Tuesday, November 27, 2012

George Colligan Quartet Featuring Debbie Deane December 22nd At ShapeShifter Lab in NYC

 Newsflash: I will be performing in New York in December! Yay! December 22nd to be exact. This is a special project featuring vocalist Debbie Deane. If you've been following my blog, you might remember that we did a duo tour of Japan last December, and then we had a nice gig at the Jazz Standard in April, as well as a nice duo gig in Baltimore at An Die Musik. We also had a good gig at the Jazz Gallery and a great house concert in Princeton Township. This is another episode of this project, which is mostly my originals, with lyrics either by me or by my sister, Dana Colligan. Filling out the band will be Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. 

Shapeshifter Lab
The gig will be at the brand new ShapeShifter Lab, a wonderful space in Brooklyn (18 Whitwell Place, between 1st street and Carroll Street, in Park Slope) which is run by bassist extraodinaire Mathew Garrison. This has become one of the hot spots for creative music in New York. If you haven't been there already, this is a great opportunity to check it out.

Since I'm gearing up for this concert, I thought it would be a good opportunity to interview Deane so that my readers can know a little more about her. As she says below, we have recorded many tunes for a CD to be released in the hopefully near future.

GC: Describe your earliest musical memories.
DD: My parents didn't play much music around the house, even though they went to the opera and NY Philharmonic religiously. But my 2 older brothers did, and they had a huge influence on me. My earliest musical memories are of going into my oldest brother David's room when I was 5 or 6 and listening to Jethro Tull's Aqualung, George Harrison' s All Things Must Pass, The Woodstock album ("Give me an F, GIve me a U, Give me a C, GIve me a K!!! That was very exciting to hear as a 6 year old). When Carole King's Tapestry came out, I vividly remember dancing to it alone in my room. 

GC: How did growing up in Brooklyn affect your musical development? 

DD: Growing up in Brooklyn enabled me some freedom to be a city kid and take the subway around town starting in 6th grade. (Would I let my kid ride the trains at that age these days? Not quite sure!)
I would say being able to experience live shows and the events NYC had to offer had the biggest influence. Just feeling all that energy. 
The Broadway shows Annie and A Chorus Line were huge influences for me and my tween friends. 
Let's see, here are some highlights: 
When I was 10 years old, I went into a record store and randomly put on some headphones at a listening station. It was my very first headphone experience. Weather Report's Heavy Weather was playing. That was life-changing.
My brother Steve and I took the subway to Madison Sq Garden when I was in 8th grade to hear Neil Young on his Rust Never Sleeps tour. Amazing.
In 9th grade, Chicago was my 1st outdoor concert at The Pier at 42nd St. All those horns! We were in the 3rd row and got totally baked. Magic. 
In 11th grade, a friend took me to the Palladium to hear Jeff Beck on his There and Back tour. A pivotal moment to hear instrumental rock/fusion played so well. 

GC: When did you know that you wanted a life in music, which might be contrary to a degree from Harvard?
DD: I went to Harvard, and while I loved the college experience of meeting people from all over the country, I was quite lost.  I had taken piano lessons from age 6 through high school and reached a pretty proficient level with classical music, also playing some pop tunes, some Joni Mitchell, etc...I did a lot of singing in high school in the chorus and musicals, but had no connection to music at Harvard, and I was missing it. My childhood camp friend Laurie Geltman, who was at Boston University at the time,  told me about Berklee College of Music.  We both decided to take a year off and go there. So I took a year off from Harvard after my sophomore year, went to Berklee and it was the beginning of my life change, but I didn't quite know it yet. 
I did 3 semesters there as a piano major. I went to every recital, every performance--I was a sponge and completely musically unformed. I had much work to do. All the Europeans and Japanese students  opened up a new world for me there as well. 
I ended up finishing my last 2 years at Harvard, majoring in English while taking my piano lesson at Berklee once a week with Craig Najjar, who became my mentor. I spent more time in the practice room at Harvard then studying, and I coasted by. But I am very happy I finished Harvard. At that point, I just wasn't sure of my path. I was just trying to play the piano, and learn the jazz language.  I was still a few years off from writing and singing songs....I consider 
myself a late bloomer. 

GC:  When did you get serious about songwriting? How do you approach songwriting?
DD: So I graduated Harvard, was fortunate to travel to China, Tibet, India and Nepal for 3 months and get my mind blown in the process. Then I moved back to NY and became a prep cook . 
Once again I felt quite lost. And music was missing. I realized I wasn't ready to be in NY yet, so I decided to go back to Boston and Berklee. It was a transforming moment to realize that I needed and wanted to pursue music. 
So I went back to Berklee to pursue my piano major. I went to every recital, every performance, taking it all in. I was still studying with Craig Najjar, and felt like I was starting to play some jazz, sorta.

GC: Then Craig told me he was gonna teach a songwriting class outside of Berklee (he was in the process of leaving Berklee to set up his own little school scene). At the time, songwriting hadn't even crossed my mind, but I said yes, why not.  The songwriting class had 10 students and we met once a week for 2 hours. We became a family, we were babes and it was our incubator. I wrote my first song and got hooked. I stopped going out and hearing everyone. I holed up and wrote songs. 

DD: At that time, Craig had us listening to artists that we liked, analyze the song and then try to write one in a similar vein. 
I remember my first song ever was based on the  Anita Baker song "Been So Long". 
I wrote one song a week back then, as there was deadline for class, but then it eventually slowed down to only when I felt the inspiration. 
I have never been one to write everyday. Discipline doesn't come easily.  I will go months without writing and then perhaps write a few songs all at once.
For me, the music always come first because it is therapeutic. Writing lyrics is another headspace and ballgame. 
Sometimes I'll sit on a piece of music for a long time, cause I want the music to speak to me about what the lyrics should be about. It can take awhile. The best songs are the ones that come in 15 minutes, music and lyrics. I've only had a couple of those. 
The last handful of years, I have been writing on guitar, just for that different angle and inspiration. 

GC: Who are you vocal heroes? What about jazz musicians in general: what musicians inspire you?
DD: Hmmmmm, where to begin. 
Since 9th grade, I was one of those Joni Mitchell fanatics, singing along alone in my room for hours. How many of you Joni heads are out there? Raise your hand!
Here is my vocal hero list (I'm sure this list looks exactly like most people raised in the 70's):
Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt,  Elton John,  Ricki Lee Jones, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,  The Police, Van Morrison, Donald Fagan, Bob Marley, Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens. There must be more.....

Of course, when I got to Berklee my world expanded.
I took Roy Okutani's Miles Davis class and transcribing Miles' solos was a life changer.
I was turned on to Sarah Vaughan, Live at Tivoli. That record was an education in itself.  
The Nancy Wilson/Cannonball collaboration, Ella. 
I've been very inspired by Miles first and foremost, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Joe Zawinul, Jobim,  Jaco Pastorious. 
Michael Brecker, Geri Allen, Dianne Reeves, Ravi Coltrane, Matt Garrison, Kazumi Ikenaga, David Rothenberg, Victor Merlo,  Joe Locke,  Geoff Keezer, George Colligan, Kerry Politzer, Elie Massias, Seamus Blake, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Marc Miralta, Mercedes Rossy, Guillermo Klein, Akiko Pavolka, Mike McGInnis, Mark Turner, JIm Whitney, Andy Statman,  Jon Dryden, Brian Blade,  Jon Cowherd, Melvin Butler, Myron Walden, Chris Thomas, RIchard Hammond, John Deley, Irving Louis Latin, Kenny Rampton, Bill Sims, Andy Hess, Tony Mason, Kevin Barry, Rodney Holmes, Wayne Krantz, Jeff Andrews, Joshua Redman, Terry Deane, Jonatha Brooke, Alain Mallet, Joan Osborne, Me'Shell N'degeocello. Did I forget anyone? The list can go on and on if I sit here long enough. I feel blessed to have worked with many on this list. 

GC:  How do you balance motherhood and music?

DD: I find that ever since Julian came into my life almost 4 1/2 years ago, that although my practice time has plummeted, my performance experience feels deeper. 
I will never forget Jeff Andrews telling me that his best performances happened when he would be traveling and get minimal sleep. He said the brain didn't have the time or energy to edit itself and be self critical. That's how I've been feeling over the past 4 years. I don't have the luxury to edit, and I realize I am there to just tap into expression. Pretty freeing!

Another thing is I can't go out all the time anymore. I used to close places up as I loved hanging and seeing and supporting all my friends. I cannot do that anymore, and sometimes that is hard for me. But I can here and there, and when I do go out to hear music, it becomes that much more special, The same when I perform, hey, it's a night out for me. It's not about oh I fucked up that note, and I'm bummed for the rest of the night.  Don't get me wrong, there's always room for improvement, but I am really enjoying performing more than I ever have. And after 20 plus years of performing, I realize I have a pretty solid foundation there to draw from and I need to trust it. 

GC:  Are you planning a new recording soon? What are your thoughts on this upcoming gig with my quartet? Any of your own gigs coming down the pike?

DD: I have a bunch of songs that I have been sitting on and I am hoping I will record them in 2013. Recording takes a long time for me, plus the dollar aspect is something I have to figure out. My last record was released on Ravi Coltrane's label RKM Music. They so generously paid for all recording and promotion. Things have changed since then, and I am hoping to check in with them to see where they are at.  In the meanwhile, I have been living life--important for the music!

That said, this past year has been a departure for me because I got to work on some projects that are not my own, specifically with you, George! Really fun and freeing for me to be a sideman, to learn fun,  challenging tunes, and to be a 'singer' (I usually play the piano or guitar and accompany myself for those who might not be familiar with me...) You are in my piano chair dude! And that has been heavenly to hear every frickin note you play, I feel like I've hit the jackpot being on the bandstand with you. 
Touring in Japan with you really solidified the music, and since we toured as a duo, their was so much opportunity to explore and expand.
After Japan, we've had some band gigs, one highlight was playing at the Jazz Standard, and it was so energizing hearing the music filled out by Lonnie Plaxico, Clarence Penn, and Jaleel Shaw.  I love both ways-duo and full band- equally. 

Shapeshifter Lab is a warm, welcoming venue. My dear friend Matt Garrison and I used to play through Real Book tunes in the Berklee practice rooms when we were just babes, so it's so amazing to see what he and Fortuna have created many years later, (not to mention his ridiculously badass playing). 
I really look forward to playing with you on Dec 22 with such a great band. Can't wait in fact.  It's gonna be so fun to sing those tunes again.

Gig-wise, I am laying a bit low right now. I sang the National Anthem at the 1st ever Nets game at the Barclay Center in October. That was a huge life highlight and people were so supportive, it amazed me.
I am excited to be doing a collaboration with Elie Massias in 2013. And you and I recorded many of your tunes, Mr. George, so I look forward to seeing where that goes!

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