Jeff Babko’s varied musical interests have influenced his diverse endeavors over the years. From fulfilling his duties as keyboardist and arranger at ABC-TV’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” to his innovative orginal groups and supporting work for many recording artists, as well as extensive work in TV and film, Jeff has become one of Los Angeles’ busiest keyboardists.
A native of Southern California, Jeff studied privately at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts while still in high school. Collecting all styles of used vinyl, Jeff also developed a strong interest in pop/rock FM radio, as well as jazz and fusion music.
After high school, Jeff went across the country to attend the University of Miami School of Music, and quickly became one of South Florida’s hardest working musicians as well. After graduating and returning to Los Angeles, Babko formed his first jazz quartet, “The Jeff Babko Group,” and recorded and produced their first record at the age of 23, released on his own label. This CD, Misfits Of Silence, received worldwide distribution and charted nationally at jazz radio.
While playing jazz in L.A., Babko was invited to tour with Latin superstar Julio Iglesias, which led to three world tours and many television appearances.
One of Jeff’s strongest connections has been with drummer Simon Phillips (Jeff Beck, The Who). In 1997, Simon embarked upon his first solo tour, and eventually this band would record two albums, Another Lifetime and the live Out of the Blue. Simon and Jeff also co-led a “straight ahead” jazz record, Vantage Point, as well as the “hi-def” DVD, Resolutions. Simon’s connection would lead to Jeff touring with L.A.’s legendary band, Toto, where Jeff was the first ever replacement keyboardist for founder David Paich.
Jeff has also toured with alt-country singer Shelby Lynne, guitarist Robben Ford, Men at Work’s Colin Hay, smooth jazz trumpeter Rick Braun, and in 2003 played keyboards for James Taylor on his “October Road” tour. Babko has also performed with composer Mark Isham, singer John Waite, Sheila E. and the Escovedo family. His most recent extensive live collaborations have been with guitarist Larry Carlton, which culminated in two recent recordings: Firewire and Live In Tokyo (With Robben Ford).
Recording highlights include arranging and playing on Toto guitarist Steve Lukather’s demented Christmas record, Santamental , which also featured Slash, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, and Edgar Winter. Babko has also recorded with Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Natasha Bedingfield, The Corrs, Dilated Peoples and Dr. Dre., among many others.
Babko keeps busy working on film scores as well, and his films include the #1 2005 hit The 40 Year Old Virgin, Garden State, Super Bad, Dawn of the Dead (#1 2004 remake), Made, The Dead Girl, Two for the Money, Ray Romano’s 99 Miles To Go, Dirty, and School for Scoundrels. Babko has contributed to composing and playing on the 2007 Miss America show, the 2003-2005 World Stunt Awards, “Heist,” “Vegas Weddings Unveiled,” and more.
In addition, since 1999, Babko has been very involved with television ON camera, beginning with his involvement as a member of the house band on the short lived “MARTIN SHORT SHOW.” (This would lead to Jeff’s being Mr. Short’s road musical director, which continues to this day.) He followed this with a similar role on the “Wayne Brady Show,” and finally landed at “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in 2003. On “JKL,” the band (“The Cletones”) has backed up Hall & Oates, The Killers, Leann Rimes, George Benson, Steve Miller, Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton, The O’Jays, Martha Reeves, Jon Anderson (from Yes), Glenn Tilbrook (from Squeeze), George Thorogood, Hank Williams, Jr., Edgar Winter, Al Jarreau, Martin Fry of ABC, Joe Walsh, Chaka Khan, Isaac Hayes, Jeffrey Osborne, Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons), Zakk Wylde and others. Babko has also co-composed comedy songs for the Cletones including “Girls on Mars,” “I Don’t Know What Christmas Is (Because I’m Japanese)” and more, which have become popular YouTube videos.
Other TV appearances have included “The Drew Carey Show,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” and “Beverly Hills 90210.”
Babko’s recent solo records include Broject (Featuring Toss Panos), which featured David Fiuczynski and Mike Landau, and Mondo Trio with Vinnie Colaiuta and Jeff Coffin.