The Nayo Jones Interview

October 11, 2018

Nayo Jones at the 2018 Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

Nayo Jones is a Chicago- born vocalist who grew up in a musical family and is now based in New Orleans. She performs with her own group, “The Nayo Jones Experience,” in addition to touring with Kermit Ruffins as a featured vocalist. Twin Cities audiences were first exposed to Ms Jones at the 2018 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Her dynamic, soul-filled performance of standards like Saint James Infirmary and My Favorite Thingsearned her four standing ovations from thousands of people who had never heard of her. At one emotional point, a gust of wind caused the sleeves of her flowing dress to spread out like wings to the delight of the crowd. Jones will be returning to the Twin Cities for an appearance at the Fall Jazz Festivalbeing held at Crooners Lounge and Supper Club in Fridley on Sunday, October 14th. She’ll perform at 2:30 in the large Lounge, and 7:30 in the intimate Dunsmore Room. The following interview took place after her June performance.

I understand you grew up listening to a lot of jazz because your dad is jazz a jazz player. Were there any artists in particular that caught your ear that made you say that’s what I want to do?

Dinah Washington – Nayo’s favorite

I want to say none in particular –  not until I began singing, and that wasn’t until many years later, because I played flute, and I would play jazz but I never sang. And so the first voice I had listened to several – my dad told me to listen to this and this and that. And then Dinah Washington  – her voice just resonated with me when I started really studying female jazz vocalists and to this day she probably is my favorite.

So when you choose songs for your repertoire what do you look for? 

Lyrics mean a lot to me so that every song that I shared today, every song that I ever share, whenever I perform, the song does something for me, it moves me, I believe that if I can feel a song and if the song moves me than I have the ability to move the crowd.

That’s certainly apparent. You did a couple of originals what are the names of those?

One is Imagine, which I wrote several years ago. It’s never been done, at least produced properly so I think we’re going to go in the studio on record that.  There was really a good reception for that song and it came back to me because you know it’s a lot of negative things going on in the world today and I just believe in the power of dreaming, loving, and imagination and that song means a lot to me. Product of the Mind, the second one, also came back for the same reasoning: we can change the world. There’s a co-writer on Product of the Mind Her name is Naomi Imeke. 

You did a good job of firing up the audience today. How do you figure out how and when to do that?

Thank you. This is going to sound very, very quirky but I can feel the energy. I really can. I can kind of tell if they need me to ease them into it, or if I can come out guns blazing and I did that today. I knew that I would be able to do that because of seeing how the crowd just responded to the music last night . Sometimes I can’t see faces and I can’t see exactly what’s happening in as far as people smiling, but I could see smiles on there tonight, and I could see people swaying, and crying and that let me know how far I could go. 

You have recordings?

I have several actually on ITunes. I have a Christmas album of which I’m still very, very proud. It’s one of my older projects but I’m still certainly proud of that project. Product of the Mind is actually on My Name is Nayo. That’s an R&B album.  OK You would never know it’s me because it’s a totally different energy than what I do on stage now because it’s an older album also. OK But yeah you can find me on ITunes

What are your future plans? Any CDs in the offering?

Yes we are going to start recording more original music. I’m very excited about the future. as I just started collaborating with The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. I’ve done a few shows with them, t.hat’s a twenty-piece band. Working with them and to have that opportunity come my way has been a dream come true.  So you’ll see more with me with the New Orleans Jazz. Orchestra in the future.. 

Finally, what would what do you think is the most important lesson you learned from your dad? 

The first thing, and I always tell people, when I started singing and when he realized that “I think she’s going to do this for real,” he said, “Always do it because you love it, don’t do it for the money. And to this day that’s why I do it. He said, “The money will come. Just do it because you love it.” It’s a labor of love. 

Thank you for your time.


The Lowdown Brass Band Interview

October 4, 2018

The Chicago-based Lowdown Brass Band, like many other brass bands, often looks to contemporary music for inspiration. After three albums, two EPs, and a couple of singles (one of which is a 45), it’s clear that their influences now include hip-hop, reggae, ska, and Afrobeat music. Yet, throughout their latest, Lowdown Breaks, second line rhythms aren’t very far. A tight horn line and a commitment to fun are at the heart of their music. I had a chance to talk by phone with Lance Loiselle, founder, producer, and sousaphone player with the band, prior to their October 15 debut at The Dakota in Minneapolis. I’ve edited the interview slightly for length and clarity.

You’ve been a band around for what about fifteen or sixteen years.

It’s our 15thAnniversary this year. We had our 15thanniversary show 2 weekends ago.

Are you the founder or one of the founders?

One of the founders. There are four of us originals. For the first four or five years we had a rotating cast of characters to go through when people have moved on. We’ve had a pretty solid lineup for six or seven years.

What was it about brass band music that made you decide “I want to start a brass band?”

I played in high school band. One of my friends introduced me to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and I was instantly in love with their music. So I listened to those guys through high school and college and fell in love with the music of New Orleans. Then when I went to DuPaul, I met all the guys that were original members (of Lowdown Brass Band). Some guys that were not original members also attended DuPaul with us.

When we graduated we were just sitting around after a rehearsal for another band and we were just talking about the music of New Orleans and just looked around – that guy plays the sousaphone, that guy plays the drums, (I play the sousaphone myself), he plays trumpet, and then you know we had all the pieces available and we all love the music of New Orleans. So we started out as a cover band with some originals and as time passed we started writing more and incorporating more styles into the music. Basically that’s it.

Besides the Dirty Dozen were there some other bands that you looked at as you were developing your sound?

You have the Rebirth Brass Band, another big New Orleans band that we’ve covered with a couple of songs over the years. And then as we became a little bit more modern, Youngblood Brass Band has always been a favorite of ours and. A lot of the guys we know personally – some of their band lived in at Chicago for a while. Then there’s like all other kind of horn bands. Chicago’s got a real rich history of horn bands. Chicago is one, Earth, Wind, & Fire is another. There’s a real deep history of horn bands.

Chicago also has a lot of other great sounds – vocal groups and of course the blues is an important part of the city’s history, as well as jazz, and hip-hop. Do you incorporate some of those sounds into your repertoire?

The last couple years we’ve been working with an MC, Billa Camp. Chicago’s got a good hip-hop scene with Common, Kanye West. So we’ve incorporated Chicago hip-hop, and New York hip-hop too, because Billa is originally from New York. We incorporate the funky sounds of Earth, Wind, & Fire in what we do. We’ve also been using some Latin flair. Chicago has a real big salsa scene, so we do a couple Latin tunes. Tower of Power is another big inspiration for us. There are so many writers and arrangers in the band, it really depends on who’s writing the song.  Someone will bring in a tune, but then it becomes really collaborative. So there are all these different musical leanings, and then everybody gets to put in their own two cents to the final product.

With Billa, you’ve got hip-hop going on. You also have some reggae toasting going on as well. What is it about brass band music that helps make that kind of thing work and how do you incorporate that?

Man, that’s a good question because it seems like it wouldn’t work.  You need the scratching, and the keyboard, but basically we just think anything that we transfer over, like a rhythm instrument, we just write for brass. The scratching and off-beat rhythms we would write for trumpet, and then the trombones would fill in the guitar line. Then the sousaphone becomes then becomes the bass. One thing that I’ve been incorporating a lot through the sousaphone is a lot of delay, which is another characteristic of reggae.

There are two reggae bands that have influenced us a bit. One is called The Drastics and the other one is called Akasha. They’re both Chicago reggae bands that a couple of our guys also play in, so that influence is brought to us as well, just from cross pollination of playing in other  bands and absorbing influences.

On the last album, Lowdown Breaks, you’ve got some Afro Beat sounds and you’re not afraid to take on an iconic rock song – Walk on the Wild Side.

So yeah we actually kind of ripped that off from A Tribe Called Quest(Note: Can I Kick It), who ripped off the bass line from Lou Reed. We took the hook and the bass line and made our own arrangement of it. Then Billa wrote some new verses for it, and it really has a nice flavor. It was a truly collaborative effort.

In terms of future directions for the band what do you see going on?

We’ve got a lot of plans through the end of the year. We just released a single of We Just Want to Be. It was written by our sax player, then we gave it to our buddy Nick the Graduate, a reggae producer in town, and he put a dub mix on it. He also worked with another guy, an emcee and reggae toaster called Illuminati Congo. They worked with Billa, and they made this truly dub version, reminiscent of Peter Tosh and guys like that.

So we put it on a 45. There’s a reggae label in town called Happy As A Lark, and so he’s putting that out. So that was part of our release show. We have a fall tour that we’re doing. The first leg of it is this weekend. We’re going to play Minneapolis. We’re playing at Green Bay Saturday and then we play Chicago on Sunday, then we’re going out to L.A. at the end of the month for a four-day trip. and they were going to play. We’re playing at the Lagunitas Beer Circus, which is a really big thing out there. And then And then second weekend of November we’re going to play in New Orleans for three night and hitting Memphis on the way down and Nashville on the way out.

We made a video for Don’t Wait Right Now, the Afrobeat song, so we’re going to be releasing that in the middle of the tour. And then we’re going to be laying low for the next three months. We just got a new recording spot. We’ll set that up and record a new album and hopefully have it out by next summer.

Well I sure do appreciate you taking the time and look forward to seeing you.

Cool. I appreciate the call. Take care.


Tower of Power Interview

August 21, 2018

East Bay Grease – Tower of Power’s first album

If you think You Ought to be Having Fun, even though the phrase You’re Still a Young Man (or woman) no longer fits you, but you know What is Hip, and you want to go Down To The Nightclub to get a Soul Vaccination, than you should head to the Soul Side of Town. That’s the name of the album that Tower of Power released in June to celebrate their 50thAnniversary. It became their first Number 1 on Billboard, debuting atop the charts for both Jazz Albums and ContemporaryJazz Albums.

Downbeat says of the album ” this 50th-anniversary recording affirms the trademarks of the meticulous 10-piece ensemble: a razor-sharp horn section of distinctive saxophone drama, versatile lead vocalists, song titles demanding the listener join in the fun and just enough variety to avoid predictability.”

Here’s a cut.

Tower of Power is popular enough to sell out two gigs a night during four-night stands at the Dakota each year. They’ll be appearing at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday and Friday, August 23rdand 24th where you can see them on the Leinie Lodge Stage. I had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with founder/leader Emilio Castillo a couple of weeks before their appearance. The following version of the interview has been slightly edited for clarity and length.

When you first thought of the idea of having a band what was your inspiration? What made you want to do that?

(Slight chuckle and pause) Well, I got caught stealing a t-shirt. My dad told me, “You’ve got to come up with something to keep you out of trouble or you’re never coming out of that room again.” Well, the Beatles had just come out and I said, “I want to play music Dad.” We started the band that day, and then we learned how to play. We did it completely backwards.

How did you recruit nine other people to be in the band?

Well, when I started we were just a little four-piece and started playing rock n’ roll. It wasn’t until we’d been playing for a couple of years that I really learned how to play and started to get into soul music. I saw this band called the Spyders, and they had a horn section. The next day I hired a trumpet player, that was Nick Gilette, and I got addicted to horn players. Next thing I knew I had five horns. (Editors Note: Steve “Doc” Kupka, baritone sax and co-writer with Castillo of the band’s songs, joined the band on August 13, 1968, which is the date the band notes as its beginning.)

You’ve managed to keep a strong horn section for over 50 years. Congratulations on that as well as a great rhythm section. How is it you’ve managed to stay so tight, when there’s been a number of personnel changes over the years?

You know, it was a trademark for us when we first started. Like I said, I was patterning us after the Spyders, and that was their signature, they were soon tight. So back in the day, that’s what we always did. You’re going to stop it on a dime, you’re going to start together, do these things just really tight. We’ve been doing that for so many years. Now, we play so much that we keep it tight.

It is unusual for such a large band to last so long. What do you attribute that to?

These days, I tell everybody that God did it, I just showed up. For the first half of my career, I made every mistake possible known to man. God got my attention, I sobered up, we started praying together, and things have been better ever since. The other thing is, we make the music exactly the way we want it to be. We stopped chasing trends years ago. We went through a little period about ten years into our career where the record company was trying to get us to change the way we sounded. They wanted us to sound like other bands. We tried to do that, but always sounded like ourselves, and for a while, thought that was a curse, but when things dried up for us, I told the guys, let’s just make the music the way we make it. As soon as we did, things got better. We realized it’s not a curse that we don’t sound like other guys, it’s a blessing.


The Tower of Power Horns have a long history of providing background for many other artists. How did that come about?

Early in our career, we got a call one night from Nick Gravenites, who was a singer for Big Brother& The Holding Company. He used to do a lot of gigs with Mike Bloomfield, and we used to play with them a lot. He called us up and said, “What are you doing? We’re over at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco.” This was the middle of the night. He said, “Why don’t you guys come over. We’ve got a song that would sound good with horns.” We went over there, and made up some parts, it sounded good. We walked out and he gave us some money. We were like, “What’s this for?” And he said, cause you came over. A couple of months later, same thing – middle of the night, Carlos Santana calls. We knew him. We’d played lots of gigs with him, and he said, “We have this song, Everybody’s Everything, and think it would sound real good with horns. Why don’t you guys come over to CBS Studio and let’s see what we can do.” And we did, made up some parts, and within a week it was on the radio.

It was a big hit, and everybody’s going “Wow, Santana with horns, who’s that.”  Word got out and before you knew it, Elton John was calling us, and we were just playing with everybody. There’s a lot of guitar players, billions, but there’s probably only five horn sections in the world. We happened to be five-piece, and tight, and people like it.

Now you have a brand-new album that debuted at # one on some of the charts as soon as it came out. It’s a great album. I’ve been a fan since the early days, and to me it’s very classic, yet has some modern touches. How did that come about?

The band, from The Soul Side of Town

It took a long time. You know we’re a working band. So we have to go in and out (of the studio), but the last three years we worked on it the most. We did two albums. We have one waiting in the wings. It’ll come out in about a year. I worked with Joe Vanelli, who produced all those great records for his brother Gino Vanelli over the years. He’s a skilled producer and engineer and he pushed me on every level – harmonically, rhythmically, and technically. I think it’s one of the best records I’ve ever made in my career.

It really fulfills, all the way through. How many of the songs are in your current show?

We’re doing four songs right now. We usually do two a night.

You play that song, Diggin’on James Brown. I have to tell you, there’s a high school here in the area with a big R&B band that plays that tune, so your inspiration is an inspiration for young people today.

Yeah, you know that’s become a big song for a lot of bands. There’s a lot throughout the world. There’s a lot of bands that are Tower of Power clone bands that take my song titles to name the band. There’s a band called Soul Vaccination, and another called Souled Out, one called Soul With a Capital S. They all play Diggin’ on James Brown. And then there are marching bands, large stage bands, and jazz bands in high schools and colleges that are also working up our arrangements, so that’s been really nice over the years.

You mentioned that you’ve enough for another album. How long will we have to wait for that?

Well, we’re still touring behind this one. At least a year I would say. We also recorded a live DVD and CD. On June 1stand 2ndwe celebrated our 50thAnniversary in Oakland and we filmed that in HD. When we get off this particular leg of our tour, I’ll go to L.A. and work on that for a bit. Once we get the mixing done on that we’ll do the video editing, and come out with a two-disc package, so we’ve got a lot of stuff coming out in the next couple of years.

I sure appreciate your taking time for this interview and am looking forward to seeing you on the Leinie Lodge Stage at the Minnesota State Fair.

I appreciate it. God Bless. Bye Bye.

(Editor’s note: To close, and just for fun, here’s a classic instrumental from the band)

Russell Malone: Being Himself

June 24, 2016
Russell Malone between sets

Russell Malone between sets

Self-taught guitarist Russell Malone has a very clean, elegant style, and is equally at home playing ballads or swinging. When he was in his 20s, he joined the band of organist Jimmy Smith, and went on to join Harry Connick Jr.’s big and. He then worked with Diana Krall during much of the 90s and early 2000s, appearing on three Grammy winning albums with her, as well as on Roy Hargove’s Grammy winner Crisol, and on a couple of albums with pianist Benny Green. Malone most recently appeared in the Twin Cities with Ron Carter last Fall. He’s released a dozen albums of his own since 1992, all of which have been well received.

As part of the 2016 Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Malone will bring an all-star quartet to Mears Park on Saturday, June 25th, at 6:30pm — Rick Germanson, a frequent visitor to our town on piano, Luke Sellick on bass, and acclaimed drummer Willie Jones III. I had a chance to see Malone and his quartet during the 2015 Jazz Cruise, where he was sitting in with a number of groups in addition to leading his own. He was gracious enough to grant me a few minutes time in between sets. This is a lightly edited version of the interview.

LE: What was your very first musical memory?

RM: Growing up in the church, hearing church music. That was the first music I heard before I got into jazz. My mother had records by groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds, Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers, and just hearing the people in the church sing those songs. It was very moving music. Not sophisticated, but very moving.

LE: What drew you to the guitar?

RM: Hearing the gentleman in my church perform. This old man, that I never got to meet, but I saw him (regularly). Keep in mind that I already had a love and a fascination with music. Even at the age of 4 years old I was aware of the different types of emotions and feelings and reactions that you could get from people through playing music. I was aware of that, which always fascinated me. You could play music and you could connect with total strangers. Somebody you don’t know would hear you and then they laugh, they cry, you get these different types of reactions. That’s so powerful.

The gentleman brought the guitar to church, and I was fascinated by the way that it looked, going to church one Sunday and seeing it perched against one of the pews. This interesting looking object that was totally foreign to me at the time sitting there perched up against the bench, And then there was this cable that extended from the guitar into this box, which was the amplifier. The whole getup was just so fascinating, and then when he started to play and I heard the sound and knew that whatever I was thinking musically, or feeling musically, that would be the vehicle that I would use to express those thoughts or feelings. That’s how I became fascinated with the instrument.

LE: You’ve talked about being a young man and transcribing and playing other people’s solos to learning how to play chords. How did you know you had a sound that was yours?

That’s a good question. I think everybody has their own voice, their own identity. They may not know that when they’re younger, but when you’re younger you want to be validated and you want to be liked. I’ll use myself as an example. There was a period when I felt I needed to play certain types of songs and play things a certain way because I wanted the approval of other people. I wanted them to like me.

After a while, this happened when I reached my mid-thirties, I came to the conclusion that no matter how much I loved my mentors like Wes Montgomery and George Benson, and all the people I grew up listening to, no matter how much I loved them, when it came to being Russell Malone, I’m the best there is. No one can outdo me at being that.

It’s kind of like getting to the point of realizing your parents aren’t perfect. You don’t have to make the same choices that they made. You don’t have to like everything about them. You don’t have to like everything about your heroes. That doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or respect them, but you don’t have to make the same choices in life that they made. That same thing applies to music. You find yourself on stage with some of the guys you came up listening to, like Kenny Burrell or George Benson, if you’re on stage playing with them, what are you going to do, play like them or play like you? Nobody wants to hear that.

LE: How did you know you had reached that point where it was your sound, where it was distinct from others?

RM: Well, once I realized I didn’t have to make the same musical choices, I learned to accept myself. You have to accept yourself warts and all. If anybody else doesn’t like it, that’s not your problem. You can’t let that be your problem. You have to let that be their problem.

LE: Were you doing things in terms of the use of your instrument?

RM: Just playing like me. Just accepting my sound. I’m never going to sound like those guys. You have to accept that. I’m never going to be them, but I am going to be me. I’m the best there is at being me.

LE: Thank you very much for your time. I know you have a full schedule here on the ship.

RM: My pleasure.



Regina Carter. A Life Journey in Music

November 14, 2015

imagesRegina Carter may be the most popular jazz violinist playing today, having recently won the 2015 Downbeat Reader’s Poll for violinist. As a youngster, Carter played in the youth division of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and took master classes from both Itzhak Perlman and Yehudi Menuhin. Carter moved to New York City in 1991 as a relative unknown, and got work accompanying such artists as Aretha Frankly, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, and Dolly Parton. She played with Max Roach and Oliver Lake and toured with Wynton Marsalis in his Blood on the Fields tour. In 1995 she released her first album as a leader, and since then has released eight more, including one with pianist Kenny Barron.

Paganini's Violin

Paganini’s Violin

In the early part of the new century she was invited to Italy to play a concert using Paganini’s Violin, made in 1743 and bequeathed to the city of Genoa. Carter was the first jazz musician and the first African American to play the instrument. Afterwards, she released an album of classical music entitled Paganini: After a Dream. In 2006 Carter was awarded a MacArthur Fellows Program grant, which is often called a “genius grant.” The awarding committee noted her mastery of improvisation, and her wide range of musical influences. Carter has released a series of albums that reflect her journey in life: Motor City Moments, an homage to her hometown; I’ll Be Seeing You, a tribute to her mother; and Reverse Thread, a collection of modern and traditional songs of Africa.

Her latest release is Southern Comfort, which explores the music of her grandparent’s South. Her grandfather was a coal miner in Alabama, and she takes on music from the coal-mining world of the Appalachia’s, which she discovered through research at the Library of Congress. There she searched the field recordings of renowned folklorists such as Alan Lomax and John Work II. The album includes tunes such as Honky-Tonkin’ by Hank Williams, and traditional songs such as See See Rider and Miner’s Child. While researching her personal history, she did some DNA testing and discovered that she is part Finnish, which will undoubtedly provide her with more potential material.

I was able to talk with her in January of 2015, when we were both on The Jazz Cruise. The following is a slightly edited version of that talk.

LE: As I understand it, violin was not your first instrument. How did you go from piano to violin?

RC: Well, piano was accident. I had two older brothers and they were both playing piano. The oldest played piano and trumpet and the next oldest one piano and clarinet. They said that one day I walked up to the piano and started playing one of the pieces my brother had been practicing. The teacher was there and said “How does she know that? Who taught her?” They were shocked and said they didn’t know I could play. So she tested me and found out I had a gift to hear music. So my mom enrolled me in piano lessons. But… I like to create, so I never learned my lessons. I’d go in and say “Here’s a tune I wrote.”

LE: How old were you at the time?

RC: Two (chuckling)

LE: Oh my goodness

RC: So my teacher said, “Let’s take her out of lessons. Let her create her own, I don’t want to kill her creativity. When she gets older, maybe I can come back.” Then when I was four Suzuki (method of teaching) was offered for the first time. She called my mother and said told her to enroll me in Suzuki violin because they teach by way of hearing first. She thought it would be great for me. I fell in love with violin, the whole method, and here I am today (laughing) a hundred years later.

LE: You learned classical music first. How did you go from European classical music to jazz?

Carter's homage to her home town of Detroit

Carter’s homage to her home town of Detroit

RC: In high school, my best friend Carla Cook, who’s a wonderful singer, and I met in ninth grade, and we sat next to each other in Spanish class. She’d come to school and talk about Eddie Jefferson and Miles. She was a big Eddie Jefferson fan. I had no clue about who any of these people were. So she’d bring records of Stephane Grapelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Noel Pointer, and that was my first introduction to this other music, other than European classical music.

LE: As played on violin

RC: Yes, and I was thinking, “Wow, you can do this on violin? Well count me in.” (more laughing)

LE: At the show last night you mentioned Stuff Smith (a pioneer of jazz violin). Are there artists before Stuff Smith that you learned about?

RC: Well yeah. When I was doing research there was Papa John Creach, even out of the South there were a lot of slaves playing the fiddle for entertainment. Even doing the research for my latest record, Southern Comfort, I was learning about those artists. It’s just been part of the music, the evolution.

LE: Once you started to play jazz, was there anything different about technique, or the way you thought about music, from the European classical approach?

RC: Every genre of music is like learning the slang of your own language for a different language. If you want to fit in, you have to learn that slang. So I just had to learn the slang. I’m still trying to learn it. It’s a little bit different vocabulary, and the way you approach it, so I had to really listen and try to learn the way they pronounced words and the pattern of how they said it. So I approached it just the way I learn a language.

LE: The albums that you’ve put out have all been somewhat thematic: one with your Mom’s favorite songs; one for your hometown of Detroit; one for Africa. Now you have Southern Comfort. Is there a particular reason you take that approach?

I'll Be Seeing You is filled with some of her Mom's favorite songs

I’ll Be Seeing You is filled with some of her Mom’s favorite songs

RC: In the beginning, when I was signed to a label, I wrote most of the music for the first album and most of the second. That was on Atlantic, and when I signed to Verve, my A&R guy said, “No, we don’t like your original music. It sounds too much like the music that was on Atlantic.” They thought that theme records gave the publicity department something to work with. Then, I took about a year or so off, after I got the MacArthur grant. My mother died right before that, so I had a lot of life changes, and asked myself, “What do I want to put out? What do I want to say?” So I guess the theme records are my journey, trying to figure out who am I? Why do I play? What am I doing here? Because, I think we all have a purpose here.

LE: You mentioned the MacArthur grant. What did that allow you to do? It has no strings to it, as I understand.

RC: That was really hard to accept at the beginning. (laughing) I though what? No one ever just gives you anything. In the beginning it gave me time off to maybe mourn and to figure out what is it that I really want to do, without anyone telling me what I really have to do. That’s really powerful. And… I think that’s when the search really started, so that’s what my music, and my records, look like now. I’m finding out (the answers).

NOTE: This is one of the songs on Southern Comfort

LE: On Southern Comfort, you looked back at some of the music your grandfather heard, was there anything that was particularly surprising that you discovered?

Southern Comfort, Carter's latest release.

Southern Comfort, Carter’s latest release.

RC: What I discovered was that some of this music I thought I had heard, maybe it was something form my grandmother. I didn’t know my grandfather. He died before I was born. So I when I went back to (my grandmother’s) house with my grandmother and all of her sisters, and we’d just be thrown in a bed with a bunch of our cousins. No bathroom, just an outhouse. So it’s a really different way of living. Someone, not necessarily my mother or grandmother, would rock me to sleep at night, and they’d sing these songs. So some of these things I’d hear, and I’d think, I know that. But then we’d travel and go to Europe and people would say, we know that song. All kinds of cultures came (to the United States) and migrated to the South. That’s what make up the Appalachia sound.

LE: Now are you moving on to another project?

RC: I’m trying to dig in deep now with this Finnish part, to see if I’m really Finnish. If I am, then I want to check out that part of my family.

LE: There’s some pretty amazing Finnish music. Lots of fiddle music.

RC: Oh I know, I know (laughs)

LE: Well, thank you so much for your time.

RC: Thank you.



Rhythm is Rhythm: An Interview with Percussionist Scott Horey

March 17, 2015

UnknownDr. Scotty Horey (B.A., M.M.A., D.M.A.) is a Twin Cities  percussionist, drummer, who has performed nationally and in Central and South America as a solo percussion artist. He currently teaches and lectures at the UofM, Morris, is Principal Percussionist of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, and the drummer for RisingSide, a Minneapolis progressive rock band. Horey will be performing at Studio Z on Saturday March 21, accompanied by Bethany Gonella flute; Trent Baarspul, guitar; Ted Godbout, keyboards; Karen Kozak, electric fiddle; Douglas Brown, bass; and Charlie Engen, drums. What follows is a slightly edited version of a brief interview we conducted over lunch one afternoon.

You are a solo percussionist. Most people would think in terms of a drum kit, but you do more. Please explain.

I think of myself as a solo percussion artist, so I play a lot of drum kit and marimba. A marimba is a pitched percussion instrument, like a xylophone, but its bigger. It’s pianistic and I find that with those two instruments I can express myself.

You have a show coming up.

The show is called Signs of New Vitality. I have some original compositions and some other pieces featuring some of my colleagues collaborating with me. It’s Saturday March 21st at Studio Z (Ed Note: 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200, Lowertown Saint Paul). You can see Jazz at Studio Z (Ed Note: The Dave Hagedorn Quintet) at 7pm and then my show at 10pm. You can get discounted tickets to go to both shows.

What kind of music will you be presenting?

Well, it’s my music, original pieces or pieces I choose by other composers. I describe it as a mix between, contemporary classic, progressive rock, and jazz fusion music.

What do those types of music have in common?

A lot of people ask me that. Hopefully it gets cleared up after attending one of my concerts. As a percussionist you always play a variety of styles of music. Over the yrs you learn how to combine. For me those styles completely express myself. My compositions take components of each style. I love the dynamic and rhythmic approach of jazz, and the forms of the tunes. Progressive Rock has a little more aggressive edge to it, with a drier and more aggressive drum sound, and maybe some simpler harmonies. Classical music has more elaborate pre-written parts as well as some counterpoint. I have a classical flautist playing on the project. I’ll also perform some solo marimba pieces that fit in the musical.

One style of marimba

One style of marimba

Do you compose on marimba?

I try to sit down at the piano. I play at a very basic level, which forces me to play simple harmonies, but most of it comes from rhythms, which I get from the drums – rhythmic ideas and odd time signatures. Then I like to find harmonies on the piano. And then the flute of course is one of my favorite instruments. I can usually hear flute playing in my head.

How does it work to express yourself in solo performances?

I do consider myself somewhat of an individualist. I feel like a very reflective person, and enjoy solitude. I enjoy spending time with myself, whether on my yoga and meditation practice, which is part of my music practice, or just the simple act of enjoying the sound of my instrument late at night by myself. That informs my inspiration. It’s kind of my personality type that transmits when I’m on stage. I love being on stage by myself. I can tell people my story. I think that sends a lot of emotional power. It makes it even more exciting when I collaborate with other musicians, which is part of this show.

You’ve done some shows in South America. What is it about those shows that, though you may not be able to speak to an audience vocally, you can communicate with your music?

That’s one of the reasons I play instrumental music. I love instrumental music and I want to say, with Latin America in particular that I love the culture and I feel at home in Latin Amrican culture. They really value emotional expression and are warm and love music. Love watching a new performer and have a high degree of appreciation for it. I think because my music is really sentimental, very open hearted, and there’s a lot of grooves and rhythms to it, it works very nicely and the LA audiences enjoy my performance.

Even though you aren’t necessarily playing Latin American rhythms.

Right. I have a lot to learn about that. Rhythm is rhythm is rhythm, whether you’re in India, the United States, or South America.

Horey on Marimba

You can find out more about Scotty Horey at:

For more information about the show, go to:

Strength and Independence: a 1986 Interview with Lesley Gore

February 28, 2015
A young pop star

A young pop star

Pop singer Lesley Gore passed away on February 16, 2015. She was sixteen when she reached number one in the charts with It’s My Party, which was followed by a number of other top 40 hits, including You Don’t Own Me, which reached number two on the charts, just behind the Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hand. Later in life she received an Academy Award nomination for co-writing Out Here On My Own for the film Fame. She last performed in the Twin Cities at the Dakota in 2010.

About twenty-eight or twenty-nine years ago she made a memorable appearance in the Twin Cities at a somewhat unusual venue. Donaldson’s, a long-gone department store, was opening up a beachwear department in their location at Southdale Mall. To celebrate and publicize the event they brought in Gore to perform in one of the mall’s inside courtyards.

Though at the time it had been about twenty years since Gore had broken the Top 40, Donaldson’s had made a good move in bringing her in, as the place was packed. A large portion of the audience were women who had come of age with Gore’s hits, many of whom had daughters with them as well. She was wildly received.

The grown-up Ms Gore

The grown-up Ms Gore

Afterwards, fans lined up to get her autographs on 45s, LP covers, and pictures. For about 45 minutes, she graciously welcomed them and signed her name. Finally, she was able to take a few minutes to talk with me. What follows is a lightly edited version of the interview.

How did you get your start?

I made some demo tapes which Quincy Jones heard, and Irving Green, president of Mercury at the time, asked Quincy to record some sides with me and one of those sides was It’s My Party.

How did you like working with Quincy?

Very much. Basically we had our first hits together and he really taught me a lot. He’s a fabulous producer and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to work with him.

How did you go about choosing songs?

The Hits

The Hits

We listened to songs. I had first pick as to what I wanted to record, and occasionally Quincy had something that he felt strongly about. It would be more of a negotiating thing. When we heard It’s My Party we both knew we wanted to play that.

Did you get any sense that 20 yrs after recording it, little girls would be singing it?

No, as I said before, if we’d known it was going to last 23 years, we would have taken care of the trumpet clinkers at the end. You know, there are some bad mistakes on that record, but the spirit was there. No, I didn’t know it would last for 20 years

What is it about that song that appeals? I noticed lots of little girls singing and dancing to that one. I asked a couple of them and they said, “That’s my favorite song.”

I think at that time, and it may apply to young girls today, most of the songs were about girls and guys and a girl wanting a particular guy. There was no room for a girl to be independent and say what was really on her mind. The strength and independence of It’s My Party is something that I know I enjoyed singing for that reason. At sixteen I related to that song very strongly for that reason, because a lot of things did go wrong and it gave me an opportunity to sing about those things.

Strength and Independence comes out in You Don’t Own Me. I saw older women singing along to that.

Vehemently singing along.

As a song, it was stronger in its declaration of independence. How did you come to record it?

An anthem of independence

An anthem of independence

That was written for me by two guys from Philadelphia who literally kidnapped me at a resort in the Catskills and threw me into a cabana near the pool and played me the song. I said “This song is great!” I told them “You’ve gotta be in New York on Monday and play this for Quincy” and that was that.

I know it’s been a long day for you. Thanks for taking the time to talk.

You’re welcome, it’s been my pleasure.


Note: Rocker Joan Jett recorded You Don’t Own Me for her debut album as a solo artist in 1981. In 2012, the song was used in a PSA with commentary from Gore, to encourage women to vote. On a lighter note, Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn sing it in the closing sequence of the 1996 movie, The First Wives Club, as seen below.



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