Leland Jams with Stevie

Stevie Wonder was touring Japan during the same period Jerry Bell Dazz was performing an extended contract in one of Osaka's top supper-clubs in the Hanku district. As fate would have it, a friend of Jerry's was employed as a roadie for Stevie's entourage. One thing led to the next.

Shortly after Jerry made contact with his roadie friend, two of Stevie's band members, the bass player and drummer stopped by the club and sat in with the band. They played a number of tunes and jammed for over an hour. The highlight of the jam was doing a version of Prince's 7779311, during which Stevie's drummer played to perfection. This excited both Stevie's musicians as well as Jerry's band. They said, "You guys are hot, and we will be back!"

Apparently, Stevie's guys had so much fun; they brought Stevie and guitarist, Rick Zunnigar, back with them the next night. We all had an extended night of jamming with Stevie playing drums, piano, harmonica, and singing, and Rick playing some jazz (Chick Corea's Spain and some other favorites) with Jerry's band.

After this musical exchange, Stevie invited Jerry and the band to his sound check and gave them free tickets to the concert, which was nothing short of spectacular.

Stevie then advised Jerry's band to check with him when they returned stateside, as he had some new artists on his label with whom the band might be able to work.

[From Leland's perspective] As it turned out, we started working with a singer named Crystal (one of Stevie's artists).  On a gig in Long Beach, Stevie surprised everyone by showing up with his briefcase of harmonicas.  All he wanted to do was play harmonica along with whatever tunes we were playing. For those of you who have never heard Stevie "stretch", well suffice it to say, he is a brilliant harmonica player.

After one of the sets, I was talking to Stevie, and he said, " Yea, you're the guitar player, uh huh, you've been listening to Miles right?"  I was a bit shocked for the moment, and yes at the time, I was studying Miles, and I was curious and said, "how did you come up with that?" Stevie went on to say: "I can tell, it shows in your approach, the solos, cool stuff, most guitar players won't go there, but that's what makes you elevate and surprise, keep doing it".

I was honored by Stevie's interest, and his appearances at our gigs to jam with us were priceless.  Musicians generally jam with other musicians they respect and find parity with.  I literally have no words to sum up what that experience meant to me over time.