Yours truly was blown away when Jeff “Boday” Christensen agreed to go in the studio with me. It was Christmas in July. After all, this guy is a guitarist’s guitarist. Name the style, Christensen can play it with finesse to spare. From rock to reggae to blues to country to his calling card since 1997, smooth-jazz, a fairly recently acknowledged genre, basically the bastard child of jazz and pop, a la 80s icon Sadé. His albums, after leaving seminal Twin Cities Afro-Cuban rockers One World, are Boday, Do You Know, French Vanilla, and Butterfly Legs.
Stan Kipper and Chico Perez, Christensen’s old bandmates from One World, had already laid down tracks for the project. In fact, Christensen put the finishing touch, a tantalizing acoustic guitar, on a cut that has Alicia Wiley doing a featured vocal and Yohannes Tona on bass and piano with Kipper singing and Perez on congas, plus Aaron “Orange A.C.” Cosgrove from The New Congress on electric guitar. I spent most of the session scarfing down cashews, guzzling Mountain Dew, and reading magazines. The engineer’d call me in to listen to a take, I’d give a thumbs up, go back to the lobby, and grin all over myself. Christensen is brilliantly imaginative when it’s called for, deftly understated when that’s needed, and a damned easy cat to get along with.
I’d already reviewed Butterfly Legs, but, by the time we got done—it was at Winterland Studios—had to ask Jeff “Boday” Christensen to do a Q&A.
You’ve taken a break from your solo career to get hitched. Congrats. You will return to your solo career at some point, yes? No? Maybe?
Solo career? Maybe. All depends on how it presents itself.
You told me about a studio session that took three nights. Who was that with, why’d it take so long, and what was that about weird time signatures?
The three-night session is basically a studio band. Studio guys I’ve played with off and on, for many years. Chas Carlson on keys, West Foster on bass, Mark Morris on drums. The writing involved some tricky arrangements and funky time signatures—7/4 and 5/4, for example. Catch you off guard. A fusion blues jazzy rock thing. Kind of like the Jeff Beck and Max Middleton collaboration thing they had going on.
How did Jeff’s Piano Service come into being? What keeps it going?
Holy shit, I’ve been tuning for 23-plus years. Started the biz in Hastings. A friend of mine owns a piano rebuilding company. He got me started and I continued from there. Word of mouth plays a big part and repeat clients are key in keeping it going. If you do a good job, people spread the word—like any business. Early on, I happened to get the tuning duties for Prince and Paisley Park Studios. That lasted for seven years. Every ten days I would tune the pianos in studios A & B and eventually studio C with the arrival of another grand. Paisley Park is a world-class facility, by the way. Beautiful place. All the pianos were Yamaha Grands. I would also be called to tune Prince’s purple grand at his home, when needed, along with his father’s two grands at his home. When I was tuning there, the studio was active. Album projects, commercial work, film projects—like Grumpy Old Men—were continuously in production. I’d be called in to tune for Barry Manilow, Neil Young, George Benson, Donny Osmond, Stevie Wonder, and artists I never even knew about. There was a Russian ballet [company], I believe, that filmed on the sound stage. Prince would rehearse with full production before going out on tour. I’d be there to touch up the piano if it got knocked out during rehearsal. The soundstage is huge. I experienced the Batman phase when Prince and Kim Basinger were an item. My life revolved around ten-day stints or less for seven years. It was a trip. My country tunings were Ronnie Milsap and Crystal Gayle, from what I remember.
You’ve got four albums, national airplay. How do you keep your head from getting swelled?
[My] head didn’t really swell. The excitement of hearing my music egularly on the air and weekly radio reports from around the country and abroad was very exciting. Live radio interviews. CD sales, getting product into retail outlets [like] Target, BestBuy, Borders. Watching your single climb the charts is an emotional high that one can only experience to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. That dream. A reality.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.
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