Steve Winwood – Tickets – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – Portland, OR – November 14th, 2012

Steve Winwood

True West Presents at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Steve Winwood

The Wood Brothers

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Portland, OR

$39.50-$70.00 (rsvd)

This event is all ages

Steve Winwood
Steve Winwood
Winwood was just a teenager when he rocketed into the international spotlight as the prodigious singer of the Spencer Davis Group (which also featured his brother Muff on bass). The blues and R&B-influenced rock of "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man" stood among the leading hits at the peak of the British Invasion, Winwood's singing drawing comparisons to that of his idol Ray Charles - despite his tender age. Looking for a wider artistic palette, in 1967 he headed to the countryside with friends Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason, forging the collective spirit into Traffic, producing some of the most inventive and durable works of the psychedelic-tinged late-"60s.

In 1969 he and Clapton, having worked together briefly in the short-lived Powerhouse project, formed Blind Faith with Clapton's Cream-mate, drummer Ginger Baker, and bass player Rick Grech, though the "supergroup" lasted just one acclaimed album and tour. Intending to mix English folk styles along with jazz and rock, Winwood started work on what was meant as his first solo album, but ultimately enlisted Capaldi and Wood in a reconvened Traffic for the landmark John Barleycorn Must Die album. An expanded Traffic lineup (including African percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah) went on to make two of the most arresting albums of the early '70s in The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Shoot Out At the Fantasy Factory, expanding on the jazz and world music elements. A scaled-back line-up brought the Traffic era to a close with 1974's When the Eagle Flies. With 1977's Steve Winwood, a rich solo career launched in earnest. Arc of a Diver (1980) featured the hit "While You See a Chance", and subsequent solo albums Talking Back to the Night (1982), Back in the High Life (1986), and Roll With It (1988) produced era-defining songs including "Valerie," "Higher Love," "Back in the High Life," and "Roll With It."

Following 1990's Refugees of the Heart, Winwood and Capaldi reunited as Traffic for the 1994 Far From Home album and tour, the latter documented in the CD/DVD release The Last Great Traffic Jam. In 1997, Winwood teamed with producer Narada Michael Walden for Junction 7. In 2003 the critically acclaimed About Time was released which saw Winwood returning to the free-flowing spirit of some of his most enduring music. The 2008 follow up titled Nine Lives saw Winwood gain one of his highest billboard chart entries.

Currently, Winwood can still be found touring, predominantly keeping himself to the US and Europe but, most recently he has completed a tour of Australia and New Zealand with Steely Dan. When he's not touring with his own band Winwood is still regularly collaborating with ex Blind Faith band mate Eric Clapton. Having completed a landmark 3 night stand at Madison Square Gardens in New York in 2008 they have subsequently gone on to tour the wider US, Europe and now Japan.

Along the way, Winwood has also collaborated with and accompanied musicians from around the globe, including Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland), Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, James Brown, Muddy Waters, Toots & the Maytals, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, salsa greats Tito Puente and the Fania All Stars, Japanese innovator Stomu Yamashta and African percussionist Remi Kabaka, just to name a handful of dozens.
The Wood Brothers
The Wood Brothers
Two brothers decide to form a band, adapting the blues, folk and other roots‐music sounds they loved as kids into their own evocative sound and twining their voices in the sort of high‐lonesome harmony blend for which sibling singers are often renowned. While that's not a terribly unusual story, the Wood Brothers took a twisty path to their ultimate collaboration. Indeed, they pursued separate projects for some 15 years before joining forces.

You wouldn't necessarily gather this fact from listening to Smoke Ring Halo (Southern Ground), the duo's third full‐length album – their musical chemistry has never felt more profound. Oliver Wood (guitar, vocals) and Chris Wood (bass, vocals, harmonica) refine their rich, spacious sound on songs like the rousing opener "Mary Anna," the back‐porch‐funky "Shoofly Pie," the waltz‐time plaint "Pay Attention," the elegiac title track, the gospel‐inflected "Made It Up the Mountain" and more.

With supple assistance from drummer Tyler Greenwell and a fleet of gifted guest players – not to mention Grammy‐nominated producer‐engineer‐mixer Jim Scott (Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Lucinda Williams) – the brothers simmer, swing and soar, shifting moods and time signatures with aplomb. As ever, Oliver's lived‐in, expressive voice and urgent fretwork bounce off Chris' propulsive stand‐up bass lines, in‐the‐pocket harmonies and ghostly harmonica phrases. But this time Chris contributed some lead vocals, displaying a startlingly pure tone on the dreamy "The Shore" and the slide‐spiced
"Rainbow."

They both imbibed the heady tones and stories of American roots music – notably folk, blues, bluegrass and country – at the feet of their father, a molecular biologist with a passion for performing. "Even before we discovered his record collection, we listened to him around the campfire or at family gatherings," Oliver recalls of assorted hootenannies at their Boulder, Colorado, home and other locales.

"He'd entertain anybody." Adds Chris, "Having that experience of live music at home was pretty important. It definitely affected the way my brother and I view music." Their mother, a poet, meanwhile, taught them a deep appreciation for storytelling and turn of phrase.

Though initially "too shy to sing," Oliver became obsessed with the guitar, especially as voiced by bluesmen like Lightnin' Hopkins and Jimmy Reed. Chris, who cites the "roundness, warmth and mystery" of those same blues recordings as a primary influence, studied clarinet and piano but gravitated toward jazz sounds; by the time he took up the bass he was fully enraptured. The boys discovered classic rock artists like Hendrix and Led Zeppelin on their own along the way; Oliver followed those monster guitar riffs back to the electric blues of "the Kings" (B.B., Albert and Freddie), Albert Collins and other midcentury masters. He too spent some time spellbound by the complex filigrees of bebop – but, as he says, "I came back full circle" to roots music.

Their paths diverged after those teenage explorations. Oliver briefly attended UC Santa Cruz before dropping out to follow some fellow musicians to Atlanta, where he tackled Motown and other R&B covers on guitar in local clubs. "I was learning how to be a working musician," he remembers. "I didn't yet have aspirations to be an artist." Though that band didn't last long, a regular Tuesday‐night gig at Fat Matt's Rib Shack enabled him to hone his chops and learn from older players. He eventually secured a spot in the band of veteran bluesman Tinsley Ellis, touring widely and experiencing the elder
musician's "workhorse" schedule. It was his mentor Ellis who ultimately encouraged him to approach the microphone. "He gave me a Freddie King song, 'See See Baby,' to sing in the set," Oliver relates. "He encouraged me to write and sing. That's where I got the fire to do my own thing."

He formed King Johnson with his buddy Chris Long, layering R&B, funk, soul and country elements over their beloved blues influences. He toured constantly with that "labor of love" band during the 12 years of its existence; KJ released six albums and eventually became a six‐piece outfit (including a horn section).

Chris, meanwhile, went off to the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC), developing his virtuosic skills on bass, studying with jazz luminaries like Geri Allen and Dave Holland and gigging regularly as a sideman. It was during a fateful session in Western Massachusetts that he met keyboard wizard John Medeski; with drummer Billy Martin, they would go on to form the hugely influential, genre‐busting instrumental trio Medeski Martin & Wood in the early '90s. MMW released a string of discs combining jazz, funk, blues, experimental noise and myriad other subgenres and styles into their own distinctive amalgam, and mesmerized audiences worldwide with their seemingly telekinetic improvisation. Wood's colossal grooves on both electric and acoustic axes – not to mention his imaginative use of paper behind the strings and other sound‐altering techniques – made him the bass player's bass player.

Eventually, King Johnson opened for MMW in Winston‐Salem, N.C., and Oliver sat in with his brother's band. "It was a slightly creepy experience, like watching myself" Chris notes. "He had a lot of the same impulses I did. Part of it was influences and part of it was blood." Agrees Oliver, "It opened our eyes that we could communicate on a musical level."

In 2004, the brothers seized the opportunity presented by a family reunion and recorded some material together on Chris' mobile gear. The sound of their blended styles was instantly compelling. "It was pretty amazing to get together with Chris," Oliver muses. "We played together as teenagers, then we went in separate directions for 15 years. We'd developed our own thing and seemingly different styles and roads, but we were both blown away by how much we had in common. The roots are still there."

Oliver took the music they'd recorded, added lyrics and finished it as a song. Encouraged by their initial foray, the Woods decided to take the next step, with Chris learning a batch of Oliver's songs and the pair tracking a demo. Though they'd done it for their own amusement, MMW's manager was sufficiently impressed to pass the music on to Blue Note Records. No sooner had they begun to think of themselves as a band than the Wood Brothers had a record deal. (Prior to releasing their album debut for the label, the pair dropped an EP, Live at Tonic; it was culled from their very first gig together, at the storied New York club.)

Oliver had spent years polishing his singing and songwriting but felt his guitar chops needed work. Chris, meanwhile, was a monster player who'd spent 15 years making instrumental music and had to reacclimate himself to vocals and pop song structure. These different emphases ended up serving them well. "I had these songs and could sing and play 'em well," reflects Oliver, "and Chris' strength – at the time – was to take my songs and make 'em sound completely cool and unique. Instead of a typical band situation, you had this incredible upright bass."

2006 saw the release of their first album, Ways Not to Lose, which was named top pick in folk by Amazon.com's editors that year. "Modern folk and blues rarely sounds as inventive and colorful," declared Amazon reviewer Ted Drozdowski, who deemed the disc "delightful" and declared the brothers "in absolute synch creatively."

Ways was produced by MMW's John Medeski, who had been stunned by Oliver's compositions. "He's an unbelievable songwriter – his material is deep," the keyboardist marvels. "I can't tell you how many of Oliver's songs I thought were old traditional standards. They just sound classic." Medeski went on to produce the Brothers' 2008 follow‐up, Loaded (heralded as one NPR's "Overlooked 11"); he also contributes some tasty organ playing to Smoke Ring Halo. "I just love his musical sensibility," Oliver says of his brother's longtime bandmate.

Working with Jim Scott on Halo, the Woods were able to explore new sounds. "Because he's also an engineer, he's very technically knowledgeable; he's a fantastic sonic guy," Oliver volunteers. "That's why this record sounds so different from our others." Also, Chris points out, "We recorded on two‐inch analog tape this time, so it has that fat, natural sound we love."

In 2010, the Woods and drummer Greenwell hit the road with roots‐rock phenom Zac Brown. "It was about the best opening‐band situation I can imagine," Chris says of the tour, which sometimes put the Wood Brothers before crowds of 20,000 – many times larger than the usual audience for their headlining gigs. "Zac was really great; he'd come out and play with us during our set, and invite us out to join in during his." Oliver notes that he and his brother "learned a lot by watching Zac and his band." Brown also wooed the Woods over to his own label, Southern Ground; he served as executive producer
on Smoke Ring Halo.

And so the two brothers continued pursuing the musical adventure they'd begun in childhood. For although their paths diverged for many years, and they forged very different careers in disparate places, the Wood Brothers are never far from the musical currents that formed their musical impulses in the first place. It may be, in Chris' formation, part influences and part blood. But it's all magic.