Boz Scaggs Australian Interview II 2003
[By Brian Wise]
After more than thirty years in music Scaggs enjoyed one of his most successful albums to date when his latest album ButBeautiful spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard jazz charts earlier this year. Is it a whole new career for the veteran singer/songwriter?
Amidst a plethora of artists who have delved into The Great American Songbook over the past year is Boz Scaggs, the music veteran who played in the Steve Miller Band and began his recording career with in 1969 with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section and legendary guitarist Duane Allman guesting on guitar.
More than thirty years and over a dozen albums later, having enjoyed huge chart success in the late 70's with albums like Silk Degrees, Scaggs is back with a sharp change of direction.
For But Beautiful: Standards Volume 1 he has enlisted a 4 piece ensemble, including impressive young saxophonist; Eric Crystal, for a stroll through some jazz standards written by such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Rodgers & Hart, Sammy Cahn and the Gershwins. Scaggs' rich, warm voice fits the songs like a glove.
"It's very gratifying," says Scaggs on the success of But Beautiful. "I enjoyed very much making this record and to find that it's been so nicely accepted is of course very gratifying, I'm very grateful."
In the liner notes for the album Scaggs recalls the genesis of the album when some years ago his friend Jimmy Pierre gave him a list of songs he wanted Scaggs to record and loaned him some albums to listen to as well.
"I don't believe that I really pursued that quite seriously at the time," he says, "but I kept those records with me and I kept his notes with me for all those years and when it was time to seriously think about getting that material that was a very valuable stepping stone for me."
Scaggs' album harks back to the days when there was no such thing as the singer/songwriter. It was an era when singers interpreted songs and songwriters worked (often in teams)to craft those songs.
"Yes, they were really crafted for other reasons in those days," he agrees, "Many of the songs that we explore that are considered the American standards were written for musical theatre or for films. So I guess the writers had to be very skillful in constructing material that a variety of stylists could cover - male and female in some cases. So they were such craftsmen and I guess that's why this material stood the test of time and been done by so many people."
I mention the seeming plethora of successful albums that have been released in the past year containing ballads and classic songs from yesteryear.
"There's been numerous articles written in the past year about this phenomenon," he replies, "and I think several things come immediately to mind. There are all sorts of theories and intellectual propositions that these styles of music, these melodies and these complex chords and harmonic structures have not really been in the mainstream of music for the last few decades. It's just all things are cyclical and it's about time for this to come around. Of course, when Norah Jones was so successful in America, I think perhaps there as well it signalled a time when people were open to this type of music again. So there must be a good twenty very important music artists of my generation who have done this within the past few years. So people are looking for music with a bit more complexity. So anyway here we are."
I wonder if But Beautiful has opened up a whole new career for Scaggs and whether he might, like Rod the Bod, record another volume.
"Oh I will record this music, I will continue to do this," he volunteers. "I love the music. I'm glad to have discovered it and I'm glad to have found this quartet of musicians to work with.
I have a studio so I will continue doing this, not to say I won't continue to do what I've always done which is writing songs and exploring other music avenues it's just another thing to do as a singer and as a musician."