Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Chris Greene Quartet pushes musical boundaries on new album, will perform at Winter's Jazz Club in Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago saxophonist and composer Chris Greene and his bandmates don't believe in musical boundaries.

So it's appropriate that The Chris Greene Quartet's latest album is titled "Boundary Issues." The band will perform a number of shows in support of the new album, including on May 20 at the Winter's Jazz Club, 465 N. McClurg Court, Chicago.

More information and tickets are available at www.wintersjazzclub.com.

I had the chance to talk to Greene about the new album.


Q - Great talking to you again. So you are known for pushing the boundaries of jazz, and your new album is called "Boundary Issues." Did you try to push the boundaries even more on this album?

We never consciously tried to push the boundaries of jazz, although I think we certainly challenge most people’s idea of what jazz is. Individually, we listen to and are influenced by so much music along with jazz, so when it comes time to make music with the quartet, no genre, style, or musical idea is off the table.




Musical boundaries and divisions simply don’t exist to us. Good music is good music.

With “Boundary Issues,” we’re basically distilling many styles and using them as staring points for the compositions and the improvisations.

Q - This album is the eighth one with your quartet. How do you think the band has grown and evolved over the years?

On one hand, we’re committed to being the best musicians we can be, so we all continue to do our homework off the bandstand. Hopefully, that comes across on the recordings.


At the same time, I think we’ve realized that it’s no longer enough for us to dazzle an audience with our musical versatility. We simply want to play good, challenging and interesting music for people - regardless of style or genre.

Some of our most fervent fans are people who previously thought that they hated jazz. Those are the folks who end up buying all of our albums.

Q - The album also features a number of guest stars. What do you think they bring to the table?

This was the first time that we’d had guests in the studio with us, but I knew that the three musicians I chose would add their distinctive flavors to the sessions and push us to greater heights as a collective. Marqueal Jordan is simply one of my favorite saxophonists (and people) here in town.




Our musical influences intersect at several points, so he was a natural choice to join us for the song, “The Crossover Appeal.” JoVia Armstrong is an incredibly tasteful percussionist who performs in every situation imaginable, and her vibe enhances her two appearances.

And what more needs to be said about the great, young guitarist Isaiah Sharkey? I was elated that he could join us for two songs!

Q - "Boundary Issues" features both originals and interpretations of other people's songs. How did you go about choosing what songs to cover for this album and what did you want to do with them?

It always comes down to having enough new quality material that we’ve had ample time to test in front of various audiences. Once we hit a point where we’re focusing less on the sheet music and more and making the music sound and feel good - that’s usually the time to call our producer Joe Tortorici and book the studio time.

Q - Along with having your own quartet, you are also a musician that is in demand. Do you have any favorite musicians to work with?

As far as people I work with, I’m a little biased toward The J Davis Trio (led by my friend, vocalist Julio Davis - who also makes an appearance on the album) and the mighty West side funk/soul/R&B collective Midnight Sun (where I met Mr. Sharkey). Ultimately, I just love playing music, so I’m humbled and flattered when anyone calls me to play with them.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

For the first 10 years of my career, people only seemed to know me from my early electric funk/jazz band New Perspective, my long association with a Dave Matthews cover band and various other rock and hip-hop projects.
 




So they’d be shocked to discover that I could play straight-ahead, acoustic jazz - which is what I went to school to study. For the next 10 years, people only seemed to know me as a traditional jazz player, and were surprised that I liked funk and other stuff.

Now people don’t seem to be surprised to see me with a jazz trio one night, a funk band the next, and a rock cover band the next. I just like playing music.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I wrote and recorded background music for a children’s play recently, and I’d like to do more of that. I’d love to score an independent film.


I also want to compose, arrange and produce for other artists. I’d also like to eventually release music or comedy albums by other artists on my label.

The sky ain’t even the limit no more. No boundaries.

Brad Cole putting new spin on blues, bossa nova



By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 
In putting together his group Bossa Blue, singer-songwriter Brad Cole - who these days splits his time between his hometown of Chicago and New York City when he's not on tour - wanted to marry two different musical genres - the blues and bossa nova.

The group recently finished a residency at The Hideout in Chicago. I had the chance to talk to him about Bossa Blue.

Q - Great talking to you. In coming up with the idea for Bossa Blue, what were your goals and do you think you have accomplished them? 

My goals for Bossa Blue were to mash up bossa nova and the blues with a bunch of my favorite classic and contemporary tunes and I want to get the band in shape so that we can do more residencies along the lines of what did at The Hideout.      

Q - I know that the band has covered such songs as Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" and Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home." What led you to want to reinterpret these songs and what new dimension do you think you have brought to them?


These songs have great melodies and hooks and it’s my predilection to give them more of a jazz feel. These songs are the standards of our generation and therefore must be interpreted.  

Q - How did you go about assembling Bossa Blue and what do you think each member brings to the band? 

The Chicago band is Tad Santos on upright bass, Diana Lawrence on piano and Josh Lava on drums. All are great musicians, each with a strong jazz sensibility and a gift for vocal arrangements. Having Diana and I singing together is a direct link to the male/female vocal harmonies intrinsic to Bossa Nova. 

Q - Last year, you released your fourth album, "Lay It Down," which received much acclaim. What did you want to achieve with the album? 

“Lay It Down” saw me move from a folksier sound to something a little more soulful and musical. My inspirations for the album were bossa nova, reggae and soul music, but updated for the 21st century.


I feel that I wrote some good stuff that I was able to record with a full band.   

Q - What made you want to move to New York City? How do you think the two music scenes are different? 

I was living in Nashville and fell in love with a woman living in NYC. Moving there benefited my touring, as well, as I am able to play shows up and down the East Coast.   

Chicago has a more intimate music scene, while NYC is more scattered and hectic but the musicians there are especially strong. 

Q - Where do you see Bossa Blue going from here? Will the group continue to be a side project for you as you release new music on your own? 

Bossa Blue is primarily a covers band and a lot of fun. I am still writing a lot of original material and the musical sensibility of Bossa Blue is definitely influencing my music.

As to where Bossa Blue is headed, we’ll just have to see as more people have a chance to see us and what the overall reaction is. But for now it is fun and a great challenge.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Paramount Theatre presents energetic version of "Jesus Christ Superstar"

Photo by Liz Lauren

 

By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 
As someone who has watched the 1973 movie version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" dozens of times and had the honor of interviewing Ted Neeley - the actor who portrayed Jesus in the movie - I had high hopes for the Paramount's version of "Jesus Christ Superstar," first conceived by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in 1970 as a rock opera concept album.

video
 
The musical starts out strong as Mykal Kilgore - a newcomer to the Paramount stage - bounds on to the stage as Judas Iscariot in a powerful version of "Heaven On Their Minds."
 
But there are standout performances throughout the production, such as the one given by Lorenzo Rush, Jr. - also a newcomer to the Paramount stage - as a brooding Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest who is plotting to have Jesus killed. And Avionce Hoyles' take as King Herold is as funny and campy as Joshua Mostel's performance in the same role in the movie version of "Jesus Christ Superstar."
 
video
 
Evan Tyrone Martin, previously seen on the Paramount stage as Triton in "The Little Mermaid" and Tom Collins in "Rent," turns in a multi-dimensional role as Jesus of Nazareth. When his followers sing his praises in the song "Hosanna," the look on his face is that he is truly amazed he has had such an impact on them.

But it is during the second act of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that Martin truly owns the part. The emotional burden that he feels in on full display in the song "Gethsemane" as he accepts his outcome.
 
video
 
What is even more remarkable is that Martin stepped into the role of Jesus after Destan Owens - who was originally cast in the role - had to leave the production because of a family emergency. Martin was originally supposed to play Peter in the production.
 
That Martin was able to turn in such a powerful performance after assuming the role only a few weeks ago is an example of his immense talent. Directing and choreographing this production is Ron Kellum, who has plenty of experience under his belt, having directed more than 20 musicals nationwide as well as choreographing "Iron Man 2." His decision to feature an all-black cast in "Jesus Christ Superstar" was a brilliant move, especially given the immensely talented cast.
 
The production ends on a glorious note with the cast singing an a cappella version, gospel-infused version of "Jesus Christ Superstar," the crowd at the Paramount happily clapping along.

 

 "Jesus Christ Superstar" will continue through May 28 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Boulevard, Aurora. Tickets are available by calling the Paramount at 630-896-6666 or visiting its website, www.paramountaurora.com.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Chicago blues legend Lonnie Brooks passes away at the age of 83, had a 60-year career


Celebrating the life of Lonnie Brooks
 


"I will keep on playing until I can't play anymore. As long as I have the tools - my fingers and my voice - I will use them. Music keeps me young."  



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Chicago singer-songwriter Layla Frankel releases debut EP, will perform April 30 at SPACE in Evanston



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Being the daughter of singer, songwriter and children's entertainer Joel Frankel, it was inevitable that Layla Frankel would become a musician herself.

The Chicago-based folk/soul songwriter and singer will celebrate the release of her debut EP, "Tame the Fox," on April 30 with a show at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the chance to talk to her about the new album.


Q - Great talking to you. In sitting down to make "Tame the Fox," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

Honestly, my main goal was just to complete it! This project has been years in the making and there’s such a thrill in simply having this body of work as a studio recording. So in that regard, yes, mission accomplished!

As far as more specific goals within the project, my objective was to not only record these songs but to truly do them justice; to produce my songs in a way that really showcases the songwriting and my abilities as a vocalist. That meant bringing in strong, versatile musicians and finding a sound engineer who understood and believed in the project.



The album features Dave Hiltebrand on guitars and bass, Robert Rashid on drums/ percussion, and Eddie Ganet on keys; all of whom were wonderful to work with and crucial in bringing these songs to their full potential. And Josh Richter, the sound engineer at Victorian Recording, made the whole recording process fun and comfortable which is so essential when you’re in the vulnerable state of recording your first CD. 

I really could not have been happier with the team involved.

Q - I understand that you carried the book "The Little Prince" during a 600-mile hike last year on the Israel National Trail. In that book, The Little Prince meets many interesting characters during his travels. Did you meet any interesting characters on the hike? 


Yes, many! Although, considering I was the one hiking in a foreign country, they probably thought I was a character.


Many of the people on the trail were young Israelis who had just finished their army service and hadn’t even begun to think about their career paths or university/college educations. Their worldly perspectives were very different from my own as well as the cultural expectations and communication styles.

I had a lot of miles to spend thinking about my cultural background, habits and idiosyncrasies, and when you surround yourself with a new culture it gives you a completely different understanding of your own life and the choices you make. I think my time on the trail - time spent away from music - only helped guide me right back to it. 

Completing the trail was my way of proving to myself that I can accomplish that which I set out to achieve, and while I was on the trail I told myself that, if I could complete my two-month-long hike, the EP release would be my next metaphorical “trail. 

I came up with the name “Tame the Fox” on the trail after being inspired by the fox’s quote in “The Little Prince,” in which he exclaims that to tame means to create a relationship with someone or something so that they are “unique in all the world.” 

What better mantra for a debut release? This is me; this is what I have to offer; this is how I’ll tame the fox.

Q - As a youngster, you appeared on stage with your dad, Joel Frankel, and also appeared on his children's records. How did that experience shape you and prepare you for your own musical career?

Let’s just say being a doctor or a lawyer wasn’t really in my cards.


Growing up the child of a freelance songwriter and performer, it was just a job like any other parent’s job. Counter to the societal stigmas around careers in music, his livelihood as a musician never seemed to be particularly extraordinary or unstable -we lived comfortably. So pursuing music always felt like a viable option. 


I certainly attribute my comfort as band leader to my early experiences with him both on stage and off. I grew up watching him perform, analyzing his stage banter, and helping him come up with song arrangements. And I first recorded with him when I was four years old, so singing and performing is somewhat second nature.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it? 


Chicago loves all kinds of music so any style of music can find an audience here. That being said, I find the music scene to be as spread out as the landscape itself.

I practically grew up at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago because that was the musical niche that my father was in and that particular community has always felt like a musical home. Since returning to Chicago post-college and exploring a variety of styles including more jazz, soul and pop sounds, I’ve branched out of the cozy folk circle and found there to be independent musical niches all over the city.



In the past year I’ve attempted to bridge the divides to some degree by featuring various artists at my monthly showcase, “All Write in the Round,” and have met some really talented, creative, and motivated musical counterparts. 

It’s a challenge; there are so many people in places I wouldn’t think to look, but I find that what this city lacks in music industry it makes up for in artistry and collaboration. I’m just hoping to keep meeting people, gaining inspiration from their work, connecting and collaborating.

Q - I know you teach songwriting at the Music Institute of Chicago. What are some of the things that you try to convey to your students? 


It’s all so subjective; sometimes I think they’re teaching me just as much I’m teaching them. I work primarily with beginners, and my main objective is to give them prompts and guidelines that help generate creative ideas for them. 

I just want to help them find their creative footing so that they are excited to explore the medium of music and lyrics. One of my favorite exercises is to have them listen to their favorite song, figure out what they love about that song and then put themselves in that artist’s shoes. 

You can only learn by copying what you know and love, and through that you’ll find your voice.

I also encourage writing and finishing bad songs. It’s better for them to write 100 bad songs than no songs at all.

Q - You are also the host and curator of a monthly musical showcase, “All Write in the Round,” at Wishbone North in Chicago. Do you think that such events help strengthen collaborative efforts between musicians? What do you get out of the experience? 


That is the goal! I try to bring in an array of artists each month with varying sounds - sometimes they know one another but often they don’t. 

In a city as spread out as Chicago, my mission was to create something that made the music community feel a little smaller and more accessible. Whether the rounds lead to further collaborations between artists I couldn’t say, but I can tell you that at every performance I try to create an open, organic, collaborative environment on stage which has lead to some really spontaneous and fun musical moments.




I like to believe that the simple existence of a series like this contributes to a city-wide collaborative culture. I certainly feel its presence in my own musical relationships.

Q - What goals do you have for the rest of the year? 


Write more songs, play more rounds, and continue to play shows with my phenomenal backing band. I have some collaborations in the works with other local artists including video projects and songwriting co-writes so I’m looking forward to those types of projects.

I also have a dream of going on a house show tour - basically road tripping from Chicago to New York on a run of intimate performances in peoples’ living rooms. Hopefully that will be my next metaphorical “Israel Trail.” 

Only this time I’ll take an automobile.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical" to bring laughs to MCL Chicago Comedy Theater in April

                               Photo credit: Jeremy Kanne

By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 

The folks behind such hits as "A Nightmare on Backstreet: A Boy Band Horror Parody," "Maul Santa: The Musical," "Babysitter Massacre ’78: The Musical" and "Bates: An '80s Psycho Musical Parody" are back with "Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical."
 

The show will be the last one for We ARE Productions in Chicago. "Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical" will be presented from April 7 to 29 at MCL Chicago Comedy Theater, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago.
 

Tickets are $20, available at MCL Chicago Comedy Theater's website, www.mclchicago.com.
 

I had the chance to talk to writer/producer Ricky W. Glore and director Kit Rivers about the show:
 


Q - Great talking to you again. So how did you come up with the idea to do "Smokey and the Bandit: The Musical?" Were you a fan of the original movie?
 

Ricky: Last year while we were rehearsing our show "Fleetwood Macbeth," I started to brainstorm on what our next big musical would be. At the same time, my family started talking about what we might do for my dad’s 60th birthday, the next year, in 2017.


With just that, a light bulb went off in my head, and I thought that he would like nothing more than to see a live version of his favorite movie, on the 40th anniversary of the original movie.
 

I started writing the script and selecting which classic songs would go in it. I would constantly laugh to myself when thinking about doing a stage musical of a movie that is 90 percent car chases.

In the end, I chose songs primarily from the first two film’s soundtracks, "Smokey and the Bandit" 1 and 2  (a lot of Jerry Reed), a few from the country soundtrack to the film "Any Which Way You Can" (starring Clint Eastwood), and a few other country classic standards.
 


I grew up listening to the soundtracks and watching the "Bandit" films. The craziest thing, is that we’ve been able to keep this show as a secret to my dad, and he won’t know about it until he comes and sees it on April 8.

This show is a labor of love to him.
 

Q - For people who come out to the show, what should they expect? What would you like for people to come away with from the show?
 

Kit: To have fun! Right now we are flooded with so much negative news that I think it is the perfect time for a show that just wants to tell a fun story and share good music with its audience. 
 

Ultimately "Smokey and the Bandit" is about friendship, and loyalty and of course beer, and I think everyone can support those things.
 

Ricky: It’s gonna be a great time. We have a live four piece country band lead and arranged by Robert Campbell, choreography by Laura Marsh, vocals arranged by Dan Riley, and vocal direction by Katie Foster. MCL Chicago is a BYOB theater, so don’t forget your cooler of Coors, and a foot that’s ready to tap.
 

Q - How have rehearsals being going? What do you think of this cast and what do you think they bring to the production?
 

Kit: The rehearsal process has been fun! A lot of us involved with the show are friends in real life too, so our rehearsal room, while productive, still involves a good amount of jokes, bits, and the occasional broken chair.
 

It’s interesting because it is one of the rare times where a director of a show wasn’t actually a part of the casting process. So you can imagine my relief when it turned out they were actually all really talented and fit their parts great!
 

I joke, but truly it is a very versatile cast and I think with all the comedians involved it will make for a very funny show.  
 

Ricky: This cast is awesome. Some of the most talented performers in Chicago.
 

Q - I understand that this is weAREproductions' last show in the Chicago area. Do you think this is a fitting way to end your run here? Ricky: Our shows have always put entertainment for the audience first. What I mean when I say that, is, from the writing, to casting, to rehearsing and producing, our whole main goal is to thoroughly entertain the audience that is gonna come and see it.
 

I couldn’t think of a more fun show, than a stage musical version of "Smokey and the Bandit," to go out on.
 


This show doesn’t invite any pretense. The actors aren’t doing impressions of the famous cast of the film, they are embodying the spirit and the energy that encapsulated those characters.
 

Sure, the actor playing “The Bandit,” has a mustache…but we couldn’t get rid of that, now could we? ;)
 

These characters, the world and the songs, are so much fun. I can’t wait to share this show with everyone who just wants to come in, pop open a beer, and have a good time.

Q - Why the move to the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area? What's next for you and for We ARE Productions?
Ricky: I grew up in the NKY/Cincy area, and in the past few years, their independent arts scene has really blown up. I wanna be part of that, and bring our unique sensibility of theatre, to that playground. 


We ARE Productions is currently in talks with a couple different spaces in NKY/Cincy, and should be bringing our special brand, by at least early 2018, if not sooner.
 

We are looking to continue on bringing shows like "A Nightmare on Backstreet," "Fleetwood Macbeth," "Babysitter Massacre ’78: The Musical" and "Maul Santa," to that area, and mounting them again, while also creating new shows in the same vein. Eventually, we want to start connecting with local schools for some outreach programs, to get kids thinking, being creative and imaginative, with theater.



Stay up-to-date with all things We ARE Productions via our Facebook group and weAREprod15 on Twitter and Instagram.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicago harmonica player Corky Siegel explores new voices on latest album, will perform at Elgin Community College

Photo by Stephanie Bassos


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Internationally renowned blues harmonica player Corky Siegel learned his craft at the feet of such blues masters as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Sam Lay.

Lay is one of the guest musicians on the Chicago native's latest album, "Different Voices," set for release on April 7. The album is the first for Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues since 2005.

Lay, jazz saxophone player and Grammy Award winner Ernie Watts, Indian tabla master Sandeep Das, beat boxer Matthew Santos and Chicago folk trio Sons of the Never Wrong make appearances on the album, along with Marcy Levy, who sings her hit "Lay Down Sally,"  which she co-wrote with Eric Clapton.

Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues will perform at 7 p.m April 8 at Elgin Community College's Arts Center, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin. The show will also feature the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets are available at Elgin Community College's website, http://elgin.edu.

I had the chance to talk to Siegel about the new album. 


Q - This is your first album since 2005's "Corky Siegel's Traveling Chamber Blues Show!" What took so long? Any pressure to do the album?

Well, I took my time, didn't I? I've never been pressured about that kind of stuff.

I was always working on it, since 2005. I want to make sure that when I release an album, I'm happy with it. 

Q - Beyond that, did you have any goals for the album? And do you think you accomplished them?

The goal for the album was to dig deep into my soul and find out what I'm supposed to do, and then do it.

Q - That's great that somebody who has been doing this for so long still wants to explore more.


Absolutely. I'm still trying to find out what I like. When I was on tour with Bob Hope for six days, I said to him, "Bob, I'm really disturbed about professional musicians saying that you're supposed to read your audience, that you're supposed to know your audience." I told him that made no sense to me.

He told me a story where he showed up for a performance really late. He started telling his jokes and he was bombing. There were few giggles here and there, but that was it.

So he cut his show short, he gets into his limousine to go back to his hotel, when he realizes that this was an event for people who couldn't speak. They were mute. So he said, "Corky, never try to read your audience."

I told him that I'm still working on reading myself. How could I look at thousands of people and read them? So he reinforced my understanding that we're here, we're individuals and we need to find out who we are and what have to offer and just offer that and be fearless about it. That's the arts.

That doesn't mean that we should try to create something that's difficult for people to understand to show how fearless we are. As far as I am concerned, somebody could be inspired to copy another artist, and if that's what they are inspired to do, that's what they should do.

So whatever is, let's say extremely interesting about "Different Voices," I didn't do that because I wanted it to be weird. I just did it because that's honestly 50 years of working on trying to find out what's in here, and offering that without worrying about what anyone else is going to think about it.

Q I know you formed Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues in 1987. But I understand that you were intrigued about putting together chamber music and the blues back in 1966. What intrigued you about the idea?

In 1966, I had just come out of a residency with all the blues masters (including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy and Sam Lay). I just came out of that whole, incredible profound experience that I didn't even know the value of when I was experiencing it. 

Looking back, it's pretty mind blowing that we were the center of attention and all these blues masters took us under their wing. Howlin' Wolf was more of a mentor more directly than anyone else.


He'd knock on my door in New York City every morning, and we'd take these walks. He loved my band Siegel-Schwall, and he wanted to tour with us, so one time he took us on tour. 

Siegel-Schwall was not praised by our contemporaries, but Wolf and Muddy did like it because they saw we were trying to do something original. Which wasn't exactly correct. I was trying to sound just like Howlin' Wolf. It didn't work. That was not going to happen.

This guy comes in night after night, and he's a big fan. And one night, he comes up to me, and he says, "Corky, I'd like your band to jam with my band." His band was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and that was Seiji Ozawa.

So it was Seiji who was inspired with the idea of bringing the spark of blues to classical music. And he basically crowned me as the person to do it. 

And I was just going along with. As I tell the music people, Chamber Blues was neither my idea nor my fault. I didn't pursue it, but it pursued me, and I started getting offers to compose for symphonies. 

At some point, I really fell in love with Seiji's idea. I had to do it. I decided to do it in a chamber music setting, because a symphony wouldn't fit on a bus.

It happened right during the time when all the electronic, synthesizer music was really, really popular. And I really moved to do something very, very acoustic and pure.

Q - Do you see this album as being the pinnacle of what Chamber Blues can do?

Yes. I really feel this is a culmination. 


If you look at the compositions, there is a juxtaposition happening where both idioms maintain their characters, but they are working together. That's the concept of Chamber Blues.

It's not always happening in the music, but it is the focus, it is the direction that it's always going, to have these two elements that seem like opposites working together.

Q - Did you hand pick the guest artists on this album? 

All of them have been in guest artists with Chamber Blues in live performances. The first one, I believe if I am correct, was Marcy Levy, Marcella Detroit. I wrote an arrangement of "Lay Down Sally," and then I wrote an arrangement of a whole bunch of other stuff that she wrote.

And then she performed with Chamber Blues. So we had sort of the Chamber Blues thing going, but we also had a little bit of that R&B thing going. 


This isn't just bringing somebody in to do an album. We actually perform together, and we perform a full repertoire of their own material with Chamber Blues. It was just sort of a natural progression to have some of these guest artists on an album.

But it was also a natural progression that I've done five recorded projects juxtaposing blues and classical music and not bringing in specifically another element.

So it was time to bring in another element, and it was time to bring in a guest artist. And so it was just a natural progression, which is pretty much how I experience my musical life.

This wave came, I hopped on the wave, and I've been riding on it ever since.

Q - And blues legend Sam Lay is on the album. And he's still going at it in his 80s. Is he kind of any inspiration to you?

That's an understatement. He just exuded this incredible energy. The band (Paul Butterfield Blues Band) was tight, and Sam was this powerful engine. It wasn't like he was playing loud. It was like he was playing with an intensity.


And I swear, I've never heard another blues drummer do that, not like Sam. Sam doesn't play the drums, he sings the drums. 

Q - Are you happy with how the album turned out?

Happy isn't the word. I don't think there's a word. The word is that it's perfect.

It's absolute perfection. 

Q - So it's time for you to retire, after experiencing absolute perfection?

Yeah, what is there left to do? I'm really happy to tell you that it's perfect. Even with the errors.

This is extremely spontaneous. And I have learned over the years to love the unintentional. 

There's a balance. You look for that balance, where you don't lose the passion and excitement and the energy. 

Over my 50 years of performing, I've seen what music does to people, how it uplifts people and brings people together.


Well, it's the musical elements that have all this power. When we love a particular type of music like jazz, what is holding our attention and carrying us away? It's sort of these musical elements.

I get to arrange and manipulate the musical elements to my liking. It's sort of like making a sculpture out of gold and then looking at the sculpture and saying, "Wow, look at the luster."

But the luster is in the gold. You could shape it any way you want, and the luster is going to be there. 

I really look at music that way. And I feel grateful and honored to be able to do this.