Hard To Find Jerry Jennings Album Featuring Ronnie Montrose Reissued
The instrumental album features an array of styles that range from classic fusion, to reggae, to melodic rock, and to a style that can only be called 'dan'. Along with playing guitar on a couple tracks, Ronnie Montrose also produced the CD. "During my time producing Jerry on his project 'Shortcut to the Center', I became aware that he is equally dedicated to his art and his craft," says Ronnie Montrose, "a rare quality indeed!"
"I was always somewhat a fan of the band Montrose," relates Jerry Jennings, "but more a fan of Gamma, as that had more of a fusiony twist to it. I saw him do a show here in Sacramento in the mid '90s, and it was a fusion trio. It was such a great show. I thought to myself, 'If I ever work with a producer, I hope it's somebody like that, who understands fusion AND knows how to rock.' Anyway in 2004, I had a student named Dave, who is a fishing guide. He told me he takes Ronnie out trout fishing. I said, 'THAT's who I want to produce my next cd!' He said, 'Ok, I'll call him when I get home.' So I get home and there was a message on my machine saying, 'Here's Ronnie's number. He's looking forward to hearing from you.' I sent him the demos of what I was working on and he said, 'Yeah, I'll produce it if you agree to one thing. We re-shoot it all from scratch'. So that's what we did."
"First he had me choose some players to audition. I picked the very best players in town. We all got together for an hour, and he had us do a lot of improvising as a band. Then after they left he said, 'Yeah, I can work with these guys.' He just wanted to see how well he would be able to communicate with them and if they could do what he asked. Then we set a date and knocked out all the basic tracks in two days. In every song he made some significant changes. A few he gutted completely. There's definitely a method to his madness. That's what I kind of observed as we worked on guitar parts for the next year. I'd take him for being random at times and be completely wrong. He definitely knows what he's listening for, and once he decides, it's just a matter of how to get it."
Also featured on 'Shortcut To The Center' are some of Northern California's finest musicians. Bruce Spencer, (now touring with Jackie Greene), plays with an amazing feel on this album. Marty Holland, who has played bass with a huge list of people including Lydia Pence of Cold Blood, Bill Kreutzman of the Grateful Dead, Dave Garibaldi and Lenny Williams of Tower of Power, and currently plays with the Jerry Garcia Band. Scott Reams on keys (currently touring with Benton Paul).
Although a limited edition of 'Shortcut To The Center CD' was sold at Jerry Jennings gigs in the early 2000's, it was never legitimately released. "Ronnie came down with cancer toward the end of our work on the album," Jerry explains. "He's free of it now, fortunately, and he's gigging again. But we weren't really all that 'done' with it when he got sick. So I kind of doctored up a few things at home and just printed up a small batch. But I never properly released it or really even promoted it, just sold it at shows. I always thought I'd come back to it and do some more tweaking on it. But now I listen to it and I think it's working great. I just had to get away from it for a while. Ronnie says I have 'analysis paralysis', and that his function in this whole operation was to protect me from myself."
Jerry Jennings started playing guitar at 12 and was influenced early on by Grand Funk, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Then his direction started to change when Frank Zappa came out with 'Overnite Sensation' in 1973. About the same time Jerry saw the Sons of Champlin at the Winterland. "Terry Haggerty was the most amazing player I had ever heard to date," says Jerry, "and strangely, I saw him play two years ago and I still think he might be. As a guitar player, he probably has influenced me more than anyone. Then came Steely Dan's 'The Royal Scam'. I was further moved by Yes, Weather Report, Gentle Giant and a lot of others that made me want to actually learn more about what it was I was doing on guitar." Other influences of Jennings include Jeff Beck, Kansas, Kerry Livgren, Pink Floyd, Robin Trower, Traffic, AWB, Larry Carlton, Journey, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Genesis, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Beatles, Elton John, Be Bop Deluxe, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Thin Lizzy, The Allman Brothers, Al DiMeola, Stevie Wonder, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Todd Rundgren, Wishbone Ash, Miles Davis, Nektar and King Crimson, just to name a very few. After ten years of playing in blues, rock, and country bands, Jerry eventually became obsessed with having command of music and composition beyond playing the blues scale. He soon attended City College to begin the process, which unfortunately didn't really fill in the blanks fast enough. "I ended up teaching a lot of it to myself and found a few mentors and eventually learned how to read and write charts for my players. I valued that information so much, because of all the hitting a brick wall trying to learn it, that I wrote a book. It's called 'The Guitarist's Link to Sight Reading'. So far I've written five titles. Others are: 'The Bassist's Link to Sight Reading', 'The Drummer's Link to Sight Reading', 'Classic Rock Rudiments for Lead Guitar', and my most recent is a beginner book called, 'Guitar 1 – Start Out Jammin' ". Jerry has also released 2 previous CDs to 'Shortcut To The Center' which are 'The Good Part of a Pencil' (1993) and 'Signs of Humanity' (2002).