There’s plenty of jazz in Jeff Golub’s blues but that’s perhaps to be expected from a performer whose resume ranges from album rock to smooth jazz.
There’s no better way to sample the guitarist’s bluesy blend than on his latest album, “Train Keeps A Rolling.” The collection released last week finds Golub collaborating with keyboardist Brian Auger and the two musicians are on tour this summer to support the disc.
Golub and Auger come to Northern California to perform August 29 at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. The show kicks off the venue’s Smooth Jazz Series which also Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra (August 30-September 1), Tony Exum Jr. and Dee Lucas (September 8), Jeff Lorber Fusion (September 26), Nick Colionne (September 27) and Earl Klugh (October 3).
Raised in Akron, Ohio, Golub’s initial goal was to play bluegrass. That changed with the British Invasion, which revealed to him the joys of playing pop and turned him on to blues. Golub didn't study jazz until enrolling at Boston's Berklee School of Music in the late 1970s. He moved to New York in 1980 bent on becoming a studio musician. Within a few months, he was asked to join Billy Squier's band.
Squier had just released his second album, ''Don't Say No'' (1981), when Golub signed on. Capitol Records put out a single and the band departed for Europe.
''He hadn't really taken off when he hired me,'' Golub told me a few years back in an interview. ''We went to England for like six weeks and (the single) wasn't a big deal in the States. But by the time we came back, it was a huge hit record.''
The record was ''The Stroke,'' and it had found an audience on FM rock radio and AM top 40. Two more singles – ''My Kinda Lover'' and ''In the Dark'' – followed and the album went on to sell millions.
''It was my dream come true, what my dream was at that time,'' Golub said. ''It was just exciting, suddenly playing coliseums. I was 24 years old and a single guy and traveling the country with a rock band.''
Squier recorded the hit albums ''Emotions in Motion'' (1982) and ''Signs of Life'' (1984) with Golub. The hits dried up after that, but they remain friends. Golub continued his studio work, playing on tracks by Peter Wolf, John Waite and Vanessa Williams. Golub's career took a turn in 1988 when he released his debut album, ''Unspoken Words,'' and began an eight-year collaboration with Rod Stewart.
''I was a fan of his,'' Golub said. ''We worked closely during that time and we wrote a lot of songs together.''
Golub and Stewart collaborated on four tracks for Stewart's ''Vagabond Heart'' album in 1991. While they occasionally disagreed over what direction a song should take, there never was any question about how the dispute would be resolved.
''He'd open his mouth and start to sing and I thought, 'Oh, he's got the right to do whatever he wants,' '' Golub said. ''He's one of those guys who just has what it takes to move somebody.''
By 1995, Golub was ready to move on.
''That was after 15 years of touring, coliseum-style stuff,'' he said. ''That was a long time to be playing those big audiences.''
Golub longed for more intimate venues, and music that matched. He was tired of playing rock.
''Rock music, for me, has stagnated too much at this point,'' Golub said. ''It's not the rock music I grew up wanting to play. Guitar has left as the featured instrument.''
So Golub expanded on his jazz experience. He began working with pianist Bob James and saxophonist Kirk Whalum and recorded his own songs with a group of studio musicians. He dubbed the enterprise Avenue Blue.
The group released two albums – ''Avenue Blue'' (1994) and ''Naked City'' (1996) – before its success enabled Golub to use his own name. He’s released 12 discs to date, including the just-out “Train Keeps a Rolling.” The album features original tunes and such blues staples as “I Love the Life I Live” and the title track.
''Miles Davis once said, 'You should put covers on your record because then people will know how you play,' " Golub said. "I want it to sound like us doing these songs.”
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