MICHAEL TOLCHER

*Your musical inspirations?

My musical inspirations range from Nat King Cole to the Foo FIghters...I'm a
radio listener mostly...always flipping stations

*Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?

Music got me through a depressive time in my life...a dark cloud decided to
stop over my head for several months

*Your thoughts on the connection between music and healing--

Music is most healing when its creator has a healing intention...the vibrations
stimulate our entire body and mind...i have experienced both physical and
mental healing through music.

A gifted artist in every sense of the word--writer, singer, musician and performer - Michael Tolcher deftly blends unfailing melodic and organic pop sensibilities with a deep understanding of pop, soul and urban grooves drawn from his Southern upbringing. His debut album, I Am, is an inspired collection of songs and melodies that muse on life, love and social consciousness. Hailing from Lovejoy, GA, one of Michael's early aspirations was to be an Olympic athlete. He was on his way as a miler, running track at Georgia Tech, until an injury sidelined his career and caused him to refocus on what he wanted out of life. Michael began his musical education while singing in the church choir as a child and was always playing more than a little guitar here and there. Honing his chops busking everywhere from the Atlanta Summer Olympics to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where his father was the resident chaplain, Michael broadcasted his new musical gospel via a state-issued guitar and enlightened the local prison community on a weekly basis. A chance encounter with renowned political activist, inmate and father of Tupac, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, impacted Michael greatly.

Says Shakur, who was especially impressed with Tolcher's gift with words, "In his music we are presented with the raw, clever rejection of the forces of NORM, without belligerences. The truth and depth of this artist inspires--begs us for a time of total honesty." Encouraged by this early mentorship and the affirmative response of his new audiences, Michael was convinced to pursue a formal musical career and embarked on a string of cross-country gigs in clubs, bars and coffee houses in search of more fans.

"When I went out, it was me, my van, and my guitar. It was a reflective time in my life, wandering across the country in solitude, seeking mind-opening experiences. At times it was very humbling, and at other times it was very empowering." This solitary creative pilgrimage ultimately became a time of self-discovery, inspiring many of the upcoming songs for I Am.

In the fall of 2003, having finally completed his journey in New York City, Michael set out to produce his debut album on Octone Records with pop crossover producers, Pop Rox. "He doesn't get on the mic and spit some false, brooding bullshit just to stay cool amongst his peers. Michael's words aim to uplift in an era when artists fear committing to thoughtful, uplifting material," testifies Pop Rox.

Recorded by Chris Shaw (Bob Dylan, Weezer, Dashboard Confessional) and mixed by Tim Palmer (U2, Pearl Jam, The Cure) & Mark Endert (Fiona Apple, Madonna), I Am boasts an impressive arsenal of ideas, melodies and messages - from the groove, beat-laden hooks of "Mission Responsible" & "No One Above" to the pop elegance of "Sooner Or Later" to the lyrical sophistication of "The Sun Song" & "Bad Habits."

For the sessions, Michael enlisted a diverse company of special guests to help realize his creative vision. The album includes harmonic, melodic and rhythmic contributions from ?uestlove (The Roots, Common), Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule), Gavin DeGraw, Pete Levin (Spin Doctors, Fun Lovin' Criminals), Eddie Martinez (Joe Cocker, Run-DMC), Paul Frazier (David Byrne, Shawn Colvin) and Carl Carter (Maxwell).

After applying the final mixing touches in NY and LA, Michael cast off once again to strengthen his fan base and share stages with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sister Hazel, Everclear, Pat McGee Band, Tonic, George Clinton & P-Funk, The North Mississippi All-stars and Cowboy Mouth. An early, limited edition EP release helped to broaden the Tolcher story further.

Now, Michael and his band have been touring endlessly, accompanying Michelle Branch, Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw, Virginia Coalition, Pat McGee Band, Everclear, The Clarks, Hanson, Howie Day and Sister Hazel. He has been gaining national exposure through television appearances on Jimmy Kimmel, Last Call with Carson Daly, American Dreams, and morning shows on the WB and CBS, and his single "Mission Responsible" is taking off at radio.

In Michael's words, "There's a side of me that I want you to see. That's what the record is about. Uncovering and Revealing. I attempt to open my personal experiences into human experiences making what I am a reflection of what you are. If I'm successful, then I become a single voice of the hearts and minds of many. That is the magic of artful expression. When it's real, it's felt both by the expressers and the witnesses. I wanted the record to tickle the ears, vibrate the hips and stimulate the mind. My formula is ancient and simple: Melody + rhythm + meaning = song."

I Am is in stores now!
www.michaeltolcher.com

HAPPY TRAUM

* Your musical inspirations?  

My original inspiration to start playing guitar and banjo was Pete Seeger, who I saw in concert for the first time back in the mid-fifties. Through Pete I was introduced to Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Josh White, Cisco Houston and many other early folk song pioneers. Most importantly, I started listening to blues, especially recordings of Brownie McGhee, with whom I eventually studied guitar and wrote an instruction book. From there, my inspirations spread to many of the early blues and country singers and instrumentalists: Mississippi John Hurt, Merle Travis, Doc Watson, Libba Cotten ... the list goes on and on. I was lucky to be active in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the sixties, so I became friends with Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk, John Herald and John Sebastian - who remains one of my closest friends to this day. Finally, I am continually inspired by my brother, Artie Traum, who is a superb musician, songwriter and creative spirit.

* Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians? 

My favorite musicians and CDs would be too long to list here, as they encompass many genres and musical styles. The ones that come immediately to mind are Bob Dylan (of course), Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, James Taylor, Paul Brady, Joan Armatrading, Laurie Lewis, Kate Rusby, Tim O'Brien, Rory Block, Tom Waits, Mark Knopfler, Nic Jones... and on and on.....

Happy Traum began playing guitar and 5-string banjo as a teenager, and was an active participant of the legendary Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1950s and ‘60s. Since then he has performed extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan, both as a soloist and as a member of various groups. His avid interest in traditional and contemporary music has brought him recognition as a performer, writer, editor, session musician, folklorist, teacher, and recording artist.

Happy first appeared on record at a historic session in 1963 when a group of young folk musicians, including Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Peter LaFarge and The Freedom Singers gathered in Folkways Records' studio for an album called "Broadside, Vol.1." Happy with his group, the New World Singers, cut the first recorded version of "Blowin' In The Wind," and Happy sang a duet with Dylan on his anti-war song "I Will Not Go Down Under The Ground." (These tracks were re--released in August, 2000 by Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings as part of a boxed set, "The Best of Broadsides."). Later that year, the New World Singers (Happy, Bob Cohen and Gil Turner) recorded an album for Atlantic Records, with liner notes by Dylan.

In 1965 Happy wrote "Fingerpicking Styles for Guitar," the first of more than a dozen important instruction books which documented the playing of the great traditional guitarists. He also started writing for Sing Out! The Folksong Magazine and, in 1967, he became the magazine's editor, a position which he held for three years. Happy has also written articles and instructional columns for Rolling Stone, Acoustic Guitar, Guitar Player and other music publications.

In 1968, Jane, Happy and their three children moved to Woodstock, NY, and Happy and his brother Artie formed a duet that, according to Rolling Stone, "defined the Northeast folk music style." Their performances at the 1968 and 1969 Newport Folk Festivals helped to gain them an avid following and a contract with famed manager Albert Grossman. In 1970 they recorded their first album for Capitol Records, "Happy And Artie Traum," which The New York Times called "One of the best records in any field of pop music." A second highly praised album, "Double Back," soon followed. Happy and Artie toured extensively throughout the U.S., and in 1972 made their first trip to England to play at the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival.

"Between them they've been studio musicians, composers, comedians, writers, editors, folklorists, and a host of other things.... A brilliant and unique entity in the world of country-folk music." - The New York Times

In 1971 Happy once again joined Bob Dylan in the studio, playing guitar, banjo, bass, and singing harmony on three songs, which appeared on Bob Dylan's "Greatest Hits, Vol. 2." Dylan also invited Happy to participate in a famous session with poet Allen Ginsberg, which resulted in the box set, "Holy Soul Jelly Roll."

The following year, Happy and Artie produced the classic folk album "Mud Acres, Music Among Friends," which became a best seller for Rounder Records. In 1974 Happy and Artie cut "Hard Times In The Country," their third duet album, with liner notes by Allen Ginsberg. They subsequently produced and played on three more albums featuring top folk and rock musicians under the collective title The Woodstock Mountains Revue. The core group, comprised of Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, John Herald, Roly Salley, Larry Campbell, Pat Alger, and Happy & Artie Traum, toured the Northeast, Europe and Japan. Other members who appeared on the recordings included John Sebastian, Eric Andersen, Rory Block, Paul Butterfield, Eric Kaz, Lee Berg, Maria Muldaur, Arlen Roth, Caroline Dutton and many others.

Happy recorded his first solo album, “Relax Your Mind,” in 1975 and embarked on the first of many European tours. “American Stranger” was released in 1977 (“An absolute gem...one of the best folk music albums released this year.” - Folk Scene). "Bright Morning Stars" was released in 1980, and "Friends And Neighbors," recorded "live" in a Woodstock concert, was released in 1983. Shanachie Records released a compilation album, “Buckets Of Songs,” in 1988, and “Bright Morning Stars” was re-released on CD both in the U.S. and in Japan in 2001.

Although their musical careers have diverged, Happy and Artie continue to perform together at concerts, clubs and festivals. For four years they hosted a popular "live" radio show, "Bring It On Home," which was broadcast monthly from the performance studio at National Public Radio affiliate WAMC in Albany, NY. Sony Records later issued a two-CD set featuring excerpts from “Bring It On Home.” In 1994, Happy and Artie released "Test of Time," their first CD as a duo in many years. As Levon Helm of the Band said: "Their music still flows as natural and clear as a Catskill Mountain stream."

Perhaps Happy's most important and lasting musical contribution has been Homespun Tapes, which he and his wife Jane founded in 1967. This dynamic and growing company has a catalog of more than 500 music lessons on DVD, videotape and CD, and their products are sold around the globe. Taught by top professional performing musicians, the lessons cover a wide variety of instruments and musical styles. Happy produces all of the lessons, and brings to Homespun over 40 years of experience as a guitarist, performer, writer, teacher, and popular member of the music community. Happy Traum's DiscographySolo: 1975 Relax Your Mind - Kicking Mule Recordings (LP)

1977 American Stranger - Kicking Mule Recordings (LP)

1983 Friends and Neighbors - Vest Pocket (cassette and LP)

1987Buckets of Songs - Shanachie (CD)

1979 (reissued 2001) - Bright Morning Stars (CD) - Larks’ Nest Records ( U.S.)
and Slice of Life ( Japan)

2005 I Walk the Road Again (CD) – Roaring Stream RecordsWith various groups: 1963 Broadside, Vol. 1 (both solo and with The New World Singers) - Folkways Records (with Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, The Freedom Singers, and others).The New World Singers (Happy, Bob Cohen, Gil Turner and Delores Dixon) performed the first recorded version of Blowin' in the Wind, and Happy sang a duet with Dylan on I Will Not Go Down Under the Ground (later recorded as Let Me Die in My Footsteps). These performances were included in the 2000 box set The Best of Broadside (Smithsonian/Folkways).

1964 The New World Singers - Atlantic Records (liner notes by Bob Dylan)

1966 The Children of Paradise - Columbia Records (single) A rock band featuring Happy and Artie Traum, Eric Kaz and Marc Silber.

1972 Mud Acres: Music Among Friends - Rounder Records (reissued on CD 2005) Happy and Artie produced and performed, along with Eric Kaz, Maria Muldaur, Jim Rooney, Bill Keith, John Herald, Lee Berg and Tony Brown.

1976 Woodstock Mountains: More Music from Mud Acres - Rounder (LP) with Happy and Artie, Pat Alger, Eric Andersen, Lee Berg, Rory Block, Paul Butterfield, John Herald, Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, Roly Salley, John Sebastian, Paul Siebel and others.

1978 Woodstock Mountains Revue: Pretty Lucky - Rounder (LP)

1981 Woodstock Mountains Revue: Back to Mud Acres - Rounder (LP)

1987 Woodstock Mountains: Music from Mud Acres - Rounder (CD)

1990 Bring It On Home, Vol. 1 and 2 - Sony Legacy (CD) The "Best of..." Happy and Artie's WAMC Public Radio show.

2000 The Best of Broadside – Smithsonian/Folkways Boxed SetWith Artie Traum: 1970 Happy and Artie Traum - Capitol Records (LP)

1971 Double Back - Capitol Records (LP)

1974 Hard Times in the Country - Rounder Records (reissued as CD in 2005)

1994 The Test of Time - Roaring Stream Records (CD)Recordings as a back-up musician: 1971 Bob Dylan's "Greatest Hits, Vol. 2" - Columbia Happy recorded three duets with Bob, singing and playing guitar, banjo and bass: "Down in the Flood," "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "I Shall Be Released."1971 Allen Ginsberg "Holy Soul Jelly Roll" with Bob Dylan (producer), David Amram, Ed Sanders, et al. Happy can also be heard on albums with: Chris Smither, Jerry Jeff Walker, Tom Pacheco, Priscilla Herdman, Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Eric Andersen, Rory Block, Maria Muldaur, Peter Tosh, Rick Danko, Levon Helm and many others.
www.happytraum.com
www.homespuntapes.com

RIK EMMETT

* Your musical inspirations?  
 
Originally inspired by choir lessons at school, and the choir and the organ at church; by The Beatles, and then by almost every guitarist who had a decent notion.  Eventually, one realizes that music is in almost everything, waiting to inspire you:  in the rhythm of language, in sunrises and sunsets, in the tempo of the way a beautiful woman moves, in the cry of a bird, carried on the wind.  Music is in the way planets spin, orbits return, gravity pulls, rivers flow, tides rise and fall.  Musical inspiration is waiting in the way electrons dance, and in DNA.  Music can be inspired by time and space, and the need and desire to fill up the time and space between people. Music inspiration can come from a kind of connect-the-dots chess game ...   
 
 * Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians?
 
Metheny Group - Pat Metheny - Still Life Talking, We Live Here, Letter From Home
Steely Dan - almost everything
James Taylor - almost everything
Paul Simon - almost everything
Selected tracks from the Yardbirds alumni - Beck, Page, Clapton.
Yes - Fragile and Close To The Edge
Early Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple with Blackmore ...
Of course, almost the entire Beatles catalogue. 
Julian Bream Plays Granados and Albeniz - Music of Spain.
Joe Pass - L'il Darlin'.
 
 * Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?
 
Comfort through funerals and grieving, yes. 

Serenity and powerful, therapeutic medicine when recovering from sickness and injury, yes. 
  
Reminders to rise above petty politics to higher principles, yes.
 
Reminders to place the integrity of Art before Commerce or the dogma of Religion, yes. 
 
Reminders that life should also be about fun and celebration and recreation, yes. 
 
Expression of emotions for marriages, babies being born, children graduating; also tender, intimate moments, yes x 4.

These are not so much difficult times as powerful ones - and music is one of the most important parts of all of them.    

Rik Emmett was a relatively unknown singer/songwriter/guitarist on the local Toronto scene in September of 1975, when he joined a newly-forming hard rock trio. By 1979 that act had three albums that had gone gold and platinum in Canada, and two of these had charted in the States, receiving serious radio airplay. By 1981, they were firmly established as one of the premier touring rock acts in North America, with generous FM radio airplay support and heavy rotation on the fledgling MTV cable channel. In the next seven years they released a total of ten albums, which all struck gold, as four of them went platinum in Canada, and two went gold Stateside. Emmett's name frequently appeared in guitar magazine polls, and he won some prestigious awards, including Best Lead Guitarist nationally in 1981. Rik left that band in 1988 to fly solo, but as one of the original band members, he was inducted into the Canadian Rock Hall of Fame in 1993.

Rik's solo career began in 1989 and spawned three releases for Duke Street/MCA Records. The first album of the three, Absolutely, went gold in 1990, yielding the hits "Saved by Love" and "Big Lie", two songs that provided a fairly easy transition from triumphant arena rocking while maintaining a sense of continuity for FM radio listeners. Perhaps a bit more of a surprise was the ballad, "When a Heart Breaks", which crossed a rock guitar hero over into other radio formats, and revealed a more sensitive singer/songwriter persona. "World of Wonder" also received substantial airplay, and revealed an expanding lyrical and stylistic range. Ipso Facto followed in '92. It offered up such hits as "Out of The Blue", the Stevie Ray / Jimi / Wes Montgomery tribute, and "Bang On", a rocking return to one of Rik's personal themes - positive motivation and inspiration. Ipso Facto was a tour de force of that 'damnable' stylistic versatility - no surprise to fans who knew Rik as a guy who always put trademark classical guitar pieces or little jazz tunes in between the hard rock anthems, arena blues riffs and progressive flourishes found on past records.

A strong singer/songwriter album called Spiral Notebook followed in '95, which got noticed through airplay of the singles "Let Me Be The One" and "The Longing", both examples of Emmett's abilities as a sensitive balladeer, arranger, and producer.

In 1996, Rik Emmett's career entered another new phase, as he began testing the courage of his musical convictions with his work at THE REC ROOM, a digital studio facility he built, and through OPEN HOUSE Records, his own label.

Artistically, following those convictions paid off. The first release for OPEN HOUSE was Ten Invitations from the Mistress of Mr E., a beautifully written and performed CD of instrumental classical nylon string guitar. Critics and fans were reminded that the 'rock guitar god' was not a one trick pony. Rik then recorded part two of his guitar trilogy, Swing Shift, which took a completely different musical direction, featuring jazz, swing and fusion. Again, the CD was well received, and piqued the interest of brand new fans in growing musical circles. Perhaps more importantly, he continued to elevate the spirits of his diehard supporters who were witnessing a musical transformation that would come to defy easy classification. Raw Quartet, released in early 1999, became the final CD in the trilogy, displaying Rik's passion and natural affinity for blues and rock. 1999's Live at Berklee (highlights from sold out shows at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston), was followed by a traditional Spirit Of Christmas album, recorded in collaboration with keyboardist Sam Reid. 2002 brought the release of a 20th Century Masters Best of Rik Emmett Collection, and another widely-acclaimed instrumental masterpiece - Handiwork. In the late summer of 2003, the singer/songwriter of GOOD FAITH emerged, and yet another new chapter began in an already storied career.
www.rikemmett.com
Rik/MapleMusic

AL KOOPER

* Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians?

Pet Sounds, Painted From Memory by Bachrach & Costello,

Bernadette by The 4 Tops

New bands Shimmer and Weather

Ray Charles, Donny Hathaway, James Burton, Horace Silver,

Al Green, Sam Cooke, Rance Allen and Claude Jeter

are but a handful.......

A professional musician since his early teens, Al Kooper enjoyed his first real taste of pop music success during the nascent days of rock and roll as popular music. He joined The Royal Teens, who had a Top 5 hit with the tune "Short Shorts" in 1958 and a Top 30 hit a year later with "Believe Me." Kooper was hooked.

"I was hanging around the fringes of the music business," he says of the period after he did his time with the Royal Teens.

"I was playing sessions on guitar. People would hire me because their only alternative was to hire these jazz players to play this teenage music. These guys were smoking cigars, emulating what kids would play. So, they would hire me to get that 'dumb, kid sound.' I assume that's why I was hired, because I really couldn't play anywhere near as well as those other guys."

As time went by, Kooper got better, got confident and got known. Producers called on him to lay down guitar parts for scads of teen records, "Certainly, a lot of them you've never heard of," he laughs. "It was a very educational part of my life," he continues. "I learned how to read and write music for the studio. I made friends with the players. They were all very nice to me with some exceptions. I didn't claim to be up to their musicianship, but it was a great university. The difference between the first time and the fifth time I was on a session was immense. The first time they should have thrown me out, but I was lucky!"

In addition to session work, he apprenticed as an audio engineer. He also teamed up with songwriters Bob Brass and Irwin Levine. This partnership yielded the chart topping smash, "This Diamond Ring," performed by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. It has now exceeded it's 3-millionth radio performance.

One of the friends he made during this time, producer Tom Wilson, invited Kooper to watch a Bob Dylan session. By the afternoon's end, Al had played the signature organ riff on Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone," alongside blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield. His association and friendship with Bloomfield lasted until the guitarist's untimely death in 1981, spawning the million-selling Super Session album with Stephen Stills, as well as the highly regarded Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper. His relationship with Dylan has been ongoing for the last 30 years. Kooper has played with him on record and on stage, as well as having produced his "New Morning" album. The catchy organ part on Dylan's first chart-topping single led to many offers of session work. "I'd get tons of calls," Kooper muses. "Some of them, I didn't even want to do, but I didn't want to say no. So, I'd just charge them triple scale, thinking that would deter them. It didn't."

One offer he couldn't refuse was to join the Blues Project. Along with guitarist Danny Kalb, bassist Andy Kulberg, guitarist Steve Katz, and drummer Roy Blumenfeld, the Blues Project helped spearhead the 60's urban blues sound with critically hailed records and widely acclaimed live performances. "Two Trains Running" on Kooper's fiery live album, SOUL OF A MAN (currently out of print), illustrates just how remarkable the Blues Project can still sound live. That album also contains live takes of the Project chestnuts - " I Can't Keep From Cryin'' Sometimes," "Flute Thing" and "Violets Of Dawn."

After two years and three records with the Blues Project, Kooper started hearing another sound in his head. It started with the blues, but added killer horn charts without losing the rock edge. That idea became the trend-setting Blood Sweat & Tears. The original horn section included Dick Halligan on trombone, Jerry Weiss and Randy Brecker on trumpets and Fred Lipsius on alto sax.

Kooper left Blood Sweat and Tears in 1968 after just one album, CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN, taking a job with the Columbia Records A&R department. Here he began recording albums; first with Mike Bloomfield (the top-ten SUPER SESSION), then Shuggie Otis, and his own solo debut, I STAND ALONE. He continued to do session work, adding his keyboards to records by The Rolling Stones (Al played on "You Can't Always Get What You Want"), Jimi Hendrix (“Long Hot Summer Nights”), The Who (“Rael”), and innumerable others. He also scored the Hal Ashby film The Landlord in 1970.

In 1972, Kooper moved to Atlanta, attracted by the music he heard there. He discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd at a favorite hangout. Forming his own label (Sounds of the South) to put out their records, he produced their first three albums, which included the massive hits "Sweet Home Alabama," “Saturday Night Special,” and "Free Bird." In 1974 he sold Sounds of the South to MCA Records and moved to Los Angeles. Around this time, Kooper literally began collecting his thoughts. In 1977, his autobiography, Backstage Passes, was published. A beefed-up version of this critically-hailed tome, covered Kooper's career from 1958 - 1997. Retitled "Backstage Passes & Backstabbing' Bastards," it debuted in the fall of 1998 and then mysteriously went out of print in 2002.

Taking up residency in England in 1979, Kooper continued producing, adding David Essex & Eddie & The Hot Rods to his burgeoning productions list. He played on and arranged three tracks on George Harrison's SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND album, performing with the remaining Beatles, Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the No. 1 single "All Those Years Ago."

His return to the US in 1980 marked the beginning of a busy year for Kooper. He produced a record with country rocker Joe Ely, a native of his new home of Austin, Texas. He returned to LA the next year and toured with Dylan and the reunited Blues Project, additionally releasing a new album (Championship Wrestling) after a six-year recording hiatus.

He next took on the job of West Coast Director of A&R for PolyGram Records, where he was instrumental in signing Richard Thompson. He also met producer/director Michael Mann, who was riding high on the success of Miami Vice. Mann hired Kooper to score his Crime Story TV series. Kooper wrote original music and chose source music for each episode from his vast record collection, giving the show it's 60's noir feel. He also did music for the Emmy Award-winning miniseries, The Drug Wars as well as producing some of the soundtrack for the John Waters film "Cry Baby".

In the latter part of the 80's, Kooper took a vacation from the music business. "I just took a break," Al explains. "I considered myself semiretired. I stopped looking for work." While he stopped looking, the Beastie Boys sampled Al's song "Flute Thing" on their ILL COMMUNICATIONS album and sold 5 million copies. Many hip-hop producers sample Kooper's catalogue and in a recent survey in Hip Hop Magazine, Kooper was noted as the only artist sampled by all of the top producers polled. Recently. Jay-Z sampled some Kooper on the song “Soon You'll Understand” from his multi-platinum Dynasty album. The Robert Redford film "Sneakers" opened with the Kooper-Bloomfield composition and performance of "Really" from Super Session, and was later reprised in the film.

So you see, the music never took a break from Al Kooper. The summer of 1991 found him playing keyboards & guitar as a member of Joe Walsh's Ordinary Average Guy tour. During the fall, he took on musical director chores for Ray Charles 50th Anniversary cable TV special. In 1992, he became music director for the strangest band of all. Backstage Passes (his autobiography) qualified him as a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a loosely affiliated rock band made up of authors including Dave Barry, Stephen King, Dave Marsh, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and perhaps ten other writers. Their touring adventures became grist for their own book, 1995's hysterical Mid-life Confidential, published by Viking/Penguin, now a remainder, itself.

"It was hilarious and wonderful," he laughs. "They are terrific people. It was great to meet them and I've become close friends with many of them. We ended up putting on a very entertaining show. I think it was a nice change of pace for them, too. They got the chance to meet and get to know each other. We had the only rock and roll tour bus TV that had the McNeil Lehrer Report tuned in!"

The past ten years have included the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Tribute at Madison Square Garden, where he reprised his classic organ parts for John Mellencamp's versions of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat." Al also joined Dylan in England in the summer of '96 at the Prince's Trust concert in Hyde Park. Kooper also played organ for the Sunday morning Gospel set at Woodstock II. Ironically, he was asked to appear at the original Woodstock, but blew it off. "I played at Central Park that weekend for two dollars a ticket in protest of their comparative high ticket prices," he laughs. "One of my great career moves, turning down the original Woodstock."

Kooper had been a dozen years between albums when fate came calling: "The MusicMasters label asked if I would record an instrumental album for them," he says. "I'd had a concept for an instrumental album in my head for about ten years, and I didn't know when the right time to do it was. So, here I really had nothing to lose. I decided to take them up on their offer. Had it not been for MusicMasters, there probably would still be no Al Kooper album." 1993's result of this synergy, REKOOPERATION (now out of print!?!), came out with coast to coast raves from even usually staid critics. The personnel from that CD made up Kooper's band The Rekooperators. Boasting late-night stalwarts Anton Fig on drums and Jimmy Vivino on guitar, they were joined by Al's boyhood chum Harvey Brooks on bass and the Uptown Horns. Their appearance on Al's 1995 double-live album, SOUL OF A MAN, was one of the highlights of that album. Reprising "Downtime" & "I Wanna Little Girl" from REKOOPERATION, they also churn out blistering versions of Adrian Belew's "Heartbeat", "Albert's Shuffle' & "Season Of The Witch" from SUPER SESSION, and a killer medley of songs from Al's solo albums to mention but a few.

Kooper is far from semiretirement now. He co- produced the critically-acclaimed FOR THE LOVE OF HARRY: EVERYBODY SINGS NILSSON. This tribute to the late singer-songwriter and longtime Kooper pal, Harry Nilsson, is a strictly charity effort with all profits earmarked for The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence. Appearing alongside Al are Randy Newman, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Jimmy Webb, Aimee Mann & Marc Cohn to name but a few of the 23 artists who appear at their own expense on the album. He hosted the 1995 TEC Awards (The audio industry’s Oscars) in New York City, bringing the crowd to it's feet with a chilling, solo performance of "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know."

He answers all his fan e-mail from this website: "It's great to be one- on-one with my supporters and answer any questions they may have on a daily basis!," he says. A Kooper hologram also appeared on the Bob Dylan CD-ROM, "Highway 61 Interactive," explaining how the two met and recorded "Like A Rolling Stone."

His performances are popping up now on career-encompassing box sets by the likes of Tom Petty, Joe Cocker, The Who, The Rolling Stones & Dylan. Polygram recently released a 2 CD Blues Project Anthology, while SONY released the landmark "Live Adventures" album on CD featuring Kooper & Bloomfield at The Fillmore West in '69.

In an issue devoted to The 500 Greatest Recordings of All Time, Rolling Stone magazine included 12 albums with serious particiaption by Al.

Al continued his influential forays into his fifth decade in the music business. He scores the occasional film and works almost daily in his home studio. He relocated to Boston in the fall of '97 to teach at the Berklee School Of Music. Concurrently, Five Towns College in Long Island bestowed an honorary Doctorate of Music on Kooper in May of '97, to start him off at Berklee as Dr. Kooper. In the fall of 2001, Berklee bestowed their own doctorate on Kooper, in a ceremony also honoring jazz great Elvin Jones.

His teaching was cut short prematurely in 2001, when a debilitating condition permanently robbed him of two-thirds of his sight. “Not to worry,” he said with typical aplomb, “As long as I’ve got my hands and my ears, I can still see my way clear to performing the music I love. Besides, what a great excuse to not have to drive in Boston!” An MRI at the time also detected a benign, walnut-sized brain tumor. With astute New England medicos around him, said tumor was removed on November 12th, 2001. A two-month recovery and some amazing natural hair-regrowth returned our boy to normal!

With DJ offers, concerts and lecture appearances, Al is "finally getting to do a whole bunch of things I always wanted to do, but never actually got around to." In addition to his New York-based group, The Rekooperators, Al assembled an amazing Boston-based band of Berklee professors dubbed The Funky Faculty. While originally performing in the New England area, they began stretching their performing boundaries to include New York, Detroit, Chicago, a highly acclaimed appearance at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway during the summer of 2001 and a sold-out tour of Japan in 2003. Berklee set up a scholarship fund in Al's name to assist handicapped students in overcoming any difficulties that would prevent them from attending the school. The Al Kooper It Can Happen Fund can be contributed to at any time through the Berklee School Of Music.

In 2001, SONY-Legacy released Al’s box set RARE & WELL DONE . This two CD set contains one CD of Al’s most popular tracks remastered in 24-bit digital under Al’s supervision for the first time. Chestnuts such as “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” “Flute Thing,” “Season Of The Witch,” “Albert’s Shuffle,” and “Bury My Body,” sound better than they ever have before on disc. The second CD is a collection of eighteen unreleased tracks recorded by Kooper from 1964 to the present, plus Al’s first solo single from 1965, long out of print, “New York’s My Home.” A fact-filled 28 page full-color booklet is enclosed with all recording details, insightful liner notes by longtime rock critic Jaan Uhelszki, rare photos from the SONY archives, and testimonials from Kooper fans as diverse as Tom Petty, Pete Townshend, Steve Winwood, Gene Simmons, Gary Burton, Billy Gibbons, Andy Partridge and George Winston to single out a few.A long-lost unreleased Fillmore East concert by Al & Mike Bloomfield from 1968 wasan early 2003 SONY-Legacy release as well as a remastered SUPER SESSION CD with 4 bonus tracks!

In the works for 2005-2006, an Al-helmed Mike Bloomfield boxset, SACD 5.1 versions of CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN and SUPER SESSION, A monthly radio show called Obscuritiva hosted by Al on England’s Radio Caroline, the first solo album since 1975’s ACT LIKE NOTHING’S WRONG tentatively titled I AM WHERE I WANNA BE, an audiobook of Al’s sadly out-of-print autobiography, a DVD of a NYC Bottom Line solo performance from 2003, a CD of Al’s early songwriting demos to be released in the UK and a collaboration with acclaimed poet ML Liebler; ML reading his poems and Al providing a musical score for them.

And most assuredly, Al will be seen in many live performances all over the world, either solo, with The Rekooperators or The Funky Faculty.
www.alkooper.com

MAIA SHARP

* Your musical inspirations?  

Bonnie Raitt, Annie Lennox, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon

"Maia is making some of the most innovative and soulful music around with songs that are head and shoulders above the rest. She has become one of my favorite artists. Fine Upstanding Citizen is a brilliant album, start to finish." - Bonnie Raitt

"Life can't be too bad when Carole King and Art Garfunkel have got your back and Bonnie Raitt, the Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood and Cher are recording your songs," said one reviewer. And for Maia Sharp it's not.

On the cover of Sharp's third solo album, Fine Upstanding Citizen, there's a fence separating two homes. On one side, the lawn is overgrown, while the other is manicured and pristine. From each side of the property line, two land owners stare at one another. In some ways, it's a peek into both Sharp's songs and personality, she says. "I can relate to both sides of those fences, you're trying to be perfect in some way, but you also want to let art be art, and let whatever wants to happen happen."

It's that push and pull within Sharp's songs that's helped her catch the ears of the music elite. In addition to two previous released solo albums - Fine Upstanding Citizen is her debut for KOCH Records - the Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist has seen about two dozen of her songs recorded by artists running the gamut, from chart-topping pop acts to Rock and Roll Hall of Famers with some having Sharp herself back them on their finished tracks, including most recently Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Edwin McCain and Lisa Loeb.

Constantly writing for both her albums and others, the prolific Sharp has whittled the abundance songs she's written over the past 24 months into the 12 that compose Fine Upstanding Citizen. "I'm writing all the time and I'm proud of all the songs, but there are always some I feel more of a connection to as artist.

"Fine Upstanding Citizen features tracks co-written with acclaimed Americana songbird Kim Richey, hip pop songstress Imani Coppola and Socal tunesmith Steve Poltz (known for his work with Jewel). There is also a co-write with Sharp's country songwriter father, Randy Sharp, noted for his hits for Clay Walker, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and others. The album features Sharp's own version of "A Home," the title song she landed on the Dixie Chicks' multi-platinum smash Home.

Co-produced by Sharp and Brad Jones (Butterfly Boucher, Jill Sobule, Richard Julian), the disc's hook laden tracks blend elements of pop and folk with shards of jazz. "I like to wear a lot of hats and I have fun with all of them," she says.

The spirited, album-opener, "Red Dress," is a poppy gust of roots rock co-written with Richey. Sharp relays that it was inspired by a wild character in the book Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, who emerges from adolescence untamed by the convent-like school to which her parents had consigned her.

 Track 2, the powerful first radio single "Something Wild," immediately ensnares you, "You were so beautiful from where I stood/So I chased you down and held you as close as I could." She explains, "It's a relationship song built around the idea that the very thing that drew you to someone could be the thing you crush if you get too close."

The title track, co-written with Imani Coppola, is a shoplifter's worst-case scenario in which the thief is lassoed by a good Samaritan, a "Fine Upstanding Citizen." "Sorry. Never happened," Sharp says. "Sometimes I like to become someone in my songs that I'm not in real life. The idea of being a rule breaker in this song was attractive to me because I'm such a hopeless square."

Sharp was raised with a singer/songwriter father and a mother who sang and performed regularly. Watching them making a living doing something they loved, there was little doubt that she would continue the Sharp family business. "There were always instruments around, and I was free to bang on them anytime I wanted to.

While she did just that, it was the saxophone that Sharp latched onto in grade school and later. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, she also got hooked on such quintessential '70s singer/songwriters as Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Carole King and Rickie Lee Jones. "Bonnie and Rickie Lee had some of my favorite albums to play sax along to. I still go back to them for inspiration and as a reminder of what helped me get started."

"I thought I was going to be strictly a saxophone player. I traveled the circuit and played in horn sections all around L.A. I tried to turn this thing I love into my job. While it was fairly satisfying, it just wasn't quite everything. When I started writing and singing, I knew immediately that this was the thing I needed to do full time."

In 1997, she signed with Miles Copeland's Ark 21 label, on which she issued her debut disc, Hardly Glamour. The disc, which saw her handling vocal, guitar, keyboard and sax duties, scored a Triple A radio hit with "I Need This to Be Love." Later that year, she was nominated for Triple-A radio's Artist of the Year and Cher recorded a version of one of the set's highlights, "Don't Come Around Tonight."

She joined up with Art Garfunkel and Buddy Mondlock on their EMI/Blue Note trio project Everything Waits to Be Noticed, co-writing several tracks, trading off lead vocals and harmonies with the legend, playing on the disc and then touring with the folk icon. Summarizing his time with Maia, Garfunkel simply says, "In the tradition of great female artists, Karla Bonoff, Bonnie Raitt, Christine McVie, Shawn Colvin, Sarah McLachlan.....now enter Maia Sharp."

At the same time, Concord Records released her self titled second album Maia Sharp to critical acclaim. The singles "Willing to Burn" and "Crimes of the Witness" both landed in the top 10 in the Triple A radio format.  This was a very busy time for Sharp promoting both the Garfunkel project and her own.

Maia has also hit the road with a host of other highly regarded artists including Patty Griffin, Johnny Lang, Keb' Mo', Bob Schneider, Jonatha Brooke, David Wilcox and Edwin McCain, with whom she recently dueted on the co-write "Say Anthing," from his current Scream & Whisper.

Sharp has written with Carole King, Jules Shear, Timothy B. Schmitt, Wilcox, Amanda Marshall and Paul Carrack among others. "Maia is an old soul…I'm so glad I got to write with her," King remarked afterward, while Brooke offered, "Her songs have the harmonic twists and turns that always kill me, her voice gets to my very heart and soul, and she still manages to deliver those classic, fabulous hooks."

In April 2002, the Dixie Chicks recorded "A Home." "It was pretty overwhelming. When there are so many people trying to get their songs cut on a limited number of albums, to have it on the record of a group that I already loved and have so much respect for was a huge accomplishment for me. The icing on the cake was that they did an incredible version of it."

When Sharp is asked what she hopes her fans take from this album she says, "I want them to feel like they paid for 12 great songs and that's what they got. I have such an appreciation for albums, I've never bought a record just for the single. I buy them for the whole journey." After a pause she adds, "And that in "Fine Upstanding Citizen" I do not endorse shoplifting…….particularly of this cd."

Fine Upstanding Citizen will be released by KOCH Records on March 22, 2005.
www.maiasharp.com

©Voices and Visions
 2003-2005