With a musical career that spans five decades and as many continents, John McLaughlin has established himself as one of the premier guitarists on the world stage. At the age of 73 his youthful vigor is nothing short of astounding. If he’s not touring with one of his two working bands, chances are he’s either preparing for his next tour, or he’s in the recording studio, or he’s embarking on a new project that has captured his imagination. He continues to thrill audiences with his virtuosity, intensity, and high energy style; all of which are on full display on his soon to be released album Black Light – already the top selling album in the category jazz fusion on Amazon. Listening to it you can understand why he calls the 4th Dimension the best band he’s ever had.
When we spoke he was at home doing some press work and getting a little R&R before embarking on a tour of Asia. When he answered the telephone he said he had just finished an in depth interview dealing with his musical history, but fortunately I had already decided to use this opportunity to explore the magic of music and creativity and ask about some of the insights he has gleaned during his long and rich musical journey. It turned out to be a serendipitous decision that pushed the right buttons. Unbeknownst to me, the title of his album essentially came about as he pondered such questions, and as a result he was energized and highly engaged throughout our conversation. Interview Note
Oteil Burbridge is one of the most respected bass players on the Southern music scene. He is an original member of the cult band Aquarium Rescue Unit led my Col. Bruce Hampton, who are regrouping for a reunion tour this summer. He was the original bass player in the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and he received a Grammy lifetime achievement award for his 17 year stint with the legendary Allman Brothers Band.
He departed the TTB in order to start a family and he is now the very proud father of a healthy baby boy. To spend more time with his family he is selective about touring and has really been mixing it up these past few years.
If you’ve listened to my interviews with John Scofield, Jimmy Herring, Derek Trucks, and Jeff Sipe you know his name has come up several times. He is all about the music and it was a treat to finally talk to the man himself. Interview Note
FILMMAKER DENNY TEDESCO
Many of you will recognize him from the theme music here @ talking2musicians. Well, it’s 2015 and he has just released his 8th album, “Eight Cylider” which we preview during this interview.
He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and after spending several years in New York honing his skills, he returned to his native Munich as one of the hottest players on the vibrant Munich jazz scene.
He’s an excellent player, but it is the range and richness of his compositional prowess I find especially striking. Listen in to discover why he happens to be one of my favorite contemporary jazz composers.
Jeff Sipe is a drummer based in Asheville, North Carolina. For decades he has been a conspicuous presence on the Southern Music scene. He was an original member of the Aquarium Rescue Unit, and the phenomenal trio Hellborg, Lane, & Sipe. He’s known as Jimmy Herring’s go-to drummer, and he can be found in all kinds of fluid combinations. After I heard the recent release by the Jeff Sipe Trio I knew I needed to speak with him.
Jeff has enlisted the aid of two extraordinarily talented young musicians, Mike Seal on guitar and Taylor Lee on bass, and I can’t praise the three of them enough. The playing, the arrangements, the music — everything comes together and works on several levels. Each is a musician who remains true to his own artistic vision, and it’s clear they are in sync with where they want to go musically. That’s the foundation of an excellent album.
During the interview we’ll preview four tracks from the album, and Jeff also shares some stories about people like Steve Vai, Frank Zappa, Kevin Eubanks, Bill Frisell, Jimmy Herring, teenage Derek Trucks, and explains what makes Oteil Burbridge such a remarkable bassist.
Badfinger’s Joey Molland
A native of Liverpool, England, Joey Molland is the sole remaining member of the group Badfinger from their most successful period in the early 1970s. He shared lead guitar duties with Pete Ham, wrote songs, and sang. This is an in depth interview in two parts.
In part one he shares memories of his early years in Liverpool, seeing the Beatles at the Cavern Club, playing guitar on the street corner on Penny Lane, working the local clubs, and joining Badfinger and recording with George Harrison as the group’s producer. We also talk about slide guitar and various recordings.
In part two he shares memories of playing at Madison Square Garden on the Concert for Bangladesh, doing session work at John Lennon’s house on the Imagine album, and much more. We also preview his recent album Return To Memphis.
Listen to Part 1
Listen to Part 2
Download Part 2
McLaughlin, Barot & Mbappe remember Mandolin Shrinivas
The legendary guitarist John McLaughlin and two of his extraordinarily talented band mates from The 4th Dimension remember fellow musician U. Shrinivas, who played electric mandolin with John McLaughlin in the formation Remember Shakti. Shrinivas passed away in September of 2014 (New York Times Obituary.)
Recently Shrinivas, Barot, and Mbappe had formed a trio which explored a fusion of African and Indian music. In this interview John McLaughlin shares his memories of Shrinivas, and Ranjit Barot and Etienne Mbappe talk about their work on the album Bombay Makossa that they recorded with Shrinivas, and we preview several tracks from the new album.
Eliot Lewis is a multi instrumentalist perhaps best known as the longest-serving member of the highly respected house band on the immensely popular web-series Live from Daryl’s House, which is also broadcast on television on the Palladia Network (owned by MTV.) On the show he generally handles the keyboard and backup vocal duties, but as a solo artist you are likely to find him on lead guitar.
For thirteen years prior to joining the Hall & Oates band he was a member of the legendary Average White Band, playing bass, guitar, keyboards, and singing.
Before joining the AWB he was a contract songwriter with Sony and later Warner Brothers. As a young man he learned the ropes and did session work with the highly successful producer Dan Hartman (who is known to the public as the bass player and rhythm guitar player for the Edgar Winter Group.) As you will hear in the interview he also had some extraordinary musical adventures as a teenager.
Rod Melancon is a gifted young singer/songwriter from the Cajun lowlands of Louisiana. He is now based in Los Angeles and has just released his second album, “Parish Lines” which was produced by Brian Whelan (guitarist with the Dwight Yoakum band.)
If you have to put a label on it, Americana would probably be the best description. About the best way I could describe him would be a blending of Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams, young Elvis, and the attitude of James Dean.
He has a remarkable talent for writing songs that convey the drama in the close-knit community where he was raised, and he has an uncanny knack for evoking honesty, tenderness, melancholy, and violent raw emotions with his voice.
Oz Noy is a NYC based guitarist who began his professional career in his native Israel at the age of thirteen. He emmigrated to the United States in the mid 1990s and has become a fixture in the NYC jazz scene, although he blurs the lines with jazz, blues, funk, and rock.
He’s just released a new album with a slew of great players, including special collaborations with Chic Corea, Allen Toussaint, Eric Johnson, Will Lee, Warren Haynes, Greg Leisz, and Dave Weckl. I caught up with him during his tour with Keith Carlock and Oteil Burbridge.
Nathan East is one of the world’s premiere session musicians. He’s perhaps best known as Eric Clapton’s favorite bass player, but that’s also Nathan on Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and Daft Punk’s recent Grammy winning album. Of course he’s a founding member of the highly successful jazz group Fourplay.
Some of his other credits include: Anita Baker, Herbie Hancock, Babyface, B.B. King, George Harrison, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Savage Garden, Sting, Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Kenny Loggins, and The Manhattan Transfer.
His debut self-titled album will be released March 25, 2014, with guest appearances by Michael McDonald, Sara Bareilles, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Kazumasa Oda, Bob James, Chuck Loeb, Ray Parker, Jr., David Paich and his son Noah East.
In remembrance of his loving spirit and musical gifts. He passed away in January of 2014 at the age of 51.
Ronny Jordan is a winner of Gibson Guitar’s award for Best Jazz Guitarist, he’s been nominated for a Grammy, and is a jazz artist who has made it to the pop charts. He’s known as one of the earliest and most successful jazz artists to draw upon the energy and vitality of hip hop. His music is perhaps best described as Urban Jazz, a blend of jazz, hip hop,and R&B — but certainly not limited to that.
His message is positive and spiritually uplifting, his grooves are addictive, and his playing is ingenious. He is completely self-taught, and in addition to his musicianship, he is an accomplished producer, arranger, and composer. He uses the studio as creatively as possible, and on his latest album he introduces his fans to midi guitar — doing string, keyboard, and bass parts on a midi guitar.
Ronny was born and raised in London, the son of a pentecostal preacher with a very interesting life story which he shared in this interview. This wide-ranging interview took place in late January of 2013, Ronny talks about the awakening of his talent, his early career, his big break with Island Records, and his recordings. Gifted, creative, and humble — he is all-about-the-music.
He’s a world-class drummer and a world-class keyboardist. For those of us who are guitar fans, Gary has literally lived the dream, he’s had a decades long working relationship with the legendary fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth as his drummer, and for years now he has been touring and recording with the iconic John McLaughlin in his 4th Dimension formation (on keyboards and drums.) The list of guitarists he’s worked with is a veritable who’s who of electric guitar, in addition to Holdsworth and McLaughlin, there’s Wayne Krantz, Jimmy Herring, Mike Stern, Andy Summers, Gary Moore, Ray Russell, Robin Trower, Jeff Beck, Alex Machecek, Steve Hackett, Steve Topping, and Neil Taylor.
This is a rather in-depth interview with plenty of audio samples, so I’ve broken it up into 3 parts.
In part 1 we get into his formative years, he also speaks at length of Allan Holdsworth, Jack Bruce and Gary Moore, and we explore his solo piano recordings.
Part 2 is primarily about his album Dirty and Beautiful volumes 1 and 2 which is a real treat for progressive rock and jazz fusion guitar fans. He speaks at length about John McLaughlin and several of the musicians who appeared on this project: Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, and several of the guitarists mentioned above.
Part 3 focuses in on his latest project, the album NOW with Gary on piano and Alex Machecek on electric guitar, and we also discuss his work with the great Billy Cobham.
On this episode I speak with Jon Batiste, a graduate of the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts with a masters degree from Julliard in jazz and classical piano. But don’t let the elite degrees mislead you, as a native of New Orleans, Jon Batiste is equally at home making music in the streets or on the concert stage.
He and his band, named “Stay Human,” do just that, and they just released a breakout album entitled “Social Music.” When you watch video clips of him on the streets, or listen to his album, it’s music without borders or labels, but with integrity.
I caught up with Jon in San Francisco in the middle of a very hectic tour. At the end of the interview I’ve included a sampling from his latest album “Social Music” (#1 on itunes jazz chart.)
Michael Lee Firkins
On this episode I speak with guitarist Michael Lee Firkins, born in Omaha, Nebraska. He first gained attention as the “next big thing” in instrumental rock with his impressive guitar skills. On his just released album “YEP” on the Magna Carta label, he puts his singer/songwriter skills on display, backed up by the legendary Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, John Mayer, Allman Brothers), and Matt Abts and Andy Hess of Govt. Mule.
This album draws on rock, blues, country, and even some heavy metal vituosity, and is impressive for a first vocal outing. We talk about his musical development, beginnings, the guitar (in the photo to the left) that he conceived, and his development as a singer and songwriter.
On this episode I speak with flutist Anne Drummond. Born and raised in Seattle, she attended the same high school as Qunicy Jones and Jimi Hendrix, and at age 18 she arrived in New York with a scholarship to study piano at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. She quickly made the transition to working musician when she brought her flute to class. Her piano instructor, the legendary Kenny Barron, quickly had her in the recording studio and recruited her for his band. She ended up out front on tour and played on several of his albums.
She also toured and recorded with the sensational vibraphonist Stehpon Harris. I first learned of her through her impressive work with Matthias Bublath, including the album on which the theme song of talking2musicians appears. She’s a lot of fun, and an impressive talent, so I hope you enjoy the interview, and her new album Revolving which we also preview. Interview Notes
Ray Russell is a session ace from London, who has just released his first album under the Abstract Logix label. Abstract Logix is of course known for high energy fusion with attitude, and as you’ll hear, Ray Russell fits that bill.
If you are the kind of music lover who studies album credits, you might know Ray from his work with Tina Turner, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Gary Moore, Paul McCartney, and Robert Plant. Jazz fans might know him from the group RMS and his work with the great Gil Evans. If you’re a James Bond fan, he played on several soundtracks, from Live & Let Die to Thunderball and many others. Interview Notes
Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Devon Allman is fresh off a tour of Australia with his Grammy nominated band, Royal Southern Brotherhood, and he’s also just released his first album under his own name. During the interview you’ll hear samples from the album which, in my opinion, are honest, well crafted and well executed. He combines rock energy with mature themes, and demonstrates a gift for melody and way with words.
With such a pedigree comparisons are always drawn by some, but with this album Devon proves he is a musical force be with reckoned with on his own terms
I caught Devon as he was literally on the road and the interview might give you the feeling that you’re along for the ride.
Scott Sharrard is New York based guitarist, singer & songwriter. For the past several years has been the guitarist for the Gregg Allman Band. Glide Magazine called him Gregg Allman’s secret weapon, but to those in the know, the secret has been out for a while, the great Levon Helm was an early and enthusiastic mentor, and even Dr. John extended a helpful hand along the way.
Scott does a great job for Gregg Allman, but he is very much an artist in his own right, as you’ll hear. As a singer he moves effortlessly from R&B, to soul, blues, and Rock with genuine conviction and emotional depth. As a guitarist he demonstrates equally impressive skills, with explosive high energy blues, driving rock, & tasteful R&B licks with a hint of jazz. Interview Notes
Etienne Mbappe is a musician’s musician, a Paris based bass player, originally from Cameroon. He began his musical career in Paris in the 80s, playing with the leading names on the African music scene. He was part of Ultramarine, a groundbreaking world music fusion band, and was eventually recruited by the jazz legend Joe Zawinul to join his band, and later by another music icon, John McLaughlin, with whom he still tours and records.
This year he joined Jimmy Herring, Wayne Krantz, Keith Carlock, and Michael Landau in a new super group — The Ringers. Fresh off their first tour, and just before the upcoming tour with John McLaughlin, this seemed like a perfect time to talk with Etienne( aka ATN to friends & fans.) Interview Notes
Alex Machacek is an Austrian born jazz fusion guitarist who has been based in Los Angeles for nearly a decade. He’s been described as the next John McLaughlin, which, given his musical abilities is not an unreasonable assertion, but he is not the next anyone, he’s an artist with his own voice and vision.
The blistering speed of his playing is matched by a commitment to serve the music. His music is varied, at times tender, emotive and reflective, at times playful, and occasionally angular and harsh. His approach is unorthodox and creative.
This hour long interview touches upon his training, development, influences and approach, with samples from his latest recording, FAT (short for Fabulous Austrian Trio.)
Interview background notes
John Kelman on Lenny Breau
Canadian guitarist John Kelman is an accomplished music writer, and also the Managing Editor of All About Jazz, the Internet’s most popular jazz website, published by Michael Ricci. When he was 11 years old and taking guitar lessons in Ottawa, John’s instructor encouraged him to go to a local coffeehouse to see the guitarist Lenny Breau perform. It was a decision that would come to have a deep impact on his musical development.
Several more times over the years John saw him live, and on one occassion his guitar instructor, who knew Lenny, actually introduced him to Lenny Breau before a show.
You can read some of John’s articles, interviews, and reviews here.
MEET THE RINGERS – Carlock, Herring, Krantz, Landau & Mbappe
On this episode I speak with all three guitarists from The Ringers: Jimmy Herring, Wayne Krantz, & Michael Landau, plus their fantastic drummer, Keith Carlock. The band brings together five extraordinary musicians, world class players who collectively have recorded and toured with many of the best known and most respected artists on the planet. Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, Seal, Sting, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, James Taylor, the Allman Brothers Band and m.m.
These are musicians’ musicians, guys who put the music first, and who want to have fun on stage playing to people who love music. They are about to embark on their first tour which will begin on Feb. 19th in Athens, Georgia –get the latest tour dates here. It is a rare treat to see three of the most gifted guitarists on the planet together on stage in the same band, backed up by an equally talented drummer and bassist. Watch very first rehearsal
Jimmy Herring is one of the world’s premier progressive rock guitarists. He has the uncanny ability to fuse the visceral power of rock with the ingenuity of jazz harmonics without diminishing the essence of either. In this wide-ranging one hour interview he shares his thoughts on music and his musical influences. From John Scofield, Jimmy Smith, and chicken pickers, to his favorite Howlin’ Wolf song, and lots more.
In 2012 I spoke with Jimmy again to catch up and get some background about the recording of his great CD Subject to Change Without Notice — for example, he shared his thoughts about the musicianship of his son (who played cello on the CD), and the artistry of his daughter (who painted the cover art.)
Derek is a consummate musician, he has been on the cover of Down Beat and Rolling Stone; he’s been profiled in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal; he’s toured with Clapton and Santana; he’s guested on recordings with J.J. Cale, Elvin Bishop, Buddy Guy, and David Sanborn; he’s done a DVD with McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, and Jack DeJohnette; and he and his wife performed at the White House with B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, and m.m..
Here is the audio of the second half of my feature interview with Derek for All About Jazz. From his earliest guest appearance on stage with the Allman Brothers Band to his duets with Eric Clapton and lots more!
Just after sitting in with the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon, the iconic jazz guitarist spoke with me about his musical roots in rock and blues — imagine, Cream and the Rascals played at his high school, and he even saw Jimi Hendrix. He gave me his take on Duane Allman, Mike Bloomfield, Sly and the Family Stone, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, John Mayer, Jimmy Herring and plenty more.
Chuck Leavell is one of the world’s premier blues rock pianists—a veteran musician who has recorded and toured with many of the best-known names in the business. He is perhaps best known for his work with the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Black Crowes, and his legendary years with the Allman Brothers Band in the ’70s.
He’s a phenomenal musician who’s been part of so much musical history. In 2008 Chuck did an extensive career retrospective interview with me for All About Jazz, you can hear about 60% below, (about an hour and 15 minutes.)
In 2012 I caught up with Chuck again after he received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and released Back To The Woods, his tribute CD to the early blues piano players with guest appearances by John Mayer and Keith Richards.
As a 2012 recipient of a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, Jaimoe needs no introduction. He has been a beloved figure on the music scene for over four decades, as a veteran of the R&B circuit with Otis Redding, Percy Sledge and Joe Tex, and as a founding member of the legendary Allman Brothers Band and the critically acclaimed band Sea Level.
In late 2011 his Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band released Renaissance Man (Lil’Johnieboy Records, 2011), an album that is generating well-deserved praise and a lot of buzz. We talk about his band, Otis Redding, his friendship with Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Clapton and much more.
JERRY JEMMOTT – THE GROOVEMASTER
Jerry Jemmott’s groove is the bedrock of B.B. King’s career defining hit, “The Thrill is Gone.” He was in the studio with Duane Allman and Wilson Pickett recording “Hey Jude,” a track that was instrumental in launching Duane’s musical career; and they were together again for Herbie Mann’s Push Push (Atlantic, 1971), Duane’s first and only jazz sessions, and the last full album he recorded prior to his death. He was also there on December 13, 1968, when Mike Bloomfield called an unknown Johnny Winter, up onstage at the Fillmore East—a Friday the 13th that turned out to be Winter’s lucky day.
He was with singer Aretha Franklin when she conquered San Francisco’s hippie community at the Fillmore West in March of 1971.
Jerry Jemmott’s blues credits are truly remarkable: in addition to B.B. King, Freddie King, Mike Bloomfield, Duane Allman, Otis Rush, Johnny Winter, Warren Haynes, and Derek Trucks, there’s his legendary association with Cornell Dupree, Bernard Purdie, and King Curtis. And of course there’s his collaboration with Jaco Pastorius.
In this extensive interview Jerry speaks about all this, as well as his wide-ranging session work for Atlantic Records, and his current gig with blues/rock legend Gregg Allman.
Barbara Dennerlein is a superlative Hammond B3 player, the first person honored as Germany’s Ambassador of Jazz. On the week of her fortieth birthday German television did a retrospective and rebroadcast several concerts she had done over the years, and she was invited to be the sole studio guest on a special “Best of” show with Harald Schmidt [Germany’s David Letterman.]
She’s recorded with an eighty piece orchestra, but she is also at home doing a funky concert as a duo with organ and drums. She’s aware of her musical legacy and the reputation she’s established, but she’s also open to challenges outside of jazz — from Bach to blues.
READ OUR EXTENSIVE CAREER RETROSPECTIVE INTERVIEW @ ALL ABOUT JAZZ (sorry no audio available)
YOU CAN WATCH THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW (2012)
A string of Grammy-nominated albums, along with her appearance on Austin City Limits, established Susan Tedeschi as one of today’s premiere blues artists. On top of that, she’s performed in front of millions of music lovers by headlining numerous festivals and opening for music legends like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers Band, and the Rolling Stones.
Her appeal extends well beyond the blues. For example, she and her husband, Grammy-winning guitarist Derek Trucks, were asked to join Wayne Shorter as Herbie Hancock’s special guests at his Seven Decades Birthday Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, on Sept. 1, 2010.
The 2010 launch of the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band brings together two of the brightest talents on the contemporary music scene.
This interview took place just after Susan and Derek announced the launch of their new band and their intention to take some time off. I was so grateful that she made an exception and granted me this interview during her down time.
LOUIE SHELTON — ACE SESSION GUITARIST & PRODUCER
Hundreds of millions of people have heard him play without having heard of him. A veteran session guitarist, Louie Shelton played on a slew of million-selling records during his three decades in Los Angeles. His credits include female vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, and Whitney Houston; soul stars James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson Five; blues legends Otis Spann, Solomon Burke, and T-Bone Walker; male vocalists Joe Cocker, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, and Michael McDonald.
He’s responsible for the instantly recognizable guitar riff on the Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville” and the virtuoso runs on “Valleri.” He played on Boz Scaggs’ career-defining album Silk Degrees (Columbia, 1976) with the Grammy-winning song “Lowdown.” He knew Elvis Presley and was in the studio with Phil Spector and John Lennon. He also produced a string of gold and platinum albums for Seals & Crofts, including Summer Breeze (Warner Bros., 1972), an exquisitely produced classic that remained on the charts for 100 weeks.
After decades spent making others sound good, in 1995 he finally put his production expertise to use on a solo instrumental album. Thanks to his funky groove, his mastery of an extraordinarily wide range of styles and techniques, and his producer’s ear, this jazz guitar album has a great groove, lots of energy and considerable commercial appeal.
His induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame provided the perfect backdrop for this conversation about his remarkable musical career.
Jim Hart is one of the hottest young musicians on the U.K. jazz scene. His musicianship elicited this praise from vibes heavyweight Joe Locke: “Some of the best music I’ve heard in a long time. Definitely the best vibes playing I’ve heard in a long time.”
He was awarded the John Dankworth “Most Promising Musician” award in the BBC Big Band of the Year competition for his drumming, and his skill as a vibraphonist earned him the British Jazz Award for “Rising Star” in 2006, and for miscellaneous instrument (vibes) in 2007.
In addition to fronting two different bands under his own name, he is also a much sought-after sideman. His recordings have earned him rave reviews from the Guardian, the BBC, and All About Jazz, and foreshadow a bright future.
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