Oct. Betty Fox story - JazzBluesFlorida
Blues, gospel and Southern soul unite within the voice of Betty Fox, the St. Petersburg-raised singer and five-time winner of [i]Creative Loafing[i] magazine's "Best of the Bay" award.
The most recent evidence is the new CD by her self-titled band, [i]Peace in Pieces[i]. Recorded at the aptly-named FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a facility that's hosted a who's-who list of roots music clients and will soon celebrate its 60th anniversary, the disc shines from the opening notes of its uplifting opening track and new single, "Green Light."
"Sometimes it still feels unbelievable that my dream came true," Fox says. "The music that has come from this place has been a constant source of inspiration to me in my growth as a musician. FAME provided a moving, sonic landscape for us, and we felt honored to have the opportunity to record artistically where so much musical history has been made."
Along with guitarist Josh Nelms, bassist Barry Williams and drummer Jake Winebrenner, Fox holds CD release parties for [i]Peace in Pieces[i] on October 4 at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg, October 18 at The Alley in Sanford, and November 9 at the Dunedin Wines the Blues Festival -- all well before the album is released via music retailers and streaming services on January 10, 2020.
Fox started forming her hybrid vocal style, which also includes occasional disparate elements of funk and country music, early on. Her first performance on stage, in a church play at age 4, was inspired by a musical family that specialized in vocal harmonies during holiday gatherings.
"My uncle Fred would pound on the keys with his monster hands," she says, "while my family and I would all gather around the piano. My grandmother would stand behind me and my cousins would hold my hands as we all sang four and five-part harmonies to songs like 'It Is Well With My Soul,' 'The Old Rugged Cross,' and 'Till the Storm Passes By.'" The latter Christian hymn is reenacted at the end of [i]Peace in Pieces[i], and features a powerfully breathy, resonant vocal performance by Fox.
After recruiting some of the best musicians in the Tampa Bay area to form the Betty Fox Band in 2012, the young vocalist recorded her critically-acclaimed debut album, [i]Too Far Gone[i], and its 2015 follow-up, [i]Slow Burn[i]. [i]American Blues Scene[i] magazine wrote that "Fox's singing is a cross between Beth Hart and Etta James, with a touch of Marion James thrown in;" [i]Blues Revue[i] magazine wrote, "Like a bluesy Christina Aguilera, Fox takes us on a delightful vocal journey."
Subsequent career highlights include being finalists in the International Blues Challenge in 2015; performing at high-profile Florida events like the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, Daytona Blues Festival, Panama City Blues Festival, and Clearwater Sea Blues Festival, and opening shows for the likes of Mavis Staples, Robert Randolph, Robben Ford, Marcia Ball, The Lee Boys, Ana Popovich, Lucky Peterson, and The Nighthawks.
On [i]Peace in Pieces[i], Fox's development as a composer rises even more to the fore than on her previous releases. "Green Light" defies the high-wire degree of difficulty of blending soul and country elements; the title track is a double-time R&B rave-up that would also sound at home in the hands of Janis Joplin or Susan Tedeschi, and the impassioned, 6/8-timed slow blues of the autobiographical "Sweet Goodnight" unearths new depths within the young songwriter.
"My father died young from Lou Gherig's disease," Fox says. "He passed away quickly after his diagnosis with this horrible disease. 'Sweet Goodnight' was written with the help of my stepmother at their home in the mountains of North Carolina. Sometimes music is the only way we have of connecting with the deepest feelings of mourning and loss. Sharing this process with my stepmother was healing for us both."
[i]Peace in Pieces[i] echoes elements from throughout FAME's storied history -- Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Etta James, Jerry Reed, Solomon Burke, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, the Rolling Stones, Joe Tex, Clarence Carter, Joe Cocker, Delbert McClinton, Elvin Bishop, Betty LaVette, and the Dixie Chicks -- and may prove to be the release that adds another name to that famed roster. More at bettyfox.net.
Scott Henderson CD review -- Sept. issue of JazzTimes
#PEOPLE MOVER# (self-released)
Guitarist Scott Henderson's innate talents overwhelmed both the music scene and music schools of his native South Florida before he moved to Los Angeles 40 years ago. Yet he didn't relocate for stardom, eschewing sideman roles with Chick Corea, Jean-Luc Ponty and Joe Zawinul to form his own band Tribal Tech, active from 1984-2013. Henderson's solo career started in 1994, and his new #People Mover# release is one of the high-water marks among the half-dozen efforts under his own name.
Another was its predecessor, the similarly self-released #Vibe Station# from 2015, with bassist Travis Carlton and drummer Alan Hertz. This time, Henderson features an even younger rhythm section in French musicians Romain Labaye (bass) and Archibald Ligonniere (drums), with equally-explosive results. Henderson has always mixed his jazz/fusion guitar influences (like Allan Holdsworth) with those based in rock (Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore) and blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan), and does so from his opening chimes of "Transatlantic," which segues between tranquil and high-octane sections, the latter featuring his signature soloing accents. "Primary Location" veers funkier, showcasing the rhythmic emphasis in both Henderson's playing and composition and highlighting Labaye's fretless tones and harmonics.
#People Mover# features more effects, overdubs and general production than its predecessors, courtesy of both the bandleader and Hertz, who recorded and helped mix the 10 tracks. "All Aboard" features piped-in crowd noise and touches of electronics within its inside-out cadence, and the closing ballad "Fawn" electronic percussion by former Tribal Tech keyboardist Scott Kinsey. In-between, Henderson shows his clean-tone soloing prowess on the swinging title track, also featuring a banner solo by Labaye and furious Ligonniere drumming; "Satellite" offers a Middle Eastern influence and background spoken overdubs, and "Syringe" features the trio's ample improvisation within another of Henderson's inimitable, acidic compositional mixes of jazz, rock and blues. BILL MEREDITH
West Palm Beach Auditorium concerts story - July issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper
To paraphrase Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant's line from "Stairway To Heaven" in the film [i]The Song Remains the Same[i], "Does anybody remember 'The Leaky Teepee?'"
If you recognize that nickname, you're probably old enough to have attended events at the venue formerly officially known as the West Palm Beach Auditorium. Located at 1610 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., it started construction in 1965, and the round structure would eventually feature circus presentations, high school graduations, and professional sporting events like soccer, basketball, ice hockey, roller hockey, and wrestling.
But the rain-challenged, slope-roofed, 5,000-seat auditorium was probably best-known for presenting concerts from its inception until nearly 21 years ago, when it became the West Palm Beach Christian Convention Center. It's since become primarily used by Jehovah's Witnesses.
Talk about a role reversal. In the first few years after starting to stage concerts in 1968, according to www.setlist.fm -- which chronicles most, though not all, of the auditorium's concert presentations -- its roster had included The Temptations, Grand Funk Railroad, Jethro Tull, Chicago, Jerry Lee Lewis, Deep Purple, Buddy Miles, Glen Campbell, Freddie King, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Yes. A Facebook group page, "I Saw That Band at the West Palm Beach Civic Auditorium," also recalls some of the civics-testing activities there.
In 1973, future stadium rockers Aerosmith made an appearance. Another Boston-spawned act, the J. Geils Band, staged its first of several blazing performances there. British progressive rock icons King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer each took the stage, as did Johnny Winter And, the Texas blues/rock quartet also featuring second guitarist/vocalist Rick Derringer. And The Eagles -- on an early rung of the ladder toward becoming one of the biggest bands in the world while touring in support of their second album, [i]Desperado[i] -- played to a less-than-capacity crowd.
The following year, American acts from ahead-of-their-time Oakland, CA-based funk/rock act Sly & the Family Stone to Texas roots-rock trio ZZ Top to a cartoon-ish, fledgling New York group called KISS played the auditorium. The Brits included blues/rock guitar star Robin Trower and heavy metal pioneers and auditorium frequenters Black Sabbath. Singer Ozzy Osbourne, who'd co-written a song with the band called "Fairies Wear Boots," sang while wearing boots up to his knees, and police officers made arrests of unsuspecting pot smokers by descending upon them every time they were illuminated by someone taking a flash photo of the group.
"I have so many memories of attending concerts at the auditorium," says West Palm Beach-based musicologist Mike McLaren, editor/publisher of the [i]West Palm Tribune[i] in the early 2000s. "I saw a lot of great bands, from AC/DC to ZZ Top. The first concert I saw there was Sly & the Family Stone in 1974. Tickets were $4.50. After that show, I was hooked, and tried to attend every concert I could there. It was a terrific time to be a young music fan in West Palm Beach."
In 1975, there were shows by Genesis, Uriah Heep, and Ike & Tina Turner, the latter featuring an announcement from the stage that the nearly 20-year-old war in Vietnam had officially come to an end that night. The remainder of the 1970s featured Canadian progressive rock trio Rush, Las Vegas icon Elvis Presley (only six months before his death in 1977), rising star Billy Joel, pop duo Hall & Oates, and future stadium rockers Van Halen. Another such act, Australia-based AC/DC, bravely featured dangerous, scene-stealing opener Mother's Finest -- an Atlanta-based funk/rock sextet that would eventually reach stardom in Europe but never quite achieve that pinnacle in the United States.
"That's when I first saw Mother's Finest live, and they were great," says West Palm Beach resident Ron DeSaram, a lead guitarist and bassist in multiple Palm Beach County bands. "I saw so many shows at the auditorium during that era that they blur together. AC/DC, Rush, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Uriah Heep, Foghat, REO Speedwagon, Montrose, Black Oak Arkansas, Peter Frampton, Steve Marriott after Humble Pie broke up, the J. Geils Band with Styx opening for them, and Blue Oyster Cult with Nazareth opening."
The late '70s also featured a jazz/fusion festival with artists from venerable pianist Eubie Blake (1887-1983) to keyboard wizard Herbie Hancock, and a performance by Sea Level, the jazzy side group formed by Allman Brothers Band personnel Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Jaimoe (drums) and Lamar Williams (bass).
As a new decade dawned, 1980 featured everything from shock-rocker Alice Cooper to Georgia-spawned, University of Miami-trained fusion act the Dixie Dregs. British rock quartet Foghat had already put on multiple memorable auditorium performances, but Sept. 25, 1980 proved not to be one of them. Unfortunately for the band, their show was on the same day that the death of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was announced. Foghat, particularly drummer Roger Earl, seemed affected and played sloppily.
The early to mid-'80s were hit-and-miss. Worthy rock acts (Cheap Trick, U2, Tom Petty, Grateful Dead), soulful performers (Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles), and country artists (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings) were contrasted by fading rockers with local family-and-friend ties (Ted Nugent), future beer distributors (Jimmy Buffett), and small screen-inspired stars (Bon Jovi). Indeed, MTV's presence invaded the "Leaky Teepee" as much as it did the '80s themselves. Does anybody remember the 1982 double-bill there of Flock of Seagulls and the Go Go's?
In 1985, the venue's star cycle included the Beach Boys, Heart, Tears For Fears, and the country pairing of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
"When I saw Dolly Parton at the auditorium, I was able to walk past her, just a few feet away," says Lisa Moss, a resource specialist at the help line 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. "And she looked straight at me and smiled as she sang. It's one of my favorite memories."
Before disparate artists including Luther Vandross, The Pretenders, Iggy Pop and Metallica closed out the '80s, there were even separate hip-hop performances by Def Jam recording label mates Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys at the auditorium. With the debauchery described by members of the latter New York City trio in last year's autobiographical [i]Beastie Boys Book[i], the venue eventually turning into the West Palm Beach Christian Convention Center may have been required for atonement.
A 1990 concert by British rockers The Cult jump-started the auditorium's final decade. That show's opening act was Bonham, led by drummer Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin's legendary drummer, who'd died nearly 10 years earlier (likely helping to cause Foghat's distracted performance at the venue that night). Yet the 1970s era of premium auditorium concerts, which had slowed during the '80s, became even more intermittent. Bob Dylan and Santana were a marquee double-bill in 1993, and ageless 86-year-old country star Willie Nelson put on a memorable performance there that year at age 60.
"Nelson's power has always been his ability to understate a song while getting the most out of it," wrote [i]Sun-Sentinel[i] entertainment writer Chauncey Mabe in his concert review, "and he shows he has not lost it."
Nineteen-ninety-five became memorable because of performances by Phish, Green Day, and Primus. The latter was partially so for the wrong reasons. After New York metal quartet Helmet hyped the crowd with a raucous opening set, Primus had to deal with the aftermath. Forty minutes into the San Francisco trio's presentation of its inimitable, staccato funk-rock tunes, bassist/vocalist Les Claypool got tired of being pelted by objects thrown by fools down front, threatening to end the show if he got hit once more. He was, and they walked off.
The auditorium's occasional jazz presentations included a mid-'90s show by heralded guitarist/vocalist George Benson. The opening act was the self-titled trio led by New York City-based guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, now a traditional jazz star as a solo artist and member of the trio led by keyboardist Dr. Lonnie Smith (who'd recorded and toured with Benson in the 1960s). Kreisberg was a music student at the University of Miami at the time, along with trio mates Javier Carrion (bass) and Vince Verderame (drums).
"I'd always loved George's playing," Kreisberg says, "ever since the [i]It's Uptown[i] and [i]George Benson Cookbook[i] albums he recorded with Lonnie. It was a thrill to play the auditorium and open for him, but we were bummed because we didn't get to meet or hang with him then. That had to wait until years later."
The writing was on the leaky walls as the '90s wound down. After a December 1997 metal show featuring Anthrax and Pantera nearly crumbled those walls, British pop group Oasis lowered the decibels by nearly half in February of 1998. When Nashville-based Christian rock act Jars of Clay closed 1998 that December, it signaled a sacred shift.
After a 30-year run of far more secular "Leaky Teepee" performances, the sounds of the West Palm Beach Christian Convention Center during the 20-plus years since have definitely not remained the same.