In 2019 drummer Pat Petrillo put out, with his Big Rhythm Band, an album composed mostly of Beatles songs, titled The Abbey Road Sessions. It was partially recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, where The Beatles and many other legendary rock artists have worked since the ’50s.
His new album, released late last year, is titled The Power Station Sessions and features songs (mostly instrumentals) recorded at the also-legendary New York studio The Power Station, whose clients, over the years, have included Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Madonna, Bob Dylan, The Clash and Bon Jovi.
Recording at a famous, history-filled studio “brings the best out of me and elevates the project: It puts a stamp on it,” says Petrillo, who grew up in Franklin Township and now lives in South Brunswick.
“I can remember looking back on other records that I bought and they had the liner notes. (You’d think) ‘Man, where did they cut this at?,’ you know. All these legendary studios, like Electric Lady, and Capitol. ‘Where did these musicians make this great music?’ So that’s sort of the impetus, for me, to go to different places.”
Petrillo — whose music blends elements of high-energy jazz, rock and funk — includes some original songs on the Power Station album, including “Asbury Daze,” an homage to his days playing in Asbury Park nightclubs. Other tracks include imaginatively arranged covers of songs such as The Beatles’ “It Won’t Be Long” (featuring vocals by Glen Burtnik of The Weeklings), Billy Joel’s “Big Man on Mulberry Street,” Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” and Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet.”
John Popper of Blues Traveler adds harmonica to “Asbury Daze,” which features an Asbury Jukes-like R&B sound. And Nile Rodgers of Chic plays guitar on the Petrillo-written “48th Street” (listen below), whose title refers to an area of New York that is known for its music stores and sometimes is called Music Row.
“I wanted Nile Rodgers to play on it, since he did so much stuff (at Power Station) with Chic and Madonna and everybody,” says Petrillo. “I wrote that with him in mind, and he was gracious enough to do it.”
Petrillo said he chose “Big Man on Mulberry Street” from among Joel’s songs “because it is real big band-y. I’ve been friends with (Joel’s former drummer) Liberty (DeVitto) for a while and I gave him a call and said, ‘Hey man, we’re gonna do this at Power Station, and I just wanted to thank you for the great grooves,’ and this and that. And he was like, ‘You know, we recorded that at Power Stations in Studio C, where you’re at.’ And I was like, ‘OK, we have to do that.’ ”
In addition to leading the Big Rhythm Band — who have performed at the Cutting Room in New York and elsewhere, and will be touring this year — Petrillo has backed artists such as Patti LaBelle, Gloria Gaynor and Debbie Gibson.
“I’ve played rock, funk, jazz, fusion … it’s all in my bag, from Beatles to Broadway, to Weather Report, to … you name it. Session-wise, that’s why I get called to do a variety of things for different guys, because they know I can pull off a hip-hop funk thing, or a rock thing, or whatever.”
Petrillo also has played in the orchestras of Broadway musicals including “A Chorus Line,” “Grease,” “Footloose,” “Dreamgirls” and “Newsies.” And he has worked with Burtnik, whom he has known since he was a kid (Burtnik’s brother and Petrillo’s brother were in bands together).
In fact, knowing that The Weeklings traveled to London in 2016 to record their Studio 2 album was one of the things that inspired The Abbey Road Sessions.
“Seeing those guys do that, and they raised the funds … it was like, ‘You know what, let’s go, man. I could do this,’ ” Petrillo said.
Once at Abbey Road, he said, “It took me probably the first half of the first day to just get over myself. The first takes and second takes and third takes were like, ‘All right. Calm down, dude. Relax.’ Because being in such awe of The Beatles, and having that as an inspiration since I was 5 years old, singing along to my brother’s records … to actually be there was just a trip!”
Other studios he would be interested in recording at include Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Ala., and Sunset Sound in Hollywood, Calif., both of which have produced more than their fair share of classic albums.
“I like the experience,” Petrillo says, “and I like the pressure, to be honest. Like, ‘OK, you’ve got x amount of hours to cut this.’ It’s not like at your own studio, where it’s like, ‘OK, have a cup of coffee, and come out, and if you don’t get it, just do it tomorrow.’ ‘Boom! You’ve got x amount of hours get the track done.’ That puts a little added vibe to it.”
For more on Petrillo, visit patpdrummer.com.
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