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Terry Wollman: Behind the Beats

Updated: Jul 6

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Terry Wollman.


Terry Wollman has a new single and album hitting smooth jazz this month and his single “What Is Hip” has already been selected as our “Pick Of The Week”. We grabbed a few minutes with the talented, veteran guitarist.


Terry, thanks so much for taking some time for us! The new single is such a fun sounding tune. Tell us about how “What Is Hip” came about.

Thanks Allen! I’ve always been a big Tower Of Power fan and their horn section actually played on my 1988 debut album “Bimini” so we share some musical history. A few years ago I had a hip replacement and people started playfully suggesting that “What Is Hip” should be my theme song. I thought it would be fun to put my own unique spin on this iconic song, so I wrote a new arrangement and went in the studio with a few good friends to record it.


And you have Andy Snitzer guesting on sax….

I sure do! Andy and I have been following each other’s careers over the years and are fans of each other’s music. In 2019 we had the opportunity to perform together in New York on a movie called “The Bronx USA” and that experience made it clear it that it was time to record something together. We share a similar musical point of view and work ethic, and I just knew that this would be the perfect song for us to collaborate on.


You also have some other notable players on the single.

The best of the best!! Greg Manning (keyboards), Will Lee (bass), John JR Robinson (drums), Luis Conte (percussion), and my virtual horn section Wayne Bergeron (trumpets and flugelhorns) and Dan Higgins (alto, tenor, bari and alto flutes). I mixed the album with Grammy/Emmy Award winning engineer Peter Kelsey and mastered with Steve Hall/Future Disk.


Can you share any stories about recording the first single from your new album?

I knew that I wanted the music to be about collaborations. “What Is Hip?” was the first song that I recorded for my “Surface” album. I began by writing the arrangement, recording my guitars in my studio and adding Greg Manning’s keyboards, which is something we had done on previous records. My friend Will Lee happened to reach out to say that he was going to be in town for a week so we scheduled a bass and drums session with John Robinson which allowed us to capture the energy of a live performance… and then the global pandemic hit!


Everything came to a complete stop, and as the world began its reset, artists began discovering authentic ways to continue creating and sharing art in isolation. I called Luis Conte and we recorded percussion remotely at his studio, followed by Andy Snitzer’s sax performance recorded in New York. I put the finishing touches on with the incredible Wayne Bergeron and Dan Higgins recording my horn arrangement from their own studios. That experience motivated me to reach out to other musicians across the globe to see how we could collaborate and create virtually.


The new album is titled “Surface”. Tell us about how that title came about and the running theme of the music included.

My intention for this record was to create a unique musical global collaboration, a true journey of songs and stories from my heart to yours. I wanted to capture the innate spirit of artists who are driven to simply create art, and persevere, regardless of what is going on in the world around them. The global pandemic created an opportunity for all of us to reflect on what is truly important in life… love, health, family, friends, community, compassion and art. As we all struggled and the days turned into weeks, and then months… I longed to find a way back to my creativity and passion. I decided that I needed to continue writing and recording this album, and hoped that these songs would lift people, and myself, through the process. In reflecting back on my personal journey I wrote these words… “In many ways, making this album has been an awakening for me. You have to dive deep before you surface.”


The title “Surface” was suggested by my wife Melanie after I showed her the underwater photo of me with a guitar that photographer Rochelle Neally had shot. When I shared the title and photo with Lena Ringstad who does my Visual & Graphic Design, she created the beautiful album and single artwork.


How was it shooting that album cover… and how is the guitar doing after being under water?

It was a great challenge and a lot of fun! I’m always up for a new experience and adventure. I grew up in Miami so swimming is second nature to me and I have experience in front of the camera but never combined the two. I’m fine but the guitar definitely took a beating after being in the water with me for 2 hours :) The good news is after the photo session I gave the guitar some love and new strings, and brought it over to Rochelle and her wife Karen’s 2 kids who LOVE music. They now have that guitar in their home to make their own music and memories.


You have worked with some amazing artists over the years. Can you share a couple of highlights?

I’m grateful that there have been many. In my first year of moving to L.A. in 1981, I had the pleasure of touring with Billy Preston and recording with Joe Sample and The Crusaders. Those artists set the bar high in showing me the level of focus and dedication it takes to become a respected artist, songwriter, musician, producer and person. Later in my career when I was a music director for late night television I performed with artists including Little Richard, Joan Baez, George Burns, Michael McDonald, Wilson Phillips, James Ingram, Jeffrey Osborne, Ike Turner, Anita Baker and Al Jarreau. Those performances were electrifying and are moments that I will never forget! Years later I had the honor of recording with Jarreau again alongside Melissa Manchester when I co-produced her 20th album “You Gotta Love The Life.” That album included collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Joe Sample, Keb’ Mo’ and Dave Koz. Every day in the studio was a musical highlight and Melissa is as kind as she is talented.


And…. Dick Van Dyke??

Dick Van Dyke is one of the most genuine and appreciative celebrities that I have had the pleasure of working with… and man, can he swing! I was asked to produce and arrange the song “Young At Heart” for the EMMY Nominated documentary “If You’re Not In The Obit, Eat Breakfast.” We recorded and filmed the session at Capitol Studios and it was an absolute joy collaborating with him and the entire production team. I also had the opportunity to produce Alan Bergman with Dave Grusin, and co-produce Tony Bennett for the other two featured songs in the film. Go check it out, it’s a beautiful movie.


You and singer Melanie Taylor have a wonderful personal and collaborative relationship. Can you give us some insight on how that works for you?

I think there is something uniquely intimate when family members create music together. Not just for us but for other musicians we know as well who have musical parents, siblings, spouses and kids. I happen to be married to an incredibly gifted singer and we love playing together. Plus it’s really convenient when I need a world class vocalist or she needs me to play guitar or record her for a session in our studio. Melanie and I were friends for many years before we got married and actually met while performing together, so our relationship was founded in music and friendship. It’s also pretty cool that we are have traveled the world making music together.


What is on tap for you for the summer and remainder of 2022?

I’ll be at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach with my band on July 23rd and at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato on July 24th. I also have summer performances coming up with artists Melanie Taylor, Will Donato, and Kiki Ebsen’s Joni Mitchell Project.


My focus this year is promoting my new album “Surface” and upcoming singles featuring a cast of global musicians that include Bob James, Najee, Andy Snitzer, Melanie Taylor, Connie Jackson, Tollak Ollestad, Ellis Hall, Michael Thompson, Greg Manning, Pat Coil, Ron Walters Jr.. Marc Hugenberger, Abraham Laboriel Sr., Will Lee, Leland Sklar, Vail Johnson, John Robinson, Jonathan Sugarfoot Moffett, Luis Conte, Wayne Bergeron, Dan Higgins, Harry Kim, Tina Guo and a stellar group of musicians from India, curated and led by my friend, multi-Grammy Award winning musician and humanitarian Ricky Kej.


Do you have any final thoughts?

Yes, check out my weekly podcast “Making it with Terry Wollman.” And if you enjoy my music the best way of showing it is to stream or download my new single and SUBSCRIBE to my Spotify channel. As a matter of fact, please do that for any musician that you want to support. It’s free and it makes a difference. Thank you and stay inspired…



You can also keep up with Terry Wollman via his website, here.

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