Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
A working professional over the past 25 years with an impressive list of credentials as a sideman, Las Vegas based guitarist Jimmy McIntosh finally steps out as a solo artist in his own right on Orleans To London, his long overdue debut as a leader. A hard-grooving, swaggering collection of N’awlins flavored funk, slamming rock and searing blues tunes, this formidable collection features such heavyweights as Art, Cyril and Ivan Neville of the Neville Brothers along with Nevilles drummer “Mean” Willie Green, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and guitar hero Jeff Beck, who makes an uncredited mystery guest appearance on three tracks (listed under the sobriquet “Hot Rod”). McIntosh more than holds his own in such illustrious company, unleashing potent licks that run the gamut of six-string influences from bluesmen B.B. King and Albert Collins to rockers Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Jimi Hendrix to a whole host of jazz guitar greats. And while McIntosh has plied his trade over the years for innumerable shows and studio work as a first-call guitarist on the Vegas scene, he reserves his personal playing for this auspicious showcase.
“As a working pro I do whatever it takes to make the gig work and keep the leader happy,” says McIntosh. “But on my own, I do my own thing. So there’s music I play for a living, which is great. But then there’s more creative music that I listen to and play for my own enjoyment.” He cites the Stones, the Nevilles, Miles Davis, reggae and guitar greats Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Scott Henderson and Mike Stern as personal favorites.
The collection opens on a funk-laden note with the earthy, The Meters-influenced “Biker Babe,” an organ-fueled groover that features both the guitarist’s jazzy fluency and his blues-rock sting. “It Was a Virus” (with lyrics penned by Penn Jillette) is a catchy pop-rock offering sung by Ivan Neville and featuring both Ronnie Wood and “Hot Rod” on guitars interweaving little gem-like melodic phrases with Ivan’s vocals on the long outro vamp. “Mama Funk” gets knee deep into the funk, N’awlins style, with “Mean” Willie Green powering the infectious second line groove and Art Neville laying down his signature B-3 organ cushion. Bassist Rochon Westmoreland, a longtime bandmate of Jimmy’s in the Vegas-based fusion band After Burner, offers some solidly funky electric bass underpinnings in the spirit of The Meters’ George Porter Jr. while Wood adds some slick low end fills on baritone guitar. McIntosh cuts loose here with a barrage of chops, alternately wailing on single note licks and augmenting the harmony with sophisticated chordal voicings.
“G-Spot,” a slow-grooving N’awlins flavored funk throwdown, features some particularly nasty, toe-curling guitar work from guest star “Hot Rod” while the mysterious, reggae flavored “Woody,” named for McIntosh’s late father, features some of Jimmy’s most luminous, lyrical and harmonically adventurous playing on the record. “A.K.A. Papa Funk” (Jimmy’s ode to the great Art Neville) is more N’awlins styled jamming, this time with a harder edge and featuring some incendiary Hendrixian six-string work from McIntosh.
Wood joins in on an extended instrumental cover of The Stones’ “Slave,” which is powered by Green’s slamming backbeat and features some urgent tenor sax work by Phil Wigfall. McIntosh breaks out the wah-wah pedal and serves up some sizzling fusion licks on the aggressive “Fifty Five,” his personal tribute to one of his own favorite guitarists, Mike Stern. “Hot Rod” returns for a captivating solo on the slow blues “Rogent,” named for a childhood friend of Jimmy’s. McIntosh adds his own six-string fire to the bluesy proceedings here, exchanging pyrotechnic licks with the remarkable “Hot Rod.”
Jimmy soars into the stratosphere on a cathartic reading of Jimi Hendrix’s turbulent landmark, “Third Stone From The Sun,” which also features scorching contributions from drummer Green and bassist Westmoreland. And the collection closes on a poignant note with a sparse solo acoustic rendition of “The Minstral Boy,” an old Irish folk tune that Jimmy performed at his father’s memorial service in November of 2001. “It’s a couple hundred years old and was played at Winston Churchill’s funeral,” he explains. “I worked up that arrangement and it came out nice. My brother had always wanted me to record a copy for him to have, so I put this on here as a kind of surprise for him.”
Recorded partly in the Crescent (at Piety Street Recording) and partly in London (at Ronnie Wood’s home studio), the aptly-named Orleans To London may not be a cross-section of all the styles that McIntosh has been called on to play in his capacity as first-call guitarist on the Las Vegas show and studio scene, but it fully represents the depth of his own musical interests as both a player and lifelong listener of music.
Currently teaching part-time at the University of Nevada and working full-time in the Vegas production of the popular Broadway musical “Mamma Mia,” the guitarist has had a long and circuitous route to the making of his auspicious debut as a leader. “It’s like a dream come true having Ronnie Wood and Jeff Beck on my record,” says Jimmy. “These are heroes of mine, guys I’ve admired for over 30 years. And Art Neville is a hero as well.”
Born on October 14, 1958 in Sao Paolo, Brazil, McIntosh grew up in the small town of Temperance, Michigan, where his family moved when he was seven years old. He played French horn (on an instrument given to him by Duke Ellington, a close family friend) in the junior high school band before picking up the guitar at age 14 and beginning private lessons the following year. “I was a Beatles fan as a kid until I saw the Rolling Stones’ movie ‘Gimme Shelter’ in 1970,” he recalls. “At that point I became a huge Stones fan. That became an influence that’s lasted to this day.” In 10th grade, he began studying with John Justus, the local jazz guitar guru in Toledo, Ohio. “I started studying with John in the Spring of 1974,” he remembers. “And I was working with John on a chord melody of an Ellington tune about the time Duke passed away (May 24, 1974).”
While studying with Justus, McIntosh met and befriended fellow guitarist Scott Henderson, who had moved to Toledo to work in a Top 40 band. “I met him at a music store in Toledo,” he recalls. “We both used to sit in with a local jazz band and hung out together. Scott was already an incredible player.”
After graduating from high school in 1976, Jimmy attended the Berklee College of Music for two years and later got a bachelors degree in music arts with a major in guitar performance from the University of Michigan. In 1981, he moved to Las Vegas, a place with deep roots for the McIntosh family. “In 1905 my grandfather built the first saloon in Las Vegas, a place called The Arizona Club, which was literally the first permanent structure in Vegas,” he explains. Since relocating to Las Vegas, he’s been an in-demand guitarist on the music scene. Over the years McIntosh has played with R&B singer Doris Troy (of “Just One Look” fame) and Little Anthony & The Imperials, backed up Buddy Hackett and Ben Vereen, and also had a longstanding gig with the popular Vegas show “Legends In Concert.” He has also included work on more than 40 national tv shows, appearing in the house band for Penn & Teller’s “Sin City Spectacular,” which aired for 24 one-hour episodes on the FX network (performing with the likes of Slash, Lyle Lovett, Weird Al Yankovic, Eric Idle, Jennifer Holliday and Clarence Clemmons). He also played in the house band on Comedy Central’s “Viva Variety,” and The WB network Ron White show.
For 15 years, beginning in 1990, McIntosh also played in a popular after-hours band called the Lon Bronson All-Stars Band, a powerhouse horn band that had a longstanding weekly residency at the Riviera, where they entertained crowds ‘til the wee hours and featured such special guests sitting in as Tower Of Power, former Doobie Brothers guitarist and producer Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, guitarist Joe Walsh, comedian (and sometime trumpeter) Drew Carey, Penn Jillette and The Tonight Show guitarist, bandleader and Jay Leno sidekick Kevin Eubanks. In 1999, following his longstanding engagement with the “Legends” show, McIntosh moved to the Rio Hotel to perform in a show with pop stars Sheena Easton and David Cassady, then worked for the following two years in Cassady’s touring band.
Jimmy first got turned on to the Neville Brothers from a 1981 Rolling Stone interview with Keith Richards, in which the Stones’ guitarist mentioned Fiyo on the Bayou as being one of the best albums of the year. “I hunted that record down, brought it home and fell in love with it,” he recalls. “And then I purchased everything I could find by the Meters as well. I met Art and Willie Green when they started coming to Las Vegas around 1994, and we’ve been really good friends ever since.”
Through Art Neville, Jimmy met Ronnie Wood in 1999. More recently, Wood heard about Jimmy’s project and expressed an interest in playing on it. So McIntosh and his wife Carol flew to England with basic tracks he had recorded with the Nevilles and company and had Wood overdub guitar parts. “Initially, Ronnie was only supposed to play on ‘It Was a Virus’,” says Jimmy, “but he ended up playing on five tracks. I always felt that Ronnie was one of the most underrated musicians, and boy was I right. His musicality was just amazing. Everything he did was first take and just brilliant. He’s a great improviser.”
During the recording of “It Was a Virus,” Wood explained to Jimmy that a friend of his might drop by for the session. “Ronnie said 'I told Jeff Beck about your record with the Nevilles and he might drop by and want to play on it.' Well, I didn’t even react to that because I was in shock when he said it.” Beck did indeed show up and was so inspired by what he heard that he ended up applying his six-string magic to “G-Spot,” “Rogent” and the vocal number “It Was a Virus” before the night was over. “This was like I died and went to heaven,” says Jimmy. “The only way it could’ve gotten any better is if Mick and Keith would’ve stopped by.”
Maybe that’ll happen on his followup CD. But for now, McIntosh is still immersed in the afterglow of his serendipitous debut as a leader, Orleans To London. It’s a project that should have immense appeal to funk fans and fretboard aficionados alike. It stands as the crowning achievement to date in Jimmy’s ongoing career as a working guitarist.