What do Sheila E., Prince and Wendy & Lisa all have in common? Aside from working together as Prince & the Revolution and playing “When Doves Cry” more times than anyone but cover band Purple Reign, all of their fathers are jazz musicians. The only active jazz dad of that group, Pete Escovedo, is bringing his latin jazz orchestra to Spaghettini in Seal Beach this Thursday and Friday to celebrate his birthday and bring a dose of Bay Area soul.
Pete Escovedo was born in northern California in 1935. Escovedo got his start playing Latin jazz with his younger brothers as the Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet. The family band took a break to work with Santana in the late 60s and Escovedo was rarely at a loss for work afterwards. That's his simmering palms on congas behind Marvin Gaye on “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
He first recorded with his daughter Sheila E. while she was still a teenager and they still appear together on occasion, most recently showing off their age-defying genes before 18,000 people at last month's Playboy Jazz Festival.
As for the rest of the Revolution, they all seem to have more than a little jazz in their genes.
Although Prince's fictional father in the film Purple Rain is portrayed as an abusive and self-destructive musician that wasn't the reality of the situation but he was definitely a piano player. John Nelson adopted the stage name Prince Rogers while gigging around Minneapolis in the 1950s at the suggestion of his wife. His parents separated in the mid-60s but Prince, the heir to the Nelson entertainment throne, used some of his ideas on the Purple Rain soundtrack, including several of the more awkwardly-acted father scenes and the screeching “Computer Blue” which opens with Prince breathlessly addressing bandmates Wendy and Lisa.
Wendy Melvoin is the daughter of late jazz pianist Mike Melvoin. The senior Melvoin had a good career as a jazzman, working the West Coast with luminaries like Gerald Wilson and Peggy Lee and even appeared on the Tom Waits classic Nighthawks at the Diner in the mid 70s. Melvoin was also the chairman of NARAS, the Grammy governing committee, in the mid 80s when Prince was filling his mantle with trophies. When Melvoin settled in Los Angeles in the early 60s, he also got work as a first call sideman contributing to projects like Frank Sinatra's That's Life and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, which may have hired more LA-based session musicians than any other recording including percussionist Gary L. Coleman.
Gary L. Coleman is a retired studio percussionist who also happens to be the father of Lisa Coleman, the other half of Prince's Revolution-associated duo. The senior Coleman's credits are a mile long and include recordings with hard swinging legends like Cannonball Adderley and Grant Green.
Although it was merely coincidence for Prince, those three band members helped define his sound for over a decade. Perhaps this Thursday and Friday, Escovedo will reveal their secret bond or, better yet, play a little “Darling Nikki.”