With its innovative blend of jazz, hop-hop, world music and other genres, Chicago band Liquid Soul caused quite the stir when it burst onto the scene in the mid-'90s.
Led by innovative saxophonist Mars Williams, the band quickly gained a following that included Chicago Bulls player Dennis Rodman and President Bill Clinton.
Liquid Soul, www.liquidsoul.com, will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a Jan. 20 show at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.
I had a chance to talk to Williams about Liquid Soul and its recent activities.
The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $10 to $20, available at www.ticketfly.com.
Q - All of the original members of Liquid Soul will be featured in the 20th anniversary show. Was it hard getting everybody together?
It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to get everybody together. Five years ago, we did a 15-year anniversary show at the Double Door and most of the guys were there.
Everybody had a great time, so getting those guys on board for this one was pretty easy. Then word got out to the other guys that missed the first show about how much fun they missed out on and they all jumped in for this one.
Q - Why was it important to do a 20th anniversary show?
Liquid Soul was a big part of the Chicago music scene in the 90s. Liquid Soul Sundays was the happening place to be and be seen. It wasn’t just a concert, it was an event!
We had loyal and amazing fans. They were the reason for our success. The buzz about our Sunday night residency became known internationally!
The 20th anniversary show is a way for us and them to relive those amazing times.
Q - Will this anniversary show be the start of new activities for the band? Are you guys working on new music?
Except for the couple of years when I put the band on hold, the band really never stopped performing. There have been different musicians throughout the years, but the band still continues to kick ass!
A new record is definitely in the near future, and I’m compiling a lot of live archived recordings from the Sunday night shows at Elbo Room and Double Door.
I’m also in the process of finding a venue for Liquid Soul to do another residency. Residencies give us the opportunity to hash out & try new ideas. I also plan to record a live record and a record of freestyle jams.
Q - When the band formed, did you think you were breaking new ground?
In the early 90s, there was some experimenting going on with DJ’s mixing hip-hop and jazz. Especially in England, NYC, and LA. DJ Jesse De La Pena was very knowledgeable of this scene, and would spin a lot of this new style called “acid jazz” in his sets.
He was responsible for bringing this music to our attention. When Jesse, Tommy and I first came together, we were experimenting with playing jazz standards over beats Jesse would lay down, and just improvising over these beats. The Sunday night residency gave us the opportunity to continue exploring and layering different styles.
From there, I started writing music that would work in this context. I don’t really know if we broke any new ground, but I think that bringing together our diverse musical personalities created a unique new sound!
Q - What were the band's goals and do you think you achieved them?
What I wanted was an outlet to play and collaborate with great musicians in a FUN musical environment, encompassing & fusing all the styles of music I love to play, with a focus on groove. I think we achieved that!
Q - In 2001, Liquid Soul received a Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Record. How did you view that? Were you surprised?
Being Grammy nominated wasn’t on even my radar. It definitely wasn’t a goal of mine when we started out. When I found out about the nomination, I thought they made a mistake! Seriously! Eventually it sunk in that “Wow, we’ve been Grammy nominated!”. It was humbling to know that there was recognition from our peers.
Q - You have been very much in demand over the years. What do you think it is about your saxophone playing and musicianship that attracts bands like The Waitresses, The Psychedelic Furs and others to want to work with you?
I don’t know, you would have to ask them... Maybe my warm fuzzy personality! Ha!
Q - It seems like you are always working on different projects. Do you have any new projects for 2013? Will we hear more from Soul Sonic Sirkus this year?
Hell yeah! They are so new that I don’t even know what they are yet!
I intend to remain active in the Chicago free jazz/ improvising community, where there are always new opportunities and collaborations with international artists, and I plan to continue the Monday night series at Beat Kitchen with Extraordinary Popular Delusions.
The Soul Sonic Sirkus is an on going project. I’m hoping we will be invited to more festivals this year. It is
an extremely unique, spectacular show that must be seen!
You can stay up to date with my projects and events by visiting www.marswilliams.com.