cellist who got his career out of the starting gates quickly by appearing
on the Grammy-winning record, “Midnight Train to Georgia”,
recorded in 1973 by Gladys Knight & The Pips.
In 1974, he
collaborated with Bob James on his laconically titled One and Two, offered
string support on Stanley Clarke’s eponymous album, and shared the
studio with Tennyson Stephens and Phil Upchurch for Upchurch/Tennyson, which was completed in 1975.
bicentennial year was a busy one for Jesse: He did Soul Searching with the Average White Band, two albums apiece
with Van McCoy, The Real McCoy
and Rhythms of the World, and
Jimmy McGriff, The Mean Machine
and Red Beans, and recorded
material with Stanley Turrentine that would be included on no fewer than
three albums: Brazilian Horizons, Vol. 2, The Man with the Sad Face, and Stanley Turrentine with Strings.
In 1977, he
reunited with Jimmy McGriff on Tailgunner,
recorded Havana Candy with Patti
Austin, and was an erstwhile member of Bionic
Boogie, a disco outfit assembled by saxophonist Gregg Diamond. He was responsible for putting
together not one, but two orchestras for Shawn Phillips’ Transcendence, arranged by Michael
Kamen and released in 1978: The
same year found him on Sesame Street with the likes of Big Bird and Oscar
the Grouch for a pair of children’s albums, On the Street Where We Live – Block Party! and Sesame Street Fever; he also
appeared on the soundtrack of The Wiz. Around the same time, he played cello
on Chaka Khan’s eponymous solo album, Chaka.
In 1979, he
went undercover with Carly Simon on Spy,
rejoined The Muppets for Sesame
Disco!, and was one of the legion of session musicians on Frank
Sinatra’s boxed set, Trilogy. He celebrated the Yuletide with Meco
on Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album, did a
pair of Spyro Gyra albums, Carnaval
and Catching the Sun, and
appeared on the soundtrack of Fame,
all released in 1980.
In 1980, he
also found time to serve as a tone judge in The Violin Society of America
Competition. He put on his
arranger’s hat for Blue Oyster Cult’s 1981 release, Fire of Unknown Origin. In 1982, he recorded Syms by Sinatra with Frank Sinatra
and Sylvia Sims. He was a
member of the string section on The
Wild Heart by Stevie Nicks and Hearts
and Bones by Paul Simon, both of which hit the shelves in 1983.
In 1984, he
played cello on The Age of Consent
by Bronski Beat. Then, he
helped Aretha Franklin Get it Right
in 1986. In 1987, he performed
on Victoria Williams’ Happy
Come Home. He then worked
in Collaboration with Gil Evans
and Helen Merrill, and Patti Smith on Dream
of Life, both released in 1988.
In 1990, he
appeared on three stylistically divergent albums, Deep Purple’s Slaves & Masters, My Romance by Carly Simon, and Copland Conducts Copland. He offered Hope with Rick Margitza and took a Flight to Freedom with Arturo Sandoval in 1991. In 1992, he contracted and conducted
the orchestra on Tony Bennett’s Sinatra tribute, Perfectly Frank.
He was back in
the cellist’s chair for the 1993 albums, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet by Gavin Bryars, Dragonfly Summer by Michael Franks,
and The Who’s Tommy: Original Cast Recording. In 1994, he appeared on the Lena
Horne album, We’ll Be Together
Again, and was together again with Frank Sinatra on Duets II. Around this time, he served as
arranger and conductor on LL Cool J’s 14 Shots to the Dome.
In 1995, he
appeared on another Spyro Gyra album, Love
& Other Obsessions. He
also stayed on board for their 1996 release, Heart of the Night:
The same year, his name could be found on a pair of self-named
albums, Kenny Lattimore and LL Cool J; He also performed on the
soundtrack of the Woody Allen musical, Everyone
Says I Love You.
September 1997, he served as String Coordinator for the MTV special, Bryan Adams: Unplugged. He then appeared on the soundtrack
of the Edward Burns film, No Looking
Back, starring Jon Bon Jovi, and the concert DVD, PNYC: Portishead
– Roseland New York, both released in 1998. In 1999, he changed tacks again on Dawn Upshaw Sings Vernon Duke, and
was in the studio recording Jelena
Ana Milcetic a.k.a. Helen Merrill, released in the following year.
millennium found Jesse again working on a wide variety of projects: John Pizzarelli’s Let There Be Love, Britney
Spears’ Oops!.. I Did it Again,
A Copland Celebration, Vol. 1,
and Color, Rhythm, and Magic, a
concept album featuring jazz renditions of Disney tunes; He was also
credited as a church cellist in the Woody Allen comedy, Small Time Crooks. In 2001, he contributed his cello
stylings to Denyce Graves’ American
Anthem – Songs and Hymns, Bright
Eyed Joy: The Songs of Ricky
Ian Gordon and The Concert for
New York City.
and performed at the Harold Coletta Memorial on 1st December
2002 at CAMI Hall in New York City, in tandem with pianist Abba Bogin, a
program that comprised Gabriel Faure’s “Elegie”, Paul
Hindemith’s “Meditation”, and Francesca Maria
In 2003, teamed up with Aretha Franklin on her So Damn Happy CD and rang in Christmas with Whitney Houston on One Wish: The Holiday Album.
One of his
stranger gigs was at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket,
Massachusetts, held on 13th July 2004: In addition to playing cello, he was
pressed into service to help move the scenery, as well as sort of playing a
character opposite dancer Martine van Hamel.
In 2005, he
joined several other artists for the CD Our
New Orleans, the proceeds from which went to Habitat for Humanity to
help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
He was a musical guest of honor at the inauguration of Dr. Karen
Gross as the eighth president of Southern Vermont College on 18th
November 2006, in a program entitled “Shostakovich and Schumann
– Political and Personal Demons”. The following year, he appeared on
David Spinozza’s self-titled CD, Spinozza.
In 2008, his
plate was full with live appearances:
he performed with Bucky Pizzarelli and the Statesmen of Jazz at the
National Museum of Natural History and the Maxim Anikushin Chamber Ensemble
in concerts at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, the Ico Gallery, and Yamaha
Artist Services in New York City.
prolific recording career has not gone unrewarded: The National Academy of Recording
Arts and Sciences bestowed their Most Valuable Player Award upon him seven
years in a row.
Van McCoy recordings
The Shuffle (Van McCoy)
That’s the Joint (Richard Harris/Van McCoy)
Frank Sinatra recordings
That's What God Looks Like To Me (Stan Irvin/Lan O'Kun)
49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)
Theme from "New York, New York" (Fred Ebb/John Kander)
RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)