Sail On with the Groove – Words of Jazz from Patrick Yandall

Patrick Yandall 3

Lots of airplay for guitarist Patrick Yandall’s “A Journey Home,” which starts out with an assertive striking of block chords then it’s all smooth sailing from there. Bright horns, funky/bluesy organ and more blues from the guitar, followed by a steady, easy beat. In “Ethos” there’s lots of waka-waka funkydoodle with a groove that won’t quit. He makes it sound so easy.

Breaking out with his early 1990s winning entry in a radio contest with “Newport Breeze,” Patrick has proven to be a master of the sticky hook; just take a listen to “My Ride” and how you feel when the music meanders and you await the return of that swinging theme! The energetic “Blue Jay Blues” has some classic blues riffs from the sax and trumpet, almost bopping an acknowledgement to the Big Band era.

Rather than teasing apart the genres like tightly woven threads and examining them under a microscope, just receive its message: whatever the influence that peeks through from riff to riff, Patrick’s music is absolutely about enjoying the ride. Keep that in mind for his newest release this year, “10 South Riverside”!

When did you start playing the guitar?

When I was in fourth grade I played trumpet in the school band. In fifth grade I started to play my dad’s ukulele and his guitars. Once I started learning songs on the guitar, that was it for me.

By the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I started playing with bands in clubs in Michigan even though I was under age and still in high school. Played mostly blues rock like the Allman Brothers, Cream, Hendrix and Robin Trower. I also started to listen to and perform some prog rock music from bands like Yes, Rush and Kansas. Guitarist Steve Howe from Yes is one of my favorite guitarists ever!

Favorite guitars?

The guitar that I have recorded the most with is a Blonde Fender Stratocaster that has been customized for me with one of my endorsers products – Seymour Duncan pickups. All my guitars are modified by Fred Moratta at The Repair Zone in San Diego, CA. This guitar is very versatile and works for jazz and blues. Second is a G&L Stratocaster. Setup is very similar to the first guitar mentioned. Very comfortable to play for jazz and blues/rock.

These guitars are mostly used in rock and blues, but both those genres’ influences are heard in my jazz.

Third is my Eastman Jazz Guitar hollow body. Excellent for music like on my new 2018 release “10 South Riverside” that is very traditional jazz, sounding like George Benson and Wes Montgomery. I wanted that sound of guitar on this new project.

For acoustic guitar work I use a Martin D-28 and nylon classical by Takamine.

Best piece of advice on technique from your early years?

Develop your ear! I feel pretty comfortable in most musical situations playing guitar whether it’s jazz, blues, rock, R&B, etc. because from a very early age I learned by listening to and learning different genres of music. Helps when composing and learning songs from other artists also. “Hearing” the music!  

Best tip for navigating the music business and whom did it come from?

“Write and produce your original music” from Dean Whitney (RIP), CEO of BrainChild Records! Writing original music is a must if you are going to have a career as a musician.

When I received my first record contract in 1996, it was on BrainChild Records. Other groups and artists on that label: Russ Freeman, Kilauea, Richard Smith and Greg Vail.

Dean told me, you are not going to make a living in music unless you keep writing and producing original music. He was a very wise man and a great mentor. Helped me find many different avenues where my music could make money. I produce and compose music that I’m very passionate about, and I go to work every day recording, composing and practicing!

Career – from 1994 to now – how have you grown as a musician?

In 1992 I had already completed recording my first release “That Feels Nice.” What started that was in early 1991 a friend of mine, Robin Roth, who was a DJ at 92.5FM in San Diego, contacted me and said Budweiser was having a national competition for music and jazz was one of the categories.

She said she wanted to submit some of my music for this. I submitted a track “Newport Breeze” and it won for jazz and represented SoCal in the national competition. They ended up printing hundreds of the single on vinyl! I still have a few of those…someone was selling one on eBay for a lot of money.

People who heard about it, including some musicians, said I should record a full album. That’s when I decided to make a go of it and record my first project “That Feels Nice” which featured Carl Evans Jr. and Hollis Gentry III of Fattburger, James East on bass (Nathan’s brother), Bob Hall and more, all huge jazz musicians from San Diego.

Twenty-one CD’s later, here we are. Whether I am performing all the instruments or having guests, I want the music to breathe and groove like a band is performing it. Whether it’s jazz, blues, or whatever, breathe and groove. 

What’s the difference for you between playing in the recording studio vs. performing live?

I always try to record songs that I think will appeal to the average listener whether they like jazz, contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, soul, blues, pop, or R&B. The studio versions hope to make them like what they are hearing and not just show off my or another guest artists’ technical soloing or composition.

I save the extended solos by myself and sidemen for live performances. My expression of music really comes out in live performances, and I love sitting back and listening to others soloists express themselves performing my compositions, as well as expanding my solos.

Top favorite collaborations?

I had an album come out in 2005 called “From the Ashes” on Apria Records (a New York label). Many of the songs I wrote for that came out of a lot of mixed feelings. We just had the fires in San Diego, CA and were evacuated. Our house survived, but so many feelings and emotions were going through me when I wrote the music for that project recorded at Tony Bennett studios in New Jersey, and working with Tony’s son, the amazing engineer Dae Bennett!

The label was very good with getting some great musicians. Playing on that record were Randy Brecker (Brecker Brothers) on trumpet, Will Lee (David Letterman Show) on bass, Joel Rosenblatt (Spyro Gyra) on drums, Ada Rovatti on sax, Scott Wilkie and Andre Mayeux on keys, and Nathan Brown also on bass. It was a proud moment to have some of those cats on one of my albums.

I also had an album titled “A New Day” where I collaborated with a talented producer from Reno, Nevada, Marc Pierucci. Great friend and talented keyboardist also! That album had all original compositions and contained the track “Mr. Fattburger” that ended up being in the feature film “Fruitvale Station.” The movie really hit home with race relations between police and people of color. I was so proud to be affiliated with that movie!   

Favorite types of songs to solo in?

Funky/bluesy tunes with jazz changes. Solos have to start out and build with dynamics. Love that aspect of jazz soloing. My performances don’t have choreographed dance steps going on. It’s more about the music and the musicians telling stories through their playing.

Do you prefer the vibe of a small, intimate club or a large concert venue?

Both have their perks. Jazz festivals like the River Raisin Festival in beautiful Monroe, Michigan is a blast! The people appreciate musicianship and really come out to hear cats play.

The sound at The State Theatre where I recorded a concert for PBS that you can see on YouTube really is a joy to play because the sound is wonderful and some great jazz fans there in Bay City, MI! Small venues like Spaghettini and Sanctuary Lounge on the West Coast are very intimate and a joy to play. 

How do you think smooth jazz has changed since the 1990s?

When I got into this genre in the early 90’s, it was called “Contemporary Jazz.” It was a lot more diverse then. It was a definite mix of traditional jazz, rock, R&B and funk. It was “heavier.”

Radio programmers in the smooth jazz format started to reject songs that had rock-sounding guitars, certain types of sax sounds also. This was not helping develop the genre’s appeal! Hence smooth jazz stations went down left and right. But things are coming around where you hear some of those sounds returning. 

What do you think of continuing to differentiate sub-genres?

I think of jazz as traditional, fusion and smooth. They are very different but sometimes you will hear elements of one in the other.

Labels sometimes turn people off before they even give it a chance. I like a lot of different styles. Always have. Music should always be what sounds good and stirs some emotions in you. Music is a gift. You can accept it or return it if it’s not to your taste.  

Why do you think “Tower of Soul” topped the charts for 5 consecutive weeks?

I think that track did pretty well because it had energy, an R&B groove and a catchy bluesy chorus. Also, with a rock/blues vibe in the guitars and solos.  

How would you characterize the style and message of “A Journey Home”?

For me, it was a journey back to a sound of music and guitar that I am comfortable with, and playing music that has jazz, R&B, rock and blues flavors. I’m happy when I’m playing music that has those elements!    

Same question for “Ethos”?

The definition of Ethos is “a Greek train of thought that attitudes and perceptions can be changed by music.” I wanted to show that funk, rock, blues, Latin and R&B could all be included in a jazz setting.

Favorite tracks?

On Ethos, the single I released “Peyton’s Place” was written for my grandniece who is four years old, energetic and good fun to be around. I wanted the music to reflect her spirit. The track is in the Weather Report vein and is a blast to perform live!

Also on Ethos, a track that represents my sound is “Say Goodbye.” A jazz ballad where I like the sound and feel of my guitar work.

On “A Journey Home” the track “Passion” is a song I like to listen to for the guitar. A rock-blues-fusion-jazz sound. And for production the title track and single “A Journey Home” really satisfied what I was trying to represent with this composition. Uplifting and joyous! Another track from this release, “One Way In,” represents a jazz-fusion approach to music that appears in a lot of my releases. 

Who played with you on those two CDs?

I did all the instruments on both of those releases. A lot of work involved, but a labor of love!  

How much material do you typically have in the hopper?

Tons, I am composing and recording every day unless I am on the road for a show. I don’t tour, but I wouldn’t mind doing it now that my son is in college. Looking for a booking agent/agency now. But, I am also always recording new music for music libraries that use my music in TV, movies, etc.  

Do you like promoting on social media?

I do, I feel it helps because some of the magazines and sites just focus on a few artists, and social media and personal websites are the only way I can keep in touch with our thousands of followers from my sites like and

It really helps with marketing a new release and keeping in touch with fans!

What did it feel like to receive a Grammy nomination?

Both “Ethos” and “A Journey Home” were under Grammy consideration for the Contemporary Instrumental category. It was a great feeling and I was proud, but neither made it to the final nominees list.  

Place you’ve always wanted to perform?

Yoshi’s is on the bucket list for me. Also Berks Jazz Festival would be great. They were interested but nothing ever came from it.  

What are your plans for touring and performing this year?

I would like to start touring more and am looking for an agent/agency to handle me. I’ll be performing at The State Theatre in Bay City, MI on Sunday April 22 with the Bijou Orchestra. Really looking forward to performing with that orchestra. Thursday, July 12 for the River Raisin Jazz Series in Monroe, MI and River Raisin in August. Hopefully start booking some more venues, festivals, cruises…

Other comments?

Just want to say, I feel very blessed to do music for a living. It takes a family of support and you never get used to being told “no.” It happens around most corners. But I still do it because of my true love of music. I do it because when I am not doing it, I feel a little lost. So I’ll keep doing what I do, and hopefully someone hears it and thinks “that is a cool song” or “I really like the guitar in that track.”

Music is my passion, my obsession, and was my first love! To all the other artists, I have nothing but love for you and wish all of you success in this crazy business. I feel your pain! 

For more information, visit; and

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Patrick Yandall.

© Debbie Burke 2018

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