Born: August 21, 1941 Primary Instrument: Keyboard
During his tenure with Santana in the 1970’s, Tom Coster made his mark as a keyboard player and composer of versatility and power. Detroit-born and San Francisco-raised, Coster played piano and accordion as a youth, continuing his studies through college and a productive five-year stint as a musician in the Air Force. He then invaded the Bay Area club scene, soon acquiring his reputation as a standout keyboard player. After successful tenures with the rock group The Loading Zone and jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo, Coster was asked by Carlos Santana in 1972 to bring more jazz fusion influence to that phenomenally successful band.
This historic alliance produced six classic Santana albums -- Caravanserai, Welcome, Lotus, Borboletta, Amigos, and Moonflower. Coster also performed on three Devadip Carlos Santana solo albums (including Illuminations with Alice Coltrane). Europa, Flor D’Luna and Dance Sister Dance are three timeless examples of Coster’s contributions to these projects.
After amicably parting with Santana, Coster joined forces with drummer Billy Cobham’s band for a brief stint before taking a sabbatical from the music business to spend more time with his family. He re- entered the recording world with two critically acclaimed solo albums, T.C. and Ivory Expeditions. Still sought after, these albums feature performances by guitarist Joaquin Lievano, Randy Jackson on bass and Steve Smith on drums. Additionally, Ivory Expeditions marked the first recorded collaboration with Tom’s son, Tom Coster Jr.
Coster rejoined Santana in 1983 and 1986, contributing to the Freedom album as well as the 20-year anthology, Viva Santana. When former Journey drummer Steve Smith formed the progressive fusion band Vital Information, Tom was drafted to play keyboards.
(So ends the official Tom Coster biography. Tom adds the following notes and updates to his storied career.)
Since Steve Smith was off and on again with Journey, there was no real touring schedule for “Vital” and I wanted to pursue my own recording career, so after leaving Fantasy Records, I got a deal with “Headfirst Records” and began a new recording career. Their intention was of course to sell records and my two projects with them was NAC (easy listening) and actually did quite well. Both CD’s charted in the top 10 on the Contemporary Jazz Billboard Chart. The two projects were “Did Jah’ Miss Me” and “From Me To You” which were eventually picked up by JVC.
My fusion fans fell left out,as I knew they would be, and I felt somewhat depressed about the whole industry since radio stations weren't playing any fusion (and they still don’t, for that matter!).
When I left “Headfirst” I was picked up by JVC and my first project was gain NAC oriented entitled “Gotcha”. Shortly after that record, JVC magically gave me the go ahead to record three additional albums playing and writing music that I personally loved to record, so the next and last three JVC projects, “Let’s Set The Record Straight”, “The Forbidden Zone” and “From The Street” were “no holds bar, ball to the wall fusion”.
I had a great time writing and recording the music. The music was smokin’ and the players were the best in the world and they got to play their asses off!!! At this point in time I fell that I was giving my fans what the Lord and blessed me with, to play your instrument the way you felt it to be played without anyone telling you what and how to play. I will always be grateful to JVC for this honor and privilege.
The four recordings I did for JVC were recorded in my home. I have a 24 track 2 inch analog tape recording studio in my home and it was amazing having all the cats stay at the house and record and also hang out. My son Tom Jr. did the producing and he was a big part in making it all happen. The entire experience was totally mind blowing and I will never forget how much everyone enjoyed it, especially myself. The music that came out of it was the best!!!