John Guerin

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A highly accomplished and in-demand session drummer; he worked with many top pop, rock and jazz artists during the '70s, '80s, and '90s.
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b. John Payne Guerin, 31 October 1939, Hawaii, USA, d. 5 January 2004, West Hills, California, USA. Guerin was raised in San Diego, California, where he taught himself to play drums and formed a successful jazz group while still in his teens. In the early and mid-60s he had spells with the Buddy De Franco /Tommy Gumina Quartet and George Shearing, then later in the decade and in the 70s played and sometimes recorded with Ray Brown, Roger Kellaway, Blue Mitchell, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, and Tom Scott, and many other leading jazz musicians. He also crossed over into rock, working notably with Frank Zappa (1969’s Hot Rats) and the Byrds. Concurrently, he worked in television and recording studios, backing artists such as Frank Sinatra. When Tom Scott formed the group, L.A. Express, Guerin was a founder member. This was in 1973 and the band toured extensively, often with Joni Mitchell with whom Guerin wrote ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’, the title track of her 1975 album, one of several on which Guerin played. His enviable technical skills and his ease in a variety of musical styles allowed him to work in genres other than jazz and rock.

Although Guerin continued to play on numerous dates throughout the 80s, he was also increasingly active as an arranger and producer. In the latter capacity, he worked on recording projects for Keith Carradine, Terry Garthwaite and O.C. Smith. At the end of the decade he was a member of a re-formed L.A. Express. Among his television work is the prominent drumming behind the title sequence of Hawaii Five-0, while his most notable film studio work was on Bird (1988), whereon, owing to modern technology, he ‘accompanied’ Charlie Parker. Among the many other artists with whom Guerin recorded during his distinguished career were Alessi, Gene Ammons, Eric Andersen, Don Ellis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Grusin, George Harrison, Milt Jackson, Peggy Lee, Bobby McFerrin, Harry Nilsson, Gram Parsons, John Pizzarelli, Kenny Rankin, Spike Robinson, and he was on several albums backing the Brady Bunch. Respect for his recording work was demonstrated by his winning the NARAS Most Valued Player award on four occasions. His later work included dates with Ray Charles, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Heath, Oscar Peterson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Sonny Rollins, Mike Wofford, and the trios of Kellaway and Mike Melvoin. He was also involved in recordings by Sheena Easton and Linda Ronstadt.

In the early 00s, Guerin continued to be active in many musical fields, including playing on the soundtrack of Something’s Gotta Give and on Lou Rawls’ 2003 release Rawls Sings Sinatra, together with club dates. In addition to drums, Guerin played other percussion instruments and keyboards. He also wrote a drum tuition book, Jazz + Rock = John Guerin. His death came from a heart attack following complications arising from a bout of influenza.