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These Musicians are Awesome, and here’s why
Below are videos clips I edited together to showcase what makes these musicians so special. The musicians I’ve interviewed tend to fall into three groups: extraordinary players, legendary studio musicians, and a few impressive young talents.
My very first interview was with the Queen of the Hammond B3. Fittingly, Germany’s First Lady of Jazz was part of the inaugural group of organists inducted into the Hammond Hall of Fame. Her must-read career retrospective interview is only available in print, but here on site there are subsequent audio and video interviews. She’s an absolutely phenomenal musician whose playing and footwork you need to see to truly appreciate.
My first interview with a guitarist was Derek Trucks, shortly after he finished a world tour with Eric Clapton, as well as working with McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, & Carlos Santana.
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.
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. 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.
Next was the first of three separate interviews with the amazing Jimmy Herring. He 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
Chuck Leavell is an iconic blues/rock pianist, the first musician to join the Allman Brothers Band after the passing of Duane Allman, a founding member of Sea Level, toured with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, and for decades has been the keyboardist & musical coordinator for the Rolling Stones. Our first interview was an extensive career retrospective piece in print form, and I caught up with Chuck again for an audio interview 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.
She’s one of the premiere vocalists of her generation, combining a powerful voice with nuance, soulful expression, and beautiful phrasing. She also a fine blues guitarist, despite the fact that she began playing in her 20s, is an awesome singer, and is married to one of the most lyrical guitarists around. There were some audio issues, so I suggest you check out her in-depth print interview. This is not a video clip I edited. We did, however, speak about this song in the interview — it not only showcases her voice, but her husband’s slide guitar, and Oteil Burbridge’s bass playing.
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. 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. He continues to thrill audiences with his virtuosity, intensity, and high energy style. I’ve had the honor of interviewing John McLaughlin three time, all extremely popular pieces. I suggest listening to this one on creativity, and reading this one about his American Farewell tour.
John Scofield is of course two of the most influential jazz guitarists alive today. 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, some top groups played at his high school. 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.
Wayne Krantz is one of the most respected and unique guitarists of their generation. He has played and recorded with Steely Dan, Tal Wilkenfeld, Michael Brecker, Billy Cobham, Chris Potter and David Binney, but he’s best known for his own trio.
Alex Machacek is a gifted and unique guitarists. He’s from Austria, but is based in Los Angeles. 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.)
Michael Landau is a legendary session guitarist, hired gun for star tours, and also a solo artist. His recording credits are mind blowing, and as you’ll see in some of the clips his playing has enhanced many a tour. Our interview took place in the context of the Ringers tour, and we planned to follow up on an in depth piece. However, the Europe/L.A. time difference and his heavy schedule thwarted our plans. He’s an awesome musician.
Ronny Jordan & Oz Noy
Ronny and Oz are two very different guitarists, but each in his own way is very funky. Ronny is one of the founders of the acid jazz movement that fused hip hop and urban music with jazz in a way that also appealed to smooth jazz fans. Oz is funky with rock energy and masterful technique. Ronny’s interview is an in-depth career retrospective in audio and print form, I recommend the audio version, although the print interview is very popular. Oz’s interview is in audio form.
Three Young Guns — Seal, Zayn & Ringström
Here are some awesome young guitarists whom I came across. Mike Seal, Zayn Mohammed, and Carl Mörner Ringström are vastly different players, but all three of them are tremendous talents. Mike Seal’s interview is in written and audio form, but I recommend the audio version. Zayn’s interview is in two parts, part one gives a very interesting insight into what it’s like to win a TV reality series. Both Zayn’s and Carl’s interviews are in audio format and also contain additional sound clips.
Eliot Lewis & Scott Sharrard
Eliot Lewis and Scott Sharrard are both solo artists, but are best known for their roles in the bands of musical icons. Eliot a multi-instrumentalist who’s had a fascinating career working as a session musician, professional songwriter for two major labels, a member of the Average White Band, the Hall & Oates band, and Daryl Hall’s band on the great Internet show: Live from Daryl’s House. Scott was the lead guitarist and band leader for Gregg Allman’s solo band. Interviews: Eliot and Scott
Michael Lee Firkins
Michael burst on the rock scene in the 90s with his impressive guitar skills which draw upon rock, blues, country, and heavy metal virtuosity. He won “Best New Talent” in a readers’ poll in Guitar Player magazine. We previewed his album “YEP” with his singer/songwriter skills on display. On the album he was backed up by Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, John Mayer, Allman Brothers), and Matt Abts and Andy Hess of Govt. Mule. The interview is in audio format with sound samples.
East, Mbappe, Burbridge & Jemmott
Four legendary bass players. Nathan East is a premiere session musician. 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 Grammy winning album. Of course he’s a founding member of the jazz group Fourplay. Etienne Mbappe began his musical career in Paris in the 80s, playing with the leading names on the African music scene. He was recruited by the jazz legend Joe Zawinul, and later by John McLaughlin, with whom he still tours and records. Oteil Burbridge was an original member of the cult band Aquarium Rescue Unit. 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 Allman Brothers Band. He now tours with John Mayer in Dead & Co. 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 and so much more. In an extensive interview Jerry spoke about all this, as well as his wide-ranging session work for Atlantic Records, and his time with blues/rock legend Gregg Allman.
He’s a drummer and keyboardist. For those of us who are guitar fans, Gary has literally lived the dream, he 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 band (on keyboards and drums.) He also records under his own name. This is an in-depth interview with plenty of audio samples, divided into three parts.
Matthias Bublath & Matt Slocum
Matthias Bublath is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and after spending nearly a decade in New York honing his skills, he returned to his native Munich as one of the hottest players on the German jazz scene. He’s an excellent player, but it’s the range and richness of his writing I find especially striking. Matthias’ interview is in audio form or print form. Matt Slocum is a prominent keyboardist on the Southern music scene, best known for his work with Oteil Burbridge, the Lee Boys, and Susan Tedeschi and his role as Jimmy Herring’s go-to keyboard player. He’s also a member of the band King Baby, who record on the Abstract Logix label.
Anne Drummond was born and raised in Seattle, where she attended the same high school as Qunicy Jones and Jimi Hendrix. At 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. I first learned of her through her impressive work with Matthias Bublath. If you look close in the video clips you’ll see her on stage backed by Oz Noy. The audio interview also includes samples from her album.
He has a British Jazz Award for his vibraphone playing, a Most Promising Musician award in the BBC Big Band of the Year competition for his drumming, and he also plays piano. Vibes heavyweight Joe Locke has also sung his praises: “Some of the best music I’ve heard in a long time. Definitely the best vibes playing I’ve heard in a long time.” You can listen to our in depth interview or read a print version on AllAboutJazz.
3 Generations of Rockers — Joey Molland, Devon Allman, Ron Melancon
Three very different singer/songwriter/guitarists. Joey Molland wrote, sang and played guitar for Badfinger, as you can imagine, he had a front row seat for 70s rock history. Badfinger was produced by Paul McCartney and George Harrison. They backed Harrison at the concert for Bangla Desh, and on his All Things Must Pass album — not to mention their own success, and so much more. A really fun trip down memory lane for fans of 70s rock. Devon Allman is the son of Gregg Allman and the nephew of Duane Allman, he seems to have inherited the songwriting gene from his father. I spoke with him right after his first solo album was released, a fun interview with sound samples. Rod Melancon is a young singer/songwriter from the Cajun lowlands of Louisiana. He is now based in Los Angeles and if you have to put a label on him, Americana would probably be the best description. 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.
Keith Carlock, Jeff Sipe & Ranjit Barot
Drummer are used it being in the back. But actually you can also see all three of them in multiple clips above. All three of them are consummate players with extraordinary rhythmic gifts. They are the glue and spice that make the music what it is. You can find Keith Carlock (in the Ringers interview), Jeff Sipe and Ranjit Barot (on the John McLaughlin page in an interview about Mandolin Shrinivas.) I’ve also interviewed Jaimoe of the Allman Brothers Band, but for copyright reasons he couldn’t be included in the video.
As is commonly known in jazz circles, talent doesn’t inevitably guarantee success. In my association with All About Jazz I have come across way too many struggling musicians with undeniable talent. If you’re an ardent jazz fan, it’s pretty much a given that you develop a deep admiration for people willing to follow their passion and dedicate themselves to the pursuit of a career in jazz. It’s wonderful when such a person achieves something extraordinary, and that’s the case with Jon Batiste. Audio interview here.