“Don’t believe if you play jazz you gotta be a stuffed shirt. You can be serious and loving. It’s all about love.”
These wise and lovely words came from our guest artist Joey Morant when he visited us in the spring of 2011. It was a charged experience. The veteran trumpeter/singer/entertainer put on a joyful, captivating set. He worked the room like a master with call-and-response singing and a stroll through the crowd playing his horn. And in our interview, I felt like I was truly diving into another world when we spoke about his earliest musical experiences growing up in Charleston, SC.
“I was dirt poor,” Morant said. “My seventh grade teacher started a band with old instruments out of the attic of Henry P. Archer Elementary School. And he had one trumpet left, with a hole in it. He said you can play it if you want to tie it up with a handkerchief. Every time I played one note it became three. And I got the nickname Toodle-oo.”
He grew up to be a world-traveling pied piper of jazz and blues, performing with Ray Charles, James Brown, George Benson, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and many others. From Showtime At The Apollo to Las Vegas to a tribute at Ground Zero, he’s brought joy and swing. His jazz, at least what we experienced, was not of the modern, cerebral variety (though you don’t have to be a stuffed shirt to love that either). Rather, imagine a musician vested in the tradition of Louis Armstrong who can enliven standards from jazz, pop and country.
“Louie Armstrong was the ambassador of love,” Morant told us that night in the Griffin Technology Chat Room as he described one of his seminal influences. “Unfortunately, some people called him an Uncle Tom. But a lot of black folks didn’t understand his strategy. He was a brilliant psychologist. He understood how to make America work for him.”
It was easy to love Joey, so we’re all thrilled that he’ll return this week for a show-closing performance at Roots with an all-star Nashville band. It seems a good way to continue our new year kickoff for 2013. He’ll cap off a strong and varied lineup that mingles country, bluegrass and Southern rock. They’re all returning performers, but that’s just fine because they’re so fine.
Drivin’ & Cryin’ is the venerable, road-tested band led by Kevn Kinney, who totally spoke to my history on their last visit with his power pop tribute to the band R.E.M. On their most recent recording Songs About Cars, Space And The Ramones, they tribute those skinny guys in black leather who changed punk rock, and I think my life in some hard-to-discern way. Cars and Space are two of my other favorite things, so I’m fully on board.
D&C rock hard and loud, but we have plenty of contrasts too. Don Gallardo returns with his band How Far West and his crisp, tuneful take on Americana. The East Nashvillian delivered a fine album this summer, and we’ll hear some songs from that. Also on the bill, our show regular Travis Stinson and his utterly fun Volunteer String Band. Travis sings the Vietti Chili jingles every week with Aly Sutton, but he sounds even better leading this Dead-influenced bluegrass ensemble with the picking skills of banjoist Marcus Stadler, mandolinist Matt Raum and bass player Adam Chaffins.
And also, just to make this even more fun, we welcome back a regular — the man who changed Nashville’s rock scene and alternative country forever in the 1980s as the leader of the Nashville Scorchers. Jason Ringenberg will be performing one of his quirky, twangy and stylish solo sets. AND he’ll be our guest host for the week, subbing for a traveling Jim Lauderdale.
It’s a show with a little bit of everything. Rock, country, bluegrass and jazz. And a bunch of love.