Boz Scaggs Makes His Maui Debut

The Maui News

[By Jon Woodhouse - May 8, 2008]

We can thank Grammy Award-winning conductor/arranger Matt Catingub and his Hawaii Romance Festival for luring Boz Scaggs to Maui. The legendary entertainer will make his Maui debut on Monday backed by the 30-member Matt Catingub Orchestra, following a Mother’s Day festival concert at Waikiki’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

These unique concerts mark only a couple of a handful of times that Boz has performed with an orchestra.

"I’ve only done a few of these in my life," he explains. "It’s another way of doing music that I don’t do often, and I’m exploring the possibility of doing more of them. I’ve been hearing about Matt Catingub for a number of years. He’s a really gifted musician and musician friends of mine have been telling me about him, and now we have an opportunity to work together. In the last few years, I’ve done some standards records, and I’m just releasing a new one. It opens possibilities for me to play in symphony settings, so this is a bit of a trial run."

The iconic star know for such smooth, soulful hits such as "Lido Shuffle," "Lowdown," "We’re All Alone," "Georgia," "Harbor Lights" and "Jo Jo," will also perform with his six-piece band, including two backup singers.

Plus, legendary musician David Paich of Toto fame, who composed hits like "Rosanna," sang lead on "Africa" and co-composed some of Scaggs’ most popular songs, will make a rare appearance. Which all adds up to a must-see show.

"David was a co-writer on a lot of my favorite stuff," Boz continues.

"He’s one of the musicians who told me about Matt. He’s going to be doing an instrumental project with him, and he expressed an interest in coming along. It’s a real treat to have him along; it makes it very special."

Anyone still not convinced should run out to a music store and buy Boz’s "Greatest Hits Live" CD, released in 2004. It’s quite brilliant and firmly enhances his reputation as one of the greatest R&B singers of our time.

Among the songs in the upcoming show, we’ll hear a few standards.

Accompanied by a jazz quartet, in 2006 Boz successfully embraced what he’s termed "sacred ground," reworking the Great American Songbook with the album "But Beautiful." Jazz Times lauded his "impeccably good taste and vocal otherworldliness that’s at once starting and arresting," while Rolling Stone praised, "Boz Scaggs is hardly the first rock star to turn toward the classic American songbook, but few have ever done it with the soulful ease he does on ‘But Beautiful.’ "

"It was a challenge to learn new areas of using my voice," says Boz, who will release another standards volume this summer. "I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do, to stay in music and have a career. And I’m fortunate that I can do the things I really want to do and enjoy, and there’s a broad range of music I’m interested in."

Before venturing out on his own, Boz helped revolutionize American rock ’n’ roll as a member of the San Francisco-based Steve Miller Band, recording the seminal albums "Children of the Future" and "Sailor."

Miller and Scaggs had been friends in high school in Texas. "We played in high school together and I was in university with him for about a year," he recalls. "We were very close friends and then went our own way. Three or four years later, he was somewhat established with what he called the Steve Miler Blues Band in San Francisco in the mid-’60s. One of the musicians in the band took off and Steve called me and asked if I would care to join. I was living in Sweden at the time and he sent me a ticket, and I ended up staying for a year."

For their debut album, the musicians journeyed to London to record with acclaimed producer Glyn Johns, who worked with the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones.

"At the studio we were working, Joe Cocker was making his first album, and Jimi Hendrix was working upstairs, and the Stones would come in and do overdubs," he remembers. "It was a time and a place that was indescribably amazing, a key time for British music. We were right in the middle of it."

Before he joined the Miller band, Boz had spent time on the streets of Europe as a busker. "You stand in front of the metro or cinema and break out the guitar and wail away and pass the hat, and then the cops would come and you’d run off," he explains. "It wasn’t a full-time occupation, it got me from point A to B."

In 1968, Boz left the Miller band and set out on his own. "It was mutually agreed upon," he says. "Steve had his ideas of where he was going and I had different ideas. The experience was a great one for those two albums, for both off us. It was the first songs that I had written. Our styles were going in different directions. He went off with his ideas and became a trio, and I got my first recording contract with Atlantic."

For his critically acclaimed major label solo debut, Boz worked with the famed Muscle Shoales rhythm section (who backed Aretha Franklin), and recorded the smoldering, 12-minute epic blues of "Loan Me a Dime" with Duane Allman.

"It got a lot of critical acclaim and it felt good to be recognized," he notes. "It was my first step into the wider world. On one hand I was very pleased, and on the other I was wondering what the hell to do with myself. I really didn’t have a great perspective of what I was doing at that time; I was just sort of following what presented itself day to day. It gave me the courage to go on to the next stage."

Scaggs finally hit the jackpot with the multimillion-selling "Silk Degrees," which remained on the Billboard album charts for 115 weeks, featured three chart-topping singles, earned a Grammy and became one of the most treasured albums of the 1970s.

"It didn’t feel like such a big step," he suggests. "I had made four or five albums before that. I’ve always found that each stage of my career has been incremental. In a way, it was an enormous step in terms of the number of records I had sold. In those albums I’d made before, I had certain disappointments, I had thought they might reach a broader audience. I was pretty much living hand to mouth, though I was selling a few hundred thousand records and playing quite a bit, but didn’t get the break through that I wished for. So when it came, it didn’t come quickly, it was very slow. When things started happening and radio started exploding, it was a wild ride. It was like OK, my number came up and off I went."

After a couple more albums and further hit songs like "Jo Jo," Boz decided to take a sabbatical from music that ended up lasting almost 10 years.

"I had been really busy, there had been a lot of pressure on me personally," he explains. "I had a family to take care of and two young sons. I decided to take a few months off, but that turned into a year, and a year turned into two. I just became involved with other things and stayed away from it for years."

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen helped bring him back to the spotlight, recruiting Boz for the Rock and Soul Revue.

"I had made some trips to Los Angeles and began to put together pieces of an album that was eventually released in 1998," he relays. "I became interested in recording again and I was asked by Donald Fagen to tour with his Rock and Soul Review. It was a wonderful experience and it put me in touch with some of my favorite contemporary musicians. The juices were high and I got a new recording contract with Virgin Records. I felt rejuvenated and started phase two of my career."

This fertile phase include a superb return to his R&B roots with "Come on Home," where Boz interpreted classics by Jimmy Reed, Isaac Hayes and Sonny Boy Williamson, backed by musicians from Little Feet and Bonnie Raitt’s band. "That one wears particularly well with me," he notes. "We explored a lot of songs. Some were new, I had not heard before, and some were old favorites, and I wrote a few new songs."

Any chance of "Come on Home," volume two?

"I think so," he responds. "That’s what I’m thinking about for my next project. I’m planning on bearing down on some new material and possibly some redos of some of my favorite rhythm and blues rock music."

After 40 years of entertaining, Boz still finds it thrilling to step out on stage.

"I don’t do it all that much, so when I do, it’s fresh and fun and reminds me of the reason I started doing this in the first place," he concludes. "I still love it."

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