Jason Crosby with Jackson Browne

ON TOUR: Jason Crosby to tour with Jackson Browne

Fast forward to the night of Oct. 29, 2021. You are sitting in a great seat at Chase Center in San Francisco. Onstage is your favorite guy, Jackson Browne, fronting his nine-piece band. You glance up at the huge screen above the stage and think, “Hey, don't we see that guy shopping at Whole Foods?"

The musician you recognize, taking the soaring violin solo during Browne’s classic, “For a Dancer,” has been a Sonoma resident for five years, and is named Jason Crosby. You could indeed know him from the produce section. But this summer, thousands of concert goers, overjoyed to be hearing a big live music concert again, will see Crosby playing in Jackson Browne’s band. Browne’s band is the opening act in a double concert bill as they tour the states with James Taylor and his band.

The Sonoma resident will be part of a hand-selected nine-piece ensemble playing 29 shows with Taylor, starting July 29 in Chicago and ending Nov. 1 in San Diego. A short break from the Taylor tour, when JT heads into Canada with Bonnie Raitt, has the Browne band splitting off and playing another nine shows in California and Arizona, with a local stop at the Oxbow Commons in Napa on Sept. 10.

Browne has a new album out on July 23 called “Downhill From Everywhere” that the tour will be supporting. Crosby is very excited to have been chosen to be part of the tour. “It is a totally challenging gig,” Crosby said of the Browne assignment. He received the invite to join the band from Browne himself days before the COVID lockdown last March. He had just finished laying down some piano parts for Browne’s new album. “Jackson Browne was the last person I shook hands with,” Crosby said.

Crosby, 47, talked about the upcoming tour and his career that led to this opportunity, while in his home on the south end of Sonoma Valley. His living room has a large table, currently scattered with hand-written sheet music notating his parts, an electronic keyboard rig with mixing board and small PA system, and a grand piano. Crosby also has a few mementos displayed, including an original New York Mets poster. “I am a huge Mets fan,” Crosby said.

He grew up on Long Island, home of the Mets. Crosby told of his visits to Shea Stadium to see his favorite team. While on the road during baseball season, he enjoys catching the Mets as they also travel.

That same grueling travel his team endures will take Crosby all over the U.S. this summer. The Taylor/Browne tour will pass through the upper Midwest, swing along the Eastern seaboard, and the Southwest. “This is an important gig for me, and quite an honor,” Crosby said. “I have been very lucky.”

Crosby is a veteran sideman. His monstrous musical talent was discovered at the tender age of 2, when it was determined that he had perfect pitch. After many years excelling playing classical music, he joined the ranks of rock. He has played with Pete Seeger, Blind Boys of Alabama, Susan Tedeschi, John McLaughlin, Jenny Lewis and Robert Randolph, among many others. Crosby is a member of Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band. He also has spent much time recently with the Full Moonalice family.

In a nod to the stature that Rock and Roll hall of Fame inductee Jackson Browne enjoys in the music world, Crosby mentioned that he usually does not get nervous when he meets a well-known artist. He intimated that meeting Browne was a little different. “Jackson and his music deserves the time and preparation I’ve put into it,” Crosby said.

Crosby will play piano and violin while on stage with Browne and his band. While on violin, he will be responsible to deliver the iconic licks originally played by renowned Browne buddy and crowd favorite David Lindley. Crosby will play piano on songs Browne originally played the guitar on, and songs that were original piano songs for Browne.

He sees his job as an important one. “I need to stay true, play to honor the classic recordings.” He mentioned he has been impressed with Browne’s attention to detail. “He notices everything,” Crosby said of his band leader. “Browne is song-focused, rather than jam-focused. The band’s job is to serve the song.”

Crosby told of his experience with some band leaders who seems to embrace a “Dixieland” style of ensemble playing, where everyone is busy playing solos and filling musical space during a song. Browne takes a different approach, insisting that all notes played support the lyrics, rather than draw attention away from them.

To learn his parts, Crosby has listened to countless recordings of Browne’s songs; original studio versions and live versions recorded over the years. Because this is rock ‘n’ roll, there is no formal sheet music available for Crosby to study. Rather, he has hand transcribed, note for note, the songs that Browne plans on playing while on tour.

The large table in his living room is littered with these transcriptions. Hand-written music for such Browne classics as “Somebody’s Baby,” “For a Dancer,” “Late for the Sky” and “Fountain of Sorrow” all reveal Crosby’s meticulous note taking and attention.

Crosby heads to Los Angeles soon for several long days of rehearsal. Then they hit the road. Tickets for the Sept. 10 Jackson Browne show at Oxbow in Napa, and for the James Taylor/Jackson Brown show at Chase Center Oct. 29, are still available through Ticketmaster.

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