Leland Sklar

Lee Sklar

 The word “legend’ gets thrown around pretty liberally these days, it’s even a standing joke at River Studios that I am ALWAYS to be referred to as “Local Legend” which, if I’m honest, I’ve done little to surpress. The dictionary defines legend as “an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.” I guess I can be somewhat classed as notorious  if not extremely famous!

This week, I had the good fortune to meet a couple of legends, in the true sense of the word…….

Following a tip-off from one of my bass buddies, I travelled up to London to watch a gig by British-born, US-based singer-songwriter Judith Owen, whose music I was unfamiliar with but whose backing band were certainly known to me!
The location of the gig was the beautiful Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, an intimate venue with glorious acoustics and wonderful architecture. The audience filed in and, taking my seat on the front row, I noticed bassists Steve Lawson and Yolanda Charles in the crowd, as well as Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris so the signs were that this was going to be a special gig. One other notable audience member was US actor Harry Shearer who, as well as voicing several characters from The Simpsons, also played bassist Derek Smalls in the classic muso-film Spinal Tap. Harry also just happens to be Judith’s husband.

Russell Kunkel

Russell Kunkel

As the band took to the stage, I literally held my breath…..
On bass was the “legend’ that is Leland (Lee) Sklar, the Dumbledore-bearded maestro who has played with everyone from James Taylor & Carole King, to Phil Collins and Hall & Oates. Lee’s CV is just about as comprehensive and diverse as it’s possible to get!

On drums was another “legend” (there’s that word again) Russell (Rusty) Kunkel, who is Carole King’s go-to sticksman and played on the classic Tapestry album.The band also featured a fantastic London-based, Portuguese percussionist, Pedro Segundo and Judith herself on piano and vocals.

The gig itself was sublime, a mixture of original material from Judith’s current album Ebb & Flow, and some nice re-workings of songs such a bossa nova version of Summer Nights from the musical Grease. All of the musicians are at the top of their game, playing with subtlety and feel that only years honing your craft can bring.

Following the show, the band were happy to hang out with the audience and it turned into a muso hang out with all the aforementioned crowd members loitering in the bar, comparing notes.

I had the opportunity to meet with Lee Sklar and he is a warm and gracious man, even entering into some muso-pointing as you can se from the picture above. I also managed to grab Russ Kunkel in the bar, who was also very friendly and happy to chat, despite me droning on about Tapestry and how I loved his work.

I drove home from the gig in a daydream fog that was thicker that the ACTUAL fog which had descended across the South Downs!!


Judith (and the boys) will be back in the UK in May supporting Bryan Ferry on his tour.