DK: Because everything’s supposed to be sort of like one thing, and we’re driven by things that there’s just too much to dig into in life and life is too short not to explore it all, and so we’re motivated by that kind of impulse.
Smitty: Yes, and what you did with this record, the arrangements and the eclectic mix of the record, I think it’s beautiful.
DK: Oh, thanks.
Smitty: And as I listened to the entire record right out of the envelope, you might say….and it just flows. It’s like someone telling a story and each song is a continuation of the story.
DK: Wow. I swear to you, that was our whole goal and we were thinking, gee, I wonder if people think it’s too obtuse and it’s not gonna thread for them, but we really put a lot of labor into creating like an arc, you know, a kind of journey for people to go through.
Smitty: Yeah. I felt every bit of that, you know?
DK: Wow, Smitty, thanks. That’s a real honor.
Smitty: Oh, man, yeah. I’m loving this. And I got to see you guys in Vegas last month. That was cool.
DK: Yeah, oh yeah, which was very cool.
Smitty: At the City of Lights Jazz Festival. You both looked so fresh and ready to jam, and you had those great smiles. It was so cool to see you both.
DK: Great, no, it was great to see you, man, and good luck and blessings on your project, and may it grow and grow and grow.
Smitty: Yeah, thank you. Another thought that came to my mind as I was listening to the record is that it has such an inspirational energy to it because let’s face it, your band, you’ve got some stellar players.
DK: We’re good and blessed. Yeah, I mean, Danny Yamamoto, our drummer, when he was in high school he was playing in a jazz trio with Billy Childs.
DK: You know what I’m saying? When he was in high school.
DK: They went to high school together and they had a trio with Billy Childs and the bass player was Larry Kline who was a great record producer, great bass player and was married to Joni Mitchell for a long time.
DK: So he started from there and then you go to our bass player, Dean Cortez, who’s played on more than 300 records and movies, but he was the original bass player on Boz’s [Scaggs] world tour Lowdown, that was Dean.
DK: And he has played on Caldera, the all-time Latin fusion band, and on a million, million records, and then you got Kimo Cornwell, our keyboard player, who was with [Al] Jarreau for a long time and Frankie Beverly Live at the Universal Amph, that live recording, that double record set.
Smitty: Oh yeah, he’s a great player.
DK: Yeah, and played with Ronnie Laws and John Klemmer and everybody, and I don’t even need to talk about June, although she’s on Pirates of the Caribbean. I didn’t get to play on this one.
DK: I got to play on the first Pirates of the Caribbean. I played shakuhachi, the bamboo flute, on that.
Smitty: Yeah, that was cool.
DK: And then she got this one and I didn’t get on this one, so now I’m bitter. (Both laugh.) June does a lot of movie work and she’s played on so many people’s records that people don’t even really realize some of it like rock to Manhattan Transfer to Teddy Pendergrass; she’s played on almost 50 different records. Everyone just….they all trip out when they go “Oh, she was Taste of Honey. She was Sukiyaki with Janice Marie and them in Taste of Honey way back.”
Smitty: Yes indeed.
DK: And people go “Oh, yeah, that was June too, right?” And she’s covered all that ground and yet she’s played concerts with Ravi Shankar and all these heavyweight classical people too.
Smitty: Yeah. Well, when I see her play live and remember some of the bands she’s played with, I can see her background just by the way she moves. I mean, she’s got a rhythm and she’s so into her musicianship and she has the ultimate confidence in what she’s doing.
DK: Well, I don’t know if it’s confidence. It’s heart.
Smitty: Yeah, yeah.
DK: The moment she starts playing, it’s like she takes that two thousand years of koto music with her. She takes all the experiences with her and she takes growing up in the ghetto with her, so it’s heart and soul and it’s joy and she’s always smiling.
Smitty: Oh yeah.
DK: And so rich with all of that, and then all she does when she sits there is she gives and she gives, and it’s fresh every time because she’s always inventing, always being creative. She’s fearless that way and so that makes us….we gotta come up to the plate and swing. (Both laugh.) because there’s no middle ground with her because that’s the approach that she has, and I think that’s why audiences connect so much with her. That’s why we love making records, but for us it’s really the live thing where people can really connect because you have to see the taiko and the way it’s played, you have to see June and the koto and the things she does, you gotta hear Kimo and see how bad he is. He’s got that McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock thing because those are his big influences, right?
DK: Because 12 years playing with nothing but all the best R&B artists in the world and stuff, he can make it all flow together and that sort of thing, so that’s what makes it so much fun, and that’s why on this record we cover so many different kinds of things, like that’s why we kicked off with “Midnight Sun” because it’s an issue of like brothers and sisters are on this planet and “Midnight Sun” that June wrote is about the Middle East. It’s filled with Middle Eastern rhythms, but it’s Middle Eastern rhythms combined with like Japanese things and jazz things because it’s one planet.
DK: Another interesting song is “Hidden Times,” which is so mysterious and goes through all these different journeys that June wrote, but that’s because we were playing at the Pasadena Jazz Festival last year and we’re signing autographs after the show and this white woman comes up with this brother and they’re going like “Where’s June?” And then June comes to find out she has a whole ‘nother extended family from off of one of her uncles that she had never known that is primarily African American.
Smitty: Oh, wow.
DK: And she didn’t even know that until last year.