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Jack Phillips ~ Singer/Songwriter Special Guest On 8/3/2023

Jack Phillips (born John Phillips) grew up in Fresno in a musical family. His mother and both grandmothers all played the piano very well and supported local symphonic music. In his midteens Jack, who had been studying the piano since an early age, began experimenting with composing. Soon he began writing music in earnest and performing in his hometown club and on college campuses. In 1981 Jack started working with Russ Hildreth at his Fresno recording studio. In the early 1980s he recorded a number of original songs and instrumentals that formed the basis for his first EP First Hand recorded in November 1982. In 1984 and 1985, he performed two major concerts of original music and cover songs at the Occidental College theater, Thorne Hall.

He recorded his second EP In The Front Yard in December 1985 and his third EP of instrumental pieces Portrait in the fall of 1986. Later that fall he recorded a single "18 to 25" was played frequently on KFSR college radio, later to be re-recorded under the title “Uncontrolled Fire” – it was popular at the time because it contained the voice of President Ronald Reagan speaking about drug use in America. In 1988 Jack started work on his first full-length album, the 1999 CD release Revival Time, a performance art rock opera with lyrics by Blake Silverstrom. In 1990, while the album was in production with Russ Hildreth in Fresno, Phillips moved to San Francisco where he entertained people at a downstairs piano bar called The Curtain Call on Union Street. Following a move to London where he met graphic designer David Costa (Wherefore Art?), his debut album, Revival Time was finally released in 1999 to critical acclaim and was rated “four stars” in the All Music Guide complete with David’s beautiful artwork.

In 2000 Jack started work on a follow-up album, this time with lyricist Jimmy Russell who contributed a lyric to the original EP First Hand, once again using Russ Hildreth in Fresno as the producer. Basic recording was completed by 2001 - but work then took him back to Europe and the project was shelved. In 2010, Jack, now living in New York, returned to the unfinished album and tasked Russ Hildreth in Fresno with editing and mixing the album. The masterful Bob Ludwig was brought in to master the completed album. The result was the extraordinary To Whom It May Concern. When asked to share his thoughts about the new album and the journey to New York, Jack replied: “This is an album I am proud to present - it represents all of the styles I have developed over the years - my sense of melody rings loudly from the speakers. In 1981, I started working with producer Russ Hildreth and lyricist Jimmy Russell. Nearly 30 years later, I'm still working with the same people. You find what works and you keep good friends.

To celebrate the release of the album, Jack performed the album in its entirety live in front of a New York audience in September 2010. It had been a long while since he had performed on any stage, but the experience made him feel like a kid again. “You never outgrow meaningful music and performing in New York was my goal way back in my college days” he said. Since 2010, Jack has been very active on the music scene. The year 2012 was an especially busy year with the release of Café Nights In New York, co-written with Conal Fowkes and Eddy Davis. Unlike Revival Time or To Whom It May Concern, both of which took ages to complete, this new album, completely recorded and produced at Nola Studios on West 57th Street was written, recorded and mastered in about 6 weeks. Jack had the idea of combining a blues album with an album of sophisticated jazz standards.

Jack had already written the blues songs he intended to use and had written a song inspired by Woody Allen called “The Old Grey Hat” but he needed to write some jazz tunes and for this he turned to Conal Fowkes. Conal and Jack met in a piano room at Kaufman Music Center where Jack, self-written lyrics in hand would sing a few lines. Conal would suggest chord changes and the next thing they knew, a song was born. Together they wrote several songs and Eddy Davis offered to get involved. Jack and Eddy wrote more songs on the suggestion that it might be better to split the album idea into two albums – so the first of the two albums was released with songs co-written with Conal and with Eddy.

One Night Only Live in New York was also released in 2012 documenting the 2010 show at The Metropolitan Room. By 2013 Jack was back on the stage with a new show that he would perform many times in New York featuring Conal Fowkes on the piano, Klaus Suonsaari on the drums and Debbie Kennedy on the string bass. In 2015 Jack did a show at The Triad featuring a blues band for the first half of the show and a jazz band for the second half. During the first half, Jack performed some never-recorded blues songs which together with the previously written blues songs formed the second of the two albums, the 2017 release Down In The Jungle Room featuring live on stage and in the studio guitarist Caleb Quaye of Elton John fame.

Now in 2020, Jack had the idea that it was time to experiment with his original 2012 concept and marry the two sounds together. He picked the blues studio recordings from Down In The Jungle Room and the tracks in which Jack Phillips wrote or co-wrote the music on Café Nights In New York and had the whole thing remastered by Bill Moss who worked on both sessions. Does it work? Who knows. The new album is called “Night & Day” and features artwork by his old friend from Fresno Nate Butler. The idea is an old joke Jack had with Eddy Davis who once said, “You’re John by day and Jack by night!” Two versions of Jack, two musical styles, one album. What’s next? Jack hasn’t written or recorded much in recent days, but inspiration could strike at any minute. He is currently interested in orchestral sounds and had his old instrumental “Touching” from the Portrait EP (1986) recorded by a string section at Abbey Road Studios for a future project. Maybe he will eventually create music suitable for a film score. Of course, Jack will write more pop rock songs. It’s in his blood and a new pop rock album will probably be in the works soon.



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