By Noe Gutierrez
You can hear Jimi ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald on his radio show ‘Fitz In the Morning’ every weekday from 7 to 10 a.m. on 102.3 KJJZ. With his new album Jimi Fitz you’ll hear that distinctive voice plus a lot more. Fitz has a complete career in the music and entertainment industry that has granted him the ability to garner great success as a producer, concert promoter, director, talent agent, radio & television personality, host, artist, performer and songwriter. As a man taking on these many roles he is considered by many to be the ‘administrator of the arts’. Fitz relishes in his duties, “The job allows me to call my own shots, program the music on my show, run my own deals and create a Smooth Jazz franchise based on what I already know.” He has been a pillar of the music and charitable communities since he established himself in the Coachella Valley.
As a performer, Fitz has shared bills with such diverse musical artists ranging from The Ramones to Johnny Cash. He’s had two popular MTV music videos and a #2 record in Italy.
Fitz has presented shows at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, La Quinta Resort, Westin Mission Hills, Rancho Las Palmas Resort, JW Marriot, Riviera Resort in Palm Springs, Hotel Zoso, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and has had a partnership for 15 years with the Gardens on El Paseo raising almost $1 million in that time for local charities.
Fitz has been heavily influenced by music since a very young age. He has mentioned in previous interviews that music is his life. This life of music has risen to crescendo in the release of his new album ‘Jimi Fitz’.
Jimi Fitz the Album
“The whole project was born here in the Coachella Valley in Thermal at Ronnie King’s Chateau Relaxo Studios. Ronnie and I met through his brother and local music legend John Stanley King. Ronnie is an amazing engineer and co-producer,” Fitz explains. “We decided that we would do a real organic, real authentic true to my voice album that we would write material that would be our outlook on the world combined with influences with my varied musical past along with an homage to my radio personality career. The last year and a half has been such a pleasure and the most fun I’ve ever had making an album. I’ve had the blessing of being able to make several in my life. This was the most personal and honest statement I believe I’ve been able to present.”
He produced the album with Ronnie King (The Offspring, Tupac Shakur, Mariah Carey) and Lewis Richards (The Dirty Heads, Sublime, Sting, Mary J. Blige).
A unique group of musicians participated in the development of ‘Jimi Fitz’. Patrick Bostrom (Throw Rag) on guitar, Francis Cronin (Throw Rag) on bass, Ronnie King on keyboards and Steven Monroe (Throw Rag) on drums. Fitz is grateful for the contrasting backgrounds of his band. “I’m very comfortable around edgy musicians I’ve worked with them off and on my entire career. It was a great asset to the type of material that we had put together in trying to tell stories and paint pictures. To have that edge and attitude with guys who are so musical. Patrick is such a great guitarist he can be so edgy and yet he can be so melodic and create sounds that I’ve never heard before. He’s such a creative spirit. To have Patrick playing with Francis and Steven who he plays with in Throw Rag to have a rhythm section that playas together all the time and rehearses all the time who have toured around the world together as experienced pros as they are to have them focusing and being part of the Jimi Fitz band was a great asset and made me very comfortable and really brought something unique to the project and to the recording process”. Additional musicians on the album are Lewis Richards on bass and guitar, Jennifer Argenti on violin, Arianna Harville on background vocals and John Stanley King on guitar. Fitz co-wrote all of the songs with the exception of the one cover song “Time Has Come Today” by The Chambers Brothers. It was used as the first single for its familiarity as well as to be offered as a free download at JimiFitz.com. “People like to lock in sometimes on a new sound with a song they’re familiar with. The song reflected very turbulent times in the late 60’s during the Vietnam War. It was a very strong statement that they were making about the turbulent times. We certainly know we’re living in turbulent times these days, so it’s fitting”.
Fitz’ wife and partner Wendy ‘WJ Renee’ wrote lyrics and collaborated on multiple songs on the album. “Without her support this album could not have been what we ended up with.” Additional co-writers include; Pete Cummings, a long time collaborator and producer of Fitz’ ‘Audio/Video’ album, Ronnie King, Wilson Gil and Jimi Fitz guitarist Patrick Bostrom.
In working closely with his wife, Fitz states “This is the first album that we’ve collaborated as closely on. She was able to help me sound my best and be able to express the intent fully of the songs we had written. For us in our process, we’re together often and very conversational with each other. We’re discussing and debating topics of the day, things that happen to each of us collectively or individually often times that will spur an idea for a song which happened throughout this album. Several songs were inspired by an incident good or not so good.” According to Fitz, WJ Renee has performed as an artist in her own right. “She has sung with me in many clubs in New York City and in Nashville.” Currently, WJ Renee is content in supporting the Fitz album and his multiple endeavors. “She prefers to be the brains behind the brawn. Even if she wasn’t my wife, I love working with her would still want her in the stable constantly as a co-writer on her on merit and own creativity.”
Johnny Cash Comparisons
During the recording process Fitz was visited by many a musician in the studio who would allude to his sound as “channeling Johnny Cash”. Fitz politely contends this with respect, “In no way shape or form did I try to channel Johnny Cash. Everyone needs to compare music to something as a point of reference. It’s just natural when you hear a new sound or an artist that you’re not familiar with for the first time. If it rings true, my attitude is, if you like it, that’s great and if it reminds you of someone you admire and have liked their music, especially being mentioned in that company, obviously I’m humbled and thrilled and honored with that compliment. It wasn’t intentional.” Others have also mentioned that its Johnny Cash meets the Rolling Stones. Interestingly enough, Fitz has interacted with Johnny Cash in the past. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Johnny Cash not just on a musical basis, same line-up as him, but also as a promoter. I got to present Johnny Cash and got a chance to meet with him. I spent some time with him very early on in my radio career. He imparted some interesting and very powerful thoughts and ideas opinions to me that really stuck and inspired me throughout my musical career.”
Fitz Jazz Cafe
Fitz has been involved in Fitz’ Jazz Café at The McCallum Theatre for the last 15 years. “I always like to introduce new talent at the McCallum.” The series this year includes established artists Herb Alpert & Lani Hall, John Pizzarelli, Roberta Flack, Steve Tyrell and Morgan James.
Prior artists Fitz has co-produced with the McCallum Theatre have included Diana Krall, George Benson, Natalie Cole, as well rock and pop acts like Earth Wind and Fire, Queen Latifah, Hall and Oates and Steve Winwood. Trumpeter Chris Botti, who first played 14 years ago, returns every year to perform. “Chris and I became friends when I was at Sony in New York.”
Mitch Gershenfeld is the president and CEO of the McCallum Theatre. Fitz has described a great working relationship with him. “We get along. We agree most of the time. I’ll find out about up and coming artists in my travels in order to build an act and build an audience. We have a good collaborative process between Mitch and myself. We always have our feelers out. Several years ago we presented Michael Buble once before he became an arena act. It’s not an easy job booking the season.”
Fitz has made it clear that local live performances, both local and nationwide are in the works. “We’re rehearsing this summer. We hope to do some gigs maybe late summer and early fall. We can’t wait to play the desert and unveil this great live band. We’ve had talks about what an honor it would be to play the McCallum Theatre. We might do a couple of smaller gigs before. The focus now is to spread the word about the music. We’re already writing for the next album.”
Fitz has not lost his passion for music. You can hear it in his voice. “You ride the wave but you ask any artist who’s been in the limelight. The spotlight comes and the spotlight goes. The name of the game is how do you continue on as a musician with a love of music? How do you carry on for the right reasons and not get caught up in that particular moment in time?” Fitz is carrying on for all the right reasons.
Learn more about Jimi Fitz by listening to our full interview on ‘21 Exits – The Podcast’ available through iTunes.
Jimi Fitz – The Album
by Jack St. Clair
The new album by veteran musician Jimi Fitz swings with a smoothness and also rocks with a groove that is welcome and refreshing. Fitz has been in the music business for several years behind the mic both as a radio DJ and as a player making his music.
Crafted with the assistance of several song writing collaborators – including his wife WJ Rene and Pete Cummings, Ronnie King, Wilson Gil and Jimi Fitz Guitarist Patrick Bostrom (Throw Rag) – his music is a blend of dirty, bluesy rock, coupled with a hard, old country vibe. It has been described as a blend of The Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash – an assessment that is pretty accurate. What really defines the sound is his voice. It certainly evokes Mr. Cash, with its raw, deep delivery, more spoken than sung. It is commanding and haunting at the same time. It is easy to hear how his career has flourished in radio broadcasting.
Opening with a quick burst of medium paced rock and roll on “Go On”, Fitz challenges you to make the most of every moment and let your passion keep you alive. Followed by “Don’t Go Wasting My Champagne”, which can easily be compared to the before mention Stones and also reminds one of The Black Crowes, Fitz continues to speak on the theme of enjoying every last drop of what life has to offer.
He describes his lyrics as honest “observations on the world today.” This is evident on “American Dream” which is a poignant rumination reminding the listener that despite the current state of things, he still believes that the meaning behind those two words still lives on. “Song For Dad” is a stand out track different from the rest of the album. With piano as the backbone, and the sound of strings providing depth, it is a sad, moving and beautiful song written as a salute to his father. It could be the song for every Father’s Day commercial for the rest of time.
Produced with the aid of the valley’s own Ronnie King (The Offspring, Tupac Shakur, Mariah Carey) and Lewis Richards (The Dirty Heads, Sublime, Sting, Mary J. Blige) the album is crisp and soulful, with a tasteful blend of all the instruments. Bursts of guitar and organ highlight the music in all the right places, without overpowering the songs themselves. An impressive list of musicians performed with Fitz on the record including Patrick Bostrom – guitarist, Francis Cronin – bass, Ronnie King – keyboards and Steven Monroe – Drums. Additional credits go to Lewis Richards – bass and guitar, Jennifer Argenti – violin and Arianna Harville – backup vocal. John Stanley King contributed guitar to the cover of The Chamber Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today”.
Worth your time, this record can turn into a listening pleasure. To hear the music and get more info go to jimifitz.com