Little Feat Acoustic: Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett

Written by Emily Edelman
July 31st, 2013

Several years ago I finally got the chance to see one of my favorite artists play live. I walked in to the venue expecting a full band on the stage and was very surprised to see only a guitar and a mic stand; the singer performed by himself with just his acoustic guitar for accompaniment. I hadn’t been sure if I’d like a solo show, but it was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Because of the simplicity of the set-up, the focus of the show was the songs themselves. Hearing my favorites stripped down as they were gave me a new appreciation of some of them and caused me to notice emotions and meanings in the lyrics that I had not picked up on previously.

paul copyPaul Barrere and Fred Tackett are best known as the guitarists of Little Feat. Their respective histories with the band both date back around 35 years. Though they still play with Little Feat, they have toured as a duo in recent years, performing classic Little Feat tunes and many others. When given a completely acoustic treatment, the music takes on a new identity and becomes completely different: technically the same songs, of course, but more meaningful and thought-provoking because of their up-front and uncomplicated acoustic treatments.

I have turned into a great supporter of solo concerts. They feel very comfortable and accessible to me, and more personal than full-band shows due to their straightforward structures and lack of ornamentation. At an acoustic show, the artist doesn’t disappear behind bass grooves and keyboard solos, and the songs are exactly where they should be: front and center and prominent.

Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett will appear as an acoustic duo at Infinity Hall on Friday,  August 2. For info and tickets, click here.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band: Reinventing the Pedal Steel

Written by Emily Edelman
July 26th, 2013

robertI am a big fan of loud rock music, and I think that has a lot to do with the time I spent working in alternative radio. When I started, Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s “Colorblind” album had just been released and the station I was employed by was very fond of a song from it called “Thrill of It.” The song was played very often and, though I was familiar with Robert Randolph’s music due to spinning it at a radio station I’d worked at previously, I developed a real penchant for his soul-influenced, funk-rock style. I don’t play a musical instrument (though I have tried on several occasions) and am usually in awe of people who can. Robert Randolph’s guitar work made quite an impression on me.

Up until that time, I had assumed that Robert Randolph played guitar much like other people do. I had an image of him holding a standard, long-necked, 21-fretted electric guitar. I found out later that his guitar-of-choice is the pedal steel, an instrument that looked very, very different from what I was used to seeing.

Robert Randolph grew up immersed in Sacred Steel, a style that developed in a group of related churches in the 1920s when the steel guitar was used as musical accompaniment in church services in place of the conventional organ. He was taught to play pedal steel by some of the older men in his church and, in the early 2000s, he decided the time was right to introduce the custom to a larger audience. He and his band started packing bars and clubs with people eager to hear something new. Robert Randolph, with his high-energy shows and obvious enthusiasm for his craft, has helped to bring new regard to a rich musical legacy.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band will bring their unique take on a culturally significant instrument and tradition to Infinity Hall on July 28. For tickets and info, click here.

ON SALE: Hot Tuna..Howie Day..GrandMothers of Invention..Kashmir..All 4 One..Beach Avenue

Hot Tuna (acoustic)

Wednesday, November 27th • 8:00 pm

Jorma and Jack are back!! We predict another sellout, so if you’re thinking of being here for what’s certain to be an amazing night of music, vibes and a return to “the day,” get your tickets now.

[More Details]


Kashmir>>The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Tribute

Saturday, September 21st • 8:00 pm

Back by popular demand! Kashmir’s show features Page’s iconic double-neck guitar, Bonham’s drum solo, the stage show of the era, and most importantly, the greatest hits that make up the soundtrack to peoples’ lives.

[More Details]


All 4 One

Thursday, November 14th • 8:00 pm

Chart toppers and Grammy Award winners All 4 One have established an international following with their hits “So Much In Love,” a 1994 chart-topping single and a cover of the country hit, “ I Swear.” We are honored to have them on the Infinity Stage.

[More Details]


Howie Day

Sunday, November 24th • 7:30 pm

Howie is known for his powerful one-man shows, connecting with audiences through his charm, humor, the strength of his songwriting and a warm tenor voice. Come see him as he blazes through all the hits, including ‘Collide’.

[More Details]


Grandmothers of Invention

Thursday, September 26th • 8:00 pm

Frank Zappa fans unite ! This is as close as you’re gonna get to revisiting your Zappa memories. Featuring Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention alumni, these guys embody the spirit of the music, the wild sense of anarchy and absurdity. Don’t miss out.

[More Details]


Beach Avenue

Thursday, August 15th • 8:00 pm

These guys are creating quite a buzz around here with multiple performances at Mohegan Sun and opening for Third Eye Blind. Come see them up close before they start selling out arenas!

[More Details]

An interview with John Scofield

By Jeff Howard

As a guitarist whose influenscoces have always been rooted in rock music, I depend on guitar player John Scofield to ease my transition as a listener into the jazz world. Jazz is a style of music I admire – the best of jazz musicians show undeniable musical command combined with a sense of fluidity and grace that I can only hope to attain as a musician. As much as jazz music draws me in with its awe-inspiring complexity, I can’t fight its power to make me recoil. Perhaps it’s because of my stubborn rock roots that I can’t disassociate jazz music from overly cerebral soloing and pretentious snobbery, all of which culminates in a sound that doesn’t move me. However, some jazz musicians help me forget about my notions – both rational and irrational – of the genre. Of this group, John Scofield is the guy I find myself returning to the most.

When I discuss John Scofield with my friends, we come up with a long list of reasons why we love him so much. His phrasing is so inventive. His tone is so raw and wonky. He can bust out the perfectly placed fiery hot lick amid a painstakingly deliberate and melodic solo. Really, all of this comes down to Scofield’s ability to invite listeners in with a sense of musical humor while moving them on a level that is absolutely earnest and direct. This past month I got to talk to Mr. Scofield over the phone, where we discussed his new album and his upcoming tour. Through our conversation I discovered a little bit about Scofield’s influences, his philosophy on what it means to sound “dirty”, and what happens during the making of a John Scofield album. It wasn’t long before I realized our discussion wasn’t between a “rock guy” and a “jazz guy” – but one musician to another aspiring musician.

First of all, thank you so much for doing this. It’s awesome to talk to you and it definitely is a privilege.

JS: Oh! No problem, are you kidding me? Thanks for giving the record some publicity and everything.

So why don’t we get started with your new album, “Uberjam Deux”. On this album, I know you embrace a dance driven sound similar to your 2002 album, “Uberjam”. So I’m wondering, what inspired you to return to the groove direction?

JS: Yeah, I wanted to groove, you know? That’s all. I keep looking for stuff that feels right. I love playing with that band also. We really have a thing that we can do and also use some electronics in there too. You know, some samples and stuff. And it seemed like the right thing to do for me.

When I was looking at the liner notes, I was interested because I saw that there are samples on the album. When you say “samples” does that mean you sampled works from other (artists)?

JS: This is how that works. It’s not really like that. It’s that mainly Avi Bortnick, our rhythm guitarist and sampler wizard… it’s more like loops, rhythm loops of percussion and sonic effects that are not from other songs, just from instrument samples that he has, and different weird shit. Electronic music effects and things like that. And sometimes instruments! That means we’re playing along to, you know, this group of stuff that’s going. It’s rhythmically based. There’ll be… it’s not a click track, but like a conga part or a cowbell part or something that we’re playing along with. And you can cue in different kinds of funny sounds, and sometimes little chord progressions. And he does that with a footpedal system. Where he’s actually playing that kind of stuff and he’s playing guitar at the same time.

That makes sense. I was hearing some of those electro drum loops –

JS: Yeah! That’s what I’m saying with the samples, it’s mainly the loops. But then there’s some keyboard effects things that he just programs in there and then steps on a button and all the sudden there’s this kind weird rooooooo sound or something. He has a bunch of stuff like that, too.

It gives the album a sort of playful and lighthearted energy, which is really cool. Now, you were talking about Avi Bortnick, and he plays rhythm guitar. How does playing with a rhythm guitar player change your approach as a guitar player?

JS: Well I don’t know if it changes my approach that much, but it’s fun to do because Avi plays the guitar… he plays rhythm guitar in a way I wish I could. I can’t do it. It’s this real precise kind of funk thing. I can do a kind of facsimile of it, but he’s the real deal. I really like the sound of two guitars, the second guitar filling out the sound. We have a lot of two guitar chords. I’ll play one voice and he’ll play another, and it makes this kind of orchestral sound, that’s one element. And then he plays his rhythm stuff and I play my lead stuff so we sort of offset each other and hopefully make for a bigger picture than just me playing the guitar, you know?

Yeah, that’s cool that both of you are very different types of guitar players, it definitely –

JS: Yeah, well it’s great because… I take endless single note jazz solos over his funky shit (laughs).

Now we’ll turn the topic to live shows for a little bit. On September 13th you’ll be returning to Norfolk CT’s Infinity Hall, and I believe this would be your second appearance at the venue.

JS: Uh huh. Yeah.

You’re looking forward to returning to Infinity?

JS: Man, I’m super looking forward to it. Last time I played there I was so knocked out by it, it’s such a great venue. As we were driving up I was thinking, “My God, this is really in the woods, what are they going to have up here.” And then we got there and I was like, “Oh, wow. This is a great place to play.” It’s a beautiful, beautiful theater. And it’s been redeveloped, as you know. It’s just about as nice a venue as you can have.

Absolutely. Very intimate, that’s its thing. Now on the other end of the spectrum, in Bridgeport CT’s “Gathering of the Vibes” (festival) this year you’ll be playing with your own group and then you’ll be playing with Phil Lesh. What do you get out of playing with Phil Lesh and Friends?

JS: Well… it’s a really good job (laughs). Phil is the only rockstar I know who’s interested in free improvisation. The only guy I’ve ever met, anyway. And I think this is just this incredible, noble cause where he wants to break that element to his music and to the (Grateful) Dead songs, and (there was) always a history of that going in the Dead songs, you know? So I guess that’s why I’m there. And I just have fun, I can do whatever I want. Phil wants it to go all kinds of different places, and we jam. I mean, we really jam. Completely unstructured stuff happens. I find that very refreshing.

Oh yeah, absolutely. In the Phil Lesh group are there any other guitar players?

JS: Well, it depends on… it changes all the time. Phil Lesh and Friends is like a movable thing. Usually there’s another guitar player. A lot of times it was Warren Haynes, when I’ve done it. I mean, I don’t do it all the time. Like I said, he has other friends that he calls sometimes. This time it’s this guy John (Kadlecik). I’ve never played with him. But he’s the guitarist in the Dark Star Orchestra, which does all Dead tunes. He’s really good, he plays a lot like Jerry Garcia from what I’ve heard. I’ve just heard him on YouTube, I’ve never met him yet. So for this tour, that’ll be new to be playing with him. And, let’s see… Larry Campbell was the guitarist, too… and he’s a great guitarist. It’s always fun, ‘cause there’s a lot of people up there. John Medeski’s going to play keyboards for this next tour, the one in Bridgeport and everything.

Nice. (John Medeski) also plays on your album, doesn’t he?

JS: Yes. He’s a guest on the “Uberjam” CD as well.

Speaking of the “Uberjam” CD, how will that album translate to the live stage?

JS: It won’t be the album, that’s for sure! It’ll be something different, because… you know, when I make an album I kind of do it the “old” way. In that we just go in and play, and there’s not a whole lot of overdubbing. Sure, there’ll be little fixes. But basically, what we play as a group is what goes on the CD, you know? It’s rather than layering. Some people make an album, and they go in and they do a drum track, and then everybody puts different parts over and they spend days working on the vocal. We just rehearse, play gigs, play songs, and then play in the studio. And they’re all kind of elastic songs. In other words, one section might happen three times on the record, but then the next time we play it live it only happens once. And then there’ll be these long jams in between… or short jams, or whatever. So it’s going to be different, but that’s okay. We let it be different every day, but I think our sound is always there because it’s those people playing in that group. Especially Avi Bortnick with his different stuff that he brings to it, it’s got that “Uberjam” sound.

I’m really excited, if I get to see this recent tour of you, to see Adam Deitch. I’ve listened to him on the Lettuce albums and he’s a fantastic drummer.

JS: Oh, he’s incredible. Unfortunately, he won’t be there when we play up in Connecticut. I’ve got another drummer, because Adam’s playing with his group so he can’t make my gigs a lot of times. I have another really great drummer, Tony Mason. Adam is going to make some of the ones in July and august, though. I’m trying to remember which ones. But he won’t be in either Bridgeport or Norfolk, unfortunately.

Being a guitar player myself, there are a few gear questions I can’t help but ask. On this new album do you stick to (using) your Ibanez signature (guitar), or do you use other guitars in the studio?

JS: I play my Ibanez, which is actually not the John Scofield model. The (model) you’re thinking is from 1981, and the John Scofield model was based on this Ibanez they made back in 1981. It’s called an AS-200. I play that on half the tunes, on the other half of the tunes I play a Strat.

That’s what I thought, I was hearing some very Strat-like sounds from (the album) but I never see you use the Strat in live shows.

JS: Yeah, my Ibanez is still my main guitar but I’ve been having a lot of fun playing my Fender Strat too.

Now also, on the album I heard… I think it was on the songs “Cracked Ice” and “Endless Summer”, I felt like I was hearing sequenced guitar riffs.

JS: You know what, that’s Avi. That’s not me. But he has that sequenced… I don’t even know what it is, it’s some sort of repeater type delay thing. When he plays, it comes out double notes. In other words he goes (sings four notes) and it goes (sings four notes, each note doubled). You know what I mean? Yeah, he’s doing that. It’s so cool.

Yeah, it was really cool. I really enjoyed the album’s trance-y sections.

JS: Yeah, trance out! I love trance. I find the whole trance thing is really similar to the kind of atmospheric jazz that I used to listen to in the ‘60s, like Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders and people like that. So I really relate to the trance element.

It’s awesome, I love it. Now, when I was listening to your playing on the album, it seems like you focus on playing very melodically.

JS: Yeah, I think I am. You know, I’m sick of hearing pyrotechnical shredders, although I’ve certainly got that in myself. I want to play fast – I want to play like a saxophone, you know? But I also want to play like Aretha Franklin sings – or somebody like that, not just Aretha Franklin. I like all the great singers. But I want to try to bring that to the music, and… I’ve been listening to guitar players, especially blues players, that play with that vocal element. And I want to do that too.

That’s interesting. I remember I was interviewing Jimmy Herring a while back and he was talking about the same thing: trying to emulate that vocal quality in the guitar playing and how that really reaches out to listeners.

JS: What I think it is, is the guitar can sing, you know? A violin can sing. We can do it. All of us guitar players get so hung up on playing a lot of notes. We’ve got to remember that the electric guitar can just sing.

On you’re album before this one, “A Moment’s Peace”, you did ballads. You’ve really covered a lot of styles. Any other musical styles you’re interested in pursuing in the future that maybe you haven’t investigated as much?

JS: You know, I don’t have anything that I’m dying to do. And I’ve got to say, it looks like I do a lot of styles, which I guess I do. But, for me it’s a lot like… just the stuff I came up with, either jazz or funk. When I was a kid, getting into guitar, I started with the blues, rhythm and blues and funk, and quickly got into jazz. But they all seemed kind of related, you know? They were just different rhythms. If I play on a reggae rhythm, I just hear that as a groove. I’ve studied rhythm all my life, and it’s very easy for me to play on that groove, and to “swing” on it, you know? “Swinging” means just playing stuff that feels good. When I’m playing in funk or jazz, I’m always trying to “swing”, which again just means playing things that fit in really smoothly and nicely, are in the groove. You’re in the rhythm. And that’s what I’m trying to do, and I know it looks like… “What are you, are you a reggae guy? Or trying to be a jazz guy?” It’s all the same world for me.

When it comes to the different styles and sounds I really liked your live album with Medeski, Martin and Wood. I think that was released a few years back, and it really went far out.

JS: Playing with them is really different from any of the other groups I play in. They are so developed as an improvising unit. It just happens that I can sit in with them easily; it’s just some sort of chemistry that’s there. I just love those guys. I think they bring me to another place, when I play with them, you know?

That album is out of this world. I loved not only how much they explore but they really do a lot of gritty and very dirty (textures).

JS: Yeah, you know what, those guys are going for it, man. They’re letting it come out. Letting it happen. Part of that “grit” we talk about – people say “grit” and “dirt”  – I think a lot of that is just letting the instruments do what they do and go where they go; letting it happen and letting the power of the instruments happen.

I think that covers everything. Thank you so much!

JS: Hey man, it was great talking to you. Good luck with your guitar playing. If you’re around and I’m playing a gig come say hello and tell me that we did this.

Get John Scofield’s new album, Uberjam Deux, out now. John Scofield will be playing at Norfolk CT’s Infinity Hall on September 13th.

For more information, visit www.johnscofield.com, and www.infinityhall.com/events/john-scofield.

Ukulele Master Jake Shimabukuro

Written by Emily Edelman
July 22nd, 2013

I collect under-appreciated instruments. I don’t mean that I have a room in my house filled with dusty musical gadgets; my collection is really just a mental stockpile of instruments I think ought to receive more attention. One of these is the ukulele.

shiIn the past few years, I’ve noticed a bit of an upsurge in the popularity of the ukulele. I’ve heard it wielded on more than several albums and I’ve been to some concerts at which the guitarist had one on stage and used it in a few songs. There is even a young company close by in Massachusetts that makes ukuleles by hand. While these are all positive developments for the instrument, possibly no one has done more for its newfound public approval than Jake Shimabukuro.

Jake Shimabukuro is a musician who was already well-known Japan and his home state of Hawaii when a YouTube video of him covering the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on the ukulele went viral in 2006. Since then he has collaborated with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Jimmy Buffett, Bela Fleck, and many other performers, and has composed a movie soundtrack, toured all over the world, and recorded several acclaimed albums. His most recent album was produced by the legendary Alan Parsons, features a 29-piece orchestra, and showcases the versatility and beauty of a long-misunderstood instrument.

Jake Shimabukuro’s upcoming performance at Infinity Hall on July 28 offers an opportunity to see and hear how dynamic a ukulele can be.

Click here for tickets

ON SALE: Martin Sexton..Tim Reynolds and TR3..Keller Williams..Soul Sound Revue..Terra Coda

 

An Evening with Martin Sexton
Two Shows!

Saturday, September 14th • 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm

People claim that Sextonʼs songs inspire them to make a change, go cross-country, and follow their hearts… We are thrilled to have him on the Infinity Stage for two shows.

7pm show: [More Details]
9:30pm show: [More Details]


Tim Reynolds and TR3

Thursday, October 24th • 8:00 pm

If you’re a Dave Matthews fan we have little doubt we’ll see you at this show. These guys always have a few surprises up their sleeves and rumor has it, this time will be even more special!!

[More Details]


An Evening with Keller Williams

Saturday, October 12th • 8:00 pm

Get ready for some fun, foot-stomping, virtuosic guitar playing! Keller Williams is notorious for leaving his fans in awe. Come see for yourself, you’ll be glad you did.

[More Details]


Soul Sound Revue

Saturday, September 7th • 8:00 pm

Undoubtedly the best Motown band in the land, an Infinity Hall favorite returns to Norfolk to play all the hits and more!

[More Details]


Terra Coda

Sunday, September 1st • 7:30 pm

Terra Coda is a percussion ensemble led by John Marshall and features hand-made traditional instruments that capture the pulse of the Middle East, West Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, India, and beyond. Feel the rhythm!

[More Details]

80s Pop and Much More: Swing Out Sister

Written by Emily Edelman
July 10th, 2013

Lately I’ve been writing about (and listening to) a lot of music that I can only describe as genre-defying: it’s not simply rock or funk or jazz or pop or soul, it’s a blend of all of those styles and sometimes others. As a listener I have no problem with this because discovering something new and different is always fun. As a writer, however, it poses a slight problem: “That band’s style is, um—well, actually no, it’s not.”

SOS Approved PhotoSwing Out Sister first came to my attention in 1992 with the release of the single “Am I the Same Girl,” which I liked immensely and which prompted me to search for more of the band’s music. Not knowing at the time that the song was a cover, I assumed Swing Out Sister was a soul act and was surprised to find more in the way of a pop slant to their other songs. I call it pop but it’s over and above that; the songs include synths and lush vocals characteristic of 80s New Wave music, but they also have horn sections and interesting percussion such as xylophones. I wasn’t sure what I was listening to and I was intrigued.

I think that describing a type of music sometimes defeats the purpose; music can activate emotions and ideas in a way that is very different from what words can do.  You listen to something and you like it and you seek out more of it, and categorizing is not part of that process. Swing Out Sister will bring its unique mix of sounds to Infinity Hall on July 12 at 8pm.

Click here for tickets.