Ready To Step Up With Tower Of Power

Since its formation in Oakland, California in 1968, Tower of Power has forged a reputation as a crack band of high achieving musicians fluent in all realms of Soul, Rock and Pop music with a sophistication and punch like that of a Jazz big band. From their first album East Bay Grease (1970) on Rock impresario Bill Graham’s San Francisco Records label (distributed by Atlantic), the interracial band became pillars and signatures of The Bay Area Music Scene that included pioneering like-minded bands such as Sly & The Family Stone, Cold Blood, Graham Central Station, The Pointer Sisters and The Sons of Champlin plus rock-oriented outfits such as Santana, Betty Davis and Journey.

Along with T.O.P.’s classic recordings, the 5-piece Tower of Power Horns – known for its power packed punch and fullness with two trumpets, two tenor saxophones plus a baritone sax on the bottom – became much in demand for studio sessions and live gigs. Among the hundreds of artists they have blessed with their presence are Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Graham Central Station, Elton John, Little Feat, Billy Preston, John Lee Hooker, Coke Escovedo, Jose Feliciano, Al Kooper, Rod Stewart, Harvey Mason, Lenny White, The Brothers Johnson, The Meters, Lee Oskar, Dionne Warwick, Melissa Manchester, Heart, Rick James, Santana, Smokey Robinson, Huey Lewis & The News, Paul Shaffer, Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, Spyro Gyra, Luther Vandross, Aerosmith, Phish, John Hiatt, Neil Diamond, P.Diddy, Bill Wyman and TV’s The Simpsons (Sing The Blues).

Most importantly, when almost all other R&B bands abandoned their horn sections as the sound of Soul music morphed into more stripped-down techno and synthesizer strains in the `80s, Tower of Power near single-handedly carried the torch for full-on 10-piece bands, often even including a conguero/percussionist. Faithful fans flocked to their concerts and purchased their new albums that kept the real soul vibe alive for decades. Indeed, the horn section is so pivotal to Tower of Power that unlike most band stage setups that have horns in the back, T.O.P.’s renowned and respected horn section is right up-front with the lead singer.

I had the chance to catch up with friend of the proGram and founding member of the mighty Tower Of Power, Mr. Emilio Castillo, just a day before the brand new album, “Step Up” is released. We dive into the family style creation of this album, how the songs were selected to complete the package and the feeling and inspiration the title track could lend out there in this time of uncertainty.

Tranceaphone from Victor DeLorenzo

Friend of the program and my brother, Victor DeLorenzo has a brand new stunner of an EP out to sharpen your senses and bring you to a place you remember, or maybe didn’t know you needed to be in. Victor is of course half of the drum and cello duo, Nineteen Thirteen (he’s the drum half) these days, but he has never stopped doing his own things, musically, artistically and humanly. When you find this new EP on one of the many platforms I am sure you find music at, you’ll immediate hear and feel a sense of that old Violent Femmes magic. That sound and feeling is the tranceaphone, I am sure of it. Victor reminds us what that instrument is, which Femmes track you might remember it from and how it lends itself on this brand new release. We get into how the idea to put out a solo effort took share, with the support and door opening from the first lady of cello, Janet Schiff. If this happens to be your first brush with his music, good for you, there is no time like now to start listening in and going back in time to catch up on anything you may have missed. With the uncertain times we are in now, there is a need to find something to fill a void and I personally think, as Victor does that you can never be alone a Tranceaphone.

Turning Over The Hourglass With Stephane Wrembel

Born in Paris and raised in Fontainebleau, the home of Impressionism and Django Reinhardt, Stephane Wrembel began playing guitar in his mid-teens. A Pink Floyd fan, he “spent hours learning David Gilmour’s style,” he said. “So I had a classical background in piano, a passion for rock music, and then I found out about Django. I fell in love with the very strong impressionist feel in his music.” His breakthrough came with his original composition “Bistro Fada,” a Django-influenced swinging waltz that was the theme song for Woody Allen’s 2011 Oscar®-winning film, “Midnight In Paris.” Since then, Wrembel has released five discs dedicated to Reinhardt (The Django Experiment Vol. I-IV & Live at Rochester) & recently produced the debut CD by Simba Baumgartner, Django’s great-grandson. His Django A Gogo festival, launched in 2004, has become one of the world’s most important and influential events, which includes an intensive music camp, celebrating and expanding Reinhardt’s music. In October of 2019, he released Django L’Impressionniste putting the spotlight on 17 little-known solo pieces Reinhardt recorded between 1937 & 1950. Stephane is the first and only interpreter who has performed all of these solo pieces and collected them in one definitive masterwork. It is available digitally and on double-vinyl with liner notes by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke. The Django Experiment V was released on Wrembel’s own Water Is Life Records on January 23, 2020, the 110th anniversary of the birth of Reinhardt. As with the previous “experiments,” The Django Experiment V was recorded with Wrembel and his world-class band performing live, with no headphones or tracking, in a setting conducive to improvisation with each musician pushing their own boundaries to evoke new interpretations of Reinhardt’s music as well as songs by other composers. In addition to Jensen, Cohen-Folman and Anderson, Wrembel was joined in the studio by special guests Nick Driscoll (saxophone, clarinet) and Daisy Castro (violin). Stephane has several more recordings planned for 2020. In the meantime, he and his band will continue to tour behind the release of The Django Experiment V as he prepares for Django A Gogo 2020, which will be held May 5-9 in Maplewood, N.J. & New York City.

I had the chance to catch back up with my friend, Stephane ahead of his 4/2 event in Madison at Cafe Coda. We dive into the event a little but focus a more on the album the band is touring behind, The Django Experiment V and the artists that helped make it happen. We talk people and process, plans for the later part of the year with more new music and as always, we tap into the person behind the artist to make sure Stephane is feeling the goodness of his art as an individual and how he is enjoying life, the complete version. Not only is the art of sound Stephane (and his mates) something that reaches inside of me, I feel like he is someone I’d like to spend time around the dinner table with, just hanging out.

Warna by Joey Alexander

A funny thing happened to Joey Alexander over the past five years, a whirlwind period during which he became the most brilliantly precocious talent in jazz history—that is, a renowned festival and concert-hall headliner; the youngest musician ever nominated for a Grammy Award in a jazz category; and a media favorite who’s earned a profile on 60 Minutes, a front-page profile in the New York Times and other premier coverage. As heard on WARNA, his new major-label Verve Records debut, he’s simply become one of the most expressive and thrilling pianist-composers currently at work in jazz. Alexander’s precocity can still stun concertgoers, but his music, including original work and personalized interpretations of great songs, has now taken its rightful place in the spotlight. Translating as “color” from Alexander’s native language of Bahasa, WARNA follows four Motéma Music albums that garnered the pianist three Grammy nominations and such honors as historic critics’ and readers’ poll victories in DownBeat and JazzTimes. But whereas those recordings were documents of an extraordinary young musician in development, WARNA is primarily a collection of reflective, moving new music by an experienced, confident bandleader. He arrived in New York as a lightning bolt in the spring of 2014, performing at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual fundraising gala. At the helm of a packed-out theater containing some of Manhattan’s most elite arts benefactors, he dropped jaws with a remarkably lyrical rendition of “’Round Midnight.” A standing ovation ensued, and he hasn’t slowed down since. The following spring, the New York Times wrote in an enthusiastic profile that “For a jazz pianist, the mastery entails a staggering breadth of knowledge about harmony, rhythm and orchestration, all converging in an eloquent synthesis. Joey Alexander has a handle on a good deal of that.” From there, he went on to receive three Grammy nominations, with two of Alexander’s four previous albums topping the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. His live performances have been equally celebrated. At the 58th Grammy Awards, in February of 2016, he played during both the pre-telecast and the primetime TV event. That same year, Joey also performed with Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding for the Obamas at the White House, as part of a nationally televised International Jazz Day special. In 2018, Alexander headlined Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater with a 20-piece string section orchestrated and conducted by Grammy nominee Richard DeRosa. On October 18, 2019, he made his triumphant Carnegie Hall debut to a sold-out Zankel Hall crowd. Early on in Joey’s ascent, the trumpeter and Jazz at Lincoln Center leader Wynton Marsalis said that “there has never been anyone … who could play like that at his age.” Marsalis, who essentially “discovered” Alexander via his YouTube videos and invited him to New York, was spot-on in his assessment. But today, in light of WARNA, one could extend their judgment to say that Joey Alexander continues to perform at the highest level.

I had the chance to catch up with Joey about the creation of Warna. We got into how the album grew from the seed of an idea into the flower of sound I get to share with the listeners. We talk about how the musicians that join him were either selected or how they continued the musical conversations they had started earlier. Like I told Joey offline, Warna is an album I have been really happy to advise advise my pals who may not have stumbled onto it themselves to go ahead and when you feel like you need a Sunday morning to breathe, hit play and sink in.

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band Back in Madison

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has built its reputation the long, slow, hard way. After 12 years of playing as many as 300 shows each year, Rev. Peyton, the world’s foremost country blues finger-style picker, along with the biggest little band in the country has pieced together one of the most dedicated followings out there. With all the power of a freight train, the Big Damn Band is known for its live shows. Rev. Peyton delivers guitar pyrotechnics the old fashioned way — ten fingers, a 6 string and an amp cranked at full tilt. In the country blues style, he plays the bass with his thumb, while picking the lead with his fingers at the same time. When he lifts the guitar behind his head to play there’s nothing but skill and 16 gauge nickel strings to make the sounds coming out of the speakers. Beside him on stage are just two other people. His wife, “Washboard” Breezy Peyton playing with all the nuance and percussive power of a New Orleans drum line, and keeping the train moving is Max Senteney on a lean drum kit including a 5 gallon maple syrup bucket. Together they play Peyton’s wildman country blues that’s as much ZZ Top as it is Bukka White. This is real, from the heart, handmade music made by people, for people who don’t have time for any bullshit.

I had the chance to catch up with Rev. Peyton ahead of the March 20th event in Madison at the High Noon Saloon. We get deep into what a live show is like and why is is an all hands on deck type approach and mentality for each and every show. We talk about how the latest album “Poor Until Pay Day” translates that live scene into a record situation. If you have not run into this band and their music or their live scene, you’ll be really amazed how the sound of the road, and taking every chance you can turns into some fierce and fun music that is relate-able for anyone who works hard for a living.

More New Music From Jake Shimabukuro

It was nearly 15 years ago that the world first caught notice of the stunning musical artistry of Jake Shimabukuro. The young ukulele player’s gorgeous rendition of George Harrison’s classic rock ballad “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” became one of the most-watched clips on the then newly launched YouTube platform. A lavish, exhilarating feast of a performance, it signaled the emergence of a prodigiously gifted virtuoso who was redefining how the ukulele was played and heard. Few artists arrive so clearly – and singularly – talented as Jake did. Guitar Player magazine called him “the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele.” And no less than Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, himself a four-string enthusiast, weighed in with this glowing assessment: “Jake is taking the instrument to a place that I can’t see anybody else catching up with him.” That’s because the Hawaii native was burning up the ground behind him. Since the release of his 2006 album, Gently Weeps, Jake has been riding a wave of breakthroughs and triumphs rare for any musician, let alone one who plays a ukulele. A tireless live performer, he’s floored audiences across the globe, appearing at music festivals as varied as Bonnaroo and the Fuji Rock Festival. He’s played with world-renowned orchestras at prestigious venues from the Hollywood Bowl to the Sydney Opera House. He even performed for that rarest of audiences: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. And all the while, he’s issued a string of chart-topping and award-winning albums that have challenged all notions of what is possible with a ukulele. Music fans will no doubt hail his latest effort, Trio as an highwater mark for Jake, and he regards it as a personal best. “Beyond playing the ukulele, I’ve really tried to grow as a writer,” he says. “Spending time in Nashville and being around great songwriters has inspired and influenced me, and of course, working with Nolan and Dave has brought me to musical places I never thought possible…”

Another year and another chance to catch up with what Jake is up to. We get into the creation of the new Trio album, including the artists that appear on it, the versions of a couple of classic rock covers and a very meaningful (and beautiful) traditional favorite. We talk about releasing this one on Mascot Label Group. Our conversation weaves us into deeper territory with some words on how music takes shape and changes depending on when you’re listening to it, and how maintaining balance is a key reminder. Trio is in fact, one of those albums where I can sense the growth as a person, an artist and an interpreter of sound that keeps some of then and branches off into the now while leaving room for the then. Aloha.

At The Knuckledown With Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal

Night after night at their live shows, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal leave it all on the table, bringing crowds palpably authentic music. This is a real working band; music for the people, by the people. You hear the veracity in his voice. You hear the strife of a guitar amp being pushed to its limits. You hear keyboards hammering notes home while emboldened horns soar over the top of a rhythm section akin to a freight train. The raucous funk and smooth soul emanating from the stage dutifully pays homage to the past soul giants while simultaneously charging forward, piloting themselves into the modern era. This is soul music. Josh formed Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal in 2012 in famed blues town Lincoln, Nebraska. The award-winning five-piece band includes some of the area’s most revered and accomplished musicians. Joining Josh (keyboards/vocals) is Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar), and Harrison ElDorado (drums). Inspired by the sounds of Stax, Motown, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philly and San Francisco, the band continuously crosses musical boundaries both in style and era, and joins forces each show with a common goal – to have the crowd dancing so much they forget even their smallest troubles. Through all the years now and the many destinations and opening for and playing with all sorts of musical talents, 2020 is bringing more tour dates and some brand new tunes to gather the people together, and help them move and groove it all away.

I had the chance to catch up with friend of the proGram, Josh Hoyer ahead of the February 29th show in Madison at The Knuckledown Saloon. Josh and I talk about what kinda scene will be happening whenever he and Soul Colossal roll into town. Josh really diggs coming through Madison to make music and he gives a real sweet tip of the cap to Chris and the Knuckledown crew as well as sharing that we will get to taste some of the newmusic that is in the works. We discuss the creation of one of those new tunes and find out more about the label he’s working with to put it out. Find out why Color Red, the label of another friend of this program, Mr. Eddie Roberts gets some high praise and deservedly so. And of course, if I was throwing a share a vinyl with my ears party…..it may not be a surprise what album you could expect Josh to bring to the fun.

Raise The Spirit With Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has been “breaking the habits of boredom and pushing beyond nostalgia into the present” for 47 years. Their music fuses traditional African rhythmic and melodic sensibilities with popular African American musical expression and the array of instrumentation endows their music with a warm textural richness and depth. Within a framework of organic, understated compositions, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble imparts an ancestral wisdom and conjures an energy and spark rarely encountered in contemporary music. In 1976, Kahil El’Zabar, having just graduated from the school of Chicago’s legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, teamed up with tenor saxophonist and Edward Wilkerson, Jr. Wilkerson has been called “one of the most thoughtful minds in modern experimental music,” and is himself the leader of the premier Windy City octet Eight Bold Souls and big band Shadow Vignettes. Kahil El’Zabar is an accomplished trap drummer, having worked with acclaimed soul, blues and R&B artists Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and jazz greats from Cannonball Adderely to David Murray, he is also a virtuostic kalimba player, master of Mandingo-style earth drum, balaphonist, flautist and vocalist. Over the now 47 years of traveling the world and sharing a uniting vibe, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has a trio of musicians that sets a new standard. With the incredible Corey Wilkes on trumpet and Detroit’s own baritone saxophonists, Alex Harding rounding out the group, the fabric of this spiritual afro-futuristic jazz outfit is just starting to warm us up.

I had the chance to catch up with Kahil El’Zabar ahead of the February 29th event here in Madison at Cafe Coda. We get into the players and how they work toGether to create moments where a spark in time in which heightened sensibility & a higher consciousness can be universally shared. We dissect a track off the groups 2019 release “Be Known Ancient/Future/Music”, and how someone like a Mr. Roy Hargrove (RIP) transcended the music and humans scene. As we sit here in 2020, we don;t have to look to hard it seems to find reasons to heal, or send healing vibes….on the day I spoke with Kahil, the EHE had just played a show at Artlore Studio in Eerie, PA which is a venue of our friend Stephen, whose family just went through a tragic situation and their spirits definitely needed to be raised.

The Many Sides of Corky Siegel

Corky Siegel is known internationally as one of the world’s great blues harmonica players, and is a celebrated composer, blues pianist, singer, songwriter, band leader and author. Corky’s professional music career began when he founded the now legendary Siegel-Schwall Band in Chicago in 1964 with guitarist Jim Schwall. The group was a major component of the young generation of white blues artists—also including Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite, Harvey Mandel, Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites and Michael Bloomfield—who learned the historic Chicago blues style at the feet and hands of such towering figures as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy and Sam Lay. In 1965, Corky was 21 and still in college. He and Jim Schwall, unintentionally landed their first regular gig across the tracks on the South Side of Chicago. They were hired to perform from 9 PM till 4 AM, every Thursday at Pepper’s Lounge (not knowing it was ‘ground zero’ for founders of Chicago Blues). What a surprise, to say the least, when Muddy Waters showed up and hopped on stage with them, followed by Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton, and all the blues masters. Night after night they would come and sit in. , he is credited with moving the blues from smokey clubs onto the classical symphony concert stage and obliterating musical categorization in the process. One of his many projects is the Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues, with the West End String Quartet, and Kalyan “Johnny Bongo” Pathak virtuoso on world percussion, blends classical and blues styles in a chamber music setting. This ground breaking innovative sound has earned tremendous acclaim throughout the country and continues to open new doors for classical and blues/jazz listeners alike. He is credited with moving the blues from smokey clubs onto the classical symphony concert stage and obliterating musical categorization in the process.

I had the honor of catching up with this amazing legend of genre busting ahead of the 2/22 show at The North Street Cabaret when he teams up with friend of the proGram, Mr. Ernie Watts on saxophone and Kalyan “Johnny Bongo” Pathak on world percussion and tabla. Corky walks us down the timeline of getting to this point in his career, from Hair and Joni Mitchell to those legends of the Chicago blues scene and all the orchestras/symphonies he has been working with and crossing boundaries to create the newness in sounds. We discuss how this trio got together to come before us in a live setting and how he met up with Mr. Watts (Corky goes a little deeper into that first encounter than Ernie did). While all his amazing outcomes seems like a heap of work, Corky reminds us, as Ernie did, that the centerpiece to creation is the fun that making music together brings everyone, from the audience to the players, we will be treated to a unique, once in a moment time. Which I feel our conversation also turned out to be.

Solid Gold Sounds With Kendell Marvel

Kendell Marvel wrote and recorded his new album, “Solid Gold Sounds”, in a matter of days, but it took a lifetime in Country music to get there. Mr. Marvel and The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach co-wrote nine of the album’s 10 songs, drawing on the country sounds of the ‘70s as well as Marvel’s own experiences. Their songwriting collaborators include country legend John Anderson on the album’s first track, “Hard Time With the Truth.” A native of Southern Illinois, Marvel moved to Nashville at 28, shifting his goal of being an artist to raising his family while working as a songwriter. Marvel’s writing credits include Gary Allan’s “Right Where I Need to Be” and Chris Stapleton’s Grammy-winning single, “Either Way.” Brothers Osborne, Jamey Johnson, Jake Owen, Blake Shelton, George Strait, and Lee Ann Womack have also cut his songs.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Kendell ahead of his February 19th show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon. We talk about coming out on tour with these songs and the many he had written over the years for others and how they piece toGether to form a lively show for the concert-goers. We dissect a couple of the tunes off the newest release and how they come to fruition. We even find out, which beer is his choice when heading back to Madison, so let’s make sure his glass stays full. If you have not heard his name before….you’ll be surprised to learn just how many of his songs (that others have put their names on) that you may already know and enjoy, that he has been a part of.

Talking Musical Dialects With Mr. Ernie Watts

Two-time Grammy Award winner Ernie Watts is one of the most versatile & prolific saxophone players in music. It has been more than 50 years since he first picked up a saxophone, and from age 16 on he has been playing professionally, initially while still attending school. Mr. Watts has been featured on over 500 recordings by artists ranging from Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa, always exhibiting his unforgettable trademark sound. During the 1970s & ’80s, he was immersed in the busy production scene of Los Angeles. His signature sound was heard on countless TV shows and movie scores, almost all the early West Coast Motown sessions, and with pop stars such as Aretha Franklin and Steely Dan. Though the pop music genre placed narrow confines on his performance, the studio sessions allowed for the chance to constantly hone and refine his tone. After years in the studios, the passion for acoustic jazz never left him. At the end of a long day of sessions, he could frequently be heard playing fiery jazz in late-night clubs around Los Angeles. The eclectic mix of career activities has included work with vocalist Kurt Elling in a tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, “Dedicated To You”, which won Elling his first Grammy Award, and concerts with the WDR Big Band Cologne in Germany, the Croatian Radio Television Jazz Orchestra in Zagreb and the National Radio Band of Slovenia. There’s also some fantastic evidence of him making great rock-N-roll grooves with The Rolling Stones. A typical year can find him touring Europe with his own European Quartet in spring and fall, and working as a feature artist with other artists he admires. One of these has been iconic South Indian violinist Dr. L Subramaniam, fusing Western classical music, jazz, Middle Eastern and Asian themes with Carnatic Indian tradition. He appears on the artist’s recording project “Beyond Borders,” which also features Herbie Hancock. Mr. Watts also starting to play with Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues, an amazing amalgam of blues harmonica, a tabla player, and a string quartet. The evocative voice of the Watts saxophone fits right in!

I had the honor of catching up with Mr. Watts ahead of the 2/22 event at the North Street Cabaret where he is featured artist in the Corky Siegel Trio along with tabla world percussion virtuoso, Kalyan Pathak. We talk about the energy that will be shared in at this event, the musical languages that connect us all and how he and Corky got to become fast friends. Mr. Watts is one of those artists that as you keep on digging, the amazements he has been a part of are overwhelming. Take a listen.

Remaining In The Light With Turkuaz

Balancing male-female harmonies, strutting guitars, wild horn arrangements, and interminable grooves, a spirit takes shape on stage nightly for Turkuaz via larger-than-life performances. Among numerous critical plaudits, The New Yorker claimed, “[Turkuaz] delivers horn-filled funk incorporating elements of R&B, psychedelic pop, gospel, Afro-pop, New Wave, classic rock, and just about any genre that gets people dancing.” The Brooklyn-based nonet—Dave Brandwein [guitar, vocals], Taylor Shell [bass], Craig Brodhead [guitar, keys], Michelangelo Carubba [drums], Chris Brouwers [trumpet, keys], Greg Sanderson [tenor sax], Josh Schwartz [baritone sax, vocals], Sammi Garett [vocals], and Shira Elias [vocals]—ignite an explosion of energy punctuated by neon hues, deft musicality, and show-stopping singalongs on their newest EP, Kuadrochrome. Touring incessantly in support of four full-length studio albums, EPs and live releases, they’ve lit up stages everywhere from Bonnaroo, Hulaween, Okeechobee, Electric Forest, and Mountain Jam to Telluride Jazz, High Sierra, and Lock’n, in between gracing stages at legendary spots such as Red Rocks, Terminal 5, and The Fillmore, to name a few. Since emerging in 2011 with their self-titled debut, the group have quietly animated a movement.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Dave Brandwein of Turkuaz ahead of their 1/30 event at the High Noon Saloon with friend of the program, Neal Francis. Dave and I get into the band’s good time mission statement and how they are way more than a party band. We dive into some recent events that are eye and ear openers including their recent time on Jame Cruise. We talk about some memorable artists form that trip as well as some once in a lifetime moments Turkuaz was a part of while out a sea. We talk about the process of taking the sound of a live event and how it translates into a recording session and making records as a band. One of the events coming up for the band is working with one of the member of Talking Heads, so we hear about what that should be all about and Dave shares a couple of artists he would surround one of Turkuaz’ new tunes with if building a set-list of artists from the now of things. Look no further than this band of colorful talents if you are seeking a good time, a stress relief and did I mention a good time??

Where Changes Have Led Neal Francis

Liberated from a self-destructive past and born anew in sobriety, Neal Francis has captured an inspired collection of songs steeped in New Orleans rhythms, Chicago blues, and early 70s rock n’ roll. His music evokes a bygone era of R&B’s heyday while simultaneously forging a new path on the musical landscape. Ohio-based Karma Chief Records (a subsidiary of rising soul label Colemine Records) released a full LP Changes on September 20, 2019. There is a deep connection between Neal’s 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. When you listen, you’ll hear AND feel it. While he pays tribute to the masters, he 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, Neal 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. The journey from a hospital bed to launching his solo career was neither predictable nor straightforward. There were musical fits and starts, relapses, and broken relationships. Yet the overwhelming passion driving Neal in this second act has been an abundance of creative energy. Determined to realize the songs swirling in his head, he assembled a crack team of musicians, calling on bassist Mike Starr (The Heard) and drummer PJ Howard (The Revivalists, The Heard). He linked up with producer and analog-obsessive Sergio Rios (Orgone, Cee Lo Green, Alicia Keys) and self-funded a trip to Killion Sound in Los Angeles to record the initial batch of material. Neal finished recording basic tracks for Changes in Los Angeles in February of 2018 and spent the following months doing overdubs in Chicago with engineer Mike Novak (who also recorded demos for the project). Soon after he began his touring career.

I had a chance to re-connect with friend of the proGram Neal Francis ahead of the January 30th show at the High Noon Saloon along with those colorful groovemasters, Turkuaz. Neal and I talk about all that has been happening since last we spoke on the record. He has been touring heavy on the back of the Changes release, and it’s some of the artists he is pairing up with that shows his musics flexibility, relatability and the handshake it solidifies with gratitude. We get into a new track that’s out today, what the future looks like with other “new to you” music and fellow artists on the mighty Colemine Records. I am thinking you must be ready to get yourself a taste of some Midwest soul, so check out what Neal is up to in a area near you.

Photo by Liina Raud

In The Bubble Bath With Blockhead

The internationally renowned NYC producer, Tony Simon, who goes by the moniker Blockhead has released ten albums over the past fifteen years, including four acclaimed records for Ninja Tune and numerous production jobs including notable works with Aesop Rock. He is regarded as one of the modern masters of instrumental hip-hop, and the forthcoming new album, ‘Bubble Bath’ sees him return to record-label-released music with the bold and exciting roster at Future Archive Recordings (co-founded by artists Arms and Sleepers, Sun Glitters, Little People and CNJR). ‘Bubble Bath’ is a record born out of meditative expression and ongoing personal creative challenge, key for a producer of BLOCKHEAD’s experience. Carried forward are the incredible hook and sample placement skills of classic works such as ‘Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book’ and ‘Music By Cavelight’, but what has emerged is an overwhelming sense of natural musicality and sophistication.

I had the chance to catch up with Blockhead ahead of the event in Madison on January 22nd at the High Noon Saloon. Tony will be here with fellow Future Archive Recording label mates Arms and Sleepers and Il:Lo. We get into the upcoming event and find out they way he executes his nightly plan. We dive into the way the new album went down and the moods that went into it’s creation. We talk about then versus now of beat selection, creation and how he feels about choosing the right sound. Tony even picks a tune off the new release to build a set around…..listen in to find out which way that set-list bends.

Soul Feeling The Music Of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio was formed in the spring of 2015 by Amy Novo, Delvon Lamarr’s wife and band manager. She told her husband she would take over his music career and all he had to do was find the musicians, create and play music. They originally started with different guitarist and drummer. Within a year they brought on infamous Jimmy James. Immediately the chemistry between the three of them was undeniable. With Delvon’s soulful organ sound, and Jimmy’s explosive guitar sound and the former drummer’s perfect pocket drumming, they had the perfect blend of Soul, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll. They started with a weekly residency at The Royal Room in Seattle for the first year then self-released their first album, playing short tours from Idaho, Spokane, Seattle, Bellingham, Olympia, Portland, Reno, California, and tour in Europe. Shortly after signing with Colemine Records they re-released their album on a 45, LP, cassette, CD and digitally. The band has since gone from a local Seattle-based band to a national and international household name, traveling all over the United States and around the world. The love, passion and devotion Amy Novo, Colemine Records & The Kurland Agency has for their music creates the perfect power team. Now, with Michael Duffy as their drummer, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio is ready to take their performance to new regions of the world, bringing their unique sound to fans across the globe.

I had the chance to catch up with Delvon ahead of the January 18th event at The Venue On Winnebago Street. We got into the scene a live event from the trio creates, from the dancing feet to the opening minds. We talk about the relationship they have with the team at Colemine Records, as well as the other label mates and how this music travels when it heads to Europe. Delvon creates a set-list of sounds for us if I were to give him control of the board, and let me tell you, the listeners might let me take a little extra time off so they can get more of his selections. He built his set off of a soon to be released track from the Trio, that I get to world premier this week on the show. (Fo’ Sho’)

The Fun Way Works For Shamarr Allen

Shamarr Allen is the definition of New Orleans! Hailing from the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, he has influences in jazz, hip-hop, rock, funk rhythms, blues and country. He is the lead vocalist and trumpeter of his band “Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs.” In addition to performing with his band, Allen has collaborated with many renowned artists around the world such as Willie Nelson, Patti LaBelle, Galatic, Harrick Connick Jr, and Lenny Kravitz, to name a few. He is a sought after artist for festivals and venues around the world. In addition to displaying his skills on the front-line as a lead performer, he is also a music composer, writer, and producer. With a scintillating and unique sound, look, and exemplary talents, Shamarr Allen transcends musical boundaries. He is the True Orleans experience!

I had a chance to catch up with Shamarr ahead of the January 9th, 2020 show in Madison at the Majestic Theater opening for G Love & Special Sauce. We get into what the party might be like when Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs bring their flavor of New Orleans to town, and how words can only do a slight justice to the experience of sharing a live show toGether. We talk about how he is able to take so many of the sounds he likes as a music listener and layer that into the traditional New Orleans sounds to pave his own path, to separate himself from others… I’d say it has worked out well as he played for President Obama, worked with many greats (we talk about how Willie Nelson‘s people contacted him) and keeps his focus on the “play” part of playing his music.

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Sharing That Juice With G Love

G. Love & Special Sauce is a three member alternative, blues, hip hop band originally from Philadelphia. G. Love proudly describes himself as a road dog who “will be touring until I fall off the earth” and plans to keep on pushing with Special Sauce from stage to stage. Whether Love Saves The Day makes one dollar or a million isn’t a big concern to him. It stands as a huge success because he made the gritty, honest album that he intended by “keeping it raw, keeping it immediate, keeping it real.” It’s an approach that he has honed over the years: “be original and be true to what you do.”

A longtime friend of the proGram, Garrett A.K.A. G. Love will be heading back to Madison on January 9th at the Majestic Theater with Shamarr Allen. Over the years, Garrett and I have talked many times, about many albums and upcoming shows (and defintely some hoops). This time we get into his soon to be released album “The Juice” produced by Keb’ Mo’ and put out there by his very own “Philadelphonic Records” imprint. We dive into that relationship and how the tweaks of working differently on a new project can take off in n upward direction. It was exciting to hear (and sounded exciting for Garrett to say) how this project changed him as a songwriter and after a few listens, I can easily hear that extra “juice” on these new tracks. We talk about collaborating and collaborators, recent nuptials and no plans on retiring now. Find out what three tracks off the new release Garrett would pack into a set-list for you and just what is “The Juice” anyways……here’s a hint….we all have it.

Photo: Kaelan Barowsky via G. Love

Southern Avenue Brings Many Shades of Blue

On their self-titled 2017 Stax Records debut album, the boundary-breaking Memphis group Southern Avenue sparked a one-band musical revolution, embodying an effortlessly organic soul/blues/R&B fusion that reflects the band members’ diverse roots as well as their deep commitment to their own style. On their second album Keep On, set for released inn May via Concord Records, the dynamic outfit expands its gritty musical vision to embrace new musical challenges and a more expansive creative vision and includes guest appearances by Stax legend William Bell and renowned bass player Marc Franklin, to help flesh things out.. Combining the talents of a set of young musicians who bring their individual backgrounds and skill sets to create music that carries the Southern soul legacy into the 21st century, Southern Avenue showcases the powerful chemistry and electrifying live show that they’ve honed through extensive stage and studio experience. Since the release of their debut, Southern Avenue has played in over a dozen countries and wowed audiences at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Firefly, Electric Forest and Lockn’.

I had an opportunity to speak with the bad’s guitarist Ori Naftaly ahead of their January 17th event at the Majestic Theater toGether with North Mississippi Allstars. Ori and I paint the picture of who will be giving what on that evening. We do a compare and contrast between the 2017 self titled album and the hot new release and how they both took shape and form. It is easy to talk about making unique music with many artists but I found it really interesting to hear how Ori finds the band’s sound influences the listeners around the globe versus when it is shared around the Mississippi River areas. Ori and the band are super excited to be out on the road officially with NMAS for a few dates and he opens the door to the information that they are working on a couple of new tracks with Luther and Cody. Stay tuned in!!!!

Photo by: David_McClister

Feel The Real With Brother Ali

Over the past 20 years, Brother Ali has earned wide critical acclaim for his deeply personal, socially conscious, and inspiring brand of hip-hop. Under Rhymesayers Entertainment, he’s unleashed a series of lauded projects, establishing himself as one of the most respected independent voices in music. His latest and surprise release ‘Secrets & Escapes’ is a compendium of his time with Evidence over the course of three trips to California, recording in a Venice garage with no regard for pleasing the internet or competing with the music industry. Ev chopped up records on old-school samplers and ran them through a compressor (2 track) so they couldn’t be re-arranged or mixed. Brother Ali sat with the mic and spit rhymes as they came to him, without writing or organizing them into songs. Ev smoked a lot of weed, Ali prayed a lot, and their influences on each other can be heard in the recordings. Every time they made something that reminded them of what they’ve become known for, they threw it away and started something new. Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and CS Armstrong all came through to bless the project with contributions too. This album is two friends making rap music for no other reason than because it’s what they love to do

I had the pleasure of chatting with Brother Ali ahead of his 12/18 stop back “home” in Madison at the Majestic Theater. We get into what someone unfamiliar with him can expect from that evening, the range of emotion and celebration that one feels at his shows is vast. We get into the seed to flower of his latest release and how it all of a sudden was there…..contrary to the process of creating it. I think the one thing that rings true when you listen to Brother Ali in this conversation, is the reality of the real and the feelings we feel can be done in your way, this is his.

Getting A Sample With DJ Logic

The theorem of turntablist as musician has been long proven in the capable hands of DJ Logic, whom with jazz as his foundation has become a wax innovator by crossing genres and mixing his sound across the map. As one of the world’s most accomplished turntablists, Logic is widely credited for introducing jazz into the hip–hop realms and is considered by most as a highly-respected session musician and an innovative bandleader. Since his emergence in the early nineties amidst the Bronx hip-hop scene, the New York City based deejay has been amassing a veritable mountain of collaborations, including a full-fledged band with members of Blues Traveler (The John Popper Project ft. DJ Logic), a trio with Steve Molitz & Freekbass (Headtronics), a jazz project with Georgian prodigy Beka Gochiasvili, and as a member of Grammy-winning Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s The Offense of the Drum album. He also has a long list of other collaborations with artists ranging from the likes of Bob Weir, John Mayer, Medeski Martin and Wood, Christian McBride, Carly Simon, Marcus Miller, Vernon Reid, Warren Haynes, Charlie Hunter, Jack DeJohnette, Ben Harper, Mos Def, The Roots, Bernie Worrell, Bill Laswell, Melvin Gibbs, Fred Wesley, Sean Kuti and many more. Logic and his role as an electronic-music ambassador keeps him at the top of his game. Whether the scratch artist instructs tablas to flirt with drum ‘n’ bass (such as on his Nina Simone and Billy Holiday remixes found on Sony Legacy’s Remixed and Reimagined volumes), meshes free styling MC’s with Afro-Cuban rhythms (such as on ‘Share Worldwide Funk’ – a remix produced for Jack DeJohnette and Golden Beams Collected, Volume 1), or remixes tracks for rock bands such as Moon Taxi, DJ Logic can always be found paying homage to his predecessors while contributing his vision to the deejay genre.

I had the chance to catch up with Logic before he heads to Madison on January 9th to mix it up at the High Noon Saloon. We get into what newcomers can expect, how he chooses both his samples and his collaborators as well what he thinks they see in him as a musical partner. If you are wondering if there is new music coming at you from Logic in 2020, we will have an answer for you!!