By Aaron Wolcott
Assistant Editor, The Selective Echo
Editor’s Note: With a keen sense of musicianship in all genres and eclectic music styles, Aaron Wolcott provides a comprehensive rundown of Saturday’s musical headliners including interviews with several performers. The Saturday lineup includes Joe Jordan’s Experiment, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Oz Noy, Lao Tizer and Sonny Bonoho. The Folka Dots, who opened for Neko Case at last weekend’s Summer Solstice concert, are featured separately in an article post, also by Wolcott, here.
Joe Jordan’s Experiment, 7:30 p.m. Park Stage
Straight out of West Philadelphia with six-string in hand and a mind for innovation comes Joe Jordan. A virtuosic, dreadlocked headbanger, Jordan crafts a style that recalls Bucket Head, Rage Against The Machine, and the highlightsof turn-of-the-90s metal tempered with a contemporary vitality and energy.
Trademarks include screaming guitar solos, precise and powerful drums (played by Joe’s ass kickin’ mom Jacqui Gore, no less), and sinister, explosive energy. Rocking festival goers will have all the motivation they need to get their skank on.
Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, 8:30 p.m., Amphitheater Stage
The name might seem irreverent given Cash’s honored status among the pantheon, but Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash are the real deal. Given explicit license to use the name by the man in black himself, The Son’s music is intense, authentic and everything country was meant to be. There’s no other word for it. These guys are badass, but more than that this is a band with spry intelligence.
Mark Stuart’s simple, direct lyrics are one moment cutting and dangerous as a back-alley knife fight, and in the next subtle and aromatic as aged whiskey. Never was a singer more suited to his role – whether Stuart is crowing like a rooster in the whiskey barrel or rasping like a crackling, aged gramophone. This is real, honest-to-god country like you rarely get a chance to hear and festival goers are sure to have a honky-tonk good time.
Oz Noy, 9 p.m., Park Stage
Oz Noy is a jazz composer who made a name as one of Israel’s most respected and sought after guitarists and session musicians. His most recent album is titled ‘Schizophrenic,’ and there’s possibly no other adjective which could better describe Oz’s musical style which pirouettes from jazz to funk to country to roots rock and a ambient minimalism all within the space of a few dozen bars.
Don’t mistake complexity for chaos, Oz is a master craftsman and he never loses control – not even for a beat. Every one of these surprising changes is deliberate and prepared. From fierce and growling to a delicate softness to frenetic and spasmodic paroxysms it’s all here, but behind all this shape-shifting sophistication is a contemporary and exciting jazz fusion marrying the tonal and harmonic sophistication of jazz with whatever tune happens to be lying around or fluttering through the air nearby.
I caught up with Oz for an interview on Thursday, an excerpt of which follows.
Aaron Wolcott: How did you get started playing music?
OZ: I started listening to the Beatles when I was about 10 and then wanted to take drum lessons. A friend of mine was studying guitar and told me to come see one of his guitar lessons, and that was it! Till this day I don’t know why I went and why I kept going.
AW: Your 2009 release was entitled ‘Schizophrenic.’ Talk about the title and its relationship to the music.
OZ: It’s exactly as it sounds, mixing a few different styles together: jazz, blues, funk, R&B. It’s all in there. I like it that way … I guess you can say I’m a bit schizophrenic.
AW: You have a very sophisticated and mature musical style. Has your approach to writing changed over time?
OZ: Not really. My approach toward writing my own music for my band has stayed pretty much the same. In my group is a jazz band; we improvise over forms that I write. The fact that it doesn’t always swing and there are some rock and R&B grooves in there doesn’t mean it’s not jazz. I write my songs as if they were standards.
AW: In addition to your work as a professional musician, you have a series of guitar instruction DVDs. You’re doing some pretty innovative things with your instruction materials like releasing your song ‘Just Groove Me’ with charts for each instrument, and versions of the song with each of the instruments removed so that your students at home can play along. You also released a DVD in which you walk your viewer through your entire creative process in composing four of your songs. What was it that led you to approach music instruction in this way?
OZ: I have no idea, I never look or think about that stuff. I do see a lot of really really bad teaching methods and instructional materials. I’m usually shocked to see how uninformed and badly taught students that come to me for a lesson or two are. It’s really mind-boggling to me sometimes. I would say one very important thing though: I’m not the typical teacher. People usually come to me for a few lessons to just get my approach. I’m not the regular guitar teacher that will teach you for years and years.
AW: Are you working on a new album? Tell us about it.
OZ: Yes. Twisted Blues Vol. 2 is on the way, I’m almost done writing it.
AW: How long have you been performing in support of this album?
OZ: I perform all the time. The Twisted Blues Vol.1 record came out last November so I’ve been pretty busy supporting that record since.
AW: Where does your tour take you next?
OZ: Just finished a long run on the west and east coasts of the USA and Europe. Next is Japan at the end of the summer.
AW: What should we expect from your performance at the festival?
OZ: Having fun and enjoying the music! People seem to enjoy my band live. I think it may be my strongest suit.
TIZER featuring Karen Briggs, 9:45 p.m., Festival Stage
Closing out the Festival Stage on Saturday will be Lao Tizer, child prodigy and solo performer turned band leader. Lao is a performer of remarkable sensitivity and depth and has received recognition from all corners of the jazz and popular music press. In 2011 Lao’s group TIZER was nominated ‘Jazz Group of the Year’ at the Oasis Jazz Awards and he is a ‘Best New Jazz Artist’ nominee as well as a Yamaha endorsed pianist and keyboardist.
Lao began writing music early in his life and self published his first album ‘As The Eagle Flies’ at 14. Six albums have since followed which trace the development of a considerable compositional and performance talent.
His most recent studio offering, a mysterious, powerful and celebratory romp, is titled ‘Passages.’ Lao’s music is a little bit jazz, a little bit classical, a little bit smooth but always heartfelt and masterful.
I got a hold of Lao via email for an extended interview on Wednesday, an excerpt of which follows. A complete unabridged version of the interview is available here.
Aaron Wolcott: How did you get started playing the piano?
Lao Tizer: My parents got a piano for my sister when I was five years old. Although none of us starting taking lessons immediately, I found some fascination with the instrument from the beginning and used to just ‘bang away’ on it for hours without any knowledge of what I was doing. My parents finally got me started on piano lessons when I was 9 and I’ve been playing ever since!
AW: Has your approach to writing songs changed over the course of your writing career?
LT: Definitely, although the initial inspiration is generally the same. A new idea that comes as if out of nowhere and inspires the beginnings of development, that’s always the most thrilling moment of the process. From there though, I think the maturity that comes with having composed for many years allows more skill and control in crafting the piece in a given direction. Still, there are many tunes that aren’t easily completed. One section may come easy, but the next can be harder to find, almost like a puzzle. I do think the more intuitive the original composition process is, generally the smoother the song flows as a piece of music and as an arrangement. I’ve written songs that wrote themselves in 10 minutes, and songs that took 3 years. It’s always different and always an adventure and challenge!
AW: In 2009 and 2010 you and your band went on a world tour playing in Dubai and Korea. What was it like playing for audiences all around the world?
LT: I always really enjoy playing internationally. The whole experience of visiting a new place, getting a chance to explore the culture and geography and meeting the people – what a blessing. It’s truly food for your soul when you’re an artist. It fills you up with energy and recharges you which helps in turn to inspire the creative process. We’ve now been fortunate enough to play in many different countries and it’s always a blessing and something I look forward to.
AW: I imagine you might have been as enchanted with the music of the places you traveled to as they were with your music. Did you find any new musical influences during your travels?
LT: Definitely! Every trip has a different set of stories and experiences that go with it. Certainly going to South Africa and getting to hear some of the best African artists mixed with great western and European artists was a real thrill. There’s talk of going to Brazil later this year. That would be amazing as it’s a very deep musical culture. But every place we’ve gone offers new ideas and inspiration.
AW: Your new album ‘Downbeat; is going to be released late this summer. What sort of a direction should we expect from the new album? Any surprises?
LT: This album is definitely the edgiest and most ‘group’ and ‘ensemble’ oriented yet. I really wanted to capture the variety of voices we have in the band now. Amazing musicians from all around the world (Cuba, Senegal, UK) and all across the US. So this one was a more collaborative process. Several of the tunes we’ve written together in the rehearsal room, and numerous others are all my own, or co-written with one other member of the group. This album has a distinct world percussion flair, combined with more rock, jam and fusion flavors. I think people will really get off on the energy in the album and great playing by all the fantastic musicians who were a part of the project.
AW: What advice do you have for aspiring pianists out there?
LT: Keep writing, practicing and performing and following your heart and dreams. It takes a lot of drive to pursue a career in music, but if you stay true to YOU, then what comes is so rewarding. I think now that I’m nearing 20 years working as a professional musician (I got a very early start . I feel much more understanding for the fact that this is really a journey – to continue learning, exploring and enjoying the ride. When you’re young you think there’s a certain moment of success: a record deal, a big show, etc. As you go you realize it’s all a trip to be enjoyed, both the ups and the downs, the challenges and the successes, and funnel that energy into your creative voice!
Sonny Bonoho, 10:30 p.m., Park Stage
The final Saturday show on the Park Stage will feature innovative and controversial Bellevue hipster-hop artist Sonny Bonoho, mastermind behind such memorable singles as ATTN and VAG. Sampling Enya in the left hand and Biggie in the right, Sonny is a model of the modern cut-up eclecticism, and he does it with an idiosyncratic style and a catchy dance sensibility.
Do the more absurdist lyrical turns of the track VAG outline in broad strokes, themes of loss, change and perversion? Or are they more like, about pimpin’ and stuff? The question is the answer. Sonny Bonoho is one to watch.
For information about all Saturday events at the festival, see here.
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