I have a couple artist pages on my distributor’s website (http://www.cdbaby.com/artist/vellewis) where I’ve listed my music influences as George Duke, Billy Preston, Brian Culbertson. On another page I added Herbie Hancock. These artists and their work continue to provide a great influence on my style of composing and performing music. However, I came across a favorite Hammond organist of mine while on You Tube a few days ago that I could never leave out as an inspirational artist of mine – Mr. Lee Michaels.
In my teens, I listened to Lee’s version of “Stormy Monday” for weeks, teaching myself how to play every note, chord, rhythmic lick, riff, expression pedal usage, etc. that he did in the entire song, so that I could play the song as close as I could to the way that he played it. As I listened again to this track the other day, so many memories came back about how I wanted my style to be. Needless to say, while growing up, I didn’t listen only to soul music, R&B, funk, etc. normally considered to be “black music”. I also listened to rock music, and what may be considered as heavy metal, pop and classic rock music, also. Songs like “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” by Spiral Staircase (yup, that’s a Hammond organ holding down the pads), Rare Earth (“Get Ready” had a funky sounding snare on it!), Grand Funk Railroad (woo, they were a tight band!), Iron Butterfly, Three Dog Night, Blood, Sweat, & Tears. These were some of the groups that I listened to day in and day out, along with James Brown, Brass Construction, Wilson Pickett, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and all the Motown groups, never getting enough of the music!
I went to a Marcus Miller performance last night at the House of Blues here in Houston. Marcus said he hadn’t played in Houston before. He definitely made that clear! And, it happened to be his birthday too! He put on the concert of the year, in my opinion. I met Marcus quite a few years ago, and we talked about how the bands and musicians were “back in the old days”, and how we would always do shows like the way they did back then. He succeeded in doing that last night once again! I’ve seen him do it before, so I was pretty sure of what to expect. What does this mean? It means being a tight rhythm section. And give everybody a chance to “get some” – get a chance to do a flaming solo in almost every song, keeping it funky or mellow (whatever the mood of the song called for) while putting it down, and keeping the past alive in the music.
Thanks for speaking on this subject last night, Marcus – the history of music and what’s in it.