As a member of Elton John’s band in the superstar’s early years and in his pop heyday circa 1975-76, Caleb Quaye toured the globe and performed in front of crowds of more than 50,000, including a legendary concert at Dodger Stadium in 1975. In the late ‘70s, Quaye worked similar electric magic for the famed duo, Hall & Oates.
Some years later, after departing the crazy world of rock and roll, Quaye performed for 300,000 fans in Myrtle Beach, SC as part of his second career playing inspirational music. In recent years, he’s also played in Japan, his native U.K. and Croatia—and last year he did a show at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
When Quaye takes the stage with his new band, The Faculty, at Spaghettini Grill & Jazz Club on March 3, 2010 to celebrate the release of their new full length Indie album, Out Of The Blue, the crowd will surely be more intimate. But from the moment he lets loose on his electric guitar—more specifically, his own Caleb Quaye Signature axe created by Brazen Guitars—the few hundred or so in attendance will experience the same mix of fiery passion and brilliant melodies that fans of his rock and faith based music have been enjoying for years.
One of those fans is the legendary Eric Clapton. During a television with David Letterman some years ago, the host asked the legendary blues rocker, “So what’s it like to be the best guitar player in the world?” Clapton replied, “I’m not. Caleb Quaye is!”
Fitting perfectly in the realm of smooth contemporary jazz but with distinctive rock and fusion flavors, Out of The Blue celebrates the best of Quaye’s lifetime of diverse guitar influences, from Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin to Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Cropper and Phil Upchurch. It also represents the edgy and infectious handiwork of an incredible ensemble of musicians that became a band by what Quaye calls an “accident,” but has evolved so seamlessly, that it seems part of a vastly cool jazz conspiracy. Out Of The Blue, a nine- track instrumental set, is Caleb Quaye And The Faculty’s first studio album and follow-up to their 2008 live CD, One Night In San Dimas, a show that was recorded at Life Pacific College.
A smooth jazz radio campaign is currently in the works for three tracks on Out Of The Blue: the title cut, “Ask And You Shall Receive” and “Changing Seasons.”
While Quaye’s resume lists the ‘who’s who’ in classic rock and pop —including Harry Nilsson, Beach Boys, Joan Baez, Al Kooper, David Foster, Liza Minelli, Pete Townshend and The Troggs—the associations of his compatriots in The Faculty are equally star-studded and diverse. Keyboardist Charles Williams has worked with everyone from Philip Bailey and Andrae Crouch to Deniece Williams, Ry Cooder and Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. Bassist Robert “Pee Wee” Hill’s list includes Billy Preston, Sly Stone, Jimmy Smith, Rufus, Bob Dylan and T-Bone Burnett. Doug Matthews (drums) has kept time for some of the top names in Christian rock including Phil Keaggy, Howard Roberts, Rique Pantoja, Rick Elias, Red Young and Tommy Walker.
Caleb Quaye And The Faculty performed in January 2010 at the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA to a rousing ovation at the Anaheim Hilton after one of the day’s events; Quaye was there to help promote his signature Brazen instrument, which is loaded with Seymour Duncan pick-ups. Quaye is also endorsed by custom guitar and bass amp manufacturer Mesa Boogie.
The formation of Caleb Quaye And The Faculty was purely organic. “There was seriously no grand plan in making this group come together,” says Quaye. “Our name came from the fact that Charles, Doug and I were part of the music faculty at Life Pacific College. I got a call one day from a woman in the film department at Biola University, asking me if I could put a band together to play an annual music conference there. Charles and Doug agreed first, and then I brought in Pee Wee, who I’ve known and worked with for 30 years. We booked a rehearsal, had a great time playing the event and thought it would be cool to get together and play in a less formal setting sometime. We set up shop at a coffee house in San Dimas, California and began playing strictly for our own enjoyment. “
“I started writing songs and the jazz rock instrumentals began flowing effortlessly,” he adds. “It’s a style that has emerged naturally over the years, and this new band situation was a wonderful opportunity to play the kind of heartfelt music I have always wanted to play. Most of my writing comes out of riffs I discover at practice sessions. I’ve played guitar for 50 years now and it’s natural that many of those internalized influences come out in my playing. Suddenly a riff or chord sequence pops up, or maybe a groove comes to me, and my job is to catch it as it’s flying by!”
Caleb Quaye And The Faculty decided to lay down four original tracks with all the musicians playing live in the same room at Hill’s home studio in Pasadena. When those sessions went well, Hill suggested they do more tunes, so Quaye went back to “his cave” and quickly emerged with charts for five additional songs, which the band also cut live; the only overdubs were a few Hammond B-3 parts and synth strings. Of the nine tracks on Out Of The Blue, the guitarist’s personal favorites are the spiritually inspired “Ask And You Shall Receive,” a sensual, hypnotic piece he dubs a “mix of mild be-bop and funk,” and “Just Passing Through,” which features a cool, melodic vibe and relaxed 7/4 time signature. It was inspired by his belief that life is a journey, that where we end up is more important than how we started, and that the earth is not our ultimate home.
Quaye’s longtime association with Elton John, which includes participation on classic EJ recordings like Empty Sky, Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water, Rock Of The Westies and Blue Moves, ensured that his own musical journey is also a collective part of rock history. He met Sir Elton originally when the two of them were part of Long John Baldry’s backing band Bluesology, when Elton was known as Reg Dwight. When Bluesology disbanded in 1967, Quaye released a single under the artist name Caleb and later played guitar with Elton at live concerts in the London area. In 1970, Quaye formed Hookfoot with three musicians who had also backed Elton’s earliest live shows; Hookfoot’s self-titled debut was a mix of rock and jazz, while their follow-up Good Times A-Comin’ was a more straight ahead rock effort.
After several more releases, the band disbanded in 1974 and Quaye stayed in the U.S. to become a session musician. All told, he played off and on for more than ten years with Elton both as a session player and later, a full band member, appearing on all of his earliest recordings through 1972. He became a full-time recording and touring member of the Elton John Band in 1975-76. In 1978, Quaye and two other members of this band, Kenny Passarelli and Roger Pope joined Hall & Oates. In the early ‘80s, Quaye shifted gears musically and spiritually and began incorporating faith into the songs he wrote, recorded and performed. Now, after spending several years performing inspirational music, he’s excited about making his long-awaited return to the jazz scene with Out Of The Blue.
“I am very proud of all of the work I have done, both in the rock and faith arenas,” Quaye admits. “It’s fun to think back to the days with Elton, when we were truly the pioneers of stadium rock. We’d play to crowds of 90,000 people some nights that were so loud, the guys in the band would have to scream to communicate onstage. I made good contributions to recordings that have stood the test of time and have touched several generations of Elton’s fans. In the context of faith, I have had the privilege of experiencing the music I wrote and played, affecting people’s lives for all eternity.”
“Many people would come to church messed up with substance abuse, or just confused about things,” he says. “Sometimes as quickly as a single verse and chorus into a song, they would be moved by the music and lyrics which had the power to change their lives. No matter what kind of music I’m playing, I know it’s always about reaching out and making that connection. The band and I are very excited about getting out there and playing jazz now at festivals, wineries and clubs. I’ve been doing this professionally for over 40 years, but there is always something to be excited about!”