Praying For Enemies with Joy Harjo

In her first new recording in a decade, Joy Harjo – the first Native American named Poet Laureate of the United States – digs deep into the indigenous red earth and the shared languages of music to sing, speak and play a stunningly original musical meditation that seeks healing for a troubled world – “I Pray for My Enemies”, released on Sunyata Records March 5. Collaborating with producer/engineer Barrett Martin on this unique new album, Joy brings a fresh identity to the poetry & songs that have made her a renowned poet of the Muscogee Creek Nation & one of the most authentic and compelling voices of these times. “The concept for I Pray for My Enemies began” says Harjo, “with an urgent need to deal with discord, opposition. It could have been on a tribal, national or a personal level. I no longer remember. The urgency had a heartbeat and in any gathering of two or more, perhaps the whole planet, our hearts lean to entrainment – that is, to beat together.” Latin Grammy-winning producer, composer and founding father of the historic Seattle music scene, Barrett Martin brings a new dimension to Harjo’s unique sound-world – her words and music spoken, sung and explored in a vibrant mix of classic instrumental sounds. Harjo and Martin describe it as “funkified spoken word” inspiring “elegant jazz, urban soul, and inner city, reservation grit.” She sings and speaks her poetry, as well as playing saxophone and flute, on an album she describes as “very much of-the-moment.” Martin holds it all together with drums, upright bass, keyboards & production duties. He assembled an all-star band to explore Harjo’s work, featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.) on electric guitar & feedback; Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) on electric guitar solos; Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) on acoustic guitar; and Rich Robinson (Black Crowes) on electric guitar solos. Additional players include renowned Iraqi oud master Rahim Alhaj; trumpeter Dave Carter & percussionist/backing vocalist Lisette Garcia. Joy’s stepdaughters sing harmony vocals, and her husband Owen Sapulpa plays surdo drum on the album. Joy defines songs and poems as distinctly different expressions, & both are featured in the 16 tracks that make up the album. Her words & music, older & newer, get a fresh new identity here. Some of Harjo’s defining poems appear here – “An American Sunrise,” “Fear,” “Running” & “Remember” – refracting her own experience as a Native American woman of her culturally defining generation. “Calling the Spirit Back,” from an early collection of Harjo’s poems, and the new song “How Love Blows Through the Trees” – written when COVID-19 reached her home in Tulsa, OK – echo the suffering of a world experiencing a pandemic.
Joy Harjo is the author of several books of poetry, plays, children’s books. In May, The Library of Congress will release Living Nations, Living Words: an Anthology of First Peoples Poetry: and in September a memoir Poet Warrior, A Call for Love and Justice, Oprah Winfrey recently picked her anthology of Native American poetry for her book club. Her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation; the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award; PEN USA Literary Award and many others. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

I had the complete honor of catching up with Joy about this brand new release and we dive into the seed to flower tale. How she got to work with Mr. Martin and the key of the rhythm. All the words above speak the truth about Joy, but to get a true sense of this album and how it sounds and more importantly feels, is up to you. Go hear, go feel.

Cable Access TV from Heather The Jerk

Heather the jerk is the solo project of Heather Sawyer based out of Madison, WI. She started the project around 2016 to challenge herself and see if she could play music “one man band” style using guitar, bass drum, and high hat. After playing a few shows HTJ released a 4 song ep titled “The Rick Shitty Sessions” recorded by Rick Freuhling of local bands Fire Heads and Dumb Vision. In between now and then Heather played in a couple touring bands and was pretty busy with that. Fast forward several years and a pandemic later, Heather wrote a bunch of songs and decided to record them all as a full band this time around. Cable Access TV is the result of the recording sessions. Recorded entirely by Graham Hunt at their practice space this last fall, CATV also features Graham, and friend Tyler Fassnacht on some guitar and bass help. Cable Access TV is the result of some breakups, a pandemic, and smoking up.

I had the opportunity to get a little time with Heather The Jerk to get her take of how the album creation went down. We talk some of the ins and outs of this album, some of those inspirations that inspired and a new video as well as some thinGs in the pipeline….who is this Dana and The I Don’t Need That’s?? Heather is one of those special people making that real feel to her sound and Madison is lucky to have her within the scene.

Some Kind Of Tomorrow With Jane Ira Bloom

Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and bassist Mark Helias come together to create duets discovered in the moment in a way that is rarely heard today with “Some Kind of Tomorrow”. The long time bandmates, separated by space and time find a way to play in real time with one another and the results are magical. Two master improvisers and composers bring listeners up-close and personal to the first spark of their imaginations at work, recording eleven duet improvisations over the spring, summer, and fall of 2020. The music is raw, authentic, intimate, alive, and unapologetic in its passion. Their sound is deep wood and polished brass recorded with a depth that is hard to describe. They played the music, recorded it, mastered it firsthand and are now making it available to listeners for the first time as a digital download on Bandcamp. Don’t miss these fearless jazz explorers as they face the future.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Jane Ira Bloom about this project. We got into the creation of songs in a way, that up until now had probably not been considered as a way to go about one’s music…but…here we are. We talked about some challenges and the need to do this playing. Versatilityis one of those things I appreciate about Jane, so we touched briefly on the most recnt release she did with M’Lumbo on Ropeadope Records, released back at the end of October, 2020. And of course, as a true sound architect, Jane was able to point to the future a tad with what felt like assurance that there would be a volume 2 AND a new project on the winGs of exploration with a group of female improvisers called “Picturing The Invisible”…ahhh the future looks and sounds good…Listen in above to find out more.

Vanessa Williams: LIVE FROM THE WEST SIDE

Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected & multi-faceted performers in the entertainment industry today. Having sold millions of records worldwide, she has also achieved numerous #1 and Top 10 hits on various Billboard Album & Singles charts: Pop, Dance, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Holiday, Latin, Gospel & Jazz. Her critically acclaimed work in film, television, recordings and the Broadway stage has been recognized by every major industry award affiliate including four Emmy nominations, 11 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, three SAG award nominations, seven NAACP Image Awards & three Satellite Awards. Her platinum single “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s Pocahontas, won the Oscar, Grammy & Golden Globe for Best Original Song. A graduate of Syracuse University, Vanessa is a strong advocate for equal rights, especially concerning the LGBTQ+ community & minorities. She was honored with the Human Rights Campaign “Ally for Equality” Award for her humanitarian contributions. She also achieved a career pinnacle with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. Vanessa’s autobiography, “You Have No Idea,” co-written with her mother Helen Williams, was a New York Times Best Seller in 2012. Her recent Broadway credits include co-starring with Cicely Tyson in The Trip to Bountiful, (the #1 play of the 2013 season), After Midnight (2014) and a special limited engagement in Hey, Look Me Over at New York City Center in 2018. Vanessa was recently in previews for Josie Rourke’s City of Angels in London’s West End, when production was suddenly forced to pause due to COVID-19. Her charitable endeavors are many & varied, embracing & supporting such organizations as Concerts for America, Special Olympics and several others as well as the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. Vanessa is one of the world’s most accomplished concert artists, appearing regularly with the most prestigious symphony orchestras in the world, most recently with the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center.

I had the absolute honor to be invited to attend a national Zoom press conference with the one and only Vanessa Williams in support of the LIVE FROM THE WEST SIDE: WOMEN OF BROADWAY: Vanessa Williams event on Dec. 5. This show is the final show in the Overture Center‘s Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway series. The show, transmitted live in HD with professional sound mixing, will feature a mix of Broadway showtunes, pop songs and personal stories from Vanessa’s celebrated career. The performance will take place at The Shubert Virtual Studios on Manhattan’s West Side. At-home audience members will be invited to email in questions to be answered during the livestream.

Here is the snippet of my time with Vanessa where we talk about music she has been getting into & how the band is doing ahead of this event on 12/5. Such a thrill!!

Bettye LaVette: Blackbirds

2020 Blues Hall Of Fame inductee Bettye LaVette is a native of Detroit. Her first recording in 1962, at the age of sixteen, was on Atlantic Records. She later charted with such singles as “He Made A Woman Out Of Me” and “Do Your Duty,” Since then she has recorded ten albums. Her most recent album Things Have Changed, also produced by Steve Jordan (John Mayer, Keith Richards), was released on Verve in 2018 and received two GRAMMY nominations, which brings her total Grammy nominations to five. Her latest release, “Blackbirds,” features songs primarily popularized by some of her peers, other iconic black women in music, who she personally respected and admired. Set for release August 28, the album finds Bettye in top form delivering powerful renditions of songs that touched her personally. It also re-unites her with legendary producer Steve Jordan and Verve Records. From Dinah Washington’s “Drinking Again,” Nina Simone’s “I Hold No Grudge,” Nancy Wilson’s “Save Your Love For Me” and more, all delivered in Bettye’s rich and raspy tone with a touch of the blues.

After having a chance to chat with Bettye a couple of years ago and hanging out with her backstage, we were like two peas in a soul sharing pod. Which made this time around even better. We talk about how this album came together, working with a producer that has the same ear and the tunes that make up this walk down music history lane. We spend a good amount of time talking about the timeliness of the song, “Strange Fruit” as social upheaval takes over the news cycles once again in the United States and beyond. This track says as much about the history of American racism and the state of the country today. The song was originally recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 and written by Jewish teacher Abel Meeropol who wrote the song based on a photo of two black men who were lynched as a crowd of white people looked in the camera pointing and smiling. This album is one that can help bring a little focus on the way things were and still are in many ways, but I believe it also holds some of the keys to unlocking the new realities many want to see within the space of equality and justice…while honoring the people who helped build the bridge that led Bettye as a whole person to where she is today. The music joins the times of then to the times of now, and if you never knew…..just grab an earful.

Blues For A King With Shirley King

It’s not always easy being the child of a legend. Being the blues-singing daughter of the great Mr. B.B. King has earned Shirley King, B.B.’s eldest daughter, the title “Daughter of the Blues.” She takes the notoriety in stride because she is an outstanding singer and performer in her own right and capable of singing any kind of music that comes her way. Shirley’s newest and best album yet, Shirley King: Blues for a King, was released on Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records on Friday, June 19. From traditional blues to gospel to funky R&B to smooth soul, Shirley defies genre and her singing and stage antics never fails to excite her growing number of fans worldwide.

I had the pleasure, and I mean it was a hoot to catch up with Shirley recently to talk about the creation of the new album. She sings the praises of Cleopatra Records who knew she could…and she did. We talk about some of the song selections and how some of them were even a big surprise to her. She reflected back on some of the advice her leGend of a father gave her, and we even find time to hear a few life lessons learned through experience and being the daughter of Mr. B.B. King. Shirley remembers heading to Madison and playing one of our main Blues festivals some years ago and how she’d love to get back and do it again as a headliner. After people check out this new album, I am sure once the path is cleared, many of the doors like that will open right up. I have to say, it is always great to catch up with the cool people, but you’ll want to listen to this whole chat to understand the fun that Shirley brings to all she does.

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

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?

A Sacred Bond and Ada Rovatti

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

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

Alicia Olatuja Brings Intuition and More To Town

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

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

Photo by: Harrison Weinstein

Going Into The Old New with Tomeka Reid

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

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

Walking In Gratitude With Melody Trucks

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

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

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

Photo By Michael Price

Rockin’ Forward with Nikki Hill

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

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

Photo by: Roland Kämpfer

Dobet Gnahoré Unites Open Minds In Madison

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

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

Talkin’ No Good Deed With Mindi Abair

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

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

Mindi Abair

Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra’s Shiny!

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

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

Buck Up In Madison With Carsie Blanton

Carsie Blanton is a singer-songwriter who grew up in rural Virginia and landed in Philadelphia in fall of 2006. Since then, her soulful, playful, intelligent music has earned her tons of national respect from fans and fellow artists. She has released five studio albums: Ain’t So Green (2005), Buoy (2009), Idiot Heart (2012), Not Old, Not New (2014), So Ferocious (2016)—and three EPs—Hush (2002), Beau (2010), Rude Remarks and Dirty Jokes (2013). Once she began working with manager Bill Eib (Amos Lee, Mutlu Onaral), she was quickly playing over one hundred live shows a year. In 2010, Blanton performed live on NPR’s nationally syndicated program, Mountain Stage, and opened for The Weepies and Shawn Colvin. In 2011, Blanton toured with Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown: A Folk Opera, playing the role of Head Fate. In 2014, Blanton performed on the nationally syndicated NPR program Song Travels with Michael Feinstein. She was also fortunate to have opened multiple shows on Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What tour. Carsie has also shared the stage with nationally hailed acts Amos Lee, Nellie McKay, John Oates and Leon Redbone, and has toured with Loudon Wainwright III, and with Blue Note recording artists and friends of the program, The Wood Brothers. And now, she has dropped a new album in February of 2019, Buck Up, that aims to provide a little relief from the now that is, happening now.

I had the chance to chat with Carsie ahead of her March 24th show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon. We dive into the moods and melodies that drove the new release from a seed to a flower and just how she can make anything sound catchy, sexy and fun. We spend time getting to know the person that is behind the music, if you check out her blog, you’ll see (and read) that she says it like she feels it, and she tells us what ideals/values got mixed up in a blender to create the her she is. It is always interesting to find out which song an artist would choose to air on the greenarrowradio proGram if given the opportunity and what they would surround it with in a set-list, Carsie’s choices are shared so we get a sense of what direction it might go.

The African Buttafly Lands In Madison February 16th

This world needs a healing force, a soothing voice and Ugochi, a warm spirit who has become extremely versatile and creative with the range of music she is able to perform. Her musical interests span all corners of the globe. She fuses her choreo-poetic style of spoken word with her unique singing ability in order to generate a more powerful word sound attraction and that sound has been described as “lively, energetic music that makes your feet move and heart think”. As a multidisciplinary artist, she has written a one woman show about her families immigrant experience as well as written poems that have been honored in an international anthologies. She has also been saluted by internationally renowned literary organizations and has shared the stage with several established (and diverse) artists such as Common, John Legend, Femi Kuti, Edwin McCain, Seun Kuti, Maxi Priest, Malik Yusef, Umphrey’s McGee, Blitz the Ambassador, Yellowman, Queen Ifrika, Shaggy, Queen Ifrika, Vieux Farka Toure, Bushman, Fatoumata Diawara, Stephen Marley, King Sunny Ade, and Me’Schell Ndegeocello. The music of Ugochi is rich with poetic harmonies and uplifting ideas and has helped bring her tomany lands around the world. In 2003, legendary Chicago diva Chaka Khan saluted the emerging artist as “someone who will have a long life in the music business,” when she was selected as a semi-finalist on Star Search. Ugochi also wrote the only original song for the critically acclaimed “Red Hot and Riot Compilation,” in honor of the late Fela Kuti and global AIDS awareness. The song, “So Be It”, was performed by R&B star Kelis.

I had the honor of spending a little conversation time with Ugochi to discuss her upcoming event in Madison on February 16th at Café CODA, where she along with the Afro Soul Ensemble will be spreading the good deep feelings and positive energies. We get into what that experience miGht feel like for a newcomer to her scene. We dive mind first into what makes her spirit open to the ideas and rewards of collaboration in all communities of the arts, with a spectrum artists and bands from all walks of life. We touch on the importance and influence of Chicago, social-justice and the give back of music and the arts, and how it all fits in in the year 2019. I do enjoy knowing how artists put together a collection of their works into an album form, so we dissect her latest release, “Love Shot”, which features friends of the program Mr. Tony Allen and the Chicago Afrobeat Project. Her eclectic and versatile nature shines through when asked which artists/album/songs she may choose if locked in a room with a 6 CD changes for a day. I’d like to be a fly with big ears on those walls.

Madison Is Ready For Samantha Fish

After launching her recording career in 2009, Samantha Fish quickly established herself as a rising star in the contemporary blues world. Since then, the charismatic young singer-guitarist-songwriter has earned a reputation as a rising guitar hero and powerful live performer, while releasing a series of acclaimed albums that have shown her restless creative spirit consistently taking her in new and exciting musical directions. Having already made it clear that she’s more interested in following her heart than she is in repeating past triumphs, Samantha delivers some of her most compelling music to date with her latest release, Belle of the West, her fifth studio album. The deeply soulful, personally charged eleven song set showcases her sublime acoustic guitar skills as well as her rootsy, emotionally resonant songwriting. We have learned along her musical path so far that while the blues is the backbone to where she started and is part of the feeling of her music, she is much more than just that. She has many sounds driven from that foundation, but make no mistake, she is an artist with an open mind and can take that blues drive down any genre avenue.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Samantha ahead of her upcoming stop in Madison on December, 13th at the High Noon Saloon. We touch base on the who and what will be happening at that event for anyone who doesn’t recall her recent times in Madison. We get into how the newest music has been built by a vision that started even before her first release and how it has led her to be on the other side of things, producing Jonathon Long‘s new self titled release on her very own Wild Heart Records label. Jonathon will be opening for Samantha on the 13th. I think you’ll find that not only is her music hitting the spot you would hope it can, but the person she is, seeking artists to support that deserve their share of the spotlight, is just as cool and awesome as her sounds.

Lincoln Hall, Chicago, 1/31/2018.
Photo By: Kirstine Walton

Things Have Changed With Bettye LaVette

Three time Grammy nominee Bettye LaVette is no mere singer. She is not a song writer, nor is she a “cover” artist. She is an interpreter of the highest order. Bettye is one of very few of her contemporaries who were recording during the birth of soul music in the 60s and is still creating vital recordings today. To quote the late, great George Jones: “Bettye is truly a ‘singer’s singer’.” In 2016 she received the Blues Music Award for Best Soul Blues Female Artist from The Blues Foundation. She was also inducted into The Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, and she received the Unsung Heroine Award from the National R&B Music Society. In late 2016, her friend, photographer Carol Friedman, pitched Bettye the idea of doing an album of all Bob Dylan songs, with Grammy Award winning producer, Steve Jordan at the helm. Carol sold the idea to Verve Records, and in 2017 Bettye was signed to her first major label since 1982. The resulting album Things Have Changed was born. Bettye is one of those amazing artists that has a long and wild ride attached to her life and career. Do a little internet research on the timeline of her life, and all that she is, has done and continues to do to re-imagine songs.

I was honored to have a chance to spend a little time with Bettye discussing the upcoming show at the Stoughton Opera House on October 19th. We got into the band that will be on stage helping create a magical night of music, featuring most if not all of the tracks of her brand new Verve Records release, “Things Have Changed”. Bettye walks us through the process of creating this album from the birth of the idea to songs selection to final output. I know I often wonder how she does what she does with such a high degree of beautiful success. Bettye talks sincerely about how a song has to “Fit into her mouth”, for her to be able to make it work. Makes me wonder how many have been dropped because the fit was not right. We learn who recently paid her one of, if not THE largest compliment ever about one of her translations of this artists songs.It is a classic we all know and I think we both hope, Mr. Dylan will one day do the same.

Barack & Bettye