FREQUENCY EQUILIBRIUM KOAN by MGJ

One of the most influential guitarists to emerge during New York’s avant-garde loft jazz scene has returned to influence a new generation of edge-pushing, genre-hopping musicians. Michael Gregory Jackson has tread a winding musical path over his 40+ year career, embracing everything from creative music, jazz, blues, rock and electronica soundscapes to harmonically rich & lyrically-deep vocal tunes, with the complex arrangements & subtleties that are a signature of his music. His ability to span musical genres was best captured by one reviewer’s depiction as “Musical Mercury.” He was barely of his teens when he served as co-creator in the Oliver Lake Quartet, one of the most critically acclaimed & far-traveling ensembles working jazz’s outer fringes. Michael’s brilliant technique on electric & acoustic, flavored with quicksilver runs, volume pedal swells and sudden shifts from crystalline melodic to fuzzy dissonance, has been name-checked as a critical-influence, and can be heard deep in the musical DNA of six-string legends like Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Pat Metheny, Marc Ribot, Mary Halvorson & others. His journey from the avant-garde to what the industry regarded as a more commercial, song-based sound was thankfully and intriguingly gradual. It gave fans with inquiring taste a ringside seat to an evolution that unfolded subtly over a series of superb albums, ones that continue to be favorites of critics and his fellow musicians. Jackson’s newest release, Frequency Equilibrium Koan, will come out on Golden Records in February 2021. Frequency Equilibrium Koan is a 1977 recording of an extraordinary concert of Michael’s music at Joe Lee Wilson’s New York City venue, The Ladies’ Fort, performed by an extraordinary quartet: Michael Gregory Jackson (guitars & percussion), Julius Hemphill (alto saxophone), Abdul Wadud (cello), Pheeroan aKLaff (drums). Featuring 40 minutes of music and liner notes by Michael and guitarist Bill Frisell, Frequency Equilibrium Koan offers listeners a priceless opportunity to experience a key moment in NYC’s long lost Loft Jazz Scene of the 1970s, with Michael at that scene’s heart.

I had the honor of connecting with Michael Gregory Jackson primarily about this particular release to get deeper into the who and what, the now and then and the journeys between. We talk the scene, the people and the magic of not missing moments. I have been listening to and sharing his music for many years now, and this release makes me feel as close to that NYC Jazz Loft scene as I have ever felt, I believe some of those notes are still ringing thru the streets of the city. Head over to his bandcamp page to get your own taste and see what I mean.

Larry Keel’s American Dream

Larry Keel is an award-winning innovative flat picking guitarist and singer/songwriter hailing from Appalachia. Raised in a musical family steeped in the mountain culture of the region, he began from an early age to forge a distinctive sound, taking traditional music and infusing it with modern light. With the acoustic guitar Larry has brought the flat picking form to its highest level of sophistication and sonic power with his muscular, yet refined style of playing. As a composer and singer, he integrates raw honesty and charming grit to form a unique brand of music he calls ‘experimental folk’, songwriting that is filled with reality, imagination, imagery and mood. He has appeared on over 20 albums, 12 of which he produced, and has written songs that have been recorded and performed by distinguished artists including Grammy-award winners Del McCoury and The Infamous Stringdusters. Mr. Keel has collaborated and continues to merge creative forces with some of the greatest artists in modern roots music such as Tyler Childers, Billy Strings, Al DiMeola, Tony Rice, Keller Williams and Sam Bush, to name a few. His latest creation is a solo album titled American Dream, whose every component—from the writing and arranging, to the instrumental and vocal performances, to the recording and production—spring straight from the mind, soul, and hands of the Virginia-born artist. Each of the album’s 10 tracks were composed by Larry and serve as an autobiographical overview of his life and career, as well as the influences and episodes that have shaped his personal perspective along the way.

I have the honor of calling Larry a friend. He and Jenny are like family to this G. it is one of those things that right from the first moment…it was more then just about the music. That being said. Larry and Jenny and I get into the new American Dream record and talk about it’s seed planting into it’s crop yield. We talk a lot about the real “solo” aspect of this recording and even get into the nooks and crannies of a couple of tracks, including a: “It’s Not Nice To Fool With Mother Nature” quote. And…if Jenny all of a sudden comes out with a solo bass album in the near future, you can thank this guy for that! Take a few moments a walk through the fields of this new album with Jenny, Larry and I and then maybe go get some of the music into your ears and collection, I think it belongs in both places.

Martin Barre: 50 Years of Jethro Tull

Martin Barre was the guitarist of Jethro Tull for over 43 years, his sound and playing was a major factor in their global success. Martin’s guitar playing has earned him a high level of respect and recognition; he was voted 25th best solo ever in the USA and 20th best solo ever in the UK for his playing on ‘Aqualung’. His playing on the album ‘Crest of a Knave’ earned him a Grammy award in 1989. One of the lauded & respected rock guitarists ever to walk the planet, Martin’s dynamic, expressive, explosive guitar playing was paramount to Jethro Tull’s live and recorded sound, starting with his debut on the band’s classic second album, Stand Up (1969), right up to the band’s eventual demise in 2012. As well as numerous Jethro Tull albums, Martin has worked with many other artists including Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Gary Moore, Joe Bonamassa and Chris Thompson and has shared a stage with such legends as Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd & Led Zeppelin. Martin has put together a band to play the “classic” music from the Tull catalogue. His band is a total commitment to give the Tull fans and a broader audience the chance to hear tracks not performed for many years. The band includes top musicians from a similar background. On Friday November 6, The Store for Music record label will proudly release worldwide Martin’s new album…a double CD affair entitled “50 Years of Jethro Tull”. CD1 features Martin and his band doing live in-studio electric performances of Jethro Tull songs…both classic tracks and deep album cuts from Tull’s earlier days….with new arrangements with Martin and his band putting their own stamp on these amazing songs. The 2nd CD features Martin and his band doing their own new versions of primarily classic acoustic songs from various periods of Tull’s legendary catalog. Martin and the band’s take on all these songs is fresh, inventive, interesting and, of course, extremely well done. His own band will be touring again at some point whenever the world is safe for him to do so, performing both Tull classics & Martin’s amazing original music.

I had the honor of catching up with Martin to get the buzz about this new double CD set into as many earholes as possible. We go through the creation of the records, including the respect Martin and his band mates have for the original music and the many people it shares an importance with. We talk songwriting and the addition of a new instrument, a female vocalists sound on some of the tracks. Martin is one of those people who is deeply rooted in many of our musical “family” tree and the new album(s), provide that same nostalgic sense as well as some real fresh, high quality newness, we all deserve to take a chance on.

Rez Abbasi’s Django-Shift

Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi is among a rare breed of artists that continue to push boundaries while preserving the traditions he has embraced. Consistently placing on DownBeat’s International Critics Poll alongside luminaries (friend of this proGram) Mr. Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny since 2014, he continues to forge new ground with his many multi-dimensional projects. He has established an enviable reputation over the course of fifteen albums as leader and years of touring internationally: not simply as one of the finest guitarists of his generation, but also as a musical alchemist with the ability to parlay his continent-crossing range of influences into consistently fresh and innovative compositions and reframings of the tradition. His deep musicality has been applied with equal conviction to contemporary New York acoustic jazz, the Qawwali and Indian Classical traditions of South Asia and the heady fusion sounds of the 1970s, each time applying the filter of his own musical personality to deliver inimitable results. Commissioned in 2019 to present a project on Django Reinhardt by the Freight & Salvage’s Django Festival in California, Rez boldly redefined his engagement by turning the focus away from Django, the codifier of the Sinti guitar vocabulary, and onto Django, the composer.

I had the pleasure of discussion the wonderful new release, “Django-Shift” which was released on August 28th via Whirlwind Recordings with Rez. First off, I always love when the artists I speak with is as energized by the conversation as I am. I could feel that energy when Rez picked up the call. We dive into how the album went from a moment of “Sure, I can play that gig”, to that eureka moment when he realized this should become a project. We talk how it he arranged the pieces for a contemporary trio featuring Neil Alexander on organ and electronics and Michael Sarin on drums. The results offer a fascinating and unique insight into an often overlooked aspect of Django’s genius, his skill as a composer. I think you’ll find that this conversation will lead you to want to give this album a bunch of listens, but it also may assist in opening your ear into the different avenues of many artists you think you love already…that desire to know more about the sound, the style the person or people is something I think Rez’s music, whether this album or one from the past does, it leaves that welcome mat out in from of the house…just knock.

Listening To The Music with Zephaniah OHora

Zephaniah OHora is a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and a pillar of the burgeoning New York City Country-Western music community. Beginning in 2013, he served as frontman and vocalist for Honeyfingers. It was here, through two years and hundreds of performances featuring the music of Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Marty Robbins and others, that Zephaniah’s own musical vision began to come into focus. It was also during this time that he befriended fellow Honeyfingers collaborator Jim Campilongo. A series of conversations between the two revealed a mutual love for the Truck Drivin’ Country of Red Simpson, Del Reeves, and Dave Dudley. A few impromptu rehearsals later and The 18 Wheelers were born. Initially serving as a great excuse to play their favorite trucker anthems and country classics, The 18 Wheelers soon evolved into a showcase for Zephaniah’s original material. Assimilating a world-class band of musicians and a dozen songs that harken back to the golden age of country music, his debut album, ‘This Highway’ is an album that gives a reverent nod to the past before blazing a brand new interstate through the gridlock of contemporary country. By combining the brash edge of Bakersfield and the slick sonority of the Nashville Sound, Zephaniah Ohora with the help of The 18 Wheelers have forged a new brand all their own. ‘This Highway’ is a modern classic and a tribute to American Music. Fast forward to 2020 and we have a new album to dive into.

I had the chance to catch up with Zephaniah to talk about his new release ‘Listening To The Music’. We get into how the album went from songs he had written well before they were set into an album form, choosing a producer (friend of this proGram Neal Casal) that would take him out of his comfort zone and bring out some new things from within himself and we even let Zephaniah choose one of the new tracks and give us a clue as to some music that would go well with it in a setlist. When talking about our brother Neal, we get into a great story about the title track and how it went from not quite where it should be, into a real cool place that served the song perfectly.

The Reservoir by Kenny Roby

Kenny Roby knew from the start there would be a lot to say for his first solo album in seven years, the emotionally and musically expansive “The Reservoir”. So much had changed in his world and the world at large since his stately 2013 LP, “Memories & Birds”, an exquisite reflection on the experiences and apprehensions of crossing over 40. Kenny was now 48. He had been sober for half his adult life. Both his kids, somehow suddenly in their 20s, had left home. After more than two decades together, he and his wife had decided, rather amicably, to separate and try something else. Kenny’s band 6 String Drag—an iconic alt-country unit who were signed to Steve Earle’s record label and helped shape that very term as young North Carolina men in the ’90s—had reunited for runs of spirited shows and a barreling, but wise rock ’n’ roll record, 2018’s Top of the World. And then, of course, there was the wider social upheaval of the last decade, the feeling that all the progress Kenny had seen in his lifetime was in sudden peril. That was plenty to process for a dozen songs, right? Neal Casal thought so. The band met for a week in Woodstock in mid-October for sessions that were swift and natural. Kenny had culled 25 songs into 16, and the band captured many of them in only a few takes in the same room, with Kenny singing live as they played. They sound like a veteran ensemble on “The Reservoir”, with each of these numbers settling into deep and natural grooves. These tunes collectively summon the wealth of his experience, as a human being and as a musician.

I had the chance to catch up with Kenny t talk about the ins and out of the new album to be released August 7th on Royal Potato Family. We got into how the album took it’s shape from the beGinning moments of sharing out demos to trusted ears. We discuss in depth how our pal, Mr. Neal Casal (Rest peacefully) made it clear he wanted to be a part of these stories in one way or another…and how in any and every situation, it’s about being in the service of the songs. By the end of out talk, Kenny chose one track off the new album he would build a set around and his accompany tunes he’s pair off it made me want to try that set out on my home stereo. The album has a reason and I can feel why Neal was sure of it.

Photo by Gary Waldman.

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.

Blues Comin’ On with Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker is one of the greatest bluesmen of his generation. He is a four-time Blues Music Award winner and 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee who has appeared on multiple Grammy-winning albums. He is known worldwide as one of the genre’s top musical trailblazers—a mesmerizing guitarist and soul-testifying vocalist. The New York Times raves, “Walker is a singer with a Cadillac of a voice. He delivers no-nonsense, gutsy blues. His guitar solos are fast, wiry and incisive, moaning with bluesy despair.” Rolling Stone simply calls him “ferocious.” Billboard writes: “His playing blows all over the map…gutbucket blues, joyous gospel, Rolling Stones-style rock crunch, and aching R&B. Walker’s guitar playing is fine and fierce.”. Joe won the 2016 Blues Foundation Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year award at the Blues Foundation Awards ceremony in Memphis. The Blues Music Awards are universally recognized as the highest accolade afforded blues music performers. The annual Blues Music Awards ceremony is the premier event for blues professionals, musicians, and fans from all over the world.

I had the chance to catch up with this living leGend to talk abut his brand new album, “Blues Comin’ On” out on Cleopatra Records. We got into the how the album went from an idea, a few lines of a poem to the moments of now when I prepare to give the listeners a deep dive in. It is always nice to be able to see backwards with an artists on how they became the person they are, the shapes and molds that they took on along the way, and Joe and I discuss how he became such an open-eared and open-minded artists. Real cool stuff. Just like the new album, there’s more to it then the blues, but he is truly one of the fine-tuners of that blues language.

Wings Of A Jetliner With Nate Lee

Nate Lee is an International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award-winning instrumentalist and renowned teacher of private lessons and music camps. The overlapping landscapes of folk, bluegrass, old-time, and new acoustic music offer a wide field to hoe and singer/mandolinist Nate ably covers every bit of that ground. Tuneful lopes, the muscular bounce of ‘grass, the sparkling charm of Grisman-Rice inspired “Dawg” music, and more are all in his comfort zone and he moves between them with uncommon ease. Nate is known as the kind of musician who is able to put his own stamp on whatever he plays and his forthcoming album, “Wings of a Jetliner”, brings that home and is set for independent release June 12 on his own Adverb Records.

I had the chance to take a little time to chat with Nate about “Wings Of A Jetliner”. We got into the parts to the whole when it comes to the band-mates chosen to work with AND the output they came up with. We dissect a couple of tunes and even take a moment to find out which track off the album Nate would choose to build a set around and then what he would add to it from other artists or albums. I could tell right there that he and I would have a blast trying to create set-lists in the moment. “Wings Of A jetliner” is one of those alums that immediately caught my ear (like what a David Grisman sound would do to bend my ear) and not only do I look forward to getting deeper into it, but now I have another artist to bookmark to pay attention to down the line. Check it all out for yourself. Start with out chat.

Sam Quartin of The Bobby Lees

The Bobby Lees are a bone-shaking garage rock-n-punk band out of Woodstock NY. Their new record Skin Suit was produced by underground punk rock legend and friend of greenarrowradio, Mr. Jon Spencer of the Blues Explosion (and so many other great bands) and will be released on Alive Naturalsound Records on a new date of June 17th.

In the past year, they’ve opened up for The Chats, The Black Lips, Boss Hog, Shannon & The Clams, The Nude Party, and Murphy’s Law.They will be on tour in the US and Europe throughout 2020. Their sound mixes classic garage-punk hits with raw and emotive storytelling so pay attention, get a head start and find them when you can get out and see for yourself.

Lineup:

Sam Quartin – Vocals/Guitar
Kendall Wind – Bass
Macky Bowman – Drums
Nick Casa – Guitar

I had the chance to catch up with vocalist/guitarist of The Bobby Lees, Sam Quartin about the brand new album. We get into a few of the tracks especially their gritty-ass take on another friend of the proGram, Mister Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man”. We find out how Jon Spencer got involved in this project, and what a story it is and since we cant go see them out live right now, (and they were due in Madison in the Spring) we find out what Sam likes best about the live shows and how they are different form the album and just what it was like opening up for the mighty Murphy’s Law. I have to say, I listen to a lot of music, all styles do it for me and “Skin Suit” is high on top of my listening list, with an “I can’t wait until they make it to Madison still in the very front of my going out mind…or is that going out of my mind?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

In This Moment With Joe Marcinek

Joe Marcinek Band is an experience you will never forget. That is because each show features a different lineup of musicians creating a different set of music every night you see the band on the billing. The music is equal parts Chicago Blues, New Orleans Funk, Grateful Dead Psychedelia, and Jazz Fusion! Joe tours nationally from New York to LA and everywhere in between. Most of the lineups will only happen one time making every night a can’t miss show.

The group has featured many prominent special guests including Bernie Worrell (P-Funk, Talking Heads), Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band), George Porter JR (The Meters), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Alan Evans (Soulive), Kris Myers (Umphrey’s McGee), Tony Hall (Dumpstaphunk, Dave Mathews & Friends), Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy, Kirk Franklin), Allen Aucoin (the Disco Biscuits), Marty Sammon (Buddy Guy), Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident / EOTO), Erik “Jesus” Coomes (Lettuce), Borahm Lee (Break Science), Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band), Mike Greenfield (Lotus), Borham Lee (Break Science), Steve Molitz (Phil Lesh & Friends / Particle) Joey Porter (The Motet / Juno What), Fareed Haque, Scott Metzger, Nate Werth (Snarky Puppy) Garrett Sayers (The Motet) Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain String Band), Freekbass, Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin (moe.)

I had a chance to catch up with our brother Joe ahead of the 12/28 show here in Madison at The Harmony Bar & Grill. We get into what someone who has yet to see what he’s doing can expect from this show and the other shows he is a part of. We find out who will be in the rotating line-up here in Madison and we dive deep into the reasons for the limited time releasing of his live show at the Fox with 2 special guests and just why it is dubbed: “Dead Funk Summit”. Don’t miss out, earGrab Joe’s music and scene wherever/however and whenever.

It’s a LITTLE WORLD with STEEZ

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

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

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

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

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