Purists may whine that the best days of music are behind us, that capital “M” music has seen its peak and is no longer relevant. But here at Play It Like It's Music we believe the opposite: not only is the act of musicmaking an essential life skill with a lineage stretching back to the beginnings of human history, but the vocation of the professional musician is more vital today than it ever has been. Once a month, join musician, songwriter and producer Trevor Exter as he drops in on working musicians from every genre.
Today we visit John Newcott, composer and singer. Goes by the stage name NewK. Like many, I first knew him as a Marketing guy for Universal and Verve Forecast back in the 90s, but as happens with all first impressions I later had to seriously expand the slot I’d originally allocated to him in my mind. The guy has a long history as a musician and composer as well as a deep love of the art which now, at long last, takes center stage in his life. NewK has been around the block and back, and in this episode of Play It Like It’s Music we get to hear some of his stories as well as some great music.
Say hi to NewK: NewKisms.com
Say hi to Me: trevorexter.com
We got a good one today, so settle in. I went to Greenpoint to hang out at the home of Chris Morrissey. Bass player, singer, guitarist, composer, arranger and bandleader. He’s literally everywhere, you can hear him on records by Sara Bareilles, Mark Guiliana, Dave King, Jim Campilongo, Lucius, Ben Kweller, Andrew Bird. But his own, original music will blow your mind. I get a Radiohead-like thrill when I hear his stuff, especially his new record called Laughing And Laughing. Say hi to Chris.
Good times today, because we’re hanging out with master drummer Damon Due White. The guy’s been around the world with everybody: Harry Belafonte, Shemekia Copeland and a long list of others. He and I did a bunch of James McBride gigs together in France and Mississippi. Solid cat with a heart of gold. Let’s dive in.
GREGG AUGUST is the man of the hour on the bass. He’s played with Ray Barretto, Ornette Coleman, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo O’Farrill, James Moody, The Chico O’Farrill Big Band, The list goes on. As a classical bassist he frequently performs with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Mark Morris Dance Group, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the American Composer’s Orchestra. He’s also a faculty member at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute at MassMoca in North Adams, Mass. We cracked a beautiful bottle of wine at his place in brooklyn, and he’s got a lot to offer here.
Kiku Collins has established herself at the heights of pop, jazz and R&B. She has performed with everybody: Beyonce, Michael Bolton, Jill Scott, Train, Gloria Gaynor, Carole King, Sza, Sam Moore, Esperanza Spalding, Queen Latifah, Trombone Shorty, Smokey Robinson, Keb Mo, Lea Delaria, Paul Shaffer, The Manhattan Transfer, Buddy Guy, Faith Evans, Ciara, Ben E. King, Janelle Monae, Patti LaBelle, Sheila E., Lalah Hathaway... even Joe Piscopo! You might have seen her on the Today Show, Oprah Winfrey, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, at the White House for President Obama (twice), the Grammys and at several international jazz festivals. But it's not all glitz and glamor: Collins is also a cancer and lymphedema patient, and is actively involved with #Cancerland and other advocacy organizations.
Bronx native Daniel Sadownick has toured with a large (and growing) cross-section of the greatest musicians we all love: Michael Brecker, Me'shell Ndege'Ocello, Steely Dan, Tony, Toni Tone', Maxwell, Angie Stone, Dennis Chambers, Nicholas Payton, Christian McBride, Nat Adderley, George Coleman, Dianne Reeves, the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, Carl Allen, Nnenna Freelon, Dewey Redman, Jennifer Lopez... even Billy Idol. Daniel is also a member of the New York based cult band the Screaming Headless Torsos. He is a versatile percussionist that does not limit himself to one genre.
"You just have to sit in a certain place."
- Trevor P. Allen
My friends, today we hear from a true keeper of the flame, Mr. Trevor P. Allen. From the trenches of the New York club scene to bandstands all over the world, this guy delivers on the bass.
There's a guy who's been running an open mic at Birdland in midtown New York City for an insanely long time, and he looks like he's 15 years old. I don't know how he does it, but here he is: Jim Caruso. Showbiz man of the hour here on Play It Like It's Music. It's always a good time hanging with the witty and dapper master of ceremonies. Check it out.
“When I was young there were a lot of sixteen-year-old cellists. There are not that many 48 year old cellists.”
Today my guest is Pablo Mahave Veglia, cello professor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and a total pro. We get into it here, the guy knows his stuff on the cello: all the notes, all the styles, all the periods, all the positions. We get a tour of his instruments and a look at his fascinating life story. Check him out.
We were in too much of a time-crunch for me to record him playing, but the night after we spoke I witnessed him holding court at a campfire jam with about 200 people getting quite sweaty and singing at the top of their lungs. This guy brings it.
Today is a great day because I get to speak to my good friend, world-famous author James McBride. I know him as a band leader. You probably know him for his best-selling books, the movies he made with Spike Lee... all that stuff. I went and met him at the source: New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Red Hook, Brooklyn. If you read his first book “The Color of Water”, then you'll know the place I'm talking about.
He's got major cred: he actually studied with Jascha Heifetz, at age 20 he played principal second violin for the Rochester Philharmonic, then went on to work with Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Joe Jackson, Todd Rundgren, the Mahavishnu Project... he founded a string quartet you might have heard of called Ethel. Whether he's on Broadway or in Bang On A Can he kills it every time, I went to his house in Massachusetts.
Hallie and I have been friends for most of our adult lives, we performed together in De La Guarda back in ancient times and have stayed in touch. It's been great to follow her career through several bands and albums to now get to watch her perform on TV every week. In this episode we get to catch up a little and also hear her play some of her songs alone with just a bass guitar. Give it a listen, and give her a follow!
Today we're talking with a legit songwriting giant, Richard Julian. You might know his supergroup The Little Willies, or his solo albums like Slow New York or Fleur-de-Lis. He hangs out with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, Norah Jones and he's got a more recent project: he runs his own club.
Today we feature Mazz Swift. She's one-of-a-kind: plays, sings writes and performs with total fire. I'm proud to call her friend. She's been a member of Burnt Sugar, Brazz Tree. She's got her own band called MazzMuse and she also plays in a string trio called Hear In Now.
Today we're talking with one of my favorite drummers Tony Mason. Something of a local legend in the New York club scene, he's played with everybody and you can always trust him to keep it bouncing, no matter who he's appearing with that night.
We’re in Harlem today with the legend, Luqman Brown. Singer of FunkFace, Dope Sagittarius and an accomplished composer, producer and sound designer. Check out his brand new Dope Sagittarius album, Sacred Places. Out this month on Buddhabug Records.
Here's my conversation with Luqman Brown. Composer, performer, sound designer, rock star, raconteur, stylist... he's made a deep imprint on the NYC scene with his seminal band FunkFace and his more recent band Dope Sagittarius.
Check out the brand new Dope Sagittarius album, Sacred Places out this month on Buddhabug Records:
You can find Luqman Brown at LuqmanBrown.nyc
His Twitter and Instagram handle is @DopeSagittarius, and you can also buy the album at Dope Sagittarius Dot Com.
You can read a transcript of this interview here.
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We’re uptown today with Emily Hope Price, a prolific cellist and singer. She put in a lot of miles with a beloved band called Pearl and The Beard, and she also played cello for Sting, Roger Waters, Ani DiFranco, D’Angelo and Father John Misty.