Boz Scaggs Interview

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Boz Scaggs happy to play the great outdoors at Syracuse Jazz Fest

Published: Thursday, June 24, 2010, 12:01 AM

Boz Scaggs says his arrival in Seattle has been quite the shock to his system, what with climbing out to 50-degree temperatures after a stop in Las Vegas, where it was “109 degrees.”

The veteran singer and guitarist is ready to go, weather be damned.

“Audiences are out there and want to hear us,” says Scaggs, who will be traveling east this week for a Saturday night headliner’s slot at the Syracuse Jazz Fest.

And, for the most part, Scaggs says, he loves summertime outdoor shows.

“Indoor rooms, you have more acoustic stuff to deal with,” Scaggs says. “Outdoors, the world has good acoustics.”

Scaggs, 66, is thoughtful as he answers questions with the insight of a man who’s been entertaining the world since his days in the Steve Miller Band and recording with the likes of Duane Allman in the 1960s.

He’s been at the top, winning a Grammy Award for best R&B song in 1977 for “Lowdown,” from his hit-filled album “Silk Degrees.”

He’s seen record sales and mainstream popularity roller-coaster after that and kept on doing things his way.

Right here, right now, today, are you a jazz singer, blues singer, pop singer or something else entirely?

I’m doing the hits of rhythm and blues with my band now. That’s generally what the audiences like from me. That’s what I like to do in this situation. We’re playing hits from the radio, some R&B songs I’ve done over time. Some are new. We have a good repertoire. There’s big energy, some known stuff and some surprises.

Will you slip in some of the songs from your jazz album (2003’s “But Beautiful”)?

It will not be from the Great American Songbook. I really would like to go out and do a whole tour of that and have in the past. But that’s a different situation and different group of musicians and technical setup. That’s not what I’m doing. Yet there are some very, very strong musicians in this band. My music director (Richard Patterson) was Miles Davis’ bass player for several years. They are some high-level players, and we’ll be doing complex material.

Is there more or less room in the music world today for somebody who wants to sing all of the above at one time or another?

I think that’s a two-sided answer. There’s a lot more music accessibility from a standpoint of a singer or performer in jazz or any genre these days, and there’s potentially a wider audience for it. Because of the changing nature of the way we get music to people, it’s more difficult to start out, it seems to me. There’s such sophistication to music.

From an early age any kid can have access to music from anywhere in the world and genres that were not around in my generation.

It was a big deal for me (at) 15 years old to hear James Brown live at the Apollo Theater. Now any kid with the Internet can listen to more far-flung styles of music. To get it out effectively and make a life or career of it, though, is in some ways more difficult. There’s not the record company structure anymore.

What are the best times of your career to you, the days of the hits of “Silk Degrees” or now?

Now, you’ve gone and answered it for me, haven’t you?

OK, cut out the last phrase, about “Silk Degrees.”

I don’t mean to be evasive, but this is a continuum. There are sort of high spots and career moments and awards and treat shows that happen. But I can’t remember a greater thrill than the first night I got to play at a Holiday Inn and sat in for a bass player who couldn’t make it that night, and got paid $15 or $20. That gave me greater joy than winning a Grammy.

OK, “Silk Degrees” — that was the joy of playing with a trio of studio musicians, really playing some great songs. And then came the success we had in sales and follow-up tours. It was obviously a big deal, what people strive for. I had that lucky hit.

But up to now, the real key is being a working musician. That’s really all I ever got into this for.

“Lido Shuffle,” “What Can I Say,” “Harbor Lights,” “We’re All Alone,” “It’s Over” ... all have been on the radio over the decades. Do you like the hit songs from “Silk Degrees” as much as the fans like them?

They just wear very well. The arrangements are really good. The song “Lowdown” is as close to a signature song as I have. The old saying is, you can’t go into the same river twice. “Lowdown” is never the same. It keeps revealing itself to me, and, I can say, I keep revealing myself to it.

I like that material a lot. It’s worn very well.


Posted: Thursday 24 June 2010


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