Irregardless Brands

The Zen Poets have been at Irregardless for years and the energy the audience feeds off of them is powerfully mellow and inviting. Consisting of members Annalise Stalls on saxophone, Aaron Gross on bass, Daniel Faust on drums, and Gabriel Dansereau on the jazz guitar.

 

When did you start the group?

Aaron Gross: We were all in school at UNC Greensboro and that’s how we met. Annalise started the group around 2013 and I’ve been with the group for four years. Annalise and I have been co-leading for the past couple years.

Why did you choose the name Zen Poets?
Annalise Stalls: I actually write zen poetry and at the time five years ago, I had to come up with a name for the band and I just had to come up with something really quick and I said, “Well, what have I been doing lately?” I had been absorbing a lot of poetry and the zen philosophy, so it just kind of came together like that.

What do you like most about performing?
AS: There’s nothing like a great performance and the way that energy is exchanged between various musicians that are performing together, the way that they exchange energy and how they exchange energy with the audience. When it goes really well, it fills you up and then there’s also the aspect of performing where one gets to express what’s inside of them. Creative experience is super empowering.

AG: Similarly, I think that seeing a performance is like a shared experience between you, the audience and the other band members. If we spent enough time practicing and know stuff enough, we can hopefully convey a message to people that we’re all enjoying the music. Hopefully, when we perform, it’ll convey that we are just instruments that are being used for something that’s bigger and more important than us as people and it’s like a shared experience between everybody. Nobody is more important than anyone else; the performer is not more important than the listener.

Where do you get the inspiration from the compositions you wrote?
AS: Not always, but sometimes the poetry is where I get inspiration for my song ideas. I have some songs that I’ve written for the band that do have poems that go with them, and some don’t. It is part of it for sure.

AG: For me, sometimes, the melody comes when it reminds me of something, but more often than not, I have a specific person or a specific place in mind. I get inspired by the people around me and also the places that I’ve gone like the mountains of North Carolina or heading out West and seeing the landscape out there.

What are some challenges you face with the band?
AS: Scheduling is hard sometimes because everyone is really busy. When important decisions have to be made, we work through it. It’s also hard to find venues for what we do and what we want to present, but we’re glad to have places like Irregardless and Sharp 9 Gallery.

AG: I think also the music part is great, but it’s getting to the stage stuff like doing your own marketing, booking your own gigs, essentially being your own manager that’s difficult. Any other business would be like “duh”, but it’s kind of like as a band or just yourself, you have to work it out. Every interaction, you have to be as professional as possible; you need to have a website; you need to have business cards; you have to have professional photos and all that stuff costs money and you have to make that investment. I’m saying that because I didn’t realize until recently.

Do you think it’s gotten easier, the types of things you learn as a musician and other added business work?

AG: Some things have gotten easier and some things have gotten harder. I think whenever the more I know, the less I actually know. Whenever something gets done, there’s another challenge that presents itself and that’s not just a terrible thing, it’s a wonderful thing as well. Practicing, like any other artist doing photography or writing, it’s always going to be better.

Who are your musical influences?
AS: For me, I’d say Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Steve Lacy, John Ellis, Kenny Garrett, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman.

Tell me about the tour and the new songs.

AG: So when the group got started, Annalise wrote a lot of the music, but she and I are co-leading and the record is going to be half her songs and half my songs. We both gave each other input on our songs too, to help arrange them a little bit. The album we just recorded this part Spring, we did a Kickstarter and were fully funded in May. We are doing a little run-out tour playing in New York, Boston, and Washington D.C.

This Saturday, the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars are performing at Irregardless and I spoke to George Knott, founder of the band shortly about the band. It was honest and tactless, to say the least, but he’s mostly honest with himself and how he works. As he says, If Art Deco had a soundtrack, the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars would be it. If you don’t believe me, check them out for yourself this Saturday.

Who are the other members?


So basically it’s me with it’s six books of music and it’s whoever I hire. I usually hire a group of guys that I called “first”, but to say that their members is kind of disingenuous. We’re not a band in a traditional sense. We’re more like a business and whoever I hire for the gig would be playing under that name for the gig.

How did you get started?

 

Okay, my band plays primarily 1920s music and I’ve always been a fan of 1920’s and 1930’s American music. When I was in middle school, I started putting bands together. Basically ever since I have been playing music, I’ve been playing this kind of music. For the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars, we played our first gig in 2001, and it’s been about 17 years. I’ve been leading bands like this since 1990 – 1992 though, and it is just something I’ve always done and I’ve always approached it not as an art form, but more of a recreation. My goal is not to have music as a form of self-expression, but rather as sort of a portal to the past and trying, in any way, to get an authentic and historically correct representation of what the music was when it was current.

Why did you choose that name in particular?

There was no reason not to. I sat down in 2001 and I filled out a legal pad full of names that I thought were decent and I had about 35 names, scratching them out one at a time until I just had one left. And you know honestly, I think I just like the way the syllables roll off the tongue. It has nice typography; it’s got peaks and valleys; it’s interesting. It’s delightful to say and quirky to hear.

You say that jazz fills a void much neglected in the world. What void do you mean?

 

I think there is an enormous misnomer that music is about self-expression and music is an art and I don’t believe that. I think music is a product; like before you can be an artist, first you have to be a craftsman and people completely neglect that. They get up there with a saxophone and they try to be the next John Coltrane or Charlie Parker. Nobody cares about that, they just want music for dining and dancing. They don’t want to think about it. I mean, I think music is perfectly functional and I think not enough people work to fulfill that role as a functional… I mean, I think music can be art, but I think so much of music can’t be. I think often, if some art doesn’t make sense, it can be seen as garbage. And I’m not claiming to be an artist; I just want to play old 1920’s music.

How often do you perform?

 

Not often. We’re kind of expensive, if all seven of us play. We have probably played for the Irregardless four times a year and aside from that, we don’t often play. We’ve got a residency at Neptune’s and play there like a month of Monday’s and we’ll do that six times a year, but that’s basically like an open rehearsal to the public. One of the dichotomies about the irony of my philosophical outlook on music as a product, is that there’s zero demand for it.

*I’m pretty sure he means jazz music though.

Who are your musical influences?

 

To play 1920’s music, you got to listen to what came before the 1920’s. A lot of what we write is functional European harmony so you got to listen to Bach and Bach is amazing. One of the things that popped up in 1920’s jazz is this guy named Bix Beiderbecke, who was a horn player and he played a lot of impressionist stuff. He was inspired by Claude Debussy and Frederic Chopin, so I like a bunch of that stuff, you know. And of course, I also listen to 1920s music, but it’s Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, the California Ramblers, Don Redman. There are all these bands around the 1920’s that I have an appreciation for. But I would say listening to the guys who were their influences are who I listen to.

What’s a challenge for you and your music?

 

Aside from my honest bluntness and attitude sometimes, I don’t really have challenges. My band is great; there’s not a lot of work for us, but I would put my band against any band in the Southeast. For what we do, we’re pretty​ phenomenal. That may sound braggy-docious but I’m good at what I do and I hire the best guys that I can. We’re playing music that’s 100 years old and nobody’s alive who remembers it and not many people care all that much about it. Sometimes, I feel like Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys like whatever drives you, you got to remember that it drives you and not everybody else. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean anybody else in the world might be.

The Secret Quartet is a four member group made of students from UNC Asheville. The members include Jacob Secor on Saxophone, Nick O’Leary on Piano, Garron Chesson on Bass, and Will Younts on Drums. I spoke to Jacob Secor briefly about their Saturday show at Irregardless.

How did you all get started?

We are all students at UNC Asheville at the Jazz program there and we all wanted to create – I guess I wanted to create – an ensemble that was focused on interactive playing. The idea was to have a class that we could basically put a band together and really focus on – not necessarily the fundamentals of playing – but really focusing on composition and what it means to listen to each other and play with each other, rather than at one another, if that makes any sense. And so I took that to the Dean of the Department – er sorry, the Chair of the Department and basically wrote the curriculum and made it a class. We got the four guys together with our teacher Jacob Rodriguez and somehow got to make a class and then for a whole semester, we wrote music together and focused on playing together and by the end of that, we had played together for so much that we were like, “man, we need to actually do something with this.” So we started gigging regularly in Asheville and out of town and now here we are.

So are you all still students?

No, Nick, the piano player and I just graduated. Will and Garron, the drummer and the bass player, are in their final senior year.

Wow, that’s crazy. You guys are young. So you have your own compositions. Do you play them during your gigs?

It’s all original music or sometimes we do our own arrangements of old standards, but most of what we’re playing is completely original music.

Cool. How did you choose your band name Secret Quartet?

That came from what people called us at the school. We have normal ensembles at the school that you have to audition for and this is an ensemble that had no audition for it because we had already picked all the members and it wasn’t listed on the ensemble audition list, so people didn’t really know about it. As people started figuring out about it throughout the semester, they were just calling us the Secret Ensemble. We came to our first gig and we knew we needed to have a name and we couldn’t really think of one so it’s that and it kind of stuck and now it’s our name.

Would you consider changing in the future if you don’t want it?

Probably not. I mean it’s just stuck with us and we use it so much now that I don’t see a reason to change it, other than it’s bad, I guess.

And do you all mostly play in Asheville?

Yeah, yeah. We’re all based out of Asheville and most of the gigs that we’ve done have been in Asheville. We’ve done a little bit of out of town playing and now we’re actually on a three week tour that brought us here.

What kind of tour?

It’s kind of just a self-made tour. We played in C-Grace last week and Charleston this past weekend. This week, we’ve split up and have done our own thing and we’re meeting up at Irregardless on Saturday and then we’re headed out to the coast to play in Wilmington next week.

I also read you guys played international in your bio.

That’s Nick. The bio was referring to all the different things that we’ve done individually. Nick, who has a classical background, is a phenomenal classical pianist and went to UNC School of the Arts and after he graduated from there or maybe his senior year of high school, he was asked to go out to Germany and conduct this symphony in Germany and that was crazy. While he was there, he met someone else who asked him to come back and do the Bilbao symphony. Those are two very, very accomplished and distinguished symphony that Nick both played piano with and conducted.

Of all the establishments that you played, which do you like playing the best? Or is there a preference in venue or city?

Well, I guess as part of this group, most of our playing has been in Asheville and I think any band will say that hometown shows are the best thing, just ’cause all your friends are there. For me, Raleigh was where I went to high school. We had a lot of fun playing in Raleigh this week; I expect this week to be really, really fun as well because it’s going to be a bunch of old friends and people I haven’t seen in a long time who’s only seen me play when I was a youngster. I look forward to it.

What can be some challenges you face as a group?

I guess it would be getting everyone together. We’re all kind of doing our own stuff. I play with lots of different groups and play maybe four, five nights a week sometimes in Asheville and it could be pretty hard to get everyone in the same room to make a decision about songwriting, touring, what to do about our next album, whenever that may be.

So you have not released one yet, correct?

Yeah, we have not released a formal album. There are lots of YouTube clips of us playing live or live recordings that we’ve done that we haven’t released yet formally either. There’s one professional recording we did that we haven’t released yet formally. I anticipate that we will release something by the end of this year, hopefully.

So when that happens, will all the stuff you’ve recorded be put into one or will it be split into different albums?

Not so sure. That remains to be determined.

Do you have any significant stories you have that you remember as a group?

I guess… wow. This is dangerous territory. The most – I think the one that I like the best is just watching each other grow. It’s not one-night stories, but when we all started playing together, we were still trying to figure out what we were doing. Definitely have watched each other and helped each other grow over the past two, three, four years enormously. I think any of the small stories like we all played at each other’s junior or senior recitals at school. A good one is, maybe, at the beginning when we all got together, Jacob Rodriguez, our teacher who is an extremely accomplished, international touring musician, sat us down and told us, “you guys are going to write a tune every week.” So we had four songs every week. In addition to that, at the beginning of every rehearsal with him, for the first ten minutes, we were going to play what he called “free”, which at the time we probably didn’t really know what that meant. It just meant that there’s no song to determine what we’re playing. It is total free, improvised composition – like in the moment. And that really shook us. None of us had done that before so at the beginning of every rehearsal, it was just ten minutes of just listening to each other and make music on the spot and see where it goes. That really brought all our personalities into the same room, all of our musical personalities and what our day had looked like. It really allowed us not just to know each other personally or musically, but also get to know what our compositions are going to look like and how they’re going to relate to one another; what’s going to grow over the semester of that class and what’s over the coming years we’ve been playing together​.

Have you ever used those for your music?

Absolutely. That kind of thing has definitely found its way into our music, whether it be writing the word “free” into the solo section of the chart or whether it be using literal motif that we found in that music or just ideas that “free” playing got us into that we later built on and things like that. So it was incredibly instrumental to our group.

Have you played “free” improvised in any of your performances?

Absolutely. It’s become a part of our playing and there are times where it’s like, “we’re going to play ‘free'” and that happens. And then there are times where it just happens and we haven’t necessarily talked about it. Like Nick’ll start playing and then it goes somewhere – we’re not reading out of a page, we’re not playing something we’ve never played before- like the intro to a song is being improvised spontaneously. It’ll all intuitively, hopefully come around at one point and it would all work out. But I think that’s the beauty of jazz music in general, especially when you think of free compositions, it opens up the borders of possibilities quite a bit.

And it just works out? You just play and it… Does it ever go wrong?

Yeah! Definitely. Hopefully that doesn’t happen on stage. We try to make sure we’ve built in ways for it not to happen if we were to do something like that on  stage. But definitely in the practice room where we’ve tried things and it didn’t work out before, things have definitely gone wrong. We’re not actually reading each other’s minds all the time so sometimes we communicate different things and it goes different places.

Half Past Six, not just a time, but the name of the jazz band set to perform this Saturday at Irregardless. The members consist of Tara Nixon as the vocalist, Cara Albora Shaw on piano, Ken Bowers on jazz guitar, Scott Griffin as drummer, Doug Mayes on saxophone, and Chris Mervin on bass.

 

I chatted briefly with Scott Griffin about the band and their take on the jazz scene in Raleigh.

 

When did you all form?


Since about five years ago.

Why did you form as a band?

The bass player, Chris Mervin and I were in a big band and we were wanting to form a smaller group with the same standard, a quintet, and so we started adding numbers to get to where we could play music like a quartet or a quintet would play.

Do you have a special reason why you choose the band’s group name, other than there are six members?


It’s funny. We had some friends who suggested names and we put it for a vote and that’s the one that won. It did reflect that there are six members in the group, that’s part of it. One of the venues we used to play, we always met there around 6:30 and that’s kind of where it came from, anyway.

It’s funny how it worked out that way. What kind of jazz music would you say you play?


We focus on jazz standards, including latin. Jazz mostly from the 40s, 50s, and 60s; most of the songs are from that era.

How often do you perform?


We perform about, depending on the month, four times a month on average. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

How often do you all practice?


We practice weekly.

Does that mean that four times a month, you also perform every week too?

Right. That’s in addition to performing.

How do you compare the jazz scene in Raleigh and Durham to say, NYC or Boston?


I haven’t been to New York or Chicago or anywhere like that in a while, but I think that to me, anyway, it seems like the local jazz scene is growing in Raleigh. I’ve met several different other people and lots of several other bands and the quality of music has gotten better while the quantity has gotten to be a richer as far as areas in the state. I think the Triangle is a rich area for jazz.

Do you think because it’s gotten, because there are more groups, more competitive?

 

I haven’t ever looked at it that way and in a sense, I guess that’s true. We’re all vying after the same jobs, but I haven’t ever personally looked at it that way. It just seems like there’s always going to be more venues, for sure. There seems to be opportunities for everybody. I guess I’ve just never looked at it like a competitive situation.

What is one fond memory you have? Performing in a certain place or certain time?

Does it need to be a performance?

No, it doesn’t have to.

Well, one thing I can tell you that comes to mind. We were having auditions for our singer. We had auditioned through the people and Tara came through. We all just looked at each other and smiled and just knew she was the one. That was a fond memory of mine and she’s been such a great fit. I spoke with Chris and his fond memory is similar to mine. He said one of his fondest memories was when we auditioned Doug, the sax player and that we all knew he was a perfect fit as soon as we played the first song.

Despite whatever weather we’re having in Raleigh, rain or shine, Soggy Po’ Boys are sure to hit it off at Irregardless this Saturday. On tour promoting their ‘Smoke’ album, which is the first full-length recording as a septet and the tracks, they claim, are as punny as their album name. The members are Eric Klaxton on Soprano Saxophone and Clarinet, Zach Lange on Trumpet, Nick Mainella on Tenor Saxophone, Mike Effenberger on Piano, Stu Dias on Guitar and Vocals, Brett Gallo on Drums, and Nick Phaneuf on Bass.

The seven member band started in 2012 in the town of Dover, New Hampshire. At the time they formed, another group just had a gig at the Barley Pub and at the end of the night, the members who would eventually be the Soggy Po’ Boys played around by the piano and decided they should play together continuously.

Their music is an edgy take of the New Orleans style jazz and their songs mirrors that fact. For those who may not have heard them perform frequently in their familiar haunt of Sonny’s Tavern in Dover, this performance is sure to replicate the atmosphere and also make audiences feel as if they’ve been transported to New Orleans themselves.

Playing music that inspire others is a delight and the Soggy Po’ Boys enjoy revving up the energy of the audience they play in, wherever they are.

“I think when we are playing music for an appreciative audience the energy on the bandstand comes up a notch,” Nick Mainella said. “We feed off of the audience and they feed off of us. When both are in sync it becomes an incredible experience for all involved.”

Because jazz is universal, no matter where the band goes, they’ll always find an audience. “Smoke” offers fast tracks such as So Simple or Birdseye that carry an upbeat feel while slower tunes like Meet me at the Funeral and I Hardly Knew Her carry a sweet slow-dance feel, and still hold the New Orleans vibe.

“Everybody likes to have a good time, everybody likes to dance, and this music lends itself to doing this, at all times,” said Zach Lange. “I think, no matter where we go, we usually have a pretty good time, and people listening to us do, too.”

And as they’re on tour now, I asked Eric Klaxton some last minute questions about the band and their new album “Smoke”.

 

Have you all performed along the east coast before? How does it compare to performing in New Hampshire?

Yes, this will be our 5th east coast tour. When we leave New Hampshire, audiences seem to respond to the fact that we aren’t/won’t be in their area often. There’s a wonderful sense of excitement and appreciation at nearly every show.

What kind of themes represent the songs in “Smoke”?

Smoke explores a few themes: The passage of time, love, and loss, to name a few. There is a refreshing sense of humor that hopefully doesn’t get lost in the mix as well.

What track is your favorite?

A favorite?!? That’s hard… Without necessarily picking one tune, I would say that my favorite parts of the record are almost entirely the group improvisations. We were able to capture some really exciting moments in the studio. Group improvisation is an important part of this music and I’m very pleased with how we played together.

This is the fourth album you’ve all put out. How do you think you’ve progressed as a band in your music over the years?

Well, over the years, I think we’ve spent a lot more time digging into the vast catalogue of music that’s come from New Orleans. And we all individually make a real effort to visit the city often, which definitely informs our approach to the music.

Our life experiences are more vast and our perspective is broader each time around. We have also been able to better distill what we like and what we are good at. Smoke showcases that.

Do you all have the same buzz feeling from releasing a 4th album as you did when you released the 1st?

It’s always exciting releasing new music. I love to perform in a live setting but it’s a different kind of excitement to have made a performance permanent for everyone to hear over and over again. I will say I’m most proud of this most recent record.

What excites you about performing in different places? Are the atmospheres the same?

I love sharing this music with new people. It’s not a particularly common sound and it’s fun to watch people realize how much they like it. The more new audiences we can play for, the more exciting it gets.

I’ve read that you bring audience members on stage sometimes when you perform in Dover. Does that still apply when you perform elsewhere?

I can believe that we have done something like that in the past, but it’s not a regular thing. Maybe it should be though!

Catch the Soggy Po’ Boys when they come to Irregardless this Saturday!

Big bands and pop tunes collide when this band comes to Irregardless. Practically the only time they’ll play for the public, but otherwise, they play exclusively for private events. The Boulevard Ensemble is sure to dazzle when they come on the stage this Saturday.

 

The founding members are vocalist Geoffrey Register, Tom Rau on double bass, and Noah Sager on piano. And while he’s not a founding member, Theous Jones plays drums every gig. The founders had realized they were hearing the same tunes being played at weddings and other events, either with jazz, rock or pop and decided to change that by playing and arranging a mix of songs tailored to their clients and the venue they’re playing at.

 

“We wanted to provide a dance, wedding kind of corporate band that’s just a bit different than the regular ones, kind of in a big band style, but with pop tunes,” said Sager. “We all talked about that and decided to come up with some different tunes to range and just got started. We’ll play some old jazz standards as well as some newer pop tunes in that old style.”

 

Their repertoire prove their expanse of music knows no bounds, as this is only a small list of what they offer. From Frank Sinatra to Led Zeppelin, the Beatles to Britney Spears, their range travels beyond genres and the diversity in the music selection shows they have no limitation.

 

“We play different songs, depending on what the client wants,” said Sager. “We’ll switch up our songs each gig and if we do a lot of weddings, for instance, they’ll ask for specific songs for us to play.”

 

Even the additional players they have for each gig changes where they’ll have either one horn player or four horns for an eight-piece line-up. Some musicians who have played with them include Al Strong on trumpet, Lucian Cobb on trombone, or Kim Smith on saxophone.

 

The band can get pretty big if there’s eight people playing and Sager says it comes down to the music charts and as long as the charts are written well, sometimes, they may only need to practice one time. Maybe not even rehearse at all before a gig.

 

“I’m actually also the music arranger in the band,” said Sager. “As long as the chart is really good, we can actually make it work, but that relies on having the arrangements and charts really accurate and easy to read.”

 

And they make it work, but a gig isn’t without its faults and while nobody’s perfect, the band isn’t afraid to admit that they make mistakes.

 

“That stuff happens​ all the time,” said Sager. “You just go with the flow and do the best you can. We certainly don’t stop in the middle of a song with people there during a performance. I mean, if you end up playing a different note than what you mean to play, then you make that work as best you can.”

Michael Berliner and the Doug Largent Quartet will be playing at Irregardless this Saturday. This is a two-part interview as I sat down with Michael to see why he loves music and singing jazz. Then Michael sat down with Doug Largent and did an interview about him and his music.

 

Q: Do you play any instruments besides vocalizing?
A: I play some other instruments, but not to any degree of expertise. Singing has just become my thing.

Q: I read that you’ve been in bigger cities before you moved to Raleigh. How does the music scene compare between those cities and Raleigh?
A: Oh wow. It’s funny because when I lived in New York and then L.A., I didn’t get out to music clubs that much, mostly because it was super expensive. What I really have enjoyed here, aside from the vibrant music scene which there’s no lack of, is that it’s very accessible. I get out all the time so it’s good. It’s great. No complaints there.

Q: Why did you concentrate later on in jazz and R&B?
A: I’ve always loved really good jazz singers like Frank Sinatra. When I was growing up in college and beyond, I listened to Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau, Ella Fitzgerald, just these greats who were at this high level of awesome. And I love the sound of it, the swing of it, the feeling of it. I think for a number of years, I didn’t necessarily sing it myself; I would just enjoy it as a listener. I had sung in choruses and other kinds of venues but about half a dozen years ago, I started picking up piano again. I had taken jazz piano lessons with the idea of becoming good enough or just dangerous enough to accompany myself as a singer. I played for a while that way and I learned a lot and discovered along the way that it’s hard to play piano really well and sing. So I decided to concentrate on the singing because it’s really what I wanted to do. I started singing with a really great piano player and teacher named Alison Weiner. We would be in her studio and she’d accompany me to help me get my chops together to go out and play out.

Q: So I’d say you have a pretty extensive background in music.
A: I’d say so, yeah. I grew up with music lessons when I was a kid, kind of standard stuff. Piano and saxophone and singing in choirs through high school. Actually I sang choirs in college, now that I think of it. I got away from it as a performer and more of an enjoy-er. When I lived to New York, I was a commercial worker as a voice-over actor and got into that for a good while. Music has really been, throughout my life, a joy of mine and now a passion for the past couple of years. It’s easier to get into it if you take it seriously and want to do well with it and get out and play. There are opportunities and I’ve met a lot of musicians like Doug Largent. It’s been great meeting up with him because he loves that sound from the late 50’s, early 60’s era of music and I do too, so it’s been a good collaboration. He’s super generous as a musician and I really enjoy playing with him.

Q: How long have you been with Doug Largent’s group?
A: I’ve been singing with Doug about two years.

Q: You said earlier you weren’t as experienced as him; did you mean performing?
A: Yeah, when you were asking that, that’s what I meant. If you think about someone like Doug, he’s made a fair amount of his living from music for around 20 years. But that hasn’t been the case for me. For me it’s more of an avocation than a vocation. I feel honored to sing while he’s playing. Maybe I’m a little shyer with my talents than I ought to be because I’ve studied music my whole life and I love it. I think it’s sort of the focus now. Having a focus in jazz and occasionally a little bit of R&B, a little bit of pop. For jazz, it’s a training that I focus on and I think that has really paid off because when you have that sort of focus, you can go as far as you want. It’s just putting feeling into music and that’s what I love about it.

 

To read about Doug Largent, check out this blog post from Michael Berliner.

Lydia Salett Dudley is a jazz pianist and singer, though she does also sing christian and gospel. Her musical beginnings started in her childhood home as her mother played for a local baptist church when she was young and Dudley now considers playing in churches one of her favorite places to perform in.

Dudley grew up listening to classical music as well. “My mom practicing music on Saturday night,” chuckling as she recalls one of her favourite musical memories. “Or practicing her classical pieces.”

She’s gained much knowledge over her years of learning music with her mentors Professor Ed Paolantonio and Dr. Stephen Anderson. In fact, they’ve both assisted her in releasing “Green”, her first single in 2008 and her composition “Sunsets”. Other artists she’s admired includes Lester Young, Monk, and Mary Lou Williams, whom she did a thesis on.

One of her most notable achievements is her nonprofit organization, The Salett Art Center, Inc. in 2011. The organization’s mission is “to provide hope and inspiration through various educational music programs… which will enrich the quality of the musical lives of our underprivileged youth.”

She was really passionate in starting this organization and when asked about how it got started, she said, “I took my first jazz appreciation class back in 2005. Once I heard the information, I was like, this is awesome information. I grew up listening to this as a child, so I wanted to find a platform to share this information and I wanted to start a non-profit so that I can touch children under certain areas in order for them to get great musical information about jazz, blues, and negro spirituals.”

Often times when performing, artists make mistakes and Dudley is no exception. “I make a lot of them,” she says. “I guess it’s a part of life, just a part of the landscape.”

Noah Powell – a vocalist with ranges of various tempos, lyrics, and emotion – will be coming to Irregardless this Saturday night as part of a quartet. With his tunes, he’ll be sure to have you bopping your head and feeling the beat throughout his set.

 

From Kinston, NC, he went to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham to pursue a degree in music. His roots of vocalizing ran deep as he loved music and grew up liking the Motown-era music he listened to as a kid. He participated in talent shows and summer camps in elementary school and from there, he sang in his school’s chorus group from junior high all through high school. He continued that when he went to NCCU and participated in regular as well as touring choir. Besides vocalizing, his range also includes playing some piano and percussion.

 

One of the mentors he had early on in his university career was Chip Crawford, who is now the arranger and music director for Gregory Porter. Crawford would suggest materials and recordings that he thought Powell might want to pursue.

 

“I met Chip when he was a graduate student at NCCU actually and he was the guy that really urged me to sing jazz professionally. I met him in the practice room one day and he recommended that I might want to pursue that,” Powell chuckles remembering that chance encounter. “He said, ‘hey man, you really got a voice for the jazz thing, that might be something you want to look into.’”

 

While he was at North Carolina Central University, he was involved in drugs and that became an intricate part in his spiral away from his music and his studies. “I experimented with drugs and I was one of those people who got caught up in that,” he recalled. “I made some alliances early on that I should not have made, people I befriended, circles that I ran in. At the end of the day, it’s the same old story, I got caught up in that and I went through a lot of stuff and eventually had to find my way out. I had to separate myself from the music for a while to address that issue because it’s such a overwhelming disease, it takes everything and uses everything in you to make you sustain your habit.” A documentary called Noah’s Arc was created to show this part of his life.

 

When asked if he remembered the first tune he sang or played, he answered, “actually, the first time I started doing sessions early on, particularly with the jazz in the early 80s, I believe it was my junior year in college. I used to go sit in at the Salaam Cultural Center which is on the west end in Durham.” The Salaam Cultural Center has since been shut down.

 

As a musician, his admiration for artists vary in multiple genres such as pop, rock & roll, and rhythm & blues. In jazz, he admires known artists such as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. Of the obscure vocalists, he admires Leon Thomas, Joe Lee Wilson, and Abbey Lincoln. The list goes on and on for him.

 

“[I remember] the first time I met Betty Carter, I met her at NCCU and she was doing a concert there,” he reminisced. “That was the first time I had met a vocalist I’d always admired and whatnot. It turned out to be her and it was a wonderful meeting. She’s an extraordinary vocalist and I love her to death.”

Anyone who’s heard of Sidecar Social Club knows of the Ford Galaxy they’ve posed in, courtesy of F.O Finch or by Lisa Wood’s indistinguishable feather hat worn at every performance. Fun fact, Lisa’s been documenting all the photos she’s taken with the hat on twitter with the #girlwiththehat. They’ll be heading towards Irregardless this Saturday for a night of fun, dance-worthy music. The members of the Sidecar Social Club consists of Jim Crew, Aaron Bittikofer, Edward Butler, F.O Finch, and Lisa Wood.

 

In 2011, Lisa Wood contacted Jim Crew to start a group. Nothing was definite and none of the members had actually known each other, but they’ve revolved around the same venues and had similar musical interests. When they all got together for a session, sparks flew and they’ve been together ever since.

 

Next came the name. Lisa, who used to be a bartender, came up with it. She has knowledge of vintage drinks such as a sidecar which is traditionally made of cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice. “New Orleans has such-and-such Social Club, whatever that first name may be, and we all liked the band Buena Vista Social Club,” said Bittikofer. “We were toying around with such-and-such Social Club and Jim mentioned Sidecar, so we just stuck those three words together and said yep, that’s the band name.”

 

Their music, they describe, would be considered danceable, New Orleans jazz music. ‘You have a good time when you hear us play,” said Bittikofer. Jim Crew follows suit and said, “We all have that deep appreciation for American music, beginning with music in the 20s and 30s. Just the atmosphere and the spirit in which the music was performed in that era and that’s what we’re trying to maintain in the present day. Even though we may be playing modern music or music we’ve written ourselves, it’s still played in the style of that early music.”

 

Like most performers, playing live is a thrilling experience and perhaps almost drug worthy enough that most don’t stop performing. “There’s an energy there that’s coming from the band that is sometimes reflected from the crowd and it’s undeniable,” said Bittikofer. Crew echoed, “[With playing live], you only get one chance to do it. You need to be completely in the moment. The challenge is a privilege to share that with the audience that enjoys what you’re doing and I get a lot back from that that I don’t get anywhere else.”

 

One of the biggest challenges that artists face is the promotion of their music, which the band is no stranger to. It’s one thing to play among your friends and family, but it’s another to reach many strangers, especially against other artists competing for the same audience. “There’s so much chatter out there with the incredible amount of music that’s released daily,” said Crew. “Trying to keep your audience’s focus is an ongoing challenge to stay on top of.”

 

For those who are wondering whether Sidecar Social Club is coming out with new music needn’t worry. Almost four years from their last album SSC Live released in 2014, they’re in the studio working on a new album called “Mystery Island” with 11 original songs, set to be released this summer. Crew said, “Mystery Island is a song I wrote a couple years ago. Aaron came up with the title and Lisa wrote lyrics to what was an instrumental piece that I’d written. She wrote the lyrics in French and they describe a rendezvous on an island and it’s more about a feeling and has a bit of a story.” Aaron mentions they’re excited for the release and either can we.