A Sacred Bond and Ada Rovatti

After studying at Berklee College of Music, Italian born saxophonist, composer and arranger Ada Rovatti moved to Paris before landing in New York City. She has performed and recorded with artists such as John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, James Moody, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath Patti Austin, Joe Bonamassa, and many more.
Ada was part of the Grammy winner CZD by her husband, Randy Brecker –“34 th N Lex” and on the acclaimed CD of John McLaughlin “Industrial Zen”and also appeared in the movie ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ featuring Julia Roberts
As a band leader she has released 5 Cds: Ada Rovatti & The Elephunk Band – For Rent (2003),Under The Hat (2003) Airbop (2006) Green Factor (2009) and Disguise (2014). Ada has toured with the Brecker Brothers Band Reunion with whom she recorded a live double DVD/CD from the Bluenote Jazz Club in NYC, and she just finished recording her new recording co-leading with Randy Brecker “Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond” which was just released at te end of October on Piloo Records.

I had the complete honor of spending a little timechatting with Ada about the fantastic new release, “Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond” and how this project went from seed to flower with all her original compositions while working with her husband, Randy Brecker and daughter Stella. We dissect a few of the tunes so when listeners get an earful, they can decide for themselves where it takes them. Ada reflects a little about working with the Queen of it all, Aretha Franklin and we also discuss her friendship with our friend, Lisa Maxwell and what being apart of her “Shiny” project was like. After checking out this chat, I bet you with feel like I do….let’s all go hang out at Ada’s and cook some food and listen to records and discuss what’s in our minds. This one reminds me once aGain that it’s often so much about the artists, not the just the art.

It’s a LITTLE WORLD with STEEZ

Churning out their self-described Creepfunk, a high energy, danceable variety of funk — one uniquely laced with electronic and improvisational sensibilities – STEEZ has garnered a loyal following throughout the Midwest performing at music festivals and to capacity crowds at rapidly growing venues. STEEZ repeatedly receives acclaim for their live performances, which typically include a seamless weaving of thoughtfully composed originals and crowd pleasing covers spanning from Madonna to clever obscurities like Genialistid (Estonia). Well established in the Midwestern jamband community, what really sets STEEZ apart is the camaraderie and endearing sense of humor. The band’s humble beginnings include getting banned for life from a venue after their first ever live performance, maneuvering a moped accident involving a parked car, and cruising the Midwest in the inspired 35 foot band bus, “Big Brown.” (RIP) While it’s the original songs and taut musicianship that initially grab both fans’ and critics’ attention, the band’s personality keeps it. STEEZ continues their musical endeavors by balancing extensive touring with studio time. STEEZ continues to rage major festivals such as Summer Set Music & Camping Festival, Wakarusa, Summer Camp Music Festival, Camp Bisco, Electric Forest, 10KLF and Rootwire, while grinding it out on the road throughout the Midwest and beyond. The band’s 4th studio album, STEREOVISION, was released in 2013 and can be found on bandcamp.com. The band’s 5th album, Little World, will be released November 23, 2019.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Guitarist, Steve Neary about the upcoming album release event on 11/23 at the High Noon Saloon. We got into the creation of the new album, “Little World” and how the sounds have changed, but also kept that same appeal that has been bringing the crowds out for years. We get an idea of how the term “Creepfunk” became a part of the STEEZ thang and we learn which song of the new album Steve has been digging the most (right now) and what other artists he would choose to build a set-list off of with that track being the starting point.

Alicia Olatuja Brings Intuition and More To Town

Praised by the New York Times as “a singer with a strong and luscious tone and an amiably regal presence on stage”, Alicia Olatuja has been astounding audiences with her exquisite vocals, artistic versatility and captivating demeanor. She first came into the national spotlight in 2013, whilst performing as the featured soloist with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Barack Obama’s 2nd Inauguration. Shortly thereafter, she assembled her own jazz based ensemble & recorded her first solo album, “Timeless” in 2014. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Alicia grew up immersed in a wide range of musical styles, including gospel, soul, jazz & classical. These influences have informed her artistic journey and she later graduated with a Masters degree in Classical Voice/Opera from the Manhattan School of Music. After appearing in numerous operatic and musical theater productions she started to perform more regularly in gospel and jazz concerts and worked with such esteemed artists as Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans and Christian McBride. Also in 2014, Alicia came to the attention of the acclaimed composer/arranger/pianist & friend of the proGram Mr. Billy Childs, and was brought on to be part of the touring incarnation of “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro” alongside vocalist Becca Stevens. Her voice has also entranced the another friend of the show, legendary Hammond B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, who has invited her to join his band on multiple concerts, including the Charlie Parker Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival & others. Now focusing on the rich contributions of a diverse selection of female composers, Alicia just released her sophomore album, “Intuition: From the Minds of Women”, on Resilience Music Alliance. The album celebrates the achievements of a long list of esteemed female composers, while offering a musical perspective unique to Alicia. She is joined by Kamau Kenyatta and Ulysses Owens Jr. as producers and the material includes songs of Brenda Russell, Sade, Tracy Chapman, Kate Bush, Angela Bofill & Linda Creed.

I had a chance to catch up with Alicia ahead of her visit to Madison on 11/21 with a show at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Play Circle. We get into what the lucky people in attendance can expect from that event, how she is able to adapt her craft to different styles of music and we go for a deep dive into the new album, “Intuition: From The Minds Of Women”. We also spend a little time building a set-list with Alicia – which song off the new album would she choose and what other artists/songs will build off it. Listen in and see that the person and personality is as important as the undeniable talent.

Photo by: Harrison Weinstein

The High Hawks Land In Madison on 11/10

No one knows where the train will take them. It’s one you jump on out of the curiosity and excitement of the unknown. The very wonder of what the stars and the spirits will conjure on any given jubilee. And what the hell is a High Hawk? The High Hawks, is a new all-star project comprised of friend of the proGram Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Adam Greuel (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans), Brian Adams (DeadPhish Orchestra), and Will Trask (Great American Taxi), will bring their blend of Americana, jam, and bluegrass music on the road.

The High Hawks will come together with friends including Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) and Chicago Farmer for their inaugural run of live shows. The band’s fall run began with a performance at Boulder, CO’s Fox Theatre on October 18th, followed by stops at Denver, CO’s Cervantes’ Other Side (10/19); Fort Collins, CO’s Aggie Theatre (10/20). After a short break to soak it all in, they head to Milwaukee, WI’s The Back Room @ Colectivo (11/7); Peoria, IL’s Spirit of Peoria (11/8); La Crosse, WI’s La Crosse Distilling Co. (11/9); and Madison, WI’s High Noon Saloon on November 10th.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Chad Staehly ahead of the November 10th show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon. We talk about how the dip your toe in the water of the first couple of Colorado shows went and what type of momentum they are building on with each note played. We talk about the mission of the band and answer the question, “Just what is a High Hawk?” LoHi Records is a place where Chad (and Tim) are putting a lot of their energy – so learning a bit more on what they are up to and who they are working with really puts a pin in the music map and we find out what tunes/artists Chad would choose if he was to build a setlist for the listeners. Chad and I run in some of the same circles, so the setlist building conversation led us to talking about how artists can find support they need with any if their struggles. Platforms such as Backline and and Music Cares are some of the resources we discuss.

Hey Cancer….Get The Funk Out

The Carbone Cancer Center at the University of Wisconsin is committed to finding the best ways to detect, prevent, diagnose & treat cancer. As one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, the Carbone Cancer Center is providing treatment, education & research for all-types of cancer. Any donations to Funk Out Cancer will go directly to the Paul P. Carbone Cancer Center Fund which is funding innovative research to help find the cure for cancer. 100% of these funds will be used by the leading researchers & doctors at the University of Wisconsin for cancer research. There has been significant progress made with the help of these generous donations and Funk Out Cancer is helping to create awareness & fund the advancements in cancer research at the Carbone Cancer Center.

The goal for Funk Out Cancer is to raise $50,000 on a night filled with great friends, incredible music, and generous donors.

I am always honored to be a part of helping spread the word about this event. I had another chance to check in with Al Falaschi about the FUNK OUT CANCER event being help this year on November 2nd at The Orpheum in Madison. We get into the concert portion by talking through what artists will help to get the funk out, we talk about how this event…this party.. got started and the personal story that accompanies the funk. We also tackle one of the silent auction items (check out the Facebook event page for more info) to find out more about what it is and a piece of interesting history around it…do you know what a Wisconsin themed stumpf fiddle is? Right. We have all been in the path of cancer’s travels and what better way to share in the journey then to meet up together to tell cancer to get the funk out!

Flowpoetry Compression Release & R-n-R Show

FlowPoetry (aka Adam Gregory Pergament of Madison, WI) to release a book of poetry titled “Compression” as part of a Rock and Roll show at High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI on Monday November 18, 2019 presented by High Noon Saloon, Knuckleheads Tobacco and Gifts, and WIJAM. In addition to the book release and FlowPoetry performance, music will be provided by Glostik Willy, a “Hippy Metal” power trio from Indiana, and Tate McLane, a folk artist from Minnesota. “Compression” is FlowPoetry’s second published work in-print and seeks to explore the percussive possibilities of his poetry through chants and stripped-down lyrics. Themes range from the political to the loss of love to the profound joy and necessity of creative expression. FlowPoetry’s 1st book was published in 2014 and compiled a 50-part series of poems originally published on-line through Sensible Reason, a millennial culture website headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

I had the chance to catch up with Adam to get a bigger picture of what this event, and this book of poetry was all about. We get into idea behind having a rock and roll show surrounding a poetry book release with a poetry sharing from the stage. We dive into the creation of this new project and where it was born and how cutting out some of the fat, led to the feeling and feelings of these new poems. If this event sounds like something you may never have seen before, it very well could be. What better reason to add it to your schedule?

WHO: FlowPoetry (WI-Spoken Word), Glostik Willy (IN-Hippy Metal), Tate McLane (MN-Folk)
WHAT: FlowPoetry’s “Compression” Book Release and Rock and Roll Show
presented by High Noon Saloon, Knucklehead’s Tobacco and Gifts Madison, and WIJAM
WHERE: High Noon Saloon (701 E Washington Ave, Madison, WI 53703)
WHEN: Monday Nov. 18, 2019; Doors at 6:30; Show 7:30-10:30

Going Into The Old New with Tomeka Reid

Recently described as a “New Jazz Power Source” by the New York Times, cellist & composer Tomeka Reid emerged as one of the most original, versatile, and curious musicians in the Chicago’s bustling jazz and improvised music community over the last decade. Now based in New York, her distinctive melodic sensibility, usually braided to a strong sense of groove, has been featured in many distinguished ensembles over the years. She has been a key member of ensembles led by legendary reedists like Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, as well as a younger generation of visionaries including flutist Nicole Mitchell, singer Dee Alexander, and drummer Mike Reed. She is also a co- leader of the adventurous string trio, Hear in Now, with violinist Mazz Swift & bassist Silvia Bolognesi. Tomeka released her debut recording as a bandleader in 2015, with the eponymous recording by the Tomeka Reid Quartet (Jason Roebke, Tomas Fujiwara & Mary Halvorson), a lively yet charged debut album that is a vibrant showcase not only for the cellist’s improvisational acumen, but also her knack for dynamic arrangements and her compositional ability. She grew up outside of Washington D.C., and her musical career kicked into gear after moving to Chicago in 2000 to attend DePaul University for graduate school. Her work with Nicole Mitchell and various Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians-related groups have proved influential to the young musician. By focusing on developing her craft primarily as a side person and working in countless improvisational contexts, Tomeka has achieved a stunning musical maturity and is a 2016 recipient of a 3Arts award in music and received her doctorate in music from the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign in 2017.

Right before she was heading out the door to go on a European tour with the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, I had the distinct pleasure of catching up with Tomeka ahead of her upcoming upcoming travels through Wisconsin with her quartet, including a stop at Arts & Literature Laboratory on October 31st. We dive into what those in attendance could expect from a live show, the creation of the freshly released (October 4th) album “New Old” on Cuneiform Records and the talent (Jason Roebke, Tomas Fujiwara & Mary Halvorson) she has alongside her on both the album and the tour. I am such a fan of this new music as it has the unique ability to take me there, from here and the explorations of both spaces and the in between stop me in my tracks….I can hardly imaGine how incredible it will translate into a shared listening room. I feel connected to Tomeka through her textures and melodies and I have a sneaky suspicion, others will find that same connection, whether it be from the record or the live event.

Miles Davis’ Nephew Talks Rubberband And…

Miles Davis shocked the music world in 1985 when he left Columbia Records after thirty years to join Warner Bros. Records. In October of that year, he began recording the album Rubberband in L.A. at Ameraycan Studios with producers Randy Hall and Zane Giles. The musical direction Miles was taking during the sessions marked a radical departure, with the inclusion of funk and soul grooves; with plans to feature guest vocalists Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan. Eventually, the album was shelved and Miles went on to record Tutu, leaving the Rubberband songs unheard and untouched for over 30 years. Miles Davis’ fans finally got a taste of the iconic trumpeter’s long-lost album last year with the release of a four-song Rubberband EP for Record Store Day, which is also available digitally. Now Rhino is excited to announce that the entire 11-song Rubberband album made its debut on September 6 on CD, digitally, and as a 180-gram 2-LP set. It was finished by the original producers Hall and Giles; with Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr., who played drums on the original sessions for the album in 1985-86. The cover art for the album is a Davis original painting from the time.

In 2017 – 32 years after Davis started recording Rubberband– Hall, Giles, and Davis’ nephew, Wilburn, Jr., began work to finish the album. The final version includes several guest artists including singers Ledisi (a 12-time Grammy nominee) and Lalah Hathaway (daughter of soul legend Donny Hathaway). Miles Davis – who plays both trumpet and keyboards on the album – was joined in the studio by keyboardists Adam Holzman, Neil Larsen and Wayne Linsey; percussionist Steve Reid; saxophonist Glen Burris; and Wilburn, Jr. on drums. The sessions were engineered by Grammy®-winner Reggie Dozier, whose brother Lamont Dozier was part of the legendary Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland.

I had the honor of catching up with Miles Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr. to talk about the path this new album has taken from the earlier sessions to it finally being released in September. We get deep into how his uncle was not one to stand still too long in the same sounds and how evolution was always something he would strive towards. I have to tell you it was thrilling to hear about some of the ins and outs of Miles Davis from Vince, a person that spent a lot of personal time with and creating music time with the “Chief”. We also find out why Vince would suggest to anyone who wants to know more about the real story of Miles to check out Stanley Nelson‘s new documentary Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool. And you don’t think Vince is just sitting round relishing in the fact he has this legend of an Uncle – we find out what other things are going in his musical world and how the music of Miles Davis, still keeps on evolving as others take knowledgeable visions and breath life into them.

Miles Davis – Rubberband (Mini-Documentary)

Walking In Gratitude With Melody Trucks

After touring with her father, Butch Trucks and the Freight Train, Melody Trucks immersed herself in the increasingly rich and diverse music scene in Jacksonville, Florida. The Melody Trucks Band came together in early 2017 as she encountered each member within this extended musical family. Their individual styles and influences run the entire span of every music genre: rock, blues, jazz, funk, classical, country, thrash metal, and even world music. This has culminated in fresh and unique interpretations of iconic songs from the genre of Melody’s extended family. After Butch passed, Melody found herself letting this musical path guide her and open a door to what was already inside her. As the live events added up, The Melody Trucks Band had all its proper pieces in place and the path led into the studio for their first studio effort. “Walking In Gratitude” drops on September 28th. The proper pieces that could only build this music are:

Melody Trucks – Vocals/Percussion
West Brook – Lap Steel/Guitar/Vocals
Brady Clampitt – Guitar/Keys/Vocals
Isaac Corbitt – Harmonica/Vocals
Willis Gore – Guitar/Vocals
Shane Platten – Bass/Vocals
Shaun Taunton – Drums
Dave Murphy – Tallahassee Recording – Engineer and Co-Producer

I had a chance to reconnect with Melody to follow up on our initial conversation about getting out and playing music again. Back when we first spoke in the end of 2017, an album was merely a distant thought. And here we are.
Proudly, we get into the process of getting the pieces in the right places, the organic flow to the creation of these nine new original tracks and just how they met up with and worked with one of her father’s (The Allman Brother’s Butch Trucks) engineers & producer Finding out what one major hurdle was for this group reminded me that it’s all about the timing and the place will be like home. Now, the magic of these moments will be available soon for all of us to be a part of this musical scene and family style groove that will certainly bridge all our souls toGether. Wherever you are, you’ll be able to take a little Melody Trucks Band home with you and if luck will have it, maybe they will be heading to an area near you to get a chance to feel the songs and the band stretch out.

Photo By Michael Price

Secret Space of Dreams With Jay Blakesberg

“JERRY GARCIA: Secret Space of Dreams” is a fine art, hardcover photography book of Jerry Garcia, beginning from the middle of his career with the Grateful Dead and covering the last third of his life. Signed copies of “JERRY GARCIA: Secret Space of Dreams” are available now for pre-order at www.rockoutbooks.com. Pre-orders start shipping September 23, 2019. The new project will be officially released on October 15th , 2019. Jay Blakesberg is a San Francisco-based photographer, filmmaker and visual anthropologist whose work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Guitar Player, Relix and many other magazines. He has worked with countless musical artists, including Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Phish, moe., Tom Waits, the Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana and, of course, the Grateful Dead to name just a few. Jay attended his first Dead show in September 1977 as a 15-year-old kid. Thirty-seven years later, he went on to become the official Fare Thee Well photographer for the band’s final five shows. “Secret Space of Dreams”is his 15th coffee table book of music photography.

This marks the fourth time Jay and I have made some time to discuss his projects. While they all have been great body’s of work, this new one really is close to my heart (thru my eyes and ears) with the focus being Jerry Garcia. In “Jerry Garcia: Secret Space of Dreams”, we get all Jerry images and many great tales and quotes and an insiders look into what many never get to or got it see. John Mayer writes a moving foreword, with friend of the program David Gans dives deep into the character and charisma of the mythical non-frontman, frontman in his introduction and Dave Schools muses on the man, myth and legend portrayed in the pages of the photographic biography during his afterword. He thoughtfully reflects on Jerry’s ability to “display his own frailty in the service of the song,” and to connect with the audience as participants in the performance. Jay’s innate ability to capture Garcia’s magic on film is within the book’s 208 pages, he shares 139 photographs of Jerry spanning nearly 20 years­­, September 2nd, 1978 (at Giants Stadium) through the April 1995 making of the “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” music video. As always, Jay’s work is not just for Deadheads or Jam band freaks, his work let’s you into the life and times of an individual, and this one certainly has an important lace within the attics of my life.

The Budos Band Giving It To Madison

With over two decades of playing together since their early days in Staten Island, The Budos Band have have left their signature on five studio albums, a raucous live show that feels like the best party in town. The music has taken them across four continents and an unbreakable musical kinship among its nine members, that easily spreads & shares a fun family feeling like a smile eases onto a happily surprised face. Their sound has evolved since their Afro-soul beginnings, but no matter how many new influences get mixed in and layered on over the years, they remain deeply in sync, the hosts of the block party and a cornerstone in what’s good art that’s brand new.

I had the chance to catch up with friend of the proGram, Mr. Jared Tankel ahead of The Budos Band‘s show on September 20th at the Majestic Theatre here in Madison.. Jared and I get into the deliverable goods to be expected at their upcoming show (for those who are newcomers to their scene). We deep dive into the the groups brand new release, “V”, and how it was a very different road to recording from the years earlier. Jared will be/is on baritone sax, so we talk about the road to being “Bari” cool for him, and how the vice of this instrument speaks to the two of us. So….what would Jared choose to air if building a set for greenarrowradio? Which song off the new album would he start with? These questions are answered in our conversation.

Photo by: Leslie Kalohi

Charlie Wooton Project’s Blue Basso

Charlie Wooton and I go back a ways now. I have covered many of his projects over the years and when you get that kind of longevity, the feeling of pride gets shared when something really truly special happens. With the latest release, “Blue Basso”, I believe that moment is here. When I first met up with Charlie, he was based out of Atlanta and formed the progressive dance band Zydefunk while maintaining his ‘The Charlie Wooton Project’ for his more experimental cross-generic work combining jazz,rock, blues and world music. During this period he played with a diverse group of musicians including Count M’Butu, Oliver Wood, Donny McCormick, Sean Costello, Grant Green Jr., Jeff Sipe, Rev. Jeff Moser and Willie Green. Home called and Charlie headed back to Louisiana where he has become a sought after sideman with some of the best ear-opening talent from the area, including Bonerama, Sonny Landreth, Zigaboo Modeliste, Johnny Vidacovich, Cyril Neville, Chief Monk Boudreaux, New Orleans Suspects, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and so many more. As the bassist for Royal Southern Brotherhood over a four year period Charlie recorded four CDs and wrote several of their tunes. I covered Charlie’s ZabaDuo project with percussionist Rafael Pereira, which explored the world of Brazilian music, and led to the Charlie Wooton Project’s Zabadodat. Around 2015 Charlie joined the New Orleans Suspects, replacing founding member and friend of the proGram, Mr. Reggie Scanlan. All along, Charlie’s desire to honor one of the gods of bass, Mr. Jaco Pastorious. I think with Blue Basso, he has started to stretch his fingers and abilities to write and create into the same language that Jaco was speaking.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Charlie about the creation of Blue Basso from the ideas to the sound stories I get to share with the listeners. Charlie gives major props to the many people who helped make this vision into a musical reality. From, Doug Wimbish to Eric McFadden….Arsene DeLay to Daniel Groover, the list of contributors is as relevant as the music. It’s my belief that these songs could not have been made so brilliantly without the right pieces. Charlie and I discuss what role friend of the proGram, Samantha Fish had in the process as this new release is put out on her Wild Heart Records label.

Rockin’ Forward with Nikki Hill

Independence has always come easy for vocalist/lyricist/bandleader Nikki Hill, raised by a single mother and two older sisters throughout Durham, North Carolina. This inspired not only her confidence at a young age, but a self-reliance and strong curiosity, which informed her interest in art, reading and writing. Raised in the church and choir as a child, that curiosity led Nikki to trade the pews for barstools, sneaking into venues when necessary, and was soon immersed in North Carolina’s roots scene as a young teen. She felt oddly comfortable, finding a direct connection between the energy she saw at local shows, and the intense praise dancing, gospel shouting church services she was raised in. Seeing everything from Dexter Romweber to Carolina Chocolate Drops, friend of this proGram, Mr. Bo Diddley to Motorhead, her new sermons came from rockers and bartenders, cowpunks and starving artists. Everyone had a story, and very soon, Nikki was in the mix herself, and making stories of her own. By the time she released “Here’s Nikki Hill” in 2013, word had spread, for better or worse. The reputation of the live show preceded itself, and heavily. Still, all of this did not translate immediately. With the rarity of Black rock ‘n roll singers/entertainers in the modern circuit and the large lack of knowledge of the impact of Black musicians on American roots music, Nikki found herself in an odd spot. She became known just as much for confusing local audiences who had come to see the woman in the poster, assuming her an act of a relaxed vibe, as she did for leading an unbridled, soulful, electric guitar driven performance. Instead of drawing back and satisfying the assumptions people made, Nikki pushed back, showing people that rock n’ roll didn’t have one look or sound. The strong public curiosity allowed Hill the chance to open for a range of artists like Dr. John, Billy Boy Arnold, to Eileen Jewel and Nelly, before she even had music released. Labels came calling, but were looking for stylings of the more well-known Hill, or of a more boxed-in retro feel that could be fully embraced by the purists Nikki had come to abhor from her former years of teen rebellion. She continued to develop her sound despite not knowing what to call it, remaining inspired by the fire of roots pioneers before her that she studied in the record stores and book shops.

That bring us to now, where Nikki has another great album of songs to share with the world, “Feline Roots” is bending the ears and minds of those who look beyond a poster, or an image and want to rock in any way possible. Nikki will be bringing the band to Madison on August 23rd at the Knuckledown Saloon to do just that. I had the chance to catch up with her to talk about that show, the latest release and the path taken from little Nikki to the Feline Roots Nikki. If you like to rock and roll, checkout Nikki live and share in her stories and make new ones with her.

Photo by: Roland Kämpfer

Reverend Horton Heat Is the Pulse of Rock-n-Roll

By day, Jim Heath is a mild-mannered musical historian well-versed in the birthing days of rock and roll. But when the sun goes down, he straps on his signature Gretsch 6120, steps up to the mike and is transformed into REVEREND HORTON HEAT, a hellfire-spewing, rock and roll dare-demon. Jim’s tome is iconic: From recording with Lemmy Kilmister, being revered by country music legends like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, touring with Soundgarden, ZZ Top, The Cramps, Social Distortion, White Zombie and the Sex Pistols, to providing touring opps to upstarts Kyuss, Hank III, Marilyn Manson and countless others across decades on the road. “This tour started around 1986,” Heath chuckles dryly. REVEREND HORTON HEAT still performs nearly 200 shows annually, including their trademark Horton’s Hayride Festival in Southern California, which has expanded to an end-of-the-year jamboree under the name Horton’s Holiday Hayride. The band has also wowed sold-out crowds with their multi-city residencies across America, including performances at Coachella, Reading, Austin City Limits, Riot Fest. The Texas troubadours also took a unique approach to the term ‘Special Guests’ on recent tours. Recalling the time the band opened for Jerry Lee Lewis, Heath had a vision, “The idea of playing in Jerry’s backing band would have been pretty neat. So every once in a while we’ll have a load of fun putting that aspect in our live set. In the middle of our set, we’ll have a special guest come on stage for a mini-set where REVEREND HORTON HEAT is the backing band. The first time we did it was with Lemmy Kilmister. We stopped our set midway, the road crew dragged a Marshall amp on stage, wiped the Rickenbacker clean and out came Lem. He was adamant on playing deep cuts, but I fought tooth and nail with him to do ‘Ace Of Spades.’ I told him, ‘Lemmy, we must do this song, we have to give the people want they want.’ He took a drag of his smoke, looked me square in the eye, and said ‘Never give them what they want, give them what they need!’” With over 1 million albums sold and nearly 35 years in the game, Heath and company have been delivering blood-pressure inducing scriptures to millions of fans worldwide. Call it rock and roll, psychobilly or what have you, REVEREND HORTON HEAT is often considered an early architect of the latter genre (at least on this side of the Atlantic) and occupies a peculiar place in American musical terrain.

I had the privilege of talking with Jim ahead of the August 15th show at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. We get into the scene we should be seen at in Madison, the new comers in the band as well as the making of the groups latest record, “Whole New Life”, on Victory Records. It is a thrill to hear Jim talk about how the album got off the ground…..finally and how the making of the music for him never really changes, it’s what he does. Jim speaks on how fear motivates him. It was so cool to hear him talk about the vision for the sound of this release, and how he believes they are working every day and night to keep the rock and roll many of us knew once, moving forward with a strong pulse. I truly feel that the music Jim has made all these years is instrumental in many of the careers of the new kids on the rock and roll block, an they might not even know it yet.

Dobet Gnahoré Unites Open Minds In Madison

Africa has its internationally acclaimed female voices and the voice of Dobet Gnahoré has made its mark there. With her latest release, “MIZIKI”, the voice of the multi-talented Ivorian singer resonates African sounds mixed with samples of electronic music, a subtle blend revealing a musical style which echoes her own character – freedom. The freedom to make a fifth album in which modernity feeds on tradition and heritage. Inspired by her travels all around the world (more than 800 concerts since 2004), Dobet shares a new and hitherto unsuspected side of her personality. It took four years to compose “MIZIKI”, probably her boldest, most personal album and one which pays homage to the two principal causes she supports: a rich, generous and unified Africa and the strength of African women. In her words and on stage, Dobet, the standard-bearer of a new generation of daring and determined Africans, celebrates the valiant and kind woman. Dobet loves the music of Africa (Yemi Alade, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie) but is equally enthusiastic about Björk or Christine and all the other “Queens”. Faithful to the languages of Africa – Côte d’Ivoire has 72 dialects – for this album – possibly her best yet – she concentrates on Bété, her mother tongue. Dobet has definitely reached a turning point and has left labels behind to express her frankest and most sincere emotion more precisely. “I want to make people dream while remaining a free artist”.

I had the honor of chatting with Dobet ahead of her August 15th concert, “The Dobet Gnahore Select Session” part of The Sessions at McPike Park 2019 and her August 16th event at the North Street Cabaret. Dobet and I get into what her audiences can expect once she and er group hit the stage. We talk about her hope for a strong and powerful African woman and the goal of assisting with uniting Africa as one. She shares with me how her latest album, her baby, “MIZIKI” went from a thought to a movement.

Talkin’ No Good Deed With Mindi Abair

One of the most recognized and sought-after saxophonists/vocalists, two-time GRAMMY nominee and friend of the proGram, Mindi Abair has been electrifying audiences with her dynamic live performances and utter command of the saxophone since her debut album in 2000. No one since Junior Walker has brought saxophone and vocals in one package to the forefront of modern music, with a raucous tone and dynamic stage presence. She has garnered ten #1 radio hits, six Top 5 solo records and two #1 spots on the Billboard album charts. In 2014, Mindi received her first GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category, followed by a 2015 GRAMMY® nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo LP featuring Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Trombone Shorty, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, and Max Weinberg. Constantly evolving her sound, in 2014, after two seasons as the featured saxophonist on the hit series American Idol, Mindi released “Wild Heart”. This LP showcased a compilation of grittier rock and soul tracks featuring some of the biggest names in music. To help translate this sound to her live shows, Mindi enlisted longtime friend and The Boneshakers founder Randy Jacobs (Bonnie Raitt, Was Not Was, Willie Nelson) to inject his brand of Detroit Blues Rock. The collaboration was undeniable, and it lead to an almost immediate decision to join forces creatively. Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers features band leader Mindi Abair (Saxophone, Vocals), Randy Jacobs (Guitar, Vocals), Rodney Lee (Keys), Ben White (Bass, Vocals), and Third Richardson (Drums, Vocals). A couple more albums in and now there’s a brand new album from Mindi & them Boneshakers for us all to enjoy.

I had the pleasure of catching up with our pal Mindi to get an insiders view into the creation of the 2019 release “No Good Deed”, the brand new album with the Boneshakers that certainly has the feel of a shared musical language that only some manage to speak. We get into how the album came toGether to a point where I get to spin it proudly for the listeners. We talk about some of what has been filling her time since last we hung out and we find out which song off the new release Mindi would choose to build a set-list around, and what she would add to fill our ears with some boneshaking goodness. I hope to find a way to bring Mindi to Madison, but if she and the band are anywhere close to you, it will always be worth it to go and check that show out.

Mindi Abair

Givin’ You The LowDown Brass Band

LowDown Brass Band deftly synthesizes the gritty sounds of Chicago with the high energy street beat of the Crescent City. LDB brandishes a powerful brass frontline of trumpets, trombones, saxophones, with a funky backline of drums and sousaphone. Combining the poetic ferocity of Billa Camp with stellar vocal harmonies, adventurous improvisation, movement, and grooves, LDB creates an infectious and diverse sound that has something for every listener. Fresh off their headlining set at The 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival, LowDown maintains a constant performing and touring schedule throughout North America. Recent performances include the Lagunitas Beer Circus, Chicago Jazz Fest, Friendly Gathering, Alaska’s Salmon Fest, Chicago’s Do-Division Fest, Wakarusa, Cotai Jazz Fest, and a annual residency at Shoe Fest. Following an ambitious project titled LowDown Sounds, that included a critically acclaimed cameo by Roy Ayers on the track “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, LowDown Brass Band is now touring their 2018 hip hop release titled LowDown Breaks featuring MC Billa Camp. This new record steps deeper into refining their unique sound, combining hip hop breaks with live soul samples and deep cut grooves.

I had the chance to catch up with Shane Jonas, singer/trumpeter and one of the songwriters of LowDown Brass Band ahead of their end of July and early August run in Wisconsin, starting with the July 31st show at The Shitty Barn Sessions. Shane and I go through the who’s and what’s of the group gearing people who might not know them up for checking them out. We talk about the differences of process from when the band first started to the very new single that just dropped in June. The growth is obvious to those who have known about them for a bit. Shane also builds a set-list starting off with that brand new single “We Dem Boys” and the results are gonna make the fun in your funk jump for joy.

Alma Afrobeat Ensemble to Close out Atwoodfest

Alma Afrobeat Ensemble was founded in Chicago in 2003 by guitarist Aaron Feder. In 2006 Aaron made a move to Barcelona in search of a different sound for the band. He quickly found a group of international members, from all continents of the globe. In a short time the band was reformed and headlined the Fiestizaje music and arts festival in 2008. The band then set about recording their first studio album, Toubab Soul which was released in 2010. Shortly afterwards, they released the remix album, Toubab Resouled, and opened the world music festival Cruilla de Cultures with Konono No 1. The story has many twists and turns along the way, but now in 2019, they have a brand new self released album, “Monkey See, Monkey Do” out and the growth from those beginning is continuing to expand their sounds and styles. Which brings us to the Summer of 2019.

I had the chance to chat with Aaron ahead of Alma Afrobeat Ensemble’s set closing out this year’s Atwoodfest in Madison, Wisconsin on Sunday, July 28th. We get into what people can expect from this band now based in Barcelona, and how lucky Madison is to have them finally get here. Aaron has been trying for years and fortunately, Atwoodfest was able to get the stars to aliGn. We go seed to flower on the new release, “Monkey See, Money Do”, and while not a completely politically charged album, it does speak in a socially aware tongue and groove. I wanted to let people get a feel for the type of person Aaron is so we find out what had been floating his personal boat these days, as well as the set-list he would program, starting with which one off their new album he’d go with, for the listeners if given 45 minutes or so of the show.

Kaleta & Super Yamba Band

Afro-funksters Kaleta & Super Yamba Band are known for their explosive live shows teeming with danceable rhythms and a vivacious energy that brings out the boogie in audiences from all walks of life. Fronted by legendary Afrobeat veteran Leon Ligan-Majek—a.k.a. Kaleta, the Brooklyn, N.Y. based group weaves together lively, multi-faceted rhythms and groovy basslines beneath bright horns, swirling synthesizers and Kaleta’s smoky vocals. Song lyrics seamlessly glide between languages native to West Africa along with French and Pidgin English, “the official language of Afrobeat” according to the band. Vocalist, guitarist, percussionist and producer Kaleta was born in the West African country of Benin Republic and lived his adolescent life in Lagos, Nigeria—the birthplace of Afrobeat. He got his start in the late 1970s performing in church and after capturing the attention of world music pioneer King Sunny Ade, was given the opportunity to go on a global tour with the iconic Nigerian musician and later with Fela Kuti though the 1980s and into the 1990s. After moving to New York City, Kaleta was overjoyed to find Super Yamba Band and hear their fresh take on the vintage sounds of his native Benin, taking its cues from artists like Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego and Gnonnas Pedro. Today, the band’s infectious sound and energy has earned them a devoted following and a skyrocketing reputation. The group has erupted onto the music scene with performances at the World Music Institute’s Masters Of African Music Series in New York, Felabration NYC, Millpond.Live Festival in Massachusetts, Paste Magazine’s Emerging Music Festival in New York City and the historic Apollo Theatre. In a review of their performance at the Emerging Music Festival, online tastemaker Afropop Worldwide said “their ace-up-the-sleeve: the singer Kaleta, whose James Brown grunts have got to be some of the best in the business.” With their latest single “Mr. Diva” (2018), Kaleta & Super Yamba continue to treat listeners to an unforgettable experience of world-class Afro-Funk dance music. A new album on Ubiquity Records is due out this Autumn.

I had the honor of discussing the upcoming Kaleta & Super Yamba Band event in Madison, Wisconsin at the High Noon Saloon on June 30th with the legend himself, Kaleta. We discuss what event-goers can expect from the groups first time in Madison. It was thrilling to here him talk about how he got started playing with two Icons in a music scene I love, King Sunny Adé and Fela Kuti. I also took the time to get some of the inside scoop on how the soon to be released album started coming together from a seed to it’s eventual big bloom in Autumn. I hiGhly recommend checking out this band in any capcaity, but for the real feel, find them live and hold on tight.

Talking Special Guest With Kris Jones

Special Guest App is a technology platform that helps make it extremely simple and affordable for anyone, anywhere to hire LIVE entertainment on demand via mobile and Web apps. Special Guest App removes friction from the LIVE entertainment booking process by seamlessly facilitating discovery, communication, scheduling, agreement, and payments. This people-centric tool helps venue owners and managers make more money by streamlining the entire process of booking live entertainment and their professional talent buying team operates to help leverage live entertainment to help them grow revenue and create incredible experiences. Special Guest is agent, manager and promoter friendly and actually serves all talent types, including musicians, comedians, magicians, kids entertainers, dancers, DJs, actors / actresses, rappers / hip hop artists, photographers, and much more! The company was cofounded by actor / comedian Damon Wayans, Jr and serial entrepreneur and best selling author, Kristopher Jones

I had the opportunity to discuss this innovative application with co-founder Kris Jones, who is (just to name a couple) a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and best selling author that comes with years of experience and an open mind that makes this application tick from a technology/business standpoint. We get into the who, what, where, why and when can you get started using Special Guest type questions. For me, the reason I wanted to help spread the word is that this platform helps even out the playing field for all types of talent, including those who don’t have the black-book filled with all the right connections. Special Guest can help all the hands in the jar come out with hand fulls!!

Mobile App can be grabbed up here for iOS.

*Soon to be released for Android.