Tag Archives: Duane Lundy

Arts

Scene&Heard: Johnny Conqueroo “Haint Blue”

It’s a cold night in early December, but the Green Lantern is packed. The trio of musicians assembles on stage, and the weight of expectation hangs heavy. For the uninitiated to the Johnny Conqueroo universe, this is the moment when blistering rock’n’roll might be expected. This is the band you’ve heard about for years. This is the band you’re supposed to accept as the Next. Big. Thing. So it’s just a tad confusing when the downbeat produces…slow and heavy 12-bar blues?

Okay, so you adjust your expectation – after all, they aren’t making some rote recital of a familiar form – they’re really digging into it, extracting every last ounce of grit.  It’s now a blues band you’re witnessing. And before the cymbals die out from the first tune, gritty guitar kicks in and the blistering rock’n’roll of their new single “Brick” begins, rejiggering those blues chops with meaty layers of deep bass and rock solid drums. Singer/guitarist Grant Curless stalks the stage like a man possessed, clinging to his guitar almost like a weapon to ward off the crowd, while Shawn Reynolds on bass and Wils Quinn on drums to lay in the pocket and anchor the action. Welcome to the real deal.

Johnny Conqueroo is not here to play to your expectations. Starting off with a heavy blues number in a rock show? Unheard of. Finding a home in the blues when much of the modern musical catalog seems to have abandoned it? Bold. Coming off as slightly reserved, intensely polite and complete pros during an interview? Isn’t this supposed to be a bunch of young punks?

It’s easy to overlook the fact that the members of Johnny Conqueroo are, in fact, well-worn veterans in the Lexington music scene and beyond because they started as a band relatively young (side note: so did Radiohead). It’s their complete professionalism that allowed Quinn to quickly suppress a strained grimace when asked a somewhat condescending question about whether the band’s relative youth provided them with a sliding scale of expectations.

“There’s a lot of bands that will kind of ride on that – ‘Look, we’re amazing and we’re kids.’ And that becomes their identity,” said Quinn, “and then all of a sudden they’re not kids, and it’s just, ‘Oh, they’re just a band.’ It definitely helped early on, because people were like, ‘Yeah, they’re in high school and they play the blues – isn’t that funny?’”

“It feels almost kind of gimmicky,” said Reynolds.

“It was a glaring fact,” said Quinn.

If the band (rightly) chafes under the mention of their youth during their band’s rise, it’s because it’s at this point where a hacky writer should discuss how the transition from “high schooler band” to “adult band” has had a marked difference on their music and given them a more mature sound as they have shed their teenage band persona. But that would be stupid.

Has their songwriting progressed? Absolutely, just like any band with years of experience. Is their sound more focused and tighter? Listening through from their 2015 EP to 2016’s “Washed Up” and on to their newly-released EP, “Haint Blue,” the answer is indeed “yes.” It’s the central tenet that there is a mandated maturation process to which the band has been exposed that breaks down – Johnny Conqueroo didn’t age into their musical craft – they’ve been at the top of their game since the beginning, and they’ve been doing this a long time.

“I started going to Nashville maybe fourth or fifth grade – started going down there a whole lot,” said Curless. “Started listening to the bands in the honky-tonks, which were cover bands, but would cover old country songs and old rockabilly songs.”

Curless’s interest in music formed there, shifting from old country like Hank Williams to rockabilly, and then…

“Slowly, that morphed into the blues,” said Curless.

Although the band has moved a bit away from its roots as a blues three-piece, it’s the genre that still informs their music to a high degree.

“I can’t really help it, to some extent,” said Curless. “You like what you like.”

“Listening to the blues – you kind of start to get an appreciation for the storytelling aspect,” said Quinn. “You can get an appreciation for that without going through anything other than just listening to those stories. They’re just fun stories, and if it’s good blues, it’s always told with conviction, too. It seems like it’s told by someone who really needs to tell it.” 

It also helps the group mine fodder for their material from stories around them.

“We have a whole multitude of weird friends and weird people and weird stories you hear in Lexington,” said Curless.

“You’ll start to pick up these inspirations from people you meet and friends and characters for weird ideas to jump off of,” said Quinn.

In addition to mining the local landscape for stories, the band has a reverence for the music that came before, sniffing out pieces and parts to add to their repertoire.

“Any time we hear a record or a 45 that just has an element to it that we really like, we try and incorporate that same element into a song or in the band in general,” said Curless. “The groove of funk music…”

“Like those little drum breaks from sixties garage band songs,” Quinn said. “Actively listening to that stuff and seeing what you could pull from it. The internet is basically the secret.”

On “Haint Blue,” their third release in four years, Johnny Conqueroo throws the throwback dance party they’ve been building to since their first EP in 2015. Jangly guitars, slapback vocal reverb and a trademark drum sound by knob-twirling local mastermind Duane Lundy all add to a potent mix of equal parts modern blues and Dick Dale. The title track takes these fundamentals sans vocals and turns them on their head in a raucous musical exorcism over a repeated riff that demonstrates the power in this power trio.

That power overtakes Curless on stage, turning him from a soft-spoken and circumspect individual in an interview into a howling banshee, ready to take no prisoners. His bandmates referred to Curless’s enormous stage charisma and excellent guitar face as a possession, relaying a story of one memorable gig where Curless was so overtaken with the energy of the show that he smashed his guitar at the climax of the song and ran off stage.

Curless shrugs off any idea that there’s some demon to exorcise. There’s no deep trauma underlying the complete transformation, no need to prove something to the world. It’s just a natural extension of Curless, guitar in hand, absorbing every electron of light in the spotlight night after night. 

“It just feels right up on stage.”

Johnny Conqueroo’s third release, “Haint Blue,” is out now on label The Fir Trade.

Arts

Horse Feathers Fly in Horse Country

The opening notes of “Without Applause,” the first track off the forthcoming Horse Feathers album “Appreciation,” belie the NPR-blessed “Beardy Pacific Northwest Folk-Pop” status the band has achieved in recent years. It’s an up-tempo throwback that feels more at home in the mid-seventies singer-songwriter era than in the catch-all frame of “indie folk.” The ascending melodic lines in a major key, the hint of conga drums, some tasteful soul piano and a big finish complete with choir vocals defy a genre lately stagnating from a distinct lack of these added elements. All this goes to say that Astoria, Oregon-based Horse Feathers isn’t your standard indie folk band. Hell, Horse Feathers isn’t your standard band, period.

Horse Feathers isn’t so much an ongoing group as much as it seems to be a shifting collective of musicians wrapped around the singular songwriting prowess of Justin Ringle. There have been multiple iterations of the outfit in the 14 years since its founding, and the only constant has been Ringle. It’s this unconventional assembly of lineups that refreshes Horse Feathers, providing longevity and a creative wellspring.

“The blessing and the curse of this project and being able to sustain a 14-year project,” says Ringle, “is the fact that I’ve had multiple incarnations of the band.”

Justin Ringle (Horse Feathers) – at home, Astoria, OR | Photo by John Clark

“On one hand, that’s been the Achilles heel – to keep personnel around. But, the positive of that – working with different people and collaborators – has kept the project alive in a different way and kept it interesting for me.”

The current form of the band includes longtime collaborator Nathan Crockett, as well as two new faces rounding out the rhythm section. Of course, these faces may be new to Horse Feathers, but anyone paying attention to Lexington’s burgeoning music scene over the past several years would be able to pick J. Tom Hnatow and Robby Cosenza out of any lineup.

May 4th will see the release of “Appreciation,” an album recorded in Kentucky between La-La Land Studio in Louisville and Shangri-La Productions in Lexington with local recording wunderkind Duane Lundy (for more on Lundy, see “Duane Lundy’s Crossfade Moment”).

“Upon a stop by the studio, while I was in another session,” recalled Lundy, “Justin and I hit it off pretty quickly and found a kinship in texture and depth of field, and how it could potentially serve as an interesting backdrop to Justin’s very intelligent and nuanced songwriting, arrangement, and productions.”

It might sound like a stretch for an Oregon band to record in Kentucky, but Ringle describes it more as a moment of serendipity. He has ties through his partner to Louisville, and he crossed paths with Hnatow and Cosenza on the road on several occasions. When it came time to round out the band for the next album, they came on board and provided the last tie to Shangri-La, where both have been major repertory players in Lundy’s operation.

Duane Lundy | Photo by Brian Powers

Lundy said Horse Feathers presented him with an opportunity to work in a very focused and liberating way. “Justin and the band allowed me a great deal of freedom to engineer, and mix in a way that felt fresh, but an outgrowth of what I had been working towards over the last couple of years.  Working on such detailed material was in particularly refreshing with Tom and Robby on the session.  We were all being challenged to stretch out in some different directions, and it served as a very healthy thing for my own process.”

Solidifying a band with members based nearly 2500 miles apart might seem a daunting task, and it often is.

“It’s us vs. geography in a way,” says Ringle.

Hnatow shrugs it off, however, noting, “I’ve never been in a band that’s all been in the same city.” His time spent in These United States and Vandaveer, both multi-state outfits, gives context to his devil-may-care attitude.

Cosenza sees the distance as even a positive, forcing the group to focus.

“The benefit is we don’t see each other the same way. We do a lot of work in a succinct amount of time.”

Time seems to be the one thing Horse Feathers has plenty of. After 14 years at it, Ringle considers himself a lifer, although he’s fatalistic about what that means. Where others would speak of a life of music-making in only positive terms, Ringle sees in it a certain quiet inevitability.

“You kind of reach a point where – [after] you get into a decade or longer time period – where you don’t know how to leave it,” Ringle said. “I don’t think I’m able to do that. After it becomes your identity, you can’t get away.”

He’s been at it long enough to be able to eschew the standard-issue aspirations of rock superstardom and an endless supply of cash for broader goals of personal enrichment.

“I just want to have different experiences,” says Ringle. “For some, it’s about vertical ascent. For me, it’s all about expanding horizontally into new facets. All I’m looking for are angles.”

Cosenza augments this with his own goal: “I just want Bob Dylan to open for us at Madison Square Garden.”

Arts

ChamberFest Stages Fusion of Jazz+Classical

The 2017 Chamber Music Festival of Lexington celebrates an inventive fusion of classical and jazz. And in the center of it all are two Lexington violin virtuosos – one, Nathan Cole, who animates classical; the other, Zach Brock, who travels the jazz universe.

They will fuse a Cole-led string quartet with Brock’s jazz power trio Triptych to perform a work specifically composed for the occasion by Triptych bassist Matt Ulery. The trio is rounded out by drummer Jon Deitmeyer.

I spent over an hour on the phone with Zach, discussing his role in the festival, the fusion of genres, his recruitment into the Snarky Puppy juggernaut, his most remarkable recent “bucket list” experience, and even his recommendations for anyone thinking about a music tour of New York City.

The story is best told in his own words, placed in context by brief narratives. Included are questions for Zach solicited from Lexington musicians. They include jazz guitarist Clive Pohl, Shangri La Studios owner Duane Lundy, singer-songwriter Patrick McNeese, and Maggie Lander, Lexington’s rising violin star who counts Brock among her musical heroes.

A little background on Zach

Zach Brock grew up in a musical Lexington household – his parents, Dan and Jenny Brock, met as members of the Lexington singers and have been deeply involved in the Lexington music scene. He gives high marks to the music influences of his early education in Montessori school and studies in the Suzuki Method. Graduating from Bryan Station High School in 1992, Zach went on to Northwestern University as a performance violin major and while there, met Erin Harper, the woman who would become his wife and mother of their twin daughters. They made their home in Chicago for 13 years before moving to Brooklyn. After 10 years and the birth of their children they relocated to South Orange, NJ where they currently reside. Erin directed, shot, and edited the Triptych videos. Second camera on the shoot was Lexington photographer Jeff Hoagland.

Our questions for Zach

Zach mentioned that he first became aware of the violin at age four. What brought the instrument to his attention?

View The Violin

Zach was enrolled in a Lexington studio teaching the Suzuki Method, an approach that has stirred controversy. How did it inform his growth as a jazz artist?

Improvisation can be a tightrope act – fraught with the risk of making mistakes. What if it happens during live performance?

Zach toured for four years with the great bassist Stanley Clark, recorded seven solo records, plus four records with the amazing jazz juggernaut Snarky Puppy. The most recent, Culvha Vulcha, won a Grammy this year. Snarky Puppy is a large group of highly talented individuals. Zach was asked to tell us about that experience.

In June Zach had a remarkable “bucket list” experience performing at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York with jazz violin master Jean Luc Ponty. As Zach related the story, he mentioned Eric Aceto, an Ithaca, New York master luthier who has provided instruments and violin pickups for Ponty, Brock and Lexington’s Maggie Lander.

With regard to Nathan Cole’s invitation to perform in the Chamber Music Festival, Duane Lundy asks: “was the concept presented to you or was it up to you?”

Clive Pohl wants to hear about the differences in how Zach prepares for a classical (interpretive) performance versus jazz (improvised, syncopated with a drum set). Zach responded by telling us about Matt Ulery’s piece, Become Giant, which will have its world premiere performance on the festival main stage at the Downtown Arts Center on September 1.

In response to the Patrick McNeese’s interest in his artistic process, Zach talks about the value of being open to constant change.

Maggie Lander is interested in hearing about Zach’s practice routine.

Where in NYC does Zach Brock go in search of great live music?

Chamber Music Festival schedule

Arts

Duane Lundy’s Crossfade Moment

At first blush, it looks like a regular house, albeit a large and imposing one, but nothing externally gives the casual observer any indication of what takes place inside. The cinder blocks under the porch bear the dark stains of benign neglect. A small parking area might as well be a standard driveway for multiple occupants. There is no sign to denote the home of Shangri-La Productions, the local recording studio where a man by the name of Duane Lundy plies his trade.

Photo by Brian Powers

This is probably for the better. Lundy is not the sort of man to call attention to himself, despite a career that has seen an extraordinary ascending trajectory from home recording hobbyist to respected producer and collaborator, locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally. That career may reach a new milestone on September 15th, when a new album by former Beatle Ringo Starr will hit the shelves (both digitally and analog…ly). On that album are two collaborations between Starr and local/national act Vandaveer, with Duane Lundy credited as the producer for both. Is this his moment?

Sitting half off a small set of steps behind the house on a sunny July day, Lundy is attired in black Converse All-Stars, black jeans, a black shirt with round Lennon sunglasses folded into the collar, and his trademark black fedora, a portrait of unflappable cool in the unyielding heat. The sense one gets is not that he’s trying to stand out so much as that he’s just outside his natural habitat.  Once he retreats into the sparsely lit confines of his home cum studio, his uniform makes more sense against the backdrop of a space designed to summon creative energies.

Photo By Brian Powers

Shangri-La Productions is not your average studio. The studio itself is a creative reimaging of the first floor of a large Victorian house. Where bespoke studios have a master control room and carefully divided spaces for enhanced sound isolation, Shangri-La favors a connected set of open rooms for collaboration, with all controls as the focus of what might have once been a magnificent sitting room with a fire place. The only “studio” decoration staples are the large oriental rugs adorning the hardwood floors, but everywhere hang bolts of various patterns of shimmering cloth and strings of white lights, giving an aura of comfort, and at times resembling a carnival. Vintage keyboards, amps, drums and guitars line the walls and halls. The atmosphere is immensely inviting to musicians, and that is by design.

“The pieces of work that I grew up on and studied a lot on were Zeppelin albums and U2 albums and Bob Dylan albums,” Lundy says. “Most of those albums were done in alternative spaces, you know, like [The] Joshua Tree, or Zeppelin albums in particular, Exile on Main Street… so I really found a lot of romanticism with the idea of being able to create a unique space that people felt comfortable in that was lived in, and also that it was a little bit sort of out of the template.”

If his studio aesthetic took cues from his favorite albums, his work process gained inspiration closer to home: Lundy’s former life as a tennis coach. That’s where he met Emily Hagihara, currently of Lexington staple Ancient Warfare, and formerly of Chico Fellini, a standout of the Lexington scene in which Lundy played guitar. At the time, however, she was a high school student taking tennis lessons where Lundy worked, and she believes that his experiences as a coach informs the way he approaches recording.

“He’s very much a coach, in a way,” Hagihara says. “He makes you feel welcome, and he encourages you to explore, but also makes you focus.”

Emily Hagihara | Photo by Cassie Lopez

“I know that I’ve gone into the studio several times and second-guessed a thing, and he just sort of makes you concentrate on doing that thing until it either works or it doesn’t. He’s just very pragmatic.”

Hagihara is part of Lundy’s increasing repertoire of consistent collaborators for mutual benefit. Her long musical history with Lundy has led to a harmonious working relationship over the past ten years or so.

“He likes, as well as I do, things that are a little rough around the edges, but I think we also like the juxtaposition or the marriage of those things that are rough but also beautiful, and figuring out how to make those two things work together,” Hagihara says.

The Lexington artist and songwriter Patrick McNeese, whose band has recorded several projects at Shangri La and is now in the process of another, credits Lundy for influencing the direction of the music scene in Lexington. “Writing a song, in many ways, is simply an invitation for other artists to contribute to the creation of a fully developed and engaging work of art. Duane is foremost another artist, one who understands this intricate and highly personal process and he has been able to develop the skills and temperament to achieve a consistently good outcomes in his studio. This is his unparalleled contribution to Lexington’s music and recording landscape.”

Patrick McNeese | Photo by Rebecca Powell

Lundy’s journey to his current role as Lexington’s music shaman took a circuitous route, with him getting a much later start than most music lifers.

“I was twenty-two and had never played an instrument before, and had always loved music,” Lundy says. “So, in starting late, I was pretty certain that being in a band or playing with other musicians that were my age was not going to be a possibility. So at the same time I got my first guitar, I also got a four-track [recorder].” 

Learning to play music alongside absorbing the fundamentals of recording allowed Lundy to gain an understanding of music from the perspective of writing and production, rather than just as a musician.

“I ended up learning really quick, which I think had a lot to do with just sort of my obsession with music,” Lundy says, “So I ended up being in bands within the first, I’d say, six months that I was starting to play.” 

For Lundy, learning to be a musician was great…

“But I really loved recording,” Lundy says.

Photo by Brian Powers

Later, after a business venture with his ex-wife ended, Lundy was at a crossroads, a not uncommon place for musicians to find themselves (see Johnson, Robert, or Clapton, Eric). It was then that his burgeoning hobby began to take shape as a career.

“A really good friend of mine who had actually taught me how to play guitar had moved from Lexington to Miami to become a music supervisor at an ad agency. So he would send me work, and that really was a pretty big crossfade* moment in my development from being sort of a local or regional recordist to doing stuff that was going to reach a more critical ear,” Lundy says.

From there, Lundy’s career as a recording engineer, mixer and producer took off, handling commercial work for various media platforms, work that saw him travel to studios nationally and internationally, honing his skills.

“There were moments where I contemplated moving to an industry market –  be it Nashville, or Los Angeles…New York. Wherever…the work is a bit more plentiful.” 

In the end, Lexington remained home, largely due to family considerations: his son, 17, and his daughter, 15, who both reside in the area.

Here’s the part where it would be easy to now try to paint Lundy as a martyr, an outsized talent duty-bound to lead a life less fitting than his skills deserve, but it’s all but impossible to nail him to that particular cross.  He doesn’t disseminate an air of self-pity or remorse for the path that he could have taken if only he could shake these little town blues; he can state matter-of-factly that Lexington is not entirely ideal as an industry town, but there’s never a sense of bitterness or confinement.

“I love Lexington,” Lundy says, and there’s not a single note of hesitation. “It has certainly created a set of challenges for me geographically, because, you know, there’s really no infrastructure of industry – music industry – here.” 

He could be a fixture in an industry-driven town, but Lundy credits the disconnect from the larger industry as a motivation for his success; he is less susceptible to trends and stagnation than if he were tapped directly in to the industry undercurrent.

“Not being in an industry town, being in a place like this, I really don’t know what the latest way that guys in Nashville are miking their drum kits,” Lundy says. ”But I like it. I think naivety is immensely important in keeping your creative flow interesting and productive.”

Lexington, however, is slowly accumulating industry credibility, if not music infrastructure, and it’s due in large part to Lundy and Shangri-La, as J. Tom Hnatow, a recording engineer, producer and musician at Shangri-La and member of Vandaveer, points out.

J. Tom Hnatow | Photo: Lithophyte

“It’s put Lexington on the map,” Hnatow says. “There’s been a level of recognition nationally and internationally. This city has been able to punch above its weight.”

Hnatow speaks from experience on that point, having been lured from more urban centers to Lexington by Lundy with the promise of work at Shangri La.

“As a professional musician, I would have not seen myself moving to Lexington if not for Duane.” 

As proof of Lundy’s expanding influence, Hnatow points to figures such as Justin Craig, who came up as a session player with Lundy and has since worked on Broadway as Music Director for “Hedwig and the Angry Itch,” among other high-profile projects.

“In Lexington, the number of people here working as a session musician is unusual for a city this size.”

The list of Lexington figures now achieving some sort of recognition on a national stage and beyond who have worked with Lundy is growing daily: Cheyenne Mize, Ben Sollee, Jim James of Louisville heroes My Morning Jacket and even newly-minted Grammy Award winner Sturgill Simpson, whose former band Sunday Valley recorded an album with Lundy before Simpson went solo.

After watching others ascend to new heights with a little help from his guidance, the spotlight may soon be focused more brightly on Lundy himself. Production credit for two cuts on a Ringo Starr album surely should bring attention to Lundy and his work, yet he downplays the suggestion that this a watershed moment for him, noting that he’s worked with legacy artists** such as Cheap Trick and others in the past. When pressed, he’ll admit to a degree of validation in the work, but he isn’t looking for the trappings of musical fame. Instead, Lundy frames his circumspect take on musical stardom with characteristic pragmatism.

“I love music to a degree that I wanted to continue to do it professionally, and I saw this as a means to continue to do it,” Lundy says. “And it just so happened I fell in love with doing it.”

“I really like what I do, and I like to think that I’ll spend the rest of my life doing it.  And that people will enjoy the time that we’ve had to work together and the people who get to listen to it, whoever that is, will enjoy what we did. No more, no less.”

‘If I reach a point to where it’s not fun anymore, then I won’t do it. Because there’s other things that you can do and make less sacrifice for.” 

Duane Lundy doesn’t need to be a rock star. He’s not jealous of the ascendency of those with whom he has collaborated. He’s content as the black-clad figure at the controls in his own personal Shangri-La, radiating calm in the center of Lexington’s growing musical storm.

*For those unaccustomed to the recording lexicon, a crossfade is a transition between sound clips, where one clip fades out as another fades in.

**A professional way of saying “rock star.”

Arts

Chico Fellini & Blackbird Dancin’ Together

Photo by Mark Cornelison

Photo by Mark CornelisonFor those of you longing for a rock concert that’s more of a spectacle than barroom social affair or a dance performance that isn’t a “tutus and Tchaikovsky” recital, take note of an upcoming event at the Lexington Downtown Arts Center.  On Friday June 13th and Saturday June 14th Blackbird Dance Theatre presents “The Broken Queen,” featuring live score by Chico Fellini.  A multi-disciplinary collaboration between Blackbird’s Jenny Fitzpatrick and music producer Duane Lundy, “The Broken Queen” is a live music and dance experience nearly one year in the making.  I sat down with Lundy recently to discuss the Broken Queen project, the excitement of multi-disciplinary performance, and the resurrection (and future?) of Chico Fellini.

For those of you longing for a rock concert that’s more of a spectacle than barroom social affair or a dance performance that isn’t a “tutus and Tchaikovsky” recital, take note of an upcoming event at the Lexington Downtown Arts Center.  On Friday June 13th and Saturday June 14th Blackbird Dance Theatre presents “The Broken Queen,” featuring live score by Chico Fellini.  A multi-disciplinary collaboration between Blackbird’s Jenny Fitzpatrick and music producer Duane Lundy, “The Broken Queen” is a live music and dance experience nearly one year in the making.  I sat down with Lundy recently to discuss the Broken Queen project, the excitement of multi-disciplinary performance, and the resurrection (and future?) of Chico Fellini.

Under-Main: What was the origin of this collaboration?

Duane Lundy: Jenny Fitzpatrick, who’s the brain-child behind Blackbird [Dance Theatre], had done a piece called “The Great Grey” last year and had used my productions as the underscore.  Then she had come to me to see about doing something more performance-based this year along with the dance.  She has ten plus dancers and aerial silk work and felt like a good way to lift the bar would be to have a live band.  For me it was a no-brainer to put Chico [Fellini] together.

UM: So this is the first new activity by Chico Fellini in a long while, what’s the story with the extended break?

DL:  We played a ton of shows, did a bit of touring and did our album; I was already producing and had the [Shangri-La] studio so it just got so busy.  I felt like we had a nice three year run of being really aggressive and it was super positive, but it felt like it was time to either do a new album or take time off.  With schedules the way they were… it was at a good point.  I think sometimes bands push and push without taking a breather. My production work was real demanding so I thought it was time to stop, but we’ve all worked together in different capacities since.

I had written a couple of new songs and then I had a few pieces that I had been working on with Justin Craig, now Musical Director on Broadway for “Hedwig” and my assistant for years.  We had worked on some ambient pieces, some instrumental stuff and a couple of older Chico songs, and Jenny used that as a framework for the choreography.  Then the band reconvened at the end of last year to talk about participating and everybody wanted to do that.  We just picked up where we left off.  The band has an identity to it, so we weren’t really searching much.  There’s such a personal connection between us; it’s like a bunch of family members getting together, you just re-start the same conversation you ended a while ago.

UM: What was it about this project that made it right for a Chico Fellini reunion?

DL: I had been looking for an excuse for all of us to get together and play, but I didn’t want to do the more traditional “release and tour” route.  Jenny was a fan of the band, and her dance & choreography, her look at how to incorporate music, is incredibly creative; she’s able to look outside the box of a waltz being a waltz and a contemporary jazz piece being a jazz piece.  She’s melding different styles of jazz in with different types of things that I had given her and it had worked smoothly because she was picking up things that I was giving her and yay-ing and nay-ing things that she did and didn’t like.  So I think we gave her 20 plus pieces to come up with the 13 or 14 that are the show.

She was kind to let us bring what we thought would be interesting to the table, sonically, and then let her work within that framework.  It’s a real collaboration of the music and the dance that she’s been able to put together.

UM: What can audience members expect from the performances?

DL: It’s a really wild, interactive experience for the viewer.  There’s so much dance, and the way the DAC is set up, you’re right there with it.  It’s very dramatic.  About 80% of [the music] is new.  There are three songs from past work, most of which was unreleased, so in some ways it’s all new.  Sonically, the sound envelopes everybody around.  It’s this mass sound that’s happening while people are having an interactive experience with the dance.  I think it’s a very wild show.  It’s very smart too.  It’s such a narrative-involved and intricate piece from the storyline Jenny put together and the abstractions of the dance, the aesthetic of the look of it… the genius behind all that is her.

Blackbird Dance Theatre and Chico Fellini will perform “The Broken Queen” at the Downtown Arts Center on Friday June 13th and Saturday June 14th, at 7:30pm.  The DAC can be reached at 859.225.0370.