Neal Francis’ Midwest Soul at Waterfront Festival

There is a deep connection between Neal Francis’ childhood—his obsession with boogie woogie piano, his father’s gift of a dusty Dr. John LP, and the songs he’s created. The result is an astonishing collection of material without parallel in the contemporary funk and soul scene. The influences are unmistakable: the vocal stylings of Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell; the second line rhythms of The Meters and Dr. John; the barroom rock ‘n’ roll of The Rolling Stones; the gospel soul of Billy Preston; the roots music of The Band. He pays tribute to the masters but has his own story to tell. The piano prodigy found himself touring Europe by the age of 18 with Muddy Waters’ son and backing up other prominent blues artists coast-to-coast. In 2012, he joined popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With Francis at the creative helm, The Heard transformed into a national act, touring with boogaloo progenitors The New Mastersounds and chart toppers The Revivalists and appearing at Jazz Fest and Bear Creek. As The Heard’s star rose, however, Francis sunk deeper into addiction. Once a promising sideman, by 2015 he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment, and was perilously close to self-destruction. He worked hard to change all that. 2018 was a busy year. In February Francis finished recording basic tracks for the yet-to-be named debut album in Los Angeles and spent the following months doing overdubs in Chicago with engineer Mike Novak (who also recorded demos for the project). After playing his first show in November, Francis was signed by Paradigm Talent Agency. 2019 has already brought a North American tour supporting The Cat Empire and he continues to tour relentlessly to promote his own music.

And that brings us to June 8th at the Marquette Waterfront Festival in Madison, where I will be able to catch a set of music I have been looking for. I had a chance to catch up with Neal ahead of the festival to help people get to know him a little better. We talk what people who don’t know about his sound/style can expect, we talk about new music and how his soon to be released album was born. We get into the way he was and where he’s at and I think many of us would like to know what songs & artists a cat like this would build a set around after I start it with one of his new tunes. Oh YEAH!!!

Everything’s Coming Up

The final portion of the proGram was able to line the streets for the arrival of the sounds:

For Choro (Waltz and Dance)- Real Vocal String Quartet
***Pre-recorded conversation with Pat mAcdonald***
A Change Is Gonna Come- George Winston
Drew Bourrée- Ron Davis
On the Fly- Larry Corban Ft. Harvie S, James Weidman, Steve Williams & Jerry Bergonzi

It’s Alright With Me- The Stan Getz Quartet (Live At The Village Gate 11/26/1961)
Forbidden Library- The Supplicants (live)

Healing- Upstate
Responsibility- Ella Haber
Dancing The Animal (Mind)- Esperanza Spalding
Thang (hips)- Esperanza Spalding

Be Fern With Them

The third portion of the proGram needed a reminder of who is the decider:

The Tuxedo Way- Tuxedo
Don’t Want To Know- Night Trains
Only Know About Love- Night Trains

Sciarra o’scaro- Smuggler Brothers
Lost in Val Demone- Smuggler Brothers
101- Smuggler Brothers
Could You Be Loved- Sam Huber Ft. Garrison Hawk

Personal Things- The Last Poets
Baila Yemaya- Angélique Kidjo
Takuta- Youssou N’Dour Ft. Babatunde Olatunji
…Monkey Do- Alma Afrobeat Ensemble Ft. Ray Lugo

Tell Me Not- The Late Ones
Rare Formz- DiscObeta (Funk Boogie Brothers Remix)
Yolcu- Altın Gün

Dans Un Moment D’errance- The Midnight Hour Ft. Loren Oden & Ángela Muñoz (live)
Ravens- The Midnight Hour (live)

Bees Needs

The second portion of the proGram took it all into consideration.

Albuquerque Blues-Andrew Synowiec Ft. Tim Pierce
Triad Days- Andrew Synowiec Ft. Tim Pierce
Blue Blue (Dedicated to Bruce Kevin Jackson)- Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet

Tune For Lou- BT ALC Big Band
Dance- BT ALC Big Band
The Tao of Heavy D- Adam Meckler Orchestra Ft. Rex Richardson
Meat Grinder- Abstract Orchestra
Figaro- Abstract Orchestra

Let Go- Snack Cat
The Angry One- Collocutor
The Angry One- Tamar Collocutor & Magnus P.I

When The Levee Breaks- Bonerama
Maelstrom- The Budos Band
Peak of Eternal Night- The Budos Band

Happy Bees To You

The first part of the show was sent out to all the happy little honeybees who tune in. What a buzz:

Anna- Howe Gelb
The Open Road- Howe Gelb
All You Need To Know- Howe Gelb

Terracentric- Rodrigo y Gabriela
Wisdom Tree- Rodrigo y Gabriela

I Was Born To Wail- Jon Gindick Ft. Franck Goldwasser
Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean-The Reverend Shawn Amos Ft. Piper Amos (live)
Theme from DADDY LONG LEGS- Daddy Long Legs
Mornin’ Noon & Nite- Daddy Long Legs
Snagglepuss- Daddy Long Legs
Dirty Pool- Michele D’amour and the Love Dealers
Memphis Soul Stew- Michele D’amour and the Love Dealers

Eye Bath- Death and Vanilla

Talkin’ About The Bridge With pat mAcdonald

Steel Bridge Songfest is an annual, music festival held in beautiful Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin co-founded in 2005 by musician and friend of the proGram, Pat MacDonald. The event began as part of a grass-roots campaign to restore a historic bridge. The festival features a week-long collaborative songwriting workshop (the Construction Zone) where participants write songs inspired by the bridge. The songs are recorded on-site at the Holiday Music Motel and released as compilation albums. The Michigan Street Bridge (Sturgeon Bay Bridge) is a multi-span Warren/Parker truss bridge built in 1929 and dedicated the following year. It connects Wisconsin State Highway 57 to the Third Avenue business district, carrying motor and foot traffic over the Sturgeon Bay Shipping Canal. The structure is a Door County landmark, and appears in the official logo of the city of Sturgeon Bay. Its rolling bascule lift spans are unique in the country, and in 2008 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1995, continuous remote monitoring by Northwestern University’s Infrastructure Technology Institute detected new cracks in the track casting, later confirmed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Though the cracks were repaired, a 1997 Programmatic Agreement amongst the Federal Highway Administration, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Officer determined that the bridge did not warrant preservation and in 1999, the FHWA began considering plans to demolish and replace the bridge. It is during this time that Citizens For Our Bridge, a non-profit 501(c), was founded as “S.O.B.”s (“Save Our Bridge”). The group was formed by citizens opposed to the suggested destruction. Working together with ACHP and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, CFOB proposed a plan to rehabilitate the structure. To inform the community and raise funds to carry out the plan, Pat helped organize a small music festival. He enlisted the help of his longtime friend, singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, and Steel Bridge Songfest was born.

It’s been a few years, but I had the chance to catch up with our of bridge brother, Pat mAcdonald once again to help remind people of this unifying event. This year’s main events are taking place on June 14th and 15th at the Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Pat and I get into the history of why there would be a need for a festival about and for a bridge. We travel through the years leading up to this year’s event(s), pulling out many important aspects of the why the need was there, and how it all have evolved from the then until the now. For all the pertinent details, please head over to the SBSF website and make like a bridge and CONNECT.

Am I Too Big For This?

The final part of the proGram was free on the side of the road. Perfect.

Face- Niia
RICKY- Denzel Curry

Mbule Mwule- Muito Kaballa
Palim- Muito Kaballa
Alone- The Green
Resiste- Eljuri
Bangbang- Eljuri

Yemaya- Angélique Kidjo
Toro Mata- Angélique Kidjo
Cucala- Angélique Kidjo
Move Many (Joints)- Esperanza Spalding
With Others (Ears)- Esperanza Spalding

Interlude 1- Soulsha
What A Day- Soulsha

Character Shadow Building

The third portion of the proGram looks like more than what it really is. Natural versus sprayed on:

Why Starfish, Why?- Henry Kaiser/Anthony Pirog/Jeff Sipe/Tracy Silverman/Andy West
Maneki Neko- Henry Kaiser/Anthony Pirog/Jeff Sipe/Tracy Silverman/Andy West
Spin (Dedicated to Baikida Carroll)- Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet

Creole Belles- Wynton Marsalis
Jax Boogie- The Spellcasters
Rock Candy- The Spellcasters
Bright Mississippi- The Spellcasters

Be Out S’Cool- The OGJB Quartet
Stick- The OGJB Quartet
Is It Alright?- The OGJB Quartet

Vipers Follow You- Amon Tobin
You Used To Love Me- Quantic Ft. Denitia

Where The Colors Grow

The second portion of the proGram knew where the differences grew:

Funkin’ For Jamacha- Jake Najor And The Moment Of Truth
The Enchanter- The Budos Band
Black Dog- Bonerama

Emirgan Sunrise- Don Leisure
Mehmet Tarantino- Don Leisure
Street Cats- Don Leisure

Humor Me- Andrew Synowiec
Son Of Creeper- Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra
***Pre-recorded conversationi with Lisa Maxwell***
Shiny!- Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra
Ludie- Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra

Softshoe- BT ALC Big Band
Live 9- BT ALC Big Band

Westerley- Seb Zillner
Closer To The Sun- Collectivo Immaginario Ft. Chauncey Yearwood

Feathered Friend

The first portion of the proGram looked out the window and saw the guard bird keeping an eye on things.

Blue Earth County- Silver Lake 66
Morning Train- Grant Farm
Amongnst the Tall Trees- Pointed Man Band

DUI Blues- Pete Mancini
Flying First Class- Pete Mancini
Bright Lights, Big City- The Reverend Shawn Amos Ft. Mindi Abair (live)

Rooster Coop- Cris Jacobs
Toady Man’s Hour- The Claypool Lennon Delirium

Dry Eyes- The Sh~Booms
Since I Don’t Have You Anymore- Kelly Finnigan
I Called You Back Baby- Kelly Finnigan
It’s Getting Strange- Emanuel Casablanca
Take Off The Crown- Crowd Company (live)
Away With You- Crowd Company (live)

Siciliana- Smuggler Brothers
Kemonia Flow- Smuggler Brothers
Gran Fango- Smuggler Brothers
Hagerun Geleba- The Blassics

Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra’s Shiny!

Lisa Maxwell has composed, arranged, orchestrated, produced, and conducted music for small combos, horn sections, strings, big band and full orchestra. Part of the Emmy Award-winning music team for Warner Bros., Lisa was an orchestrator on all 52 episodes of Histeria! animated series, and Animaniacs: Wakko’s Wish feature film. Her original music has been licensed for TV shows including: Sons of Anarchy, Person of Interest, Dexter, Burn Notice, Four Weddings, Gravity. Currently, Lisa is preparing to release her debut big band album, Shiny! Dedicated to legendary trumpeter Lew Soloff, it features Randy Brecker and an all-star band playing her charts. As a sax player, Lisa led the horn sections on the Guns ‘n’ Roses Use Your Illusion world tour and Spinal Tap tour. She has also performed with the Machito Big Band, Gil Evans Orchestra, Charlie Haden, Tony Scott, Hiram Bullock, Will Lee, Steven Tyler, Lenny Kravitz, Carole King, Bruce Willis Band, Chuck Berry, Smokey Hormel, Chester Whitmore, The Joni Mitchell Project and so many more. Lisa started playing piano at age 6. At 15, she switched briefly to 5-string banjo, and finally settled on the saxophone. At 17, she took a film scoring class at UCLA and realized she wanted to write music for lots of instruments. Trumpeter Ray Copeland taught her jazz arranging, and Charlie Haden let her sit in on his classes at Cal Arts. Lisa attended Manhattan School of Music to study saxophone with Joe Allard, and spent most nights in clubs, where she met her musical heroes. She returned to L.A. to study composing and arranging with Dick Grove in Studio City; and then won the Quincy Jones Arranging Scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where Herb Pomeroy taught her Duke Ellington’s nuanced line-writing techniques. A true star she is.

I had the honor of speaking with Lisa about the latest project, Shiny!. This is her debut album as a composer and arranger,featuring an all-star jazz orchestra of New York’s top players, including: Randy Brecker, Will Lee, Paul Shaffer, Mike Stern and so many more powerhouses. We get into the creation of the album. The tribute aspect of this music for her (and all the artists on the album), Lew Soloff, and how he always supported her getting her music out there. We talk about how this album of so many translates into a live setting, as it will for the 5/27 album release show at the Cutting Room in NYC. On the album, there is one track that get’s a little remix, another new aspect for Lisa, her friend and one of my favorite “remakers”, Mocean Worker puts his signature on a version of the title track that allows for ears of another kind to check this music out. The album has groove, style and will breath fresh life into any day.

The Heart Drips

The second portion of the extra show this week easily left behind a puddle:

Dystopia- Simon Sammut & Omar Vazquez
Akmal- Simon Sammut & Omar Vazquez
Softly As A Morning Sunrise- Alex Sill

No Ordinary Love- Alicia Olatuja
Under The Moon And Over The Sky- Alicia Olatuja
Subconscious Flirtations and Titillations- Theo Croker
Just Let It Ride- Theo Croker

Is It Love That Inspires You?- Joel Ross
So What- Ron Davis

Muskrat Ramble/I Feel like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag/Stop the Bleeding- George Winston
For What It’s Worth- George Winston
The Unknown Soldier- George Winston

Back Stop Stop Back

Did a little extra day radio this week. Here’s the first portion. It kept things in front:

Duo in G Major K.423 3. Rondeau- Blaise Dejardin & Kee-Hyun Kim
Mantis Shrimp- Peter Lin
Pre~Maria- Mark Dressen Seven
Ain’t Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You- Mark Dresser Seven
21st Century Blues- Jeff Denson (live)

Nina- Ulysses Owens Jr.
Driva’ Man- Ulysses Owens Jr. Ft. René Marie
Gone My Way- Wynton Marsalis
Bolden Jump- Wynton Marsalis
Whip It- Wynton Marsalis

If Only We Knew What We Could Do- The Last Poets
Fiddler- Avery Sharpe
Harlem And The War To End All Wars- Avery Sharpe

Towering Time

The final portion of the proGram knew that it can stand still and be moving at the same time:

Iana- Eddie Arjun
There It Is- Eddie Arjun
Incantation- Greg Foat
The Mage- Greg Foat
Like Lee Morgan- Ed Palermo Big Band
Well You Needn’t- Ed Palermo Big Band

You Rascal You- Wynton Marsalis
All The Whores Go Crazy (About The Way I Ride)- Wynton Marsalis
Red Hot Mammas- Wynton Marsalis
Windows- Kendrick Scott Oracle

Warning- Pepper Ft. Stick Figure
Offence- Little Simz
Venom- Little Simz
LSD- Parks Thomson Ft. PJ Olsson

Special (Friends)- Sebastian Fraye
Old Flames (Mary)- Sebastian Fraye
Cave Rain Drumming In My Ear- Turning Jewels Into Water
Desert Fire (Nueve Vidas Remix)- Turning Jewels Into Water

Shoots Groove

The middle pieces of the proGram had a growin’ groovin’ goin’ on:

Assume The Position (sax version)- Atlas Soul
Summer- Crowd Company (live)
You Make Me Wanna Dance- Freekbass

Sass Girl- Wargirl
No Difference- Wargirl

Block Hipat- The Blassics
Zafro- Alma Afrobeat Ensemble Ft. Za!
Remember- Alma Afrobeat Ensemble
Sideral Funk- Alma Afrobeat Ensemble

Air- The Last Poets
For The Millions- The Last Poets

Going Home- Tanika Charles
Solstice- Luca
Spring Again- Luca
Billy Jack- Phillip Bailey

Black Beacon- The Midnight Hour (live)
Redneph In B Minor- The Midnight Hour (live)
Seven Noisettes- Kind & Kinky Zoo
Pouple Fiction- Kind & Kinky Zoo
The Last Opium Den (On Earth)- The Quiet Temple

Gold Digger- Gene Caberra Band
Break The Silence- Perpetual Groove

Deck View Up

The first portion of the proGram was lying down on the job looking upwards towards Spring.

Float Down Stream- Joel Rafael
Be Here To Love Me- Erika Wennerstrom

Ragged Heart- Silver Lake 66
Arjuna The Believer- Grant Farm
Krotona Days- Rodrigo y Gabriela
Running After- The Spellcasters

Two Dollar Elvis- Left Lane Cruiser
Detroit House Party- Left Lane Cruiser
Goin’ To The Mardi Gras- Kerry Kearney Band
All I Ever Want Is The Blues- Kelly’s Lot

We’ll Act Like Strangers- Cris Jacobs
Smoking & Drinking- Kelly Finnigan
Keeping Up- Jake Najor And The Moment Of Truth
Li’l Liza Jane- The Reverend Shawn Amos Ft. Mudbug Brass Band (Live)

Four Sticks- Bonerama
Veils of Shadows- The Budos Band

Vanilla Hearts

A pre-show tune in and out proGram. If our hearts only grew with a little sun and water.

It’s All About Love- Sarah McKenzie
Waltz of Trillium and Ant- Jessa Campbell & The Saplings
Goodnight Pacific Northwest- Jessa Campbell & The Saplings
You Can Get It If You Really Want- Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Akht Kleyne Brider- Yale Strom’s Broken Consort
The Fool Over Yonder- Yale Strom’s Broken Consort

Astral Debris- William Hooker
Apertura- Los Mundos
La Salida- Los Mundos
Seracs- Trevor Gureckis

Dessert Is Served

The final portion of the proGram had SUM of the sweets in the eats.

They Won’t Help You- Jack Waterson
How You Feel- Wargirl
Breaking Down The Door- Santana Ft. Buika
Shiny! Remix (Mono 70’s Emergency Mix)- Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra Ft. Mocean Worker

Temptations- Jitwam
Pressure- Little Simz Ft. Little Dragon
Spontaneous- Flying Lotus Ft. Little Dragon
Sing it Louder- Intellexual
Money- Intellexual

Cuica- Emancipator & 9 Theory
Bombilla- Emancipator & 9 Theory
Talang- Turning Jewels Into Water

Hooklaced- Thor De Force
Brasilliance- The Ed Palermo Big Band
Freedom Day- Ulysses Owens Jr. Ft. Joanna Majoko

Vespula Flavicepes (Japanese Wasps) with Honey Crisp Apples, Greek Yogurt & Cranberry Gastrique

From Swarm To Tables

The middle portion of the proGram was once considered buggin’ out:

The Colors That You Bring- Damon Locks
Confident- Cliff Beach Ft. The MB’s
Movin’ On- Cliff Beach Ft. Alex Nester
One of the Ones- Cookin’ on 3 Burners Ft. Kylie Auldist
Force of Nature- Cookin’ on 3 Burners Ft. Fallon Williams

Two Faces- Lee Fields & The Expressions
A Promise is a Promise- Lee Fields & The Expressions
Another Saturday- Jake Najor And The Moment Of Truth
Let Me Be- Crowd Company

Good Times Bad Times- Bonerama
Ghost Talk- The Budos Band
Our Death Under Your Pillow- Adam Meckler Orchestra Ft. Toki Wright & Cameron Kinghorn
Fre3KroNomoKon- Freekbass

Soul A Go Go- Soul Messin’ Allstars Ft. Cara Robinson & The Wolfgramm Sisters
Love Overdue- Tanika Charles

Cricket Crusted Fried Chicken & Cricket & Termite Juniper Wild Rice & Mealworm/Superworm Roasted Garlic Potatoes

And Insects For All

The first part of the proGram was the appetizer that people wanted more of:

Nothing Can Be Done- Los Lobos with La Marisoul, Xochi Flores & Ceasar Castro (live)
There’ll Be Some Changes Made- Steve Howell & Jason Weinheimer Ft. Dan Sumner & David Dodson
Everybody Loves My Baby- Steve Howell & Jason Weinheimer Ft. Dan Sumner & David Dodson
Rise Up (Leve Toi)- Kelly’s Lot Ft. Jean-Francois Thomas

Sweet Home Chicago- The Reverend Shawn Amos W/Jean McClain (Live)
Shake and Bake- Left Lane Cruiser
Statesboro Blues- Kerry Kearney Band

Blue Pacific- Victor Krummenacher
***pre-recorded conversation with Victor Krummenacher***
Flint Jack- Monks of Doom
Traces- The Mystery Lights
Late Night Lover- The Sh-Booms
Boriska- The Claypool Lennon Delirium

Mealworm Sourdough bread & Ant Butter With Chapulines & Gourmet Sweet Potatoes & Creme Fraiche.