“Oh my; he’s so dreamy,” said Terri Laird, of Reno, Nevada, while watching one of Josh Pfeiffer’s performances last summer. “He sounds just like Sinatra or Michael Bublé, but with his own unique sound.”
Josh Pfeiffer is a familiar name in Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. He is well known for upbeat concerts and his jazz, swing, and big band sounds from the 1940s. A founding member of Summerville High School’s Jazz @ 8 singing group, he has performed many times at local venues like Black Oak Casino’s Willow Creek Lounge and La Bella Rosa Vineyard.
“I try to bring beautiful, timeless love songs and dance tunes to my audiences,” said Pfeiffer, the 35-year-old entertainer and songwriter. “I think people love to go back in time, to music that brings back good memories. There is a certain feeling you get when you go back to the days of Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin. Even the younger generations understand the magic.”
Josh found his love of music at an early age. His father worked in the Christian music industry for many years and was involved in music sales. By the time Josh was in 8th grade, his mother was also involved in music – teaching piano and vocal lessons. He soon became involved in the music program at Summerville.
He recalls the history of Jazz @ 8 at Summerville, starting under the leadership of long-time Gold Country resident Jim Welles.
“Despite popular belief, we did not name the group ‘Jazz @ 8’ because there were eight people,” said Pfeiffer. “We called it that because it was an eighth-period class.”
Pfeiffer began singing bass in the group – he had a very low range and could add richness to songs like “Take Six.”
“It was really a great time,” said the 1992 graduate. “I was able to expand my knowledge and improve my “ear.” I learned how to work with a group and tighten harmonies. It was excellent training for developing my singing capabilities. I really thought about music seriously for the first time. Plus, we got to travel a lot.”
Pfeiffer received a number of music scholarships coming out of high school. He then went on to receive individual Outstanding Musicianship Awards at the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival, the Redding Jazz Festival, and the Fullerton Jazz Festival.
Pfeiffer has worked with renowned producer, Joe Chiccarelli (U2, Shins), and a who’s who of musicians including Gigi Gonaway (Mariah Carey), Mic Gillette (Tower of Power), Stu Hamm (Joe Satriani), and Marvelous Marvin McFadden (Huey Lewis).
He has been compared to singer Michael Bublé and Harry Connick, Jr., yet retains his own authenticity.
“Pfeiffer’s deep smooth voice sets him apart. He remains true to the jazz ethos with a willingness to experiment and improvise,” said Christian Gulliksen, freelance writer for the Robb Report.
“I adore Josh Pfeiffer,” said Donna Peterson, past president of Twain Harte Rotary. “He puts on a great performance. So much energy and enthusiasm. Clearly, he has deep passion for what he does, and he shares that passion with the audience.”
Today, Pfeiffer is working on his second CD, which will be available in July. Consisting of seven original songs, the currently untitled project has taken three years of writing, recording, re-writing, re-recording, and spending countless hours developing new ideas. His first CD, titled “California Days,” was a popular collection of big band swing standards recorded live at his concerts. It also featured one original song, the title track, “California Days.”
Technically, his newest project is an “EP.” According to Wikipedia, an extended play (EP) is a vinyl record, CD, or music download, which contains more music than a single, but is too short to qualify as an LP. Usually, an EP has around 10–28 minutes of music, a single has up to 10 minutes, and an album has 30–80 minutes.
Pfeiffer is recording the EP at the famed Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. Fantasy Studios, the Bay Area’s premier recording studio, first opened in 1971 as an in-house studio for Fantasy Records and then opened to the public in 1980. It is a world-renowned facility that has serviced a wide array of companies, artists, films and others and was voted #1 Recording Studio by Billboard Magazine in September of 2000.
Fantasy Studios is best known for producing, mastering and engineering albums for Tony Bennett, B.B. King, Henry Mancini, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, U2, Green Day, Aerosmith, Santana and Dave Matthews.
An integral part of the Zaentz Media Center, Fantasy Studios is comprised of three historic rooms upgraded to meet the most modern standards including Studio A, which is one of the most requested tracking rooms on the West Coast. All rooms are fully equipped with Studer analog as well as ProTools HD. It also offers complete ISDN services linking them to studios worldwide.
Fantasy Studios has the largest selection of vintage and new microphones and outboard gear in Northern California. All of the rooms are equipped with top quality pianos that record beautifully and have been featured on many famous recordings.
“Over the last number of years I’ve come to view Fantasy’s Studio A as a house of worship of music,” said Bruce Kaphan, music producer, musician, recording engineer and composer. “I’ve recorded jazz, classical, world, Americana, rock & roll, country and old-time music within the venerable walls of this Bay Area institution, and it doesn’t matter what style of music, the room SINGS. Every group of people I’ve recorded in this room has come away with a little bit of awe as to what a great facility, run by great people, and outfitted with great gear can mean to a production. Working in this room has made me a better producer and engineer. Whenever I ponder a recording situation I’ve never tried, I try it in this room and it works.”
“Having Josh record at Fantasy Studios was a joy,” said Jeffrey Wood, Studio Director at Fantasy Studios. “We love to work with creative artists and Josh is that. He is professional and his band sounds great. Josh Pfeiffer has great vocals and delivers truly memorable songwriting.”
Pfeiffer credits several people for what he believes will be a very successful EP. He says David Schram (production, guitar), Adam Munoz (studio engineer whose credits include Chris Isaak, the Cranberries and Bonnie Raitt), and Gino Fraselli (music video production whose credits include Monster Garage, Hour of Power, and NBC) were key to the whole project and very dedicated. He also says the never ending support of his wife, Tara, his parents (Gary and Joyce Pfeiffer), as well as many other family and friends has kept him going through the ups and downs.
Once he finishes the EP, he and the band will take a look at all of their options and set some tour dates for promoting the new songs. He hopes to debut songs from the EP at an event in the Sierra Foothills. (Check his website, www.joshpfeiffer.com, for dates and times.)
While Pfeiffer is following in the footsteps of many of the world’s musical icons, he is taking a path less traveled. Pfeiffer was married in 1995 at the age of 21. A bit of an entrepreneur as well as an entertainer, he purchased an existing automotive reconditioning business, called Pro Finish. He brought on his brother and expanded the business to serve Modesto, Merced, Stockton and Sacramento. Today, he has the successful business, the music and his family. He is married to wife, Tara, and they have three children, David (13), Tamara (12), and Hannah (10).
“The more conventional route to success in the music industry is to jump into the music, travel to one of the nation’s music Mecca’s (Los Angeles, Nashville or New York), get an agent, cut a demo and pound the pavement,” he said. “I have not had that luxury, which means I have had to work even harder to get where I am today.
“It’s a real balancing act. You find yourself, at times, really torn. You want the music to be as successful as it can. You almost have it make it a #1 priority, 24/7, and move wherever the best opportunities are.
“Right now, the music doesn’t hold that priority in my life. I have to make it fit in with my wife and children. They are more important than my career. I love my life and believe I have the best of both worlds.”
Pfeiffer’s love of music and ambition keeps him going despite all of the obstacles in the music industry one can imagine. He says the challenges are almost endless.
“You need to maintain who you are and not sell out,” he said. “You almost need to fit into a certain box. I encourage people to try to stay true to who they are and hopefully, something will sell.”
One of the biggest decisions entertainers have to make is to decide whether to sign with a label. Although the label team will do a lot of the work, they also make most of the profit and the artist often loses control. The other option is to stay independent and run the operation yourself.
Pfeiffer says when it’s just you as an “indie” and the leaner times hit, you need to step back and re-evaluate what you are doing. You need to look into new ways for getting exposure. You have to ask yourself if you can crossover into the mainstream of music without compromising yourself or your vision.
Another huge challenge is that if you are independent and just starting out, you need to do a lot of the funding yourself. Pfeiffer says you also have to be very creative. All of a sudden you’re the owner, manager, producer, publicist and fundraiser. You have the expense of demos, a website, song copyrights, studio time, photography, promotion, CD cover design, and other must-haves. When you’re doing a show, the list gets even longer.
“It’s tough when you’re dabbling in areas in which you haven’t any experience,” he said. “You have to organize different elements and make them all come together. As an entrepreneur with my auto reconditioning business, I have a lot of skills but not nearly every skill I need. It’s a learning experience. Initiation by fire.”
Pfeiffer says once he and the band started doing quality shows and making decent money, they started dumping the profits back into the business to make it even better. Today, he says his work mostly pays for itself.
“We’ve had a really good year and a half,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from people in the industry. I believe we (the band and I) still have a shot to make it big, without the day-to-day grind.”
Pfeiffer will be performing at Twain Harte Rotary’s annual “Concert in the Vines,” on Sunday, June 14th at La Bella Rosa Vineyards in Sonora.
About the upcoming concert, Pfeiffer says, “We are changing the show a bit this year, to bring it back to the timeless and beautiful sounds of the 40’s. We want to remain true to the beloved old standards of swing, jazz and big band. Concertgoers are guaranteed to pick up our cheery and timeless vibe. It should be a great time, and there is no place more beautiful for this type of concert than La Bella Rosa.”
World-renowned trumpet player Mic Gillette, an original member of the legendary Tower of Power horn section, will be a part of Pfeiffer’s very energetic seven-member band. Gillette has appeared on countless CDs and record albums (spanning five decades), for some of the biggest names in the business including a dozen members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to Pfeiffer, he has worked with Santana, The Rolling Stones, Quincy Jones, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Jefferson Starship, Huey Lewis and the News, Blood, Sweat & Tears and numerous others.
Concert in the Vines show will also feature piano player Kent Gripenstraw who has played for four U.S. presidents including John F. Kennedy.
“When it comes to big band swing music, you can‘t find a better piano player than Kent,” said Pfeiffer. “He is absolutely amazing on the piano, and I feel blessed to have him.”
“We are delighted to present the talents of Josh Pfeiffer and his band along with the exquisite beauty of La Bella Rosa Vineyards,” said Eric Carlson, president of the Rotary Club of Twain Harte. “This is our second Concert in the Vines and it promises to be even more magical than the first. We had a terrific turnout last year and expect to be sold out quickly. Everyone is invited.”
In addition to the phenomenal musical talents and Josh Pfeiffer and his band, Concert in the Vines will pair La Bella Rosa wines with fancy hors d’oeurvres catered by the Twain Harte Rotary, which is know for its annual deep-pit barbecue in late August.
Attendees will receive a commemorative wine glass from La Bella Rosa.
“Our vineyard is the perfect venue for an entertainer like Josh,” said Ron Peterson, who owns La Bella Rosa Vineyards with his wife, Linda. “When people think of the music of Sinatra and the sounds of Michael Bublé and Harry Connick, Jr., they think of romance. La Bella Rosa is gorgeous this time of year, and I know guests will enjoy the combination of food, wine, great music, and ambiance.”
“I am so pleased to be invited to perform at the Twain Harte Rotary’s annual event,” said Pfeiffer. “The proceeds from this event go to scholarships for Summerville High School seniors. Two weeks ago, Twain Harte Rotary awarded more than $14,000 to local students. As a Summerville alumnus, I feel like I’m also contributing to the success of these young people. I encourage everyone to support this event. I’ll see you there.”
Tickets are $45 per person. For more information, call Ron Peterson at 694-1063 or La Bella Rosa at 533-8668. Tickets may be purchased online at http://twainharterotary.org/Concertinfo.html or at Twain Harte Lumber & Hardware, Donna’s Styling Salon, The Family Barber Shop, of Twain Harte, The McCaffrey House B&B, Twain Harte Miniature Golf or through any Twain Harte Rotarian.
Pfeiffer is currently booking concerts, corporate events, fundraisers, state fairs, and festivals. To book events, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to follow Pfeiffer and be included on his mailing list, visit www.joshpfeiffer.com or his MySpace page, www.myspace.com/joshpfeiffer.
Susan Kohl is a freelance writer and president of Sierra Communications Public Relations, of Twain Harte. www.sierracomm.com.