December 05. 2008 2:13PM MUSICIAN SPOTLIGHT: Paul and Friends
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Big Fun on the Bayou correspondent Michael F. Vinning recently chit-chatted with Paul of Paul and Friends to discuss how the group originated.
Vinning: Hey Paul, how about explaining the concept of the Paul and Friends band.
Paul: Paul and Friends was something I actually conceived years ago when I was living in Jamaica, Wis., and was isolated from my music in the U.S. I thought about all of the fantastic musicians I had played with over the years prior to that time and began fantasizing about a band made up of the best musicians I’d ever had the good fortune to play with. After that, however, I gave up performing for quite some time while I chased a higher degree; so that dream went to sleep for many years. It resurfaced during the latter years of my stay in Australia.
The concept is not new. The model comes from Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who followed it for years. These guys basically stayed at home, composed and wrote the arrangements for the tunes. During that time, in the case of Steely Dan, the individual band members played and toured either solo or in other well-known groups. When it was time to record, they’d find their way home, rehearse, record and off they’d go again. In the case of Brian Wilson, Brian would compose and arrange for, say, six months, laying down the templates for the vocal tracks while the rest of the guys were touring. They’d then come back and record over the remaining six months.
Basically, I try to put the tunes together and then match the musicians to the tunes that suit them best. This can be quite a challenge, since more often than not, many of the musos (an Australian term) are tied up doing other gigs, or touring, or have simply disappeared into the mist without leaving their calling card. When I do find them, I write up the charts for them, record demos and distribute them. Then we rehearse and head into the studio. The instrumentals generally go fairly quickly. The vocals are very demanding and usually take quite a while.
This is my passion.
Vinning: Who makes up the Paul and Friends band and what are their roles?
Paul: The answer to that question is bigger than you might think. Because of the nature of the band, there are many members – many. And each of them possesses great talent in one or more areas. I will start with the players on our last CD, “Smooth Sailing.”
The musicians (in alphabetical order):
Todd Adams from Houma, keyboards; known for his work at Aficianados.Todd did some beautiful keyboard work on several tunes. He has a flare for delivering soft chordal textures and subtle yet complex changes.
Des Anthony from Australia, vocals, acoustic guitar; from Three’s Company.Des and I played together for a number of years in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. He is a great singer, guitarist and mandolinist — and he also is a luthier. That is, he builds his own instruments — and generally played them on stage with us.
Kurt Brunus of New Orleans, keyboards; from The Kurt Brunus Project.Kurt is a jazz trumpet player and keyboardist who performs a lot around New Orleans. He did some very nice keyboard work on “Amazing Grace” on this last CD.
Tracy Griffin from New Orleans, flugelhorn; from Allen Toussaint and Friends.Tracy is a wonderfully talented flugelhorn and trumpet player who has been playing throughout Louisiana and Texas for many years. His solo on Brunch in the Big Easy is one of my favorites. Very laid back, yet very precise.
Carol Hart from Australia, vocals; from Hart-to-Hart.Carol has a beautiful sandy voice. I have been listening to her for many years. And it blends and integrates so well with her husband Martin’s voice on “In My Life.” It’s as if they’re one person. You have to hear it to believe it.
Martin Hart of Australia, lead singer, acoustic guitar; from Hart-to-Hart and Three’s Company.Martin – when the Lord made Martin’s voice he threw away the mold. He has the voice of an angel – always has. I played with him and Des for many years in Australia. Thank goodness he’s willing to lend his talents to these recordings. He sings lead on “In My Life”, “Just One More Time” and “Thanks for Being There”. He also joins Des and me on “Helplessly Hoping”.
Roger Kimball of Thibodaux, soprano sax, tenor sax; from Harry Connick Jr.’s Band, Soul Survivors and NiteLife.Rog. Man, can that cat play horn. He plays soprano and alto sax. Reads like there’s no tomorrow. Very tasteful. He did a lot of the sax playing on “Smooth Sailing”. You listen to him and you think “Kenny G – it’s time for you to retire.”
Mark Liuzza of New Orleans, keyboards, Hammond B-3 organ; from Benny Grunch.Mark is a great keyboardist. He can read and play the toughest of lines, and yet lay back and play the smoothest chordal pads and hits, not to mention his ability to improvise. He’s now based in New Orleans and is pretty tough to nail down time-wise. He manages several venues and bands in New Orleans and plays in a number of bands. Great musician. Mark played on “Have You Ever Seen…?”.
Larry Martin of Thibodaux, keyboards; from NiteLife.Larry has been playing the Thibodaux area forever. He’s even been inducted into the Thibodaux Musician’s Hall of Fame – and that town boasts a lot of great musicians. He does it all – rock, jazz, whatever. It’s effortless with him. The music just flows out of him. Larry played on “Thanks for Being There”.
Ben Melancon of Thibodaux, vocals, percussion; from Unmerited Favor.Ben. I am so proud of Ben. He is my step-son. He’s been playing drums for quite a while now. It is one of his great loves (along with sports). In particular, he loves to play the subtle bits. The only thing he does better than play drums, though, is sing. His tenor voice is amazing, and in our most recent mini-concert, his voice shone like the brightest star. Wow! A true pleasure to listen to.
Lindsay Melancon of Thibodaux, lead singer, background vocals, oboe.Lindsay too is amazing, and I am very proud of her. She is my step-daughter. I have a saying about her for the longest time: “Everything she touches turns to gold.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s school, or music, or dance, or a mission trip to South Africa, it all turns out like a perfectly baked cake. I think there is a full-time guardian angel who hangs over her head all the time. On this CD, she sings lead, background vocals and plays oboe. What she doesn’t do on this album is draw from her other talents – piano (classically trained), dance and choreography. For larger shows, she will be our stage director.
Brian O’Neill of New Orleans, trombone; from Bonerama.If you asked me several years ago whether I thought I’d be arranging for brass and woodwinds, particularly trombone, I would have just laughed. But – there you are. Brian played trombone on “Brunch in the Big Easy” for us, and really delivered on it. Trombone players who have heard this work just shake their heads. It’s great. Fun guy, too. Unfortunately, Brian passed away after Hurricane Katrina blew through and before the CD was released. New Orleans lost of a great player.
Clyde Pellegrin of Houma, keyboards; from Nitelife.Clyde is easy-going and a great rhythm keyboard player. If you’re tapping your foot and swaying your head during “What’s the Matter with That?”, he’s the reason why, with those rhythm-eights. It’s in his blood. He just feels the music.
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