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Back In The Solo Album Groove With Tom Saviano

Renowned L.A.-based session musician revisits his horn arrangements for Peter Criss' 1978 solo album and how he got his proper career start as an arranger and session musician, lends interesting insight into working with Vini Poncia, and provides his opinion on how Criss' album holds up 35 years later.

By Tim McPhate

KissFAQ: Tom, you have been described as a top session musician on the West Coast music scene. If we go back to 1978, what was your status as a musician?
Tom Saviano: In '78 I was back in town from Melissa Manchester's tour and had previously done some of her albums. Up to that point, I had done quite a few albums for Vini Poncia. Vini gave me my first big time opportunity in the studio realm as an arranger and saxophone player. I had recorded previous to that with a group called Churchill. I did all the arranging -- as a matter of fact, I wasn't even the leader of the group. I was a horn player that was added to an existing rock group that had a previous album. I think they were called Churchill Downs. They were a power trio similar to Grand Funk Railroad. Rock bands with horns began to surface around the late '60s, early '70s. Tower Of Power, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago were very popular. Churchill decided to add horns." So, I joined the band along with three other horn players. The first three songs I ever wrote were recorded by this band. For some reason, the powers that be at the record company basically thought that I should be the leader of the band. That didn't sit well with the power trio because it was originally their record deal. I said, "I never asked for it." The record company said, "Well, he's the natural leader. He's writing all of the arrangements for the band and he's written a substantial amount of the songs on the new album." It never really got any further than that. The album got released but a big lawsuit followed. Frank Zappa's manager Herb Cohen got involved, which led us to three years of disappointment about the music business. I thought to myself, "Wow, here's what I really wanted to do and it turns out the first damn thing I do turns into a lawsuit." So I traveled around the country in various bands for about three or four years while residing in Orange County. Then, one evening I was playing at a club in Marina Del Rey with one of the bands I was in. It was a club band, but we were doing originals. It was a very good band. Vini Poncia was in the audience with a recording artist by the name of Gino Cunico, whom he happened to be producing.


Tom Saviano
Courtesy of Tom Saviano


KF: Around what year was this?
TS: Around 1973, '74. Vini called me over to his table and I was skeptical and laughing a little because my previous experience with the "big time" resulted in a lawsuit (laughs). He asked me to sit down and he told me who he was. To be honest with you, at that time, I didn't know who he was. I didn't know he was Ringo's producer and that he had done Melissa's first album with her first hit, "Midnight Blue." He just said, "My name is Vini Poncia. I really like your group. We'd like you to be the backup group for Gino to support his new album. He's signed to Clive Davis." For me, none of this was ringing a bell. I just kind of laughed. He said, "If we can't get the whole group, we'd be happy just to have you." And I thought, "Well, I don't know." He said, "Do me a favor. Come on up to Fidelity Recording Studios in Studio City and we'll play some tracks for you and jam a little. You'll see that this is the real thing." And I said, "OK." So I started commuting up to L.A. and that's how our relationship started. From there he gave me an opportunity right away. The first thing he hired me for was David Pomeranz's album. He is an amazing writer. Vini called me and he said "I've got this song, It's called 'Home To Alaska.' Can you write a horn arrangement for it?" I said, "Sure." So it was myself and a trumpet player Rich Felts -- we were a remnant of the Churchill horn section The band went all different directions. A couple of the horn players went one direction and me and Rich went another. We ended up in Hollywood recording for Vini. It started out that way and Vini liked what I did. I still like that chart. That arrangement started a long and successful relationship and I think Vini was proud that he hired me. He said, "You did a great job." Not long after that, I got a call from Vini to do one of Melissa's records. I was thrilled!

KF: So Vini Poncia is an important figure in your career?
TS: Yes, he's was the launching point that gave me exposure as an arranger and studio musician.

KF: Nice. Tom, in 1978 KISS were arguably at their zenith. Were they on your radar?
TS: Oh yeah, I was aware of them. And I was aware of Vini working with them. I was aware that Gene was dating Cher. All the stories. There'd be a bunch of crazy stories (laughs). I had recently come off the road with Melissa, doing the Leo Sayer/Melissa Manchester tour. We did all the sheds, 10,000 to 15,000 seaters across the country. Possibly some of the same venues that KISS played in. I got my taste of touring and doing a whole summer tour on a bus. I saw what it was all about. It was great. Crazy too! I saw Leo Sayer fall off the stage and break his back while he was watching our segment of the show. It was at Alpine Meadows I think. We had to combine bands to finish the concert that night since Leo was takin to the hospital. I remember Leo had asked me to tour with him because I had played on his album. I had done the sax solo's and some arrangements on the album "Leo Sayer." Richard Perry was the producer. Leo's management called me and said, "We'd like you to put together the horn section for Leo's tour." And I said, "I've already accepted the musical director position for Melissa Manchester. The two acts shared equal billing. So, Leo used to watch the band every night when we'd go on. We opened the show. Leo would stand off to the side and watch us play. Bill Bodine was in the band. Lenny Castro was playing congas. I put that band together.

KF: How long were you the musical director for Melissa Manchester?
TS: I did it for that tour and then maybe another half a year when we went to do Carnegie Hall. Around that time my wife Jean Marie was pregnant with my son. At that point, I wanted to stay in town. I started doing studio work for David Wolfert, Vini, Melissa, and a few others. The "Peter Criss" album happened soon after that.

KF: Before we get into Peter's album, how would you describe Vini Poncia's production style in the studio?
TS: He was fun to work for, different and quirky. I watched him during many different projects. It was usually the same. He would be tired from doing all the sessions, writing songs, cutting the tracks the way he did and maybe life in general. You know, Vini had his own way. He would sit in the middle of the rhythm section, "Hey, you play this. You play that." He was a hands-on guy. He wasn't going to leave until everything was what he thought it should be. He was very responsible that way. It was time consuming but well worth it. By the time the horn dates were happening, he had already gone through weeks of tracking the rhythm section, guitars, vocals, and all that stuff. So now it was time for the horns. He's like this on the console (puts head down on the table).

KF: (laughs)
TS: (laughs) You're out in the recording studio and he was in the control room. I would come in and say, "Hey, did you like it?" And he'd shake his head. When there was something he would like, he would actually lift his head up and he would smile at you. And I'd say, "Oh, he got up!" He would do that with many different artist when they were singing. He would be like (puts head down), "Again. Again. Do it again."

KF: Was that his way of concentrating?
TS: I don't know. If you knew him, you loved it because it was always entertaining and everybody would get a laugh out of it. The musicians would crack up. Vini would have his head down and you'd look into the control room after a take and you'd see a thumb up or down. You'd hear the talk back, (mumbles) "That was alright. Next take." (laughs) It was humorous. You had to see the humor in it. It seemed like he was miserable but I knew he wasn't. If you were an insecure person you might crumble.

KF: Humor goes a long way during a recording session.
TS: Of course. And how could I not like it? This is the guy who gave me my start. At first, if you didn't know him, you'd have thought you did something wrong. But if you knew him, you knew that was his style. I miss it.

KF: Tom, what are the elements of a Vini Poncia-produced track?
TS: The elements are a strong rhythm section and nicely layered background vocals. Sensible arrangements. I think the biggest factor with Vini is that it all starts with a great song.

KF: Vini has been described as a "song guy."
TS: Well, it comes from his background. He started out in New York and he had his own vocal group he was part of, Anders & Poncia. They were a singer/songwriter duo. They came from another group in Providence, a four piece that were like the Four Freshmen. They were writing their own songs. In those days, the songs had to have decent lyrics and maybe a few more chord changes than some of the simpler stuff that we're used to from that era of rock. Maybe it's got a couple of flatted sevenths and minor sevenths, where the rock tunes might not have that. That made him more of a song-oriented guy. He grew up in that era with Carole King and a lot of other great songwriters. Content was important. There's got to be more meat to the song. That's where it came from. I think him being a song guy, that's what attracted Peter. They were both Italian guys from back East too. Maybe that had an effect. They both liked the same kind of music. That's why this album ended up that way.

KF: What do you remember about getting the invitation to play on Peter's album? Would Vini have called you?
TS: That's not always how it went down. Usually it would be Annie Streer calling me and saying, "Vini needs you to do some horns." Annie was the production coordinator and worked for Vini. While Vini was in the studio, she took care of booking musicians. She was his right hand for everything. You know, every artist who got involved with Vini, including Patty Smyth with Scandal, they all liked him. Why not? What's not to like? He was the real deal. And on top of that, he worked with the Beatles. Ringo bought him all kinds of diamond rings. (laughs). Ringo just loved Vini.

KF: What was initially communicated to you in terms of your role on Peter's album?
TS: When I talked with Vini, I asked, "What do you want on this?" He said, "Make it rock." I said, "OK, I'll do my thing." Normally, before recording we would sit down and he'd say, "Let's talk about the arrangement." And I'd say, "Are you happy with everything?" "No, let's change this part. How about if you did this? How about if the trumpets don't play that high there?" But if I recall, we didn't do a lot of that with the "Peter Criss" album. I knew him well enough by then that I just wrote it the way he liked it. He would give me free reign but if he didn't like it, he'd change it. I don't think there were many changes on that particular album.

KF: In terms of location, where did you record the horns?
TS: I seem to recall that we recorded the horn section at Sound Labs in Hollywood. Normally we would work at Sound Labs because that was our favorite room. It might have been Sunset Sound or the Sound Factory.

KF: Would any other musicians have been present during the horn sessions?
TS: No, the way those dates always went down was the rhythm section would do all their stuff first and we'd be done as an overdub. If somebody knew you were going to be there, they'd hang out. Peter was there in the control room with Vini. And I think Peter's girlfriend was there.

KF: Any general impressions of Peter and his personality?
TS: I don't specifically remember anything positive or negative about him. Only because I think it was more of a thing with me and Vini. When I went in to talk to Vini about the charts, he was sitting there. Vini introduced me to him and we shook hands and I said, "Nice to meet you." And then we got back down to business.

KF: Peter has been quoted as saying he loved horns so that was surely an element he wanted to bring to his solo album.
TS: I never knew that Peter was a horn fan. I didn't get close enough to him to know. You know, I get Facebook fans -- people from Europe and all over the world -- saying how much they like what I did on that album. And they like that album.

KF: That's interesting. Because I think in 1978 a majority of KISS fans "didn't get it." Of course, there are some who really like it.
TS: Yeah. I'll give you an example. I really don't expect a someone who doesn't understand what a C7 with a flat five is to understand, if they only know a C, D and E chord and I throw this big chord at them. They might say, "What is that shit? That sounds wrong. Don't play all that crap." Sometimes Vini would say that if I threw in too much. Maybe he didn't care for it because he didn't like the dissonance and it seemed inappropriate. Looking back, he was right.

KF: Was Vini a schooled musician?
TS: Well, no I don't think he went to a music school or conservatory. He did it all by ear. He had a great ear. And if you threw something like that in, he'd hear it. "What is that you're putting in? Take that out." (laughs) As an example, sometimes producers didn't want to hear the tension created by the way I voiced the Jimi Hendrix chord for horns.

KF: The 7#9 chord.
TS: Right. Some producers don't want to hear that clash between the major third and the sharp nine, which is the minor third. It's the dissonance, but that's what I liked about the chord. I liked the tension.

KF: Who were the players in your horn section for Peter's album?
TS: The horn section probably consisted of Steve Madaio, who did all the great Stevie Wonder albums. Steve is on "Superstition." He was originally with the Butterfield Blues Band and went on to Stevie Wonder and on to the Rolling Stones. He also recorded with Madonna and Earth, Wind & Fire. We're still working together. Chuck Findley probably played trumpet. He's one of the greatest studio trumpet players of all time. He's still very much at the top of his game.

KF: You're credited on the album and so is Michael Carnahan. Any reason why the other horn players weren't?
TS: A lot of times they would just list the arranger. I used to get mad about that too when I played on albums. Like with my Maroon 5 credit, the arranger is credited but I'm playing on the record. I've got the contract from the union to prove it. Luckily their manager acknowledged it and gave us a platinum record.

KF: What do you remember about the Faragher brothers? They are credited with singing on a few tracks.
TS: I did their first solo album.

KF: David Wolfert was on that and Vini produced it.
TS: They were fantastic R&B vocalists. Tommy Faragher is in New York today. He's a great keyboard player and producer in his own right. They were very good. I was very impressed with their vocal blend and their intonation. They were brothers that just blended perfectly.

KF: Vini liked them enough to bring them in on Peter's album.
TS: That's right. They would do a lot of vocals for him.

KF: Back to the horn section. There was Steve Madaio, Chuck Findley and...
TS: Let's see, there was Mike Carnahan. And there might have been a bari sax player, which could have been a guy named Vel Selvin. He ended up changing his name from David Luell. He was with the L.A. Express. He was another great sax player. Now, if it wasn't Vel, then it means that Vini rented a bari sax and I played it (laughs). Sometimes Vini would ask me to play the bari even though I didn't want to play it. He would rent it from SIR so we wouldn't know what we were getting. It could have been a sax that some rocker guy threw off the stage. It might not even be working (laughs).

KF: So there were four horn parts on these tracks?
TS: Five. Probably two trumpets and three saxes.

KF: In addition to arranging, you would have played on all of them?
TS: Oh yeah. I played on all of them.

KF: Tom, at this point why don't we fire up some tracks from Peter's album and get your perspective on the horn parts and your thoughts on the tracks in general.
TS: Sure.

KF: Let's start with "I'm Gonna Love You," which is the lead track on the album. (Plays song)
TS: Right away that sounds like the Rolling Stones.

KF: The horns don't come in right away on this tune.
TS: Right, it's about the artist. It's not about the horn section. The horns are there to support, not steal the attention.

KF: So you're picking up a strong Rolling Stones-style flavor?
TS: Right from the top, the guitar and that drumbeat remind me of the Stones.

KF: Putting your producer hat on, what do you think about Peter's vocal?
TS: I like it. It's raw. It's powerful. And it fits the music.

KF: He's got a kind of Rod Stewart gruff to his voice.
TS: That's right. I like it. It works with that kind of music. Vini was good with vocalists. He probably made him sing it a few times. I don't even know, I wasn't there for the vocal sessions. But knowing Vini, he's very good with singers as a producer. He won't let it go until it's right. One thing Vini taught me about producing -- I used to play him some of my early productions long before I became a well-known studio musician. I'd play him stuff, "What do you think of this?" He'd listen and say, "Well, this sounds good at the end but why did you wait until the end of the song? They've already changed the radio station." (laughs) I'll never forget it because a light goes off in your head. You think, "Duh. Dummy, he's right." You've got all this great stuff going on at the end in the vamp, but what about the beginning of the song? Give it to them right away in a short song. That taught me something about pop music. We're dealing with ditties. David Foster said it, "These are not symphony pieces, these are ditties. They're two, three minute songs. Say it right away and get it over it. Get the hook in right away." There's a formula.

KF: And what is the construction of the horn arrangement for "I'm Gonna Love You"?
TS: I'd say it's two trumpets, maybe two tenors and a bari sax.

KF: And what was your approach?
TS: Well, the voicings are very simple. Notice when there's a minor chord, you don't really hear a seventh in the chord. The fifth's probably doubled in places and the root is probably in the bottom.

KF: What's your thinking in doubling the fifth?
TS: The hollowness of the sound of the fifth rubbed between the bari sax and the low tenor sounds raw. It sounds a little primitive because the song sounds a little primitive.

KF: In hearing it some 35 years later, are you happy with your arrangement?
TS: Yeah, I think I made the right call. I think I'd approach it the same way today. It sounds fat. It doesn't sound obtrusive. The song breathes but the horns add a little spice to it.

KF: What about the rhythm section? Bill Bodine is playing bass on this track.
TS: I thought it felt good. I like Peter's playing on it, especially the open hi-hat thing. Charlie Watts from the Stones played like that.


Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' And Turnin'" (1961)


KF: Let's take a listen to "Tossin' And Turnin'." (Plays Peter Criss' version and Bobby Lewis' original song) I think you took the horns in a slightly different direction compared to the original.
TS: Yeah, I didn't even listen to the original. I basically let what Vini and what Peter did with the track influence where I was going to go.

KF: So it was about putting a different stamp on it?
TS: Yeah. I think those are some of my own licks that you're hearing there.

KF: Do you think this is a good cover of the song?
TS: It's a very good cover. I like the choices that they made as far as the rhythm section. That chord change that's in there (sings descending chord sequence at 2:20 on Criss' version), that's not on the original. Vini did some really cool stuff with the arrangement. And that wasn't written out. That was him in the room thinking about it with the rhythm section, "Hey, let's rehearse this. Let's change it to this." So they worked it out that way. Maybe he had Bill Bodine write out a chord chart. I don't know for sure because I wasn't there. I will go as far and say that Peter's version outdoes the original by a thousand miles. What do you think?

KF: I think I'm biased because I grew up with Peter's version so I prefer his.
TS: Well I think it's better all the way around. It's a better vocal. It's more powerful. The arrangement is better.

KF: How about Michael Carnahan's sax solo?
TS: I like it. Mike's my friend. We're buddies. He lives in San Diego these days.

KF: When we chatted earlier, you mentioned he was a little intimidated playing on this track.
TS: A little bit. He said, "Are you sure you want me to do it?" Michael's a high-level sax player. He's like a Michael Brecker. He could play anything. In this situation, I think it was a high-visibility record at the time and I threw him out there. That's what I remember. He may say, "I was never intimidated."

KF: How many passes would he have taken for the solo?
TS: A guy like him, usually you put the track up and it comes right away.

KF: It's interesting to note that when KISS went on tour in 1979 they played "Tossin' And Turnin'" live.
TS: It's funny. I thought after doing Peter's record, when Vini started producing KISS' albums, I thought, "Maybe I'm going to get a call to do horns on KISS." Maybe they voted on it?

KF: No kidding? In giving it some thought, there might have been a track or two where I can hear horns working. There's a track that Peter sings called "Dirty Livin'" and I could hear horns working there.
TS: How many albums did Vini produce for KISS?

KF: There's two: 1979's "Dynasty" and 1980's "Unmasked." Essentially, he did three albums in a row for the KISS camp.
TS: The KISS fans have to love Vini.

KF: There's a segment of fans who love those records, but there's also a segment of purists who prefer the original KISS sound. Vini brought elements of pop and songcraft to the albums he produced, while the original KISS sound is very raw. With Vini, KISS became a bit more song-oriented.
TS: See, maybe that is what KISS wanted from Vini. The fans should know that they may have asked him to do that.


Tom Saviano
Courtesy of Tom Saviano


KF: Well, the funny thing is Peter's album is arguably the least well-received of the four solo albums. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have made some less than flattering remarks about the album. But that didn't stop them from working with the producer of Peter's album for the next two KISS studio albums. Paul has actually been on record as saying he can't give Peter's solo album any stars.
TS: Maybe it's more because they don't like Peter. That's what I would say.

KF: Some fans didn't like the results of Vini's work with KISS. Maybe they prefer the 1975 version of KISS, which was raw and in your face, compared to a more polished, song-oriented version of KISS.
TS: There's fans like that in every segment of music. There's guys like that with Steely Dan. There's hardcore fans who won't change.

KF: The next track we'll listen to is "Rock Me, Baby." (Plays song)
TS: I like it. Cool tune.

KF: I love your horn arrangement on this one.
TS: So the KISS fans don't like this?

KF: It's hard for me to speak for all the fans. There are some fans who like it. But generally speaking, this album wasn't well-received. ("KISS The Girl Goodbye" plays)
TS: Now the KISS fans must have thrown up when they heard this.

KF: (laughs) ("Hooked On Rock 'N' Roll" plays)
TS: I remember doing the horns for this one.

KF: I don't believe you are credited on this track, for whatever reason.
TS: 35 years later, I have to say these tracks sound pretty good. I like the horn arrangement on this. I remember the chart. And I remember doing four tracks.

KF: Why do you think you weren't credited on this one?
TS: It was probably an oversight by the record company. Annie probably relayed the correct information to them and they forgot to put it on.

KF: Generally speaking, what was your process for building your horn arrangements?
TS: Well, in the old days, we didn't have digital so it was all done with cassettes. I'd get a cassette and cassettes could be problematic because the speed was never accurate on a cassette machine. You had to figure out, "Is that really the key?" (laughs). In some instances, if the producer could read music or was classically trained or maybe had an arranger involved that wrote out the rhythm section chart, they would hand me a lead sheet. With Vini's projects, sometimes they had a chord chart, sometimes they didn't. Sometimes he'd just say, "You've got ears. You can hear it." I'd say, "Cool. Is it in this key because I don't know if the cassette is accurate?" The tracks on the cassette usually consisted of a basic rhythm section and a lead vocal. Sometimes background vocals too. I would listen to what the vocals were doing and make sure that I didn't write on top of them too much. I tried to complement them. I would then write out the parts on regular score paper. When I finished, I would hand over the score to my copyist. That was the process.

KF: Tom, how would you have gotten paid for a job like this?
TS: Well, I have always been a member of the musicians union. Vini was always real cool about paying everyone. Everything went through the record company and I think Peter's album went through Aucoin Management. We filed the contracts through Annie and wrote down the price of the arrangements. I would always say, "Is it OK to charge this much?" With Vini, every time I did a new project for him, the price would go up a little more. He always took care of us. This was one of the later projects so this might have been one of the higher paying projects. It was good money for those days. It went through the union and payment was prompt.

KF: So Tom, you think these tracks are well done?
TS: I do. I like them. I think they're valid, which is a testament to Vini's production and Peter and Vini's choices.

KF: And the arrangements?
TS: Yes, the arrangements of the rhythm section and the horn section too.

KF: And again, these aren't some hack musicians playing on this record. The quality of musicianship on this album is off the charts.
TS: These are great guys. Fantastic musicians.

KF: Obviously, it all comes down to the song. A great musician can't save a song if it's terrible. When you listen to these tracks, is there anything that stands out to you as "zero star" quality?
TS: No. Not at all. Especially considering there was no Auto-Tune. They couldn't cut and paste like they can do today in Pro Tools. As a matter of fact, synthesizers weren't really invented. They were just starting to come in.

KF: And in "Hooked On Rock 'N' Roll," you mentioned you heard some Edgar Winter touches?
TS: Yeah, I think I drew from some of my experience in listening to Edgar Winter's "White Trash." I thought they were one of the best rock groups to come along at that time. Rick Derringer was a great guitar player.

KF: And in "Rock Me, Baby," you said you heard some James Brown-style elements?
TS: Yeah. I borrowed a few chord voicings from "Cold Sweat" and fit it into the rock thing.

KF: You were also talking about the high trumpet and how that was a sound Vini didn't prefer.
TS: Generally, Vini didn't care for the sound of high trumpets. It was too brassy or thin sounding for him, no pun intended. He tends to like saxophone sounds and that comes from the old-school style of music that had a lot of saxophone players. That was the traditional rock instrument. Trumpets were thought of as jazz instruments with players like Miles Davis. Although, the trumpet is a key element of a horn section, especially with groups like Tower Of Power. That's what I like more. I would try to put it in. I would try to throw it in on a Vini project sometimes and he might say, "That trumpet's playing too high. Lower it." (laughs)

KF: Why don't we go to another track. This is "You Matter To Me," which was a single and had a bit of a disco flavor. It was co-written by Vini, Michael Morgan and John Vastano. (Plays "You Matter To Me")
TS: Yeah, I'm not really feeling this track. Love the song. I remember when it was written. This version is not my favorite.

KF: I think this song sticks out as the one that perhaps doesn't fit with the rest of the bunch. This is "That's The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes." (Plays song)
TS: I could hear horns working on this song. It might have rocked it up a bit. Who knows?

KF: Let's play one last track. This is the final song on the album, "I Can't Stop The Rain." (Plays song)
TS: I like his singing on this right away. This is nicely arranged. I think it's the strongest ballad on the record.

KF: Since you heard a cross-section of tracks, what sticks out to you in terms of Peter's vocal performances?
TS: I like the comparison to Rod Stewart. I agree. It's a gruff voice.

KF: And he's not a technically polished singer.
TS: No, but you know what? The voice fits the music. It's like Dr. John. He has a funny voice but it works.

KF: Overall, do you think "Peter Criss" is a good album?
TS: Yes I do. You know, there are some things that could have been changed. If you play a track for a producer that he himself did not produce, he will usually identify things that he would do differently. There are always circumstances during the recording process that influence a project to go a certain direction. Like you said, it was the disco era, they might have tried to cop that feel for that one track. Looking back and becoming a Monday morning quarterback is easy for anyone to do. I do that with some of my own projects. Overall, excellent job by Vini and the crew!

(KissFAQ thanks Tom Saviano for his time and contribution to Back In The Solo Album Groove, our 35th anniversary retrospective dedicated to the 1978 KISS solo albums.)



About Tom Saviano:
The son of a Chicago big band conductor and arranger, Tom Saviano's appreciation for jazz, classical music and arrangements was born of a constant exposure to sophisticated musicians and music. Saviano's career began as one of Los Angeles' most talented session players, a reputation that landed him a stint as Melissa Manchester's musical director. Saviano arranged and played saxophone on three of Manchester's albums: "Help Is On The Way," "Singin'," and "Don't Cry Out Loud," with the former two produced by Vini Poncia, who Saviano cites as giving him his career start as an arranger and session musician. Saviano would go on to work on several projects with Poncia, including Peter Criss' 1978 solo album, on which he arranged the horns for four tracks: "I'm Gonna Love You," "Tossin' And Turnin'," "Rock Me, Baby," and "Hooked On Rock 'N' Roll."


Heat, "Revisited" Promo 1/2


Saviano subsequently formed the group Heat with whom he released two critically acclaimed albums ("Heat" and "Still Waitin'"), generating the Top 40 R&B hits "Just Like You" and "This Love That We Found." On both albums, Saviano produced and arranged all of the music, played sax and keyboards and wrote and/or co-wrote all of the songs. In July 2013 Saviano oversaw the release of "Heat Revisited," a collection featuring 16 tracks, including 11 tracks from the first two Heat studio albums, plus five previously unreleased songs originally recorded during the same period. The set was re-recorded, remixed and remastered by Saviano with the goal of adding more fidelity and sonic impact. The band is made up of Saviano and vocalists Jean Marie Arnold, Joe Pizzulo and Ed Whiting. Contributing session musician talent includes all-stars such as Bill Champlin, Michael O'Neill, Bruce Gaitsch, Neil Stubenhaus, Vinnie Colaiuta, Nathan East, Paul Jackson Jr., Carmen Grillo, Bill Bodine, and Harvey Mason, among others. Vinnie Cusano (Vinnie Vincent) plays guitar on the unreleased track "What Does It Take," which KissFAQ debuted exclusively this past July accompanied by an exclusive interview with Saviano.


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Saviano has played with a host of high-profile musicians such as Brenda Russell; Earth, Wind & Fire with whom he played sax for the Grammy-winning hit "I Wanna Be With You"; and Sheena Easton for whom he wrote the hit single "It's Hard to Say It's Over." Saviano's more recent work includes recording sessions on Muse's "The 2nd Law," Maroon 5's "It Won't Be Soon Before Long," Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell III," Neil Diamond's "12 Songs," and Ray Charles' Grammy-winning "Genius Loves Company." Saviano played saxophone on the Grammy-winning Dolly Parton single, "9 To 5," and contributed to Michael Nesmith's "Elephant Parts," the first music video to ever win a Grammy. He was a featured soloist and permanent member of "The Late Show With Joan Rivers," the show that launched the Fox Television Network. Saviano released his first solo album, "Making Up Lost Time," in 1998, followed by 2000's "Crossings." Still an active session musician, composer and producer, Saviano today resides in Los Angeles with his wife Sarah.