very proud of the music we created. We felt free to experiment with any genre that we felt like. Listening now I hear this freedom most of all. I also hear the youth and everything that goes along with that, including my own experimenting with an instrument that I grew up playing classically. Am I making any sense?
Nick: I’m not sure if this is true, but I think The Flock was one of the first bands from the genre that had a violinist in its line-up and it’s always interesting to hear such “non-standard” instruments on an album. How were the reactions back then to your work with The Flock?
Jerry: I’m pretty sure that I was one of the first to play fiddle in this context. There were very cool bands using violin. Not in the same way! “It’s a Beautiful Day”, “Kansas”, “Curved Air”. I know we were all out there at the same time. Don’t really know who came first.
Dan: Incidentally, a lot of people say it was Jean-Luc Ponty who helped introduce the violin to jazz. Would you say this is the case? He certainly is a great jazz violinist. What other great jazz violinists influenced you?
Jerry: Jean-Luc, a wonderful player, was one of the first to play “jazz” through an amp with effects. Many great violinists were known for being great jazz players on acoustic fiddle, Stephane Grappeli, Stuff Smith, Johnny Frigo….and others.
Nick: Besides The Flock, there were other jazz-rock bands on the scene such as Blood, Sweat & Tears and The Chicago Transit Authority (which later changed its name to Chicago). In your opinion, has history treated The Flock similarly to these two bands?
Jerry: No, but I don’t think we should have been. We were far less commercial. Our material kinda wandered into strange areas at times. We had many loyal fans that seemed to love this about us.
Nick: You played guitar on “Store Bought – Store Thought” from the self-title album, right? How come?
Jerry: Kind of a weird question.. Don’t you think, Nick?? Do you think I shouldn’t have?
Nick: Personally, I consider the sound of your violin as a successful counterweight to the album’s overall brass sound. Was that a main idea when joined the band?
Jerry: I don’t think counterweight was the idea. More of an addition. Sometimes playing as if a member of the horn section.
Nick: The music of The Flock is very eclectic, as many different styles can be heard, such as jazz, blues and folk motifs, greatly accompanied by a progressive rock edge. Where did all these elements come from? What were your (and the rest of the band’s) main influences back then?
Jerry: That’s a tough one, man! We were a 7 piece band, and everyone was free to contribute. I guess we all had the chance to throw a little something into the pot.
Nick: I have to praise your soloing on the Flock’s second album. “Hornschmeyer’s Island” and “Crabfoot” are especially excellent songs. What was your formula then for making songs? Did any one of you have its own ideas and then you try to mix it or were you mainly working on some specific part? Also, how much it was based around improvisations?
Jerry: Thanks man. If I remember correctly, and most of the time I don’t, those tunes were brought in by our sax/harmonica/ and singer Tom Webb. Like the others, his tunes were developed by the band as a whole. Tom had a unique sense of style in his songwriting. Although we had fun improvising within the tunes, I can’t say that any of them were based on improv.
Nick: 1970 saw you contributing to John McLaughlin’s album “My Goal’s Beyond” and it opened the door for you to join Mahavishnu Orchestra. How did you get in touch with John?
Jerry: John actually got in touch with me. The Flock had found it difficult to stay together and it was after we had split up that I got a phone call from John asking me to play on MGB. Apparently he had heard my work with the Flock and felt that I would fit in, musically.
Dan: I must sincerely praise your work with Mahavishnu Orchestra. I’ve never heard such intensity anywhere else in jazz, it’s absolutely incredible. What was it like for the five of you to work together like that? I bet you guys broke a lot of the studio equipment!
Jerry: Thanks Nick… That’s a really broad question. I think the 5 of us had different feelings at different times. I think the intensity of the music did a lot to keep us together… Like a common purpose… Or a common enemy!! I think that if we would have broken more studio equipment we might not have broken up when we did!!
Dan: I am one of the lucky few people who have a copy of the “Wild Strings” official bootleg that was recorded in Cleveland in 1972. Can you tell the story behind this album, for those who haven’t heard of it?
Jerry: I’m not sure what an “official bootleg” is… Hah. I also don’t know of any specific story about that concert. The extended length of the tunes was really the result of extended soloing. We really weren’t “jamming”. The solo sections took on a life and duration of they’re own. The beginning and end almost always being defined by a unison line!
Dan: This album contains just four tracks, and they are all extended jams based on pieces from the first album, The Meeting of the Spirits. This leads me to believe jamming was very important to MO, am I correct?
Jerry: No… Haha.
Dan: The next year, 1973, seems to have been a busy year for Mahavishnu Orchestra, as you guys released your second studio album, as well as a live album that contained more original material. Was there a reason for this flurry of activity?
Jerry: I think that we were developing an audience and felt a natural acceleration to the entire process.
Dan: Out of curiosity, why did it take so long to release the music on “The Lost Trident Sessions”? From listening to From Nothingness to Eternity it sounds like you guys had the music down pretty good. And the music on The Trident Sessions is pretty good, in my opinion. So what happened?
Jerry: The Lost Trident Sessions were really lost…. for a long time!
Dan: After 1973, Mahavishnu Orchestra seems to have broken up and quickly reformed under a new lineup still based around John. What reasons were there for this change? Did you guys feel like it was time to move on?
Jerry: I don’t feel that what happened was a reformation… It was a break up and John put a new band together… Not a different form of the old one… Again, am I making any sense?
Nick: After Mahavishu’s disbandment, you recorded an album with Jan Hammer, called “Like Children” and this album has a real gem named “Country & Eastern Music”. Would you tell us something more about this record?
Jerry: Jan and I had become good friends within the MO. Our musical backgrounds were very dissimilar and I think we always wanted to record something that brought these styles together. I think it also gave us an opportunity to stretch out and play our “other instruments”.
Nick: After “Like Children” you took a decade long break from music, until you released On the Future of Aviation in 1985. Why was that? What have you been doing in that long period? Also, do you have anything you’d like to say about that album?
Jerry: I had been playing music from the time I was 8 years old. A lot had happened during that time. I had to straighten out some motivational issues… I just didn’t expect it to take that long!!
Nick: With “On the Future of Aviation” and the next one, “Ariel”, you experimented a lot with a variety of styles. It’s rockish, but there are also some Celtic music passages. Some say it turned you into a new age artist. Do you find that label fitting?
Jerry: Those albums were done for Private Music… They were a new label and were promoting themselves as New Age. I found it interesting and challenging to combine my writing style and something different… What do you think? Sell out? Nah… I still really like that stuff!
Nick: In recent years you’ve joined as a live support for The Dixie Dregs, and you’ve contributed to their latest studio album so far, “Full Circle”. How did you come in contact with Steve Morse?
Jerry: The band got a hold of me when they were planning on going back out after a long break from touring. They were all great MO fans and when they were looking for a violinist to replace their previous one, who was unavailable, I was their first choice.
Dan: What’s it like playing with Dixie Dregs in comparison to The Flock and Mahavishnu Orchestra? You seem to enjoy joining eclectic jazz fusion bands that place a heavy emphasis on violin.
Jerry: I love playing with the Dregs. They’re all great players and the “rock” influence makes the whole thing lots of fun for me.
Nick: In 1988 you wrote the soundtrack to “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. Would you tell us something more about this? I know that you have been involved in writing film music and scores for several films. Please tell us something about this aspect of your career.
Jerry: Well, sorry Nick… I didn’t write the score for “Scoundrels”. That was a great composer by the name of “Miles” Goodman… No relation! Miles, who died many years ago, was a wonderful composer and great guy. He hired me to perform all the jazz violin (and there’s a lot of it) on the film. I am very proud of that piece of work! I also still love the film!
Nick: You’ve collaborated with Derek Sherinian on his last few solo albums. What’s it like working in a heavier atmosphere than before? Naturally you worked with people from a similar backround to Sherinian when you collaborated with Steve Morse, and Mahavishnu was pretty “heavy”, but what was it like to work in metal for a change?
Jerry: Well, I’m not sure that Derek’s stuff is really heavier…or even “Metal”…but I’ve never been very good at labels.
Nick: Apparently you have also been working with Alan Holdsworth on his album Neverrwasneverwillbe. What’s going on with that? Also, what has that been like?
Jerry: Alan and I have talked many times about doing some playing together. So far it’s just been talk. I hope it becomes a reality soon… I love his playing!
Nick: Last, but not least, you appeared on Dream Theater’s album “Black Clouds & Silver Linings”, as a performer on “The Best of Times”, as well as on cover versions of Dixie Dregs’ classic “Odyssey” and King Crimson’s “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part Two”. What was it like to work with them on these tracks? Odyssey and Larks’ Tongues were pretty good choices, if you ask me.
Jerry: Really great guys and great musicians… Everything I played was done as over dub so there wasn’t much interaction beyond production and direction. I really hope we have the chance to play together in the same room at some point.
Nick: You come from a musical family, as both of your parents were in string section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Did they pressure you to start playing a violin or it was totally your choice?
Jerry: Well, of course, I wouldn’t have started with the violin if not for my parents. They were both top professionals in Chicago. Mom did play on and off with the Chicago Symphony for many years. My father was one of the top string contractors and players on most of the commercial and film recording there.
Nick: Do you have any new projects you are working on? What’s ahead for you in the future?
Jerry: Right now I’m working on another solo project and hope to have it out early next year.
Nick: Is there anything you would like to add that hasn’t been asked already?
Jerry: I guess I’d have to say that I feel very lucky to have played with some of the most accomplished musicians anywhere. I have idolized many of them for years and it has been awesome working with them.
Nick: Thank you very much for this interview. It was a real pleasure for us having you here to answer our questions.
Jerry: Thank you very much.