Hartford Courant - Boz Scaggs Interview
BOZ SCAGGS TURNS HIS CONSIDERABLE TALENT TO NEW MATERIAL FOR FIRST TIME IN YEARS
It took a Connecticut musician to kickstart the California soul on Boz Scaggs' latest album.
It was Danny Kortchmar, the former James Taylor band mate and longtime producer who also has recorded with his own Connecticut blues band, Slo Leak, in his hometown of Westport. Kortchmar worked on Scaggs' latest "Dig" album along with David Paich, a longtime Scaggs associate who was once a member of Toto. "We weren't trying to do anything but please ourselves," Scaggs, 57, says by phone from California in advance of his tour's stop at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford Sunday.
"At this time in our creative lives, Danny and David and I figured there's no point in trying to do anything but to use our instincts and play some beautiful tracks to try to please us. I think that's what people expect me to do anyway -- to give them my rendition of what it is that I do."
What Scaggs does is play some fluid guitar on some relaxed, appealing tracks.
A cult favorite and early guitarist for the Steve Miller Band, he became a mainstream sensation when his chilled-out "Silk Degrees" album in 1976 sold 5 million copies and set the tone for the laid- back decade with hits like "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle."
Its success has afforded him the luxury of working on nothing but what he's wanted to ever since. Scaggs' output has declined in the past decades as he turned his attention to other concerns, such as running the club Slim's in San Francisco. But he's back with his first full album of new material in seven years (the 1998 album "Come On Home" was dominated by favorite blues covers).
"This is as close to what I feel about music as anything I've ever done in terms of satisfying my own sense of things," Scaggs says.
Among the album's guest artists were jazz man Roy Hargrove Jr. on horns, and such guests as Ray Parker Jr., Steve Lukather and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes.
Most of "Dig" was created by Scaggs and his co-producers. He had worked with Paich since the "Silk Degrees" days. But Kortchmar was someone new.
"I've been aware of his work over a long time and the work he's done over the last few years in his band," Scaggs says.
Kortchmar's band Slo Leak is a kind of Westport supergroup; it also features legendary bassist Harvey Brooks of Electric Flag and Connecticut guitarist Charlie Karp, who toured with Buddy Miles.
Together they put out a couple of albums, the latest of which is 1999's "When the Clock Strikes 12."
"I'd heard those albums and been thinking of him for some years, really," Scaggs says of Kortchmar, who has also produced albums by Billy Joel, Don Henley, Jackson Browne and Freedy Johnston. "Since he had worked with Paich considerably in the past, and the two worked together, well, we all three got together," Scaggs says. "And once we tried a few things, we knew we had something."
Kortchmar, also known as "Kootch," from his early days with James Taylor, "brings a rhythmic hard edge to his work," Scaggs says. "He's, of course, a really fine guitar player. And the things he does on the guitar are unique as he explores a lot of these older primitive guitar styles. Whether it's Mississippi Delta style or a bluesy R&B, he can bring them up to contemporary sounds with different effects."
The use of loops, various guitar effects and, in some cases, treated vocals gives "Dig" a contemporary sheen, even as Scaggs' tasty licks are timeless.
As for the increased playing by Scaggs, "I was just given a little more room by the producers," he says. "Danny and David wanted to feature my guitar playing."
As a result, "I played more guitar than I had ever played in the past."
He's also stretched a little bit vocally. In addition to the cool vocals that made "Silk Degrees" such a hit, he provides a gravelly, yet convincing debut as a rapper on "Get on the Natch."
"That was basically a rhythmic track Kootch brought in. David Paich added some parts, and the first time I heard it, we knew we wanted to have it on the record.
"I saved it for last, thinking it would be an easy one to write," he says. "It was really the 11th hour, writing lyrics in the hotel room and I got this sound from an effect I have on a machine I used for writing."
With all the effects, it came out like a space age hipster, a knowing rasp from a Delta of another planet.
"I stacked the effects on it," he says, "and they liked it. Everybody got a good laugh out of it."