New Years Eve hasn't been the same without Dick Clark.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Monday, December 25, 2017
Scot Sax Returns to Philly
To Debut Mr. Chocolate
By Rob Nagy
Mr. Chocolate is the latest album release from multi-talented singer, songwriter and Philadelphia native Scot Sax. Offering a six song collection riddled with pop tendencies, Sax headed into the studio with the sole intention of writing great songs with no pressure and no expectations. Featured on the album are Wilco-drummer Ken Coomer, Bob Dylan’s longtime live guitarist John Jackson and Phil D’Agostino.
“Mr. Chocolate has a lot of energy,” says Sax, from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. “I really enjoyed this project. It was really exciting. I wrote a bunch of songs with the freedom of, ‘I’m just going to write songs like I did when I was 16.’ So that’s what I did, and it was just really fun to write stuff. I thought it would be fun to cut a record just like Wanderlust cut their record. Knock it out in two days and just have this amazing exciting and driven experience. So that’s how the album came about.”
Sax is taking a sentimental journey to the Philly area to perform live one of two shows featuring Mr. Chocolate. Joining him will be his wife Suzie Brown who will be performing songs from her latest album “Sometimes Your Dreams Find You.”
“The Mr. Chocolate show is only a one-time thing,” says Sax. “I will only be playing in Philly at the Burlap and Bean and in Nashville at a place called Radio Café. This show is not a touring band; it’s more about the record. It’s kind of a theatrical David Bowie experience. It’s not me doing what I usually do. It’s something very different. You have to be at the show to experience it. We have a Mr. Chocolate life-like figure on stage that is the actual front man, he doesn’t move or anything. I’m almost a sideman to Mr. Chocolate. Its really cool because it makes me a little bit more of a musician. Sometimes my musicality falls off to the wayside because I’m busy doing the front man thing. When I get to really play guitar it feels great, so that’s what these shows really are.”
“As great as life is here in Nashville,” adds Sax “the people back in Philadelphia is where I got love from whether it was family, friends or fans, and that’s always going to mean the most to me. The fans there always get it and that has been pretty awesome. I just wanted to see the fans again.”
Sax rose to prominence in the mid ‘90s as the founder and principal songwriter for the band Wanderlust. Signed to RCA Records, they released their debut album “Prize” featuring the hit single “I Walked.” Sax would chart again with his band Feel and the singles “Got Your Name on It” and “Won’t Stand In Your Way.”
“There’s a lot about the music business that doesn’t totally fit with my personality,” says Sax. “You really have to beat the hell out of yourself to get anywhere in the music business.”
Influenced by the works of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles, Sax exhibited a passion for songwriting dating back to his early teens.
“Everything else was difficult but that was easy,” recalls Sax. “I picked up a guitar and I don’t even remember learning more than two chords before I was putting songs together. I didn’t realize how kind of atypical that was until much later.”
Following his days in Wanderlust and Feel, Sax focused his attention on a solo career as well as songwriting for such high-profile artists as Jason Mraz, Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block and Jennifer Love-Hewitt. Sax received international prominence as the co-writer for the Grammy Award winning Faith Hill and Tim McGraw hit “Like We Never Loved At All.” He has also penned songs prominently featured in the film “American Pie” and the TV shows “Ghost Whisperer,” “NCIS,” “CSI: NY” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”
No stranger to sharing the concert stage with high profile artists such, Sax served as the opening act for Robert Plant and Allison Krauss on the duo’s 2008 “Raising Sand” tour.
“There is so much great talent there, and there are so many people doing the songwriter thing that I decided I wasn’t really cut out for sitting in a room and writing songs for people I don’t know,” adds Sax. “It’s just really not my thing, even though I have had the most success doing that. It’s not something I loved to do. So, I’m done co-writing.”
“I play out quite a bit in Nashville, but for the most part with a soul review band,” adds Sax. “I do songs that are almost like Philly soul, they are all new songs that are mine. I do tour when it’s a family affair with my wife Suzie Brown, who is a very gifted singer songwriter. I always felt a little bit lonely and I realized I never had the connection to people that I longed for and never totally knew why. Being with Suzy and our kids has been a really good thing for me.”
As if Sax isn’t busy enough, he is opening The Kitchen at Atomic Nashville- what he calls “a haven for connection” - a WIFI free listening performance and events room, in January 2018. His passion for filmmaking is giving his fellow artists an outlet to tell their story and share their work.
“I’ve never had this much creative output since I was a kid in my bedroom,” says Sax. “It’s been really great. I make documentary videos for people, for bands and artists. I have a podcast called “One Hit Neighbors.”
I had my hit and the guy that moved in next to me named Steve Poltz had a hit, “You Were Meant For Me and I was Meant For You” with Jewel. So, we call ourselves “One Hit Neighbors.” We interview people each week. I am writing and recording probably more songs than ever. I’ve been doing more drawing. When I want a booking in Nashville, I call my soul band up and we play a show. So, I’m actually more of an artist now then when I was at my peak with Wanderlust and it feels great! The rest of my time is being a happily married man and having loving, warm, sweet daughters. I’ve never been better. It’s a gift and a really good time for me.”
Scot Sax and Suzie Brown perform at the Burlap and Bean, Springton Pointe Venue
204 South Newtown Street Road Newtown Square, PA 19073, on Saturday January 6, 2018 at 8:00 P.M. For more information call
484-427-4547 or visit www.burlapandbean.com
204 South Newtown Street Road Newtown Square, PA 19073, on Saturday January 6, 2018 at 8:00 P.M. For more information call
484-427-4547 or visit www.burlapandbean.com
To stay up to date with Scot Sax and Suzie Brown visit www.scottsaxandsuziebrown.com
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Monday, December 18, 2017
Delbert McClinton, an American Treasure that just keeps getting better
By Rob Nagy
A seasoned veteran of the road, music legend Delbert McClinton has spent a lifetime sharing his straight-ahead roadhouse blues with adoring audiences around the world.
His latest studio release, “Prick of the Litter,” offers a blend of his signature soulful raspy vocal accentuated with a touch of inspiration from the classic jazz crooners of a bygone era reminiscent of Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and Johnny Mercer.
“I’ve been working with this band for about five years,” says McClinton, from his home in Texas. “We have found that we’ve played well together. We have an energy going between us that is beautiful and wonderful. Everybody likes everybody and we’re having a lot of fun. We started trying to write songs.”
“We just kept getting together and writing songs,” adds McClinton. “I have a home in Mexico that I run away to every chance that I get. We started going down there and having a week to ten days, just the guys writing songs, which has become my favorite activity. We wrote all these songs and recorded them. We got exactly what we wanted. The songs, the band, the production, everything came together. I did what I came to do with this album.”
“I consider this my finest work,” says McClinton. “I always consider what I am currently working on to be my finest work. I feel lucky. It’s a good record and I know it’s a good record and people think it’s a good record. That’s all I’m looking for. All that matters is that the music pleases me. If someone likes it that’s even better.”
In spite of all the personal accolades McClinton is quick to praise his current road band, “Self Made Men,” which includes Jack Bruno (drums), Dana Robbins (saxophone),
Quentin ‘Q’ Ware (trumpet), James Pennebaker (guitar), Mike Joyce bass), Kevin McKendree (piano) and Bob Britt (guitar) as the best band he’s ever had.
Stand out tracks from the twelve-song release, which features a guest appearance by Jimmi Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton, includes, “Don’t Do It,” “Doin’ What You Do,” “Middle of Nowhere,” “Skip Chaser, “Like Lovin’,” “Used to Be,” “The Hunt Is On” and “Rosy.”
Born in Lubbuck, Texas relocating to Ft. Worth, Texas, McClinton worked the bar scene backing such legendary artists as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Jimmy Reed.
The late ‘70s saw McClinton enter his most musically fertile and commercially successful period. He had a number one hit with Emmylou Harris in 1978 with her recording of his song “Two More Bottles of Wine.” In 1980, he had his only Top 40 hit “Giving It Up for Your Love.” A duet with Bonnie Raitt, “Good Man, Good Woman,” won him a Grammy in 1991, he won a second Grammy in 2006 for his album “The Cost of Living” in the category Best Contemporary Blues Album. He had his highest charting single "Tell Me About It," in 1992, a duet he performed with Tanya Tucker.
“I’ve always been focused on making music as good as I can make it,” says McClinton. “I always wanted to do it so good my entire life and get better at it, that’s the pay off. I get better at it, at least I do to me and I’m the only one I try to please.”
Heralded for his hard driving passion and commitment to being authentic, McClinton credits the fans that have stuck with him and the energy they bring to his live shows.
“I want to see them get excited,” says McClinton. “I want to see them have fun. I want to see them move around. I want to see everybody on the same page for a little while. When they do that it excites me and keeps me going. So, it’s give a little and take a little. If you can get that going with an audience everybody is having a good time.”
In recent years McClinton was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2017, he was nominated for Texas State Musician, a highly acclaimed state appointment akin to poet laureate.
“The last 10 years has been the most productive, exciting and memorable because I’m sober,” says McClinton. “It’s the best time I’ve ever had, I’m one of the fortunate few. You make a choice and figure out how to get there.”
“I’ve gotten better as I’ve grown older,” adds McClinton. “I know that to be a fact because I’ve lived with me a long time and I’ve gotten where I trust myself and that’s a pretty good place to be.”
Delbert McClinton performs at the Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460 Saturday December 30, 2017 at 8:00 P.M. For tickets and further info call 610-917-1228 or visit www.the colonialtheatre.com
To stay up to date with Delbert McClinton visit www.delbert.com
The Levin Brothers Celebrate the Release of Live Album
at the Kennett Flash
By Rob Nagy
Pete and Tony Levin have been a creative force as solo artists and sidemen for decades. Working with an astonishing list of high profile artists in the jazz, progressive rock and rock and roll world, they are about to release the Levin Brothers debut live album “Special Delivery.
“During our Spring 2017 tour we recorded three of our shows, which will become a Levin Brothers' live recording - our first,” says Pete Levin, from his home in Woodstock, New York. “It will include a lot of the music we've been performing live that isn't on our debut album. We started touring doing two hour sets, but as we recorded, we decided that it felt better doing one long show. We found that audiences were appreciating this more. As we did that, we realized we needed to expand what we were doing. As we got into it we were thinking let’s try adding some arrangements of more contemporary pieces ‘cause people obviously like them. Not doing them in a pop style but doing them in a jazz style, recognizable melodies without vocals. People were relating to that and we felt good about doing that, so a lot of those pieces are on our new album.”
“Tony and I had been trying to find the time to get a new release together for quite a while and this was a great opportunity,” says Pete. “When I finally got the tracks back, seven hours of recording, to go through to cut down to 70 minutes there were a lot of decisions. Performing live is a great thing because there is a lot of spontaneity with the audience. It was a matter of picking and choosing different things from different concerts and eliminating things that we would have liked to put on but there was just no room on the CD.”
Special Delivery, due for an early January 2018 release, features memorable Levin Brothers’ original compositions “Gimme Some Scratch,” “Special Delivery,” “Ostropolya,” “Fire Drill,” “Havana,” “Pete's Blues” and interpretations of “Scarborough Fair” (Paul Simon), “Weight of Action” (Erik Lawrence), “Theme from Cinema Paradiso” (Ennio Morricone), “Milonga del Angel” (Astor Piazzola) and “Ballad of the Innocent” (Jeff Siegel)
“Tony and I work together very well,” says Pete. “We come from the same background. We both came up trained in classical music in the same public-school system, which had a great music department. We both went on to music school and ended up in New York doing session work, the same disciplines that are involved with becoming a sideman on a professional level.”
Establishing a highly regarded reputation on their respective instruments, Tony (bass) and Pete (keyboards, French horn), found them in great demand in the studio and on the concert stage by a long list of iconic artists.
“Tony and I went in different directions,” recalls Pete. “I tended to work more with jazz artists and producers. Tony, early on started working with pop rock figures and different artists. We both made some phenomenal connections. Tony with Peter Gabriel and me with Gil Evans. Tony, of course, has gone on to do King Crimson and The Stick Men.”
Pete’s own storied career has found him appearing on hundreds of pop and jazz recordings by Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorious, David Sanborn, Lenny White and of course Gil Evans, just to name a few. Pete and Tony crossed paths when they were members of Paul Simon’s touring band in 1979/80.
“When you’ve been called to play for a session or a live gig my objective is to always make a piece of music as good as it can be,” says Pete. “Tony thinks the same way. You could interview a line-up of major artists who will tell you the same thing about Tony, I try to do the same thing. They are all learning experiences every one of them. Every time something new pops up I learn something from it.”
The birth of the Levin Brothers came to fruition just a few years back when Pete and Tony found themselves reminiscing over the music of their youth.
“In 2014 Tony and I were talking and somehow, we got talking about jazz records that I used to play in the house when we were kids,” recalls Pete. “One of us just started to staff one of the melodies and the other one just joined in. We hadn’t heard these recordings in more than 50 years and we remembered the melody from those recordings and some of the scores. We were thinking how meaningful that was and we thought, ‘We should record this.’ That was the beginning of the project.”
“This is the first time we’ve sat down from scratch and decided to do this together,” adds Pete. “The Levin Brothers, a logical name, we’ll figure out what we’re going to do and we’ll put a band together and we’ll see what happens. We’re really doing it for ourselves remembering music we did a long time ago and make it memorable and meaningful. It’s coming from another era, the cool jazz era post bebop. Hopefully, people like it. If they don’t like it the satisfaction was in creating it.”
They released their debut album “Levin Brothers” (2014) followed by a 2015 tour that was cut short due to Tony’s schedule with King Crimson.
“I’m going to be 75 soon,” says Pete. “I’m thinking that maybe now I’m just starting to get good at what I’m doing and I realize how much I don’t know and I want to keep learning. Our goal is to create a great experience for us and the people that come to see us.”
The Levin Brothers will perform at the Kennett Flash, 102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, PA 19348, on Tuesday January 2, 2018 at 8:00 P.M. For tickets and information, visit www.kennettflash.org.
To stay up to date with the Levin Brothers visit www.thelevinbrothers.com
Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino
Play The Kennett Flash
By Rob Nagy
When guitar master Bert Lams, one third of “The California Guitar Trio,” isn’t performing or recording with his fellow band mates, he can be found immersing himself into creative side projects.
Lams’ latest effort is a series of live performances with Italian guitarist Fabio Mittino. As a follow-up to their 2015 album release “Long Ago,” the duo is planning to return to the studio after the first of the year.
“We have done several tours, Fabio and I, promoting ‘Long Ago,’” says Lams, while on tour with the California Guitar Trio in Phoenix, Arizona. “We are gearing up to record a second album. There is a whole arsenal of pieces that were written for piano with movements that we’ve arranged for the guitar. We have 95% of the songs ready to record. We are going to be presenting a lot of this material on the up and coming tour. So it will be a mixture of a few pieces from “Long Ago” and mostly pieces from the new up and coming album. It’s more fun for us to play some new stuff and work on it as we tour, travel and hear the response from the people. It all blends really well.”
“Getting out on my own from time to time is very important,” adds Lams. “It started out a few years ago when we had a couple of long breaks with the California Guitar Trio and I wanted to keep busy. So, I started playing with other artists recording and performing. From there it evolved into whenever I had a couple of months off or a little break. I tried to keep busy doing side projects. It’s very refreshing because I can bring something new to the California Guitar Trio, too. I get excited about some music and I want to play it and if there is an outlet for that, be it the trio or a project with a duo or solo music, I love to do that. I feel grateful that I have each and the means to do that.”
Studying classical guitar with Monique Vigneron and Albert Sundermann (A. Sundermann was a student of Andres Segovia.) Lams graduated with honors from the prestigious Royal Conservatory of Music in Belgium in 1984. Lams has gone on to conduct workshops and master classes for guitar students in Berlin, Paris, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Mexico City.
Lams, along with fellow guitar prodigies Paul Richards and Hideyo Moriya formed the “California Guitar Trio” in 1993. Two decades and 14 albums later the critically acclaimed trio continues to enjoy a flourishing career as one of the most prominent instrumentalists in the world.
“One of the things that really helped us a lot in the early ‘90s is that we were able to open up for King Crimson,” recalls Lams. “We did 130 shows opening up for them and their guitarist Robert Fripp, our friend and mentor, was responsible for giving us that opportunity. We are really thankful for that because that still follows us around. Every night we play there are people that come up to us and say, ‘The first time I saw you guys was opening for King Crimson.’ Those people keep coming back to our shows 25 years later. They are still there. It was something that was really great and we can still feel now.”
“None of us specialize in a certain kind of music,” adds Lams. “We each bring unique music to the group. I grew-up with blues and rock music, so did Paul, but I also love jazz and classical music, I studied each of them, but I never became a real live jazz guitar player or a true classical guitar player. I pursued all these different things and I became quite prolific at it. I never felt like I specialized that much. I wanted to assimilate to jazz and classical and make it our own. I think that’s kind of the unique thing about the trio. We have all these genres that we know but we don’t specialize, we kind of make it our own and kind thing and people enjoy it.”
“I think the main key to all of it is that we love what we do,” says Lams. “We play the music that we love to play. We’re not catering to a certain crowd or certain genre. All three of us come from different cultural backgrounds. Hideo is from Japan, I’m European and Paul is American and I think this culture difference blends into the trio creating something unique and I think that’s why we can play all these genres and blend it in and give people something that’s different. So we can cater to a wider audience.”
Lams and Mittino begin the New Year with select concert dates in the Northeast, featuring an area appearance at the intimate Kennett Flash.
"Kennett Flash is one of the first venues Fabio Mittino and I performed,” recalls Lams. Since then, I've played there three times with California Guitar Trio, and once with Stick player Tom Griesgraber. It is now one of my favorite venues to play on the East Coast.
It's run and sponsored by the local community, and has a really great atmosphere. It's cozy and inviting, right in the center of town, and one of the best places on the East Coast to listen to good music. "
Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino will perform at the Kennett Flash, 102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, PA 19348, on Thursday January 4, 2018 at 8:00 P.M. For tickets and information, visit www.kennettflash.org.
To stay up to date with Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino visit www.mittinolams.com