Skip Bauchman might be the only jazz artist you’ve ever heard who joined forces with the Secret Service to protect four Presidents – Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush – as part of the Anti-Terrorist unit of the LAPD. All throughout his 32 year career in the department—which included stints in narcotics, gang units and homicide—the Los Angeles born multi-instrumentalist (guitar, drums, bass, keyboard programming) played gigs whenever he could, including celebrations thrown by his fellow officers. Over the years, he has also played with numerous bands in many different genres, from R&B/funk to contemporary jazz.
Two years before his retirement in 2009, he gathered his friends, veteran musicians Henry Battle (sax) and Edell Shepherd (keys)—a pal and musical compatriot since the two were 14 years old–to record his long awaited debut album under the group name B&B Jazz Company. Bauchman described the vibe of the ten track Soul Menu On Back as “the Crusaders meet Tower of Power after lunch with Bootsy Collins.” Shepherd’s extensive resume includes stints with everyone from The Gap Band to Barry White. Over the years and while he was still a police officer, Bauchman heard this every time he entered a recording studio to do a session: “Isn’t he a cop?” “Yeah, but he’s cool!”
Finally having the time to dedicate to pursuing his musical career full time, Bauchman and his band—recording under the moniker Skip Bauchman and the B&B Jazz Company–are back with the even more delightfully eclectic Universal Vibe, a joyfully frenzied celebration that starts with some in the pocket, sax driven jazz funk but expands to show Bauchman’s dynamic abilities on guitar and drums and his affinity for rock, jazz fusion, chill/electronica, old school soul-jazz, blues, TOP-flavored horn jams, Middle Eastern music, Latin jazz and Brazilian music.
“An independent group like ours could make an attempt to gain attention by sounding like other artists and fitting into strictly tailored formats,” says Bauchman, a largely self-taught musician whose education came from church and listening to the radio. “But that didn’t seem very interesting to us. The Universal Vibe idea makes sense because of the way people consume music these days. Everyone has something you wouldn’t expect on their iPod. The album goes in many directions but that means a little something for everyone. That’s the way I play live too, taking risks, doing unexpected things because it’s fun. I love everything from Sinatra to Zappa, and being around the music industry for many years and living a lot of life has exposed me to a lot of different styles and grooves. I’m always picking up new ideas and it’s exciting to have an opportunity to do that now with such great players. There was no roadmap when we started Universal Vibe, which made it even more exciting as it developed. It left a lot of room for new ideas and spontaneity.”
Universal Vibe kicks off with its first single, the easy funk and shuffle groove driven, in the pocket “Paradise Was Cool”, a whimsical showcase for Rodney Taylor’s smoky alto sax and Bauchman’s jangling guitar that also features some sizzling horn textures. The freewheeling “Switch That Groove” does just what it says, starting with a funky old school vibe (with an emotional doubled horn hook) and then evolving into a fiery rock/jazz fusion jam featuring Bauchman’s searing electric guitar. The group introduces a rich blues element into the mix on “Snap To This,” which features hypnotic Hammond B-3 riffs, synthesized electronic effects and Taylor’s squealing sax lines, all complemented by reflective jazzy trumpet parts. With its wild Middle Eastern strings under a playful Brazilian beat, the coolly hypnotic, supremely loungey “Paulo and Aziz” was inspired by a character in the film “The Fifth Element”, a favorite of Bauchman and his daughter. Bauchman’s daughter—and her penchant for interrupting her dad when he’s hard at work in the studio–also inspired the ambient, soundscape rich “Interrupted By Life…Ashley’s Song,” which features Bauchman’s snappy acoustic guitar and guest sax master, Cleto Escobeto’s playful jazzy sax melody.
“Can’t End This Love” brings a wondrously exotic flair to the set, with a keyboard and elegant piano melody drifting over throbbing electronica percussion, a samba groove and an elegant piano solo; Bauchman’s sharp jazz playing on this tune is reminiscent of Wes Montgomery. “Straighten Up Right Now” is all whimsical romantic funky sax over exotic textures that include a tropical flavored ambience and vibraphone textures. Named after a phrase used by LAPD cops in pursuit of suspects through a neighborhood, “Southbound Through The Houses” is a high-energy frenetic swirl of funk, traditional jazz, ambience over electronica beats, experimental synth sounds and an organic B-3 organ vibe. “Old Man Cool” goes to “old man old school,’ with Bauchman’s subdued electric guitar riding over an easy crunching R&B groove, with spacey synth ambiences in the distance. After the densely percussive, supremely exotic freewheeling samba “The Voyage Of…” the band wraps the set with “Whisper in My Ear”, a hybrid of lighthearted classic soul and traditional jazz, with cool interplay between guitar and vibrant horn textures.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Skip Bauchman’s early music education came from church and the radio – and it always seemed like everyone he knew was making records, from church choirs to individual ministers. He started playing the guitar around 11 or 12, and when the strings broke, he used the body as a percussion instrument. His parents later bought him a drum kit, and he was relegated to the back porch, learning to play along to his favorite R&B songs. A neighbor who had a small home demo studio liked Bauchman’s playing and hired him to play drums on demos for several songs that later became pop hits, including tunes by Little Johnny Taylor and Hugh Masekela. He later played with numerous neighborhood bands, gospel groups and big church choirs. He also learned a lot from the many L.A. based jazz musicians he met over the years. Though his many years in law enforcement limited his time to play with bands, in clubs and on sessions, he continued to educate himself about the studio world and at an earlier point wanted to retire and concentrate on session work. He also built a 24-track studio in his house to record demos of his own music. His two worlds collided quite often, most significantly when he began working with Copper Creek, a band made up entirely of cops that played 50s rock and country music.