Larsen-Feiten Band / Buzz Feiten / Neil Larsen

I have been in Florida for over a month, so I asked Russ if he would help me and create a couple of Posts.  Now, normally Russ does the maintenance, I do the creation part, but this is totally a Russ Strathdee Production.

Russ: (Lovers of guitar or Steely Dan may appreciate this post.) A group from the late 1970’s I still enjoy to this day on the replay is one that had a relatively short career. But after their recording projects ran their course, each of its two stellar performers went on to bigger (but perhaps unknown?) heights.

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Their Big Hit:
Who’ll Be The Fool Tonight /#29 on the Billboard Top 40 in the fall of 1980 / Lyrics at end of this blog *

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Neil Larsen and Howard “Buzz” Feiten are renowned session players who played on their own album titled Full Moon back in 1972. They were monster studio guys who have long lists of recording credits, yet only recorded a single album as the Larsen/Feiten Band.

So, what ever happened to Larson and Feiten and this band?

They notched their big single Billboard Top 40 hit. Then, like so many one-hit wonders, they disappeared… At least to pop listeners.

But album liner note readers saw their names pop up as contributors on many other recordings by artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Stevie Wonder, to Aretha Franklin, to Bette Midler and Randy Newman, to Felix Cavaliere and Kenny Loggins.

Both Larson and Feiten have gone on to have exceptional careers as studio musicians, sidemen, producers and more. Their huge number of recording credits are all the proof you need.

Reading on, you’ll find that guitarist Feiten, is regarded as a musician’s musician. He has patented the Buzz Feiten Tuning System. Keyboardist Neil Larsen is also amazing.
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 LarsonFeiten2.
In 1972, Neil Larsen and Buzz Feiten left the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and formed the Full Moon Band/project with Willie Weeks on bass, Art Rodriquez on drums and Lenny Castro on percussion.  The resulting musical chemistry proved very successful and they ended up releasing three albums; two under the Full Moon name and one as the Larsen-Feiten Band.
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1972 – Their first album, Full Moon, was released for Warner Bros.
BF-FullMoonLP.
Tracks: The Heavy Scuffle’s Now, To Know, Malibu, Take This Winter Out Of My Mind, Midnight Pass, Need Your Love & Selfish People.
Musicians on the Full Moon album: Freddie Beckmeier, Phillip Wilson, Neil Larsen, Buzz Feiten & Brother Gene Dinwiddie.
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Track 1 / The Heavy Scuffle’s Now

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Track 6 / The voice and guitar of Buzz Feiten; starts with a very soulful R&B intro featuring Dinwiddie’s sax/ Need Your Love
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1978 Live / Larson-Feiten Band / Windsong
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1980 – Their second album, Larsen-Feiten Band, was released for Warner Bros.

Buzz Feiten and Neil Larsen

Tracks: Who’ll Be The Fool Tonight, Danger Zone, Further Notice, Over, She’s Not In Love, Morning Star, Make It & Aztec Legend.

Musicians on the Larsen-Feiten Band album: Buzz Feiten, Neil Larsen, Lenny Castro, Art Rodriguez, Willie Weeks, Larry Williams, Kim Hutchcroft, Chuck Findley & Bill Reichenbach.

Track 2 / Danger Zone

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Track 5 / She’s Not In Love


1980 – Promo 45 of She’s Not In Love

LarsonFeiten-promo45

1982 – Their third album: Full Moon featuring Neil Larsen & Buzz Feiten

LarsonFeiten-FullMoonWarner Bros.

Tracks: Phantom of the Footlights, Visitor, Twilight Moon, Sierra, Brown Eyes, Hero’s Welcome, Standing in Line & Little Cowboys.

Musicians on the Full Moon Featuring Neil Larsen & Buzz Feiten album: Neil Larsen, Buzz Feiten, Lenny Castro, Art Rodriguez, Willie Weeks, Bill Reichenbach, David Sanborn, Larry John McNally, Jimmy Haslip, Lenny Castro, Chuck Findley, Jim Horn & Vernon Porter.

Track 1 / Phantom Of The Footlights

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Track 2 / Visitor

2002 – Full Moon Live album / Futurama

Listening to some of these tracks today, a mix of vocals and instrumentals, you may feel the only one that qualified as significant was the one that made the charts. But back when these vinyl recordings were released, there was a different listening experience going on. People would put on an album, sit back and take it all in from track 1 to the end, being disturbed only by the scratching sound of running out of record.

In this context, it made a lot of sense to have a kind of musical adventure with each tune sounding unique. I think this is why it would be hard to pin down exactly what genre was the focus of these musicians.

Moving On…

After realizing that their single Billboard Top 40 hit was all that really resonated with producers and the public, they each moved on to with their individual careers.

Good news for those who missed out on getting the original vinyl; in 2005, Wounded Bird Records released a compilation on CD of tracks from the Larson-Feiten Band and the Full Moon albums.

LFbandCDLFbandCDback

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Buzz Feiten

Buzz1

Howard Feiten grew up in Centerport, New York, where he was known by schoolmates and friends as ‘Buzzy’. Son of a musical mother, Pauline  (a classical pianist), and an airline pilot, Howard Sr., Feiten received training in classical music as a child.

In youth, he studied several musical instruments, finally settling on the French Horn. As a teenager, he played in all-county (Suffolk) and all-state (New York) youth orchestras on the instrument.

Feiten first played Carnegie Hall in 1966, on French Horn, in a select All-American orchestra, American Youth Performs.  He would later return with other major acts, such as Rickie Lee Jones.  In 1966, he auditioned at the Juilliard School on the French Horn but was not admitted.  Feiten was credited on the French Horn on one of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s 1960s albums.

He debuted in commercial pop / rock music with a high school band called The Reasons Why (other players were Steve Beckmeier (rhythm guitar), Al Stegmeyer (drums), Danny ‘Fingers’ Horton (lead guitar), and Daniel Kretzer (keyboards)). The Reasons Why were locally successful on Long Island, and two of their songs, “Tell Her One More Time” and “Same Old Worries” were mentioned in a Billboard ‘new singles’ article in the summer of 1966.

Still known as ‘Buzzy’, he jammed in New York City with Eric Clapton the next year, during Slowhand’s 1967 first visit to the USA with supergroup Cream. This experience helped qualify Feiten, now increasingly seen as a ‘wunderkind’, to join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, filling the post of the departed Elvin Bishop, who had gone solo. Feiten recorded on the group’s fifth album, Keep on Moving.

In his teens he replaced the legendary Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

With Butterfield, Feiten toured internationally, and played such famous gigs as the Atlantic City Pop Festival and the legendary Woodstock Festival, polishing his ‘chops’ on rhythm ‘n’ blues.

A very young Buzzy Feiten playing with Paul Butterfield Blues Band at Woodstock

As he matured into the adult music scene, his nickname became modified to ‘Buzz’.

 

Buzz2

Feiten’s next major combo engagement was as lead guitarist with The Rascals, Felix Cavaliere’s group (formerly known as the Young Rascals) on their Peaceful World and Island of Real albums, including a few original Feiten songs.

But as a young-adult player, Feiten achieved musicians’ musician status in 1971 with the independent project album Full Moon, featuring Neil Larsen (keyboards), Freddie Beckmeier (bass), Phillip Wilson (drums), and Brother Gene Dinwiddie on tenor saxophone.

Sidemen contributing to Full Moon included Randy Brecker, Airto Moreira, Ray Barretto, Dave Holland, and vocalists Robin Clark and Tasha Thomas. A notable early example of Jazz Fusion, Full Moon gained airplay and vinyl album sales in some metropolitan and urban-suburban markets.

After the Larsen-Feiten connection, he played, toured, or recorded with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan to George Benson, Kenny Loggins to Chaka Khan.

Buzz has always been known for his fleet-fingered jazz fusion work, and his impressive improvisational skills. An example of this is the Whirlies Project – not a lot of information about this recording, but here are some tracks…

BuzzFeitenWhirlies

Buzz Feiten & The Whirlies / Break Down These Walls

Buzz Feiten & The Whirlies / Love Ain’t Nothin’ Like This

1987 – Buzz Feiten playing jazz

All Blues” Live at the Omni / Glen Gerard Freundl on keyboards , Buzz Feiten guitar

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Buzz Feiten Guitars

During his extensive playing career, Feiten developed a deep understanding of the technical and scientific foundation supporting the acoustics of fretted instruments. This led him to the conclusion that the commonly accepted method for tuning and intonating guitars was flawed. He therefore developed and patented a unique tuning system which consists of a series of pitch offset formulae to compensate for this flaw and achieve a more accurate, scientifically based tuning system.

Feiten’s understanding of the science of fretted instruments, coupled with his extensive playing experience, led him to his vision for a new and revolutionary guitar which incorporates all those instinctive and scientific changes he envisioned. These unique features have now been incorporated into the new line of Buzz Feiten Guitars.

BuzzBluesProModelBuzz Feiten Blues Pro Model

To Feiten, these guitars are the culmination of a life-long ambition to build the very best electric guitar available to the best players. Speaking to this ambition, Feiten said: “The guitar has been my life. Throughout it I have had a vision to create the ultimate guitar for the serious player. Now I can say ‘here it is.’

Buzz Feiten Tuning System (BFTS)

In 1992, Feiten patented a new tuning system for guitars, now marketed as the ‘Buzz Feiten Tuning System‘. The architecture of his system makes it possible to tune guitars and basses more accurately, resulting in more accurate tonality of notes played on the lowest 3 or 4 frets, which otherwise frequently play out-of-tune compared to notes played on the rest of the neck.
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The difference, though subtle, is especially evident in the playing of open chords.The system requires some minor alterations to the instrument, and can be retrofitted to most guitars that do not already have it. At this writing, the retrofit normally retails for around $139. The Buzz Feiten Tuning System is factory-installed on several well-known brands of guitars and electric basses. There are also several dozen qualified luthiers who are able to incorporate Feiten’s patented temper-tuning mathematical formula into their instruments.
The Feiten tuning system can make use of a special guitar tuner featuring “Buzz Feiten presets” — the strings have to be tuned slightly flat or sharp because of the nut’s compensations.
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Feiten’s web site contains instructions on how his system can be tuned without such a tuner. The original intonations of the altered guitars must be done by a Feiten-licensed technician.
The BFTS solves tuning and intonation problems with 2 simple steps:
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Step 1. Shelf Nut

Our exclusive Buzz Feiten Tuning System¨ (BFTS)
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A patented formula Shelf Nut moves the strings closer to the first fret, to eliminate sharp notes at the first three frets.
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BFTS1
Top View: BFTS Shelf Nut
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Shelf Nut is precision machined from high quality bone for superb tonal response.
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BTFS2
Side View
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Strings are moved closer to the first fret a precise distance, based on the scale length, fret width and string gauge of a guitar. The slight overhang of the nut (the ‘Shelf’) does this without altering a guitar in any way. So it’s even fine for vintage guitars.
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Step 2. Intonation
The guitar’s bridge is adjusted according to Patented Pitch Offsets, creating balanced intonation over the entire fingerboard – every fret – every string.
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BFTS3
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BFTS Explained by Buzz…
Buzz Jamming…

Buzz’s More recent work

There was a late 2008 release of the Japanese-published ‘Buzz Feiten with special guest Brandon Fields’ on CD, recorded at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles on January 11, 2007. The band includes Brandon Fields on sax, Jerry Watts on bass, Dave Beyer on drums, and John Thomas on keyboards—disc credits are in English and Japanese.

Notable among the six included tracks is a tribute to the late Brotha Gene Dinwiddie, who was the saxophonist in the original ‘Full Moon’ project album. Here is the very funky tune called “Hey Dinwiddie“. Brandon Fields’ sax work blows me away…

 

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Neil Larsen

Neil-Larsen-High-Gear-473900After growing up in Sarasota, Florida, Neil moved to New York City in 1971 and began working as a session musician, playing on television jingles, working with his band ‘Full Moon’, and on albums by Don McLean, the Soul Survivors, Ray Baretto, Bonnie Bramlet and Dan Fogleberg, among others.

In 1977, he moved to Los Angeles and began working with producers Stewart Levine, Lenny Waronker, Russ Titleman and Tommy Lipuma, playing on various albums and motion picture and television soundtracks. 

TonyLTommy Lipuma is a US American music producer, born July 5, 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio. He worked for A&M Records, Blue Thumb Records and Verve Records. He was a key figure in the career development of such artists as Michael Franks and Diana Krall. A highly influential producer, he inspired the careers of many younger producers like John Snyder, Arnaldo DeSouteiro and Larry Rosen.

Tommy liked what he heard and went on to sign Neil to a record contract at A & M Records and produce his first two solo albums, “Jungle Fever” and “High Gear“- the title song of the second album was nominated for a Grammy as best instrumental rock performance of 1979.

Soon after, Neil and Buzz Feiten formed the Larsen-Feiten Band and, again with Tommy Lipuma producing, recorded two albums for Warner Bros., including the single, “Who’ll Be the Fool Tonight?”. Neil toured extensively with Al Jarreau from 1986 through 1997, during which time he released 2 more solo albums for M.C.A., played several solo tours of Japan and worked and continues to work on many projects with “Orbit” producer Stewart Levine.

NeilLarsenRecordingAs a session musician, Neil Larsen has played on over 150 albums, including three with George Harrison, three with Kenny Loggins (and the single “Footloose”), Whitney Houston, Jimmy Cliff and 4 albums with Rickie Lee Jones, including the single, “Chuckie’s in Love”. His string and horn arrangements are featured on albums by Gregg Allman and B.B. King among others.

In 1978, Larsen released his first solo album, a touchstone in the fusion genre. … Jungle Fever did well enough on first release but wasn’t a chart buster by any means. Still, it made a lasting impression on the music scene.

Remarkable work by Neil Larsen and Buzz Feiten. One of the few fusion projects that have withstood the test of time.

He followed Jungle Fever with a similar collection on High Gear (1979), almost as artistically successful

All this before enjoying genuine chart success with Feiten in the Larsen-Feiten Band (1980) and a reprise of Full Moon (1982) featuring the two. Both Larsen-Feiten albums brought pop into the mix along with Larsen’s usual influences and crossed over to the Billboard 100.

During the 1980s,  he became an influential and very much in-demand studio musician. …

But there is no Neil Larsen web site per se and although you can find him in Wikipedia, there is no page dedicated to him, except for here. Despite his influential status in the music community and accomplished playing and composing, he simply is not well known to the general public.

Larsen

As a composer, Neil has written over 60 songs on various albums, including albums by George Benson (“Weekend in L.A.” & “20-20″ ), Gregg Allman (“Playin’ Up a Storm”), Rickie Lee Jones (“Girl at her Volcano”),  Will Smith (“Willenium”) and Miles Davis (“The Complete Montreaux Recordings”) . …

His string and horn arrangements have been featured on records by Gregg Allman and B.B. King and over sixty of his songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as George Benson, Gregg Allman, Rickie Lee Jones, Will Smith and Miles Davis.

Larsen has toured extensively with a variety of artists and for eleven years served as musical director and pianist for Al Jarreau.

He has recorded a direct-to-disc album for Straight Ahead Records featuring his new group called Orbit: http://www.straightaheadrecords.com/sound/artists/larsen_ford.html

Larsen1Neil Larsen – Oakland 2010

Those Rare, Unconfirmed Sightings Of Neil Larsen During The Leonard Cohen World Tour

While membership in any backup band dooms all but the most flamboyant to semi-invisibility for the duration of the gig, Neil Larsen, who played keyboards throughout the Leonard Cohen World Tour, must be in the running for Best Camouflaged Musician.

LarsenOrgan

After all, when one is, as per Leonard Cohen’s introduction, “today’s foremost exponent of the Hammond B-3 Organ,” one’s value as a musician depends on remaining within reach of an instrument that, including bench and pedalboard,  weighs in at  425 pounds/193 kg.

The foremost exponent of the Hammond B-3 is not, for example, likely to be sprinting the length of the stage in emulation of Bruce Springsteen. And since 425 pound organs are typically positioned in the rear of the stage off to one side, the musicians playing them are also delegated to the periphery of the performance area.

Even the lightweight keyboards Larsen plays constitute a constraint to any performer less rambunctious than  Jerry Lee Lewis or less flagrantly outrageous  than Liberace.

Larsen2

In the standard Leonard Cohen World Tour template, Larsen and his Hammond are situated behind the back-up singers on stage right. Consequently, as demonstrated in the screenshot below, the audience’s view and the view afforded by audience-shot videos of the keyboardist are routinely obstructed. As a result, Neil Larsen is the least seen and least recognizable World Tour band member.

Larsen4Neil Larsen as usually seen in concert (screenshot – Hallelujah, Bratislava)

There is the occasional photo taken at the precise angle to catch Mr Larsen but even then destiny, in the form of sunglasses in this case, can thwart easy recognition.

Larsen5

As is true of many stars, Leonard Cohen specifies one song to showcase his backup singers and his band, each musician showing off his or her skills in a brief solo. Most often, this song has been “I Tried To Leave You.”

Cohen’s introduction of Neil Larsen transmits Cohen’s respect for the keyboardist:

On the keyboards,
a composer,
a teacher,
a model,
in his own right, a renowned bandleader,
a Grammy nominated artist and composer,
today’s foremost exponent of the Hammond B-3 Organ,
a musician’s musician,
the impeccable Neil Larsen!

www.straightaheadrecords.com/sound/artists/larsen_ford.html

LarsenKeyboards

Since 2001, Neil has toured  Europe, South America and Japan with guitarist Robben Ford; Europe, Japan and U.S.A. with Rickie Lee Jones; 3 USA tours with Gregg Allman; featured on  new albums by B.B.King, “Let the Good Times Roll” both playing and as an arranger, Will Smith’s “Willenium”, Robben Ford’s “Blue Moon” and Diana Krall’s album “The Girl in the Other Room”.  He also currently works on the TV show “Boston Legal” as an arranger and pianist.

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Listen to Neil’s beautifully timeless compositions and Buzzy’s fabulous solos .. too delicious for words really . May they live forever .. thank you Buzz & Neil for so much pleasure .

* Lyrics: Who’ll Be The Fool Tonight

I was captivated
And I waited for you, babe
Every lonely night
So fascinated
Hesitated just a bit too long
You got me wonderin’ if I’ll be missing you
Will he be kissing you
I guess were gonna have to wait and see
Who’ll be the fool tonight
C’mon baby
Who’ll be the fool tonight
C’mon baby
Now sweet sensation
All around you
Oh, you better look before you leap
Gonna keep on tryin’ babe
I want you close to me
Then we would be just like those lovers that I see
Now ya got me wonderin’ if I’ll be missing you
Now baby, will he be kissing you
Wo–ah baby, I guess were gonna have to wait and see
Who’ll be the fool tonight
I guess were gonna wait
C’mon baby
Who’ll be the fool tonight
I guess were gonna wait
C’mon baby
Who’ll be the fool tonight
I guess were gonna have to wait and see
Oh baby…I’ll be missing you
Will he be kissing you
I guess were gonna have to wait and see
Who’ll be the fool tonight
I guess were gonna wait
C’mon baby
Who’ll be the fool tonight
I guess were gonna wait
C’mon baby
Who’ll be the fool tonight
I guess were gonna have to wait and see
Oh baby…I guess were gonna wait
I guess were gonna wait
I guess were gonna have to wait and see

–o–

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4 responses to “Larsen-Feiten Band / Buzz Feiten / Neil Larsen

  1. Wow , Excellent presentation Russ
    DD

  2. Teddie Ralston

    I don’t freeking believe this! For some reason, last week, I remembered that a friend looong ago had given me a cassette of a band and that I enjoyed some of their songs. I have no idea why it came to mind after more than 3 decades but I thought I’d try to find the band. I knew a name was somewhat scandinavian but I got caught up on Neilsen and then Larson. I spent over an hour searching with no luck so I let it go And then today, a mere week later, I was researching The Jarmels which brought me to this site. And there in the margin was the name of the band! Really freeky!

    • So pleased to know that you have discovered our little old blog. Well, not so little, really… Thanks mainly to the huge volume of information and clips compiled by my partner, Gary!

  3. Pingback: Leonard Cohen | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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