For Boz Scaggs It's One More For The Road

By Ian Spelling - January 12, 2009 -

Boz Scaggs is much like a great music note that ebbs and flows, that lingers for all to hear and then dips below the radar, perceptible to only a few.

Over the course of his 40-year career, he's tried his hand at a variety of genres: rock, disco, rhythm and blues, jazz and standards. He's scored hits with "Loan Me a Dime," "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle," "Jojo," "Heart of Mine" and more. Also over the course of his career, Scaggs has tended to come and go, to recede from the spotlight for long periods, only to reinvent himself again.

And that brings us to the present. Scaggs' most recent album, a standards collection entitled "Speak Low," was released in November to positive reviews. He's been on the road touring and doing his bit to promote the album by granting interviews and making high-profile appearances on the likes of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

"I like to play, so it's a nice change," Scaggs says of his latest re-emergence, speaking by telephone from his home in the Napa Valley, where he operates a vineyard. "It's been lots of dates, lots of touring and lots of new and old faces. I hadn't been in some of the venues I've been playing in this past year in quite some time, and I was really very pleasantly surprised to see that there was still a very interested audience there for me.

"People seem to like the new album," he adds. "It's been received in the way I intended it to be received. People find it refreshing. It's new territory for me and, musically, I think we touched on some new ways of presenting this music."

However, chances are that when Scaggs takes the stage on Tuesday at bergenPAC he will not perform numbers from "Speak Low." Rather, it'll be a night of hits.

"I'm going to bring my band that does a lot of the songs that people are more familiar with than my recent album release," he says.

"It's really a different band, a different approach entirely, that I play the new stuff with. I did a different tour a few months ago, in October and November, where we did the new stuff, and I'll probably do some more of that this year. It'd be very tricky to do a set list with everything.

"It can be done," he adds, "but it takes a particular configuration of musicians. The musicians and the sensibilities are quite different for my jazz standards stuff and for the hits, let's call it. There aren't a lot of players who can authentically do both genres, so it's kind of tricky."

Likewise, Scaggs realizes that the person who appreciates "Loan Me a Dime" might not cotton to his take on Rodgers & Hart's "She Was Too Good to Me." Still, he feels compelled to follow his muse wherever it leads him and hopes as many people as possible will come along for the ride.

There's freedom in that, or some freedom, anyway.

"I don't know how it connects," he admits. "I'm just doing what I like. I have a broad range of musical interests, and I'm fortunate that I can pursue them. I am free to some degree. I released ['But Beautiful'] five or six years ago and went on tour, and some audiences were very surprised because they came expecting to hear hits and they got my quintet. I think it doesn't suit everybody real well, and I disappointed people at some points. So I have been very careful since then to let people know what to expect, because I don't expect everybody to move so broadly through my musical interests.

"So, yeah, I'm free in terms of the recordings, but I'm not so free to do it all [onstage]," he says. "At least at this point, I haven't figured out the way to do both. I think audiences are interested in a broad spectrum of things, but there's a limit to it."

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