Bromberg Plays Hendrix: Remastered

A half century after his tragic death, Jimi Hendrix remains cemented in place near the top of anyone’s list of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. So why would anyone decided to pay tribute to the iconic axe-man on a full album without a single guitar? The virtuosic bassist and world-renowned producer Brian Bromberg tackled that audacious challenge on his 2012 album “Bromberg Plays Hendrix”, a blistering homage on which Bromberg’s fretless and piccolo basses stand in for the original’s fleet fretwork. Joined only by the in-demand drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, Bromberg summoned a whirlwind of sound from his four- and five-string arsenal to craft a smoldering set of classics in keeping with Hendrix’s exploratory spirit. A decade after its recording, the album remains dizzying in the virtuosity and visceral power of its musicianship and passion. Brian was happy with the original version of the CD, but after a big studio upgrade and new equipment he wanted to jump back into the project and do a remix/remaster to make the project sound as good as he felt it deserved to sound. On September 18, 2020 a newly remixed and remastered edition will be released digitally by Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group.

I had the complete honor of discussing the newly remixed and remastered edition of this epic album with Mr. Bromberg. We got into how the original ideas took shape to make this sort of thing a reality. The absolutely attempt to not try and sound like Jimi Hendirx…because…well…how could anyone, nevermind a bass player. We dive into the heart and soul of how these songs work from the perspective of a listeners, the players behind them as well as someone like me, who likes to get it into people’s ears for the first time. When you or I listen to these songs, there will be that sense of familiar with a head twist to the different, I think it only adds to the already greatness of the music we know and allows something that has been there for us through so many days, into us in a newly imagined way. And With that, Mr. Bromberg and I talk a bit about the changes that were made in his new state of the art studio to make an album you already want to crank up, worthy of going to 11 or 12 on the volume knob. Wee…turn it up man. And what is this about a holiday album…just listen all the way through our chat to find out.

Swallow Tales With Steve Swallow

Friend of the proGram, John Scofield celebrates the music of his friend and mentor Steve Swallow in an outgoing and spirited recording, aply titled “Swallow Tales” – made in an afternoon in New York City in March 2019. John was a 20-year-old student at Berklee when he first met and played with bassist Swallow, and they have continued ever since, in many different contexts. “I love these songs”, says Scofield of the selection of Swallow compositions explored here – a broad range including tunes that have become standards, as well as some lesser-known works. The rapport between Scofield and Swallow is evident in every moment. John: “Sometimes when we play it’s like one big guitar, the bass part and my part together.” Behind the drum kit, Bill Stewart is alert to all the implications of the interaction. “What Bill does is more than ‘playing the drums,'” Scofield says. “He’s a melodic voice in the music, playing counterpoint, and comping, while also swinging really hard.” The guitarist himself plays with fire and invention throughout: “These two giants bring out the best in me.” Swallow’s compositions, John notes, “make perfect vehicles for improvisation. The changes are always interesting – but not too interesting! They’re grounded in reality with cadences that make sense. They’re never just intellectual exercises, and they’re so melodic. They’re all songs, rather than ‘pieces’. They could all be sung.”

I had the honor of chatting with Mr. Steve Swallow about the way this album (out now on ECM Records), came together, from start to finish. We get into the way the three “generations” got to the working part of this piece of art. Talking with Mr. Swallow was a learning reminder of how things are born into change. Hearing him talk about how he had to wear a bassist hat rather than the person who brought these tunes into the world originally was just thrilling. Hearing a little of that mentor pride is his voice as he speaks about the way Mr. Scofield goes after it when making music, especially this music was equally ear-opening for me. As someone who loves to share these sounds with others and weave them into little neighborhoods over the airwaves, it is moments like this, getting a little mind-time with the artist(s) that reminds me why pushing those buttons and twisting those knobs is an important part of getting the entire story out there on behalf of these creators. Take a moment, and be in the room with Mr. Swallow and I.

Talking Change With Wadada Leo Smith

Trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist and composer Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most boldly original and influential artists of his time. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as “Creative Music.” For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways. Throughout his career, Smith has been recognized for his groundbreaking body of work. A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus. In addition, he received the Hammer Museum’s 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement “honoring brilliance and resilience.” In 2018 he received the Religion and The Arts Award from the American Academy of Religion. Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader on labels including ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo and Cuneiform. His diverse discography reveals a recorded history centered around important issues that have impacted his world, exploring the social, natural and political environment of his times with passion and fierce intelligence. His recent recording is 2019’s Rosa Parks: Pure Love, an Oratorio of Seven Songs. His 2016 recording, America’s National Parks earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. Smith’s landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called “A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach.” Writing about Smith’s 2017 album Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk in the New York Review of Books, Adam Shatz notes: “For all the minimalism of his sound, Smith has turned out to be a maximalist in his ambitions, evolving into one of our most powerful storytellers, an heir to American chroniclers like Charles Ives and Ornette Coleman.”

This Legendary composer and trumpeter is now featured on Deerhoof’s new live album To Be Surrounded By Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing Flesh Is Enough, available as a Bandcamp exclusive from July 3rd, 2020 via Joyful Noise Recordings. Deerhoof is in peak form on the album, which culminates in a thrilling five-song collaborative set with Mr. Smith as part of New York City’s Winter Jazzfest at Le Poisson Rouge. All album proceeds will benefit Black Lives Matter. We get into the making of the music and how the feelings of it translate from then to now, but also how the live set transforms moments in time and brings the listener to that ten, right now. We get deep into the movement and making real change. REAL CHANGE. Whether it’s the man, the music, that band or the movement, this all works so well for that change and I hope this conversation helps lead you to a new space in time, toGether.

Check out the album here.

Big Smoke With Five Alarm Funk

Five Alarm Funk is a horn-powered, percussion-fueled sonic and visual assault. Over seventeen years of hard funking the band has burned up stages on four continents, released six studio albums and received two Juno Award nominations. And this ride isn’t about to slow down, they just released their 7th studio album, Big Smoke today. The eleven tracks get right to the roots of what Five Alarm Funk is all about: epic, intense arrangements, heavy groove and a ton of fun. For all the honing of their studio craft, the the groups epic live shows is still what defines the band. The sweat-drenched concerts are infused with an intense spirit of fun that breaks down barriers between band and audience and moves both into a manic dance party. Wild costumes, props, and choreography complement the seriously tight arrangements and genre-mashing grooves. That live show has taken Five Alarm Funk on dozens of North American coast to coast tours, performing at over 100 festivals in the last three years alone. The band has also begun to break ground abroad, with performances in Taiwan, Mexico, and a performance for international peacekeeping forces in Mali.

I had a chance to catch up with drummer, vocalist, and band leader Tayo Branston to talk about this latest release, Big Smoke out now on Ropeadope Sur. We get into the seed to flower of the new collection of tunes, how it came to have both the leGend, Bootsy Collins and Leo P of Too Many Zooz appear on the record and what’s the what as we await a clearer path through this current pandemic. To me, as we find ourselves in a new world, this is just the type of sound and groove to help us all meet on the virtual funk bridge and “shake that thang” a bit.

Rolling Stone: Life And Death Of Brian Jones

Dudeski/Chip Baker Films is proud to announce the official release date of their latest project “Rolling Stone Life and Death of Brian Jones”, a Danny Garcia film. It is the first documentary about the founder and original leader of The Rolling Stones. Rolling Stone Life and Death of Brian Jones is the 5th acclaimed music documentary for Spanish filmmaker Danny Garcia. His other releases include “The Rise and Fall of The Clash”; “Looking for Johnny”, about New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders; “Sad Vacation”, a film chronicling the final months in New York City of the Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious & his girlfriend Nancy Spungen and Danny’s most recent release “Stiv: No Compromise, No Regrets” about Stiv Bators, legendary frontman of the iconic Ohio band the Dead Boys and The Lords of the New Church.

Film Background:

In the mid 1960s, Brian Jones emerged as “the face” and poster boy of the Bohemian Swingin’ London scene, topping the charts with The Rolling Stones and dating model/actress Anita Pallenberg. However, his excessive lifestyle and his reputation as “the original bad boy of Rock & Roll” was to cost him dearly. As the scene descended into the acid ridden year of 1967 so did Brian. Targeted by the authorities and media, he spiraled out of control, losing both Anita and the respect of the Stones. Two years later, Brian was found at the bottom of his swimming pool, the verdict: death by misadventure. During the last 50 years many theories have emerged, claiming that Brian was murdered and that it was covered up at high level, as this film discovers – the evidence for this is extremely compelling.

I had the chance to catch up with filmmaker, Danny Garcia about the project to get a sense of what prompted him to want to revisit the mysteries and confusion behind the death of Brian Jones. There is so much more to this film than that, but after watching the film, my eyes and ears have been opened up in a much different way. If you’re into the Stones, music culture, mystery and questioning authority….might I suggest you find a way to check it out. The film was released June 12th, 2020 on DVD by MVD Entertainment Group and will be available thru the following streaming services: Amazon/Dish Network/Films Media Group/Google Play/Night Flight/Sling/Xbox/Vimeo

Here is a link to the film’s trailer

Sister Dynamite with Alice Bag

Alice Bag is a singer/songwriter, musician, author, artist, educator and feminist. Alice was the lead singer and co-founder of the Bags, one of the first bands to form during the initial wave of punk in Los Angeles. The Alice Bag Band was featured in the seminal documentary on punk rock, The Decline of Western Civilization. Alice went on to perform in other groundbreaking bands, including Castration Squad, Cholita, and Las Tres. She is the author of the critically acclaimed books ‘Violence Girl’ and ‘Pipe Bomb For the Soul.’ Her self-titled 2016 debut album received critical acclaim and was named one of the best albums of 2016 by AllMusic. Her second album, Blueprint, was named one of the Best Albums of 2018 by NPR and the Los Angeles Times. Her 3rd album, Sister Dynamite, was released in April 2020.

I had the honor of checking in with Alice about this brand new album, Sister Dynamite on In The Red Recordings. We get into the creation of, the inspirations behind the sound (including how working with friends of the program, Fea helped direct some of the way she hoped her band could produces/create/be the sounds. That part of the conversation with someone that certainly helped open my musical mind was/is a real treat to get to be apart of. We touch on the who she is right now, and how the others can “eat it” if they don’t like it. As I was letting he know how I think this was a perfect time to release these songs (I meant these songs have great meaning to a listener in THESE moment of THIS now), she put me in my place reminding me that she cannot go out and tour them and get the scene of the music into people’s faces. Madison would love to have her back as soon as possible, I am sure of it. Listen in to find out what song off the new album she’d choose to build a setlist off of and what other bands she’d likely add to that set. I even sneak in a mention of Madison’s own The Hussy and Woodstock NYs The Bobby Lees. Did I mention, LEGEND?

Sister Dynamite, cover art by Gronk. 2020 In The Red Records

Flyin’ Right With Zev Feldman of Resonance Records

Resonance Records is a non-profit jazz record label with a mission. Devoted to preserving jazz & discovering the rising stars of tomorrow. Resonance is a division of the Rising Jazz Stars Foundation, a California 501(c)3 non-profit Corporation created to discover the next jazz stars – passionate, brilliant musicians from around the world. We assist and support them through recording, performance opportunities, and distribution of their art. Every Resonance CD or Video DVD is produced without compromise, to create and preserve our artists’ jazz legacy. Resonance Records was founded in 2007 by George Klabin. Klabin, with over two decades of experience as a producer and audio engineer, has recorded a full spectrum of jazz heavyweights for a wide variety of major labels. These include Dexter Gordon, Bill Evans, James Moody, Illinois Jacquet, Keith Jarrett, Albert Ayler, Charles Lloyd, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band and many more. As owner of the legendary New York recording studio Sound Ideas, Klabin was the overseer of sessions for top stars like James Brown and Quincy Jones as well as pure jazz giants such as Sonny Stitt, Tommy Flanagan and Archie Shepp. Today, they are releasing a teaser from the 2019 Nat King Cole boxed set, “Straighten Up and Fly Right – The Best of Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)”. This Best-of-the-Box digital compilation includes 21 tracks including one a previously-unissued transcription version of “This Side Up” not on the boxed set. 15 of these 21 songs have never been available digitally before in any version.

I had the chance to reconnect with my pal Zev Feldman of Resonance Records about this latest treasure from Resonance. We get into the original 7 CD/10 LP boxed set and some of the efforts of the team that went into its creation and how that helped pump of this latest “Best Of” compilation that comes out today. We discuss the mission of Resonance as a company and the work that he is charged with taking care of (it sounds like my dream job BTW). I am always happy to hear as much as I can (whether in the music or in the story-telling) about Wes Montgomery, so we talk a bit about a couple of projects surrounding him and a few other artists associated with the great work on Resonance. And not only that, but Zev was kind enough to clue us in to some new projects and strategies, sure to please all music lovers out there.

Jazz Is Dead 001 With Adrian Younge

Adrian Younge is the next generation of soul music. A self-taught musician and recording engineer who has dedicated his life to the study of classic soul music, he finds himself at the center of a new soul renaissance with a vision for pushing the boundaries of the music itself. Beginning in 1998, he taught himself how to play various instruments to fully realize his vision; a soundtrack to a fictional film titled “Venice Dawn.” Recording the album over the course of the next year, he developed a sound that is equal parts Morricone, Air, and Portishead. Self-released in 2000, the moody, synth-drenched album was entirely composed, arranged, played, and recorded by Younge himself. Eight years later, he would find himself at the center of the Black Dynamite phenomenon. Instrumental in the film’s development, he not only edited the film, but also composed the original score, which was hailed as a modern blaxploitation masterpiece, solidifying himself as a force to be reckoned with, composing music for the accompanying cartoon series for Adult Swim. In 2009, he envisioned a new sound that would revisit his earlier, more baroque instrumental work, and mesh it together with the deep, gritty soul of Black Dynamite, releasing material under the moniker Venice Dawn. Something About April (2009) was a heavy, dark mix of psychedelic soul, and cinematic instrumentals, with hip-hop aesthetics. In spring of 2013, he released “Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics” (Wax Poetics Records), cowritten with William Hart, as well as Twelve Reasons to Die, a concept album with Ghostface Killah on RZA’s imprint, Soul Temple. Since then, he has launched his own record label (Linear Labs), and completed work with Souls of Mischief’s, a sequel to Twelve Reasons To Die, and produced albums for Bilal, and A Tribe Called Quest alumn, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, with whom he is in a real dynamic duo “The Midnight Hour” with…as well as a brand new project, Jazz Is Dead.

I had the honor of checking in with Adrian about the latest project Jazz Is Dead (the first album out is a teaser of what’s to come titled simply 001). We dive into the project, the new label associated with it and how the path to working with many jazz legends, whether from the day or in the now has been getting paved. To me, Adrian is an open-minded individual who wants to keep making the best of music that can be had from where it was at a time to how the conversation can be enhanced in the now for the future generations to take with them as they keep building on. It was an honor just to get to listen to this music, so getting a chance to connect with Adrian, a person I see as a visionary and pioneer, to find out more about how it all went down, is going down and what’s to come, was yet another reason why music is the bridge I try to help build.

Across The Universe with Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola‘s ongoing fascination with complex rhythmic syncopation combined with provocative lyrical melodies and sophisticated harmony has been at the heart of his music throughout a celebrated career that has spanned four decades and earned him critical accolades, three gold albums and more than six million in record sales worldwide. A bona fide guitar hero, perennial poll-winner, and prolific composer, he has amassed over 20 albums as a leader while collaborating on a dozen or so others with the likes of the fusion supergroup Return to Forever (with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White), the celebrated acoustic Guitar Trio featuring fellow virtuosos John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, and the Rite of Strings trio with bassist Clarke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. And while his dazzling technique on both acoustic and electric guitars has afforded him regal status among the hordes of fretboard fanatics who regularly flock to his concerts, the depth of Di Meola’s writing along with the soulfulness and the inherent lyricism of his guitaristic expression have won him legions of fans worldwide beyond the guitar aficionado set. A retrospective of Al Di Meola’s nearly 50 year acclaimed career is expressed through his latest Ear Music release of March 2020 “ACROSS THE UNIVERSE” with his virtuosic arrangements and creative interpretations of 14 Beatles songs with lightning speed electric guitar orchestrations balanced with lavish acoustic arrangements.

I had the honor of scratching off one of those bucket list items while catching up with Mr. Al Di Meola about the new album, “Across The Universe”. We talk about how he turned songs we all know deeply into brand new things, while keeping certain aspects and “Di Meola-fying” other parts. We find out who was harder to work with, Randy Breaker or his daughter and we walk through how “Dear Prudence” went from the one we know into the one that shows up on the new release. I hope you all get to cross off some things you have always hoped to do during these new kind of times, and while you do so, check out this chat and the new album.

The Notorious Burrito Brothers

The Burrito Brothers celebrate an illustrious past while serving up fresh contributions for a bright future. They continue to climb the branches of the “many tall pines” first planted in 1968. Trace the winding paths of Country and Rock & Roll back, you’ll find them there. Anyone who had a heart and ears can tell these guys are world-class musicians and songwriters with one listen. Here they are in the years, carrying on the tradition of classic late-1960s and early ’70s “Hippie Country-Rock” music, expanding its boundaries, always exploring new horizons. Country Rock’s big bang came in Los Angeles in the late ‘60s. In 1968, Ian Dunlop and Barry Tashian started The Flying Burrito Brothers. Then in 1969, with Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman at the helm, the group released their classic first LP, “The Gilded Palace of Sin”. Since then the band has carried on, always evolving. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that classic LP. Gram Parsons’ original vision for the band is still going strong. “I just ran 20 red lights in his honor,” says Chris P James. At the beginning of the 1980s the band moved their base of operations from LA to Nashville. At that point the name was shortened to The Burrito Brothers. The band has remained in Nashville ever since. Now, The Burrito Brothers are right on track with a brand new release that is ready cherish the legacy it was build upon.

I had the chance to catch up with lead singer/keyboardist/harmoicaplayer/songwriter for the band, Chris P. James to discuss the brand new album “The Notorious Burrito Brothers”, released last month on The Store For Music/MVD Entertainment. We dissect the few tracks I intend on sharing with the listeners – which leads into a fascinating story behind one of the tunes (“Sometimes You Just Can’t Win”)that comes with the finding of a Gram Parsons handwritten piece. Chris reminds us of the story of the band’s travels and name/lineup changes through all the years, and that easily ties back into the sound of this new album being a reminder of its epic beGinnings in the late 60’s/early 70’s. This album has that feeling of going back there and either reliving some moments or being able to desire them in the first place.

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.

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.

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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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.