Hotline to the Underground April 13, 2020

Before our interview and a review of music by Jack Phillips, first a word about the worldwide situation updending just about everything.

We lost a public access TV legend in Richie Sarno of Burlington on April 2nd. Richie had a long-time illness so I do not think it had anything to do with the current worldwide situation. Richie did amazing programs on Little Joe Cook and Shirley Lewis, two friends of mine who are also gone. In the past five months I’ve lost five friends in addition to Richie, and this is before COVID-19.

The music world is getting hit hard by this virus. Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, Adam Schlesinger on April 1 at 52 years of age, John Prine, SNL and Lou Reed producer Hal Wilner and one of my guests on Visual Radio – the writer of “I Love Rock n Roll,” Alan Merrill at 69. To say we are numb by all this is an understatement. And now WBGO radio reports “Eddy Davis, a banjoist and bandleader who enjoyed a sprawling career in traditional jazz, most visibly through a decades-long association with Woody Allen, died on Tuesday at Mount Sinai West hospital in New York City. He was 79.”

Eddy co-wrote and produced “Café Nights In New York” for important New York artist Jack Phillips. All About Jazz magazine’s Dan Bilawsky noted in a July 2012 piece: “Phillips, who typically works in pop and rock situations, made it a point to go to the Carlyle to check out the late Bobby Short’s performances and, in more recent times, the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band, and these listening experiences proved to be transformative. Short’s work was the impetus behind Phillips’ decision to take the plunge into cabaret territory and Davis serves as his arranger, producer, guitar-and-banjo wielding accompanist, occasional songwriting partner and style guide.”

We will have more about Eddy Davis next week.

This week’s feature is on an amazingly creative talent.
A Quick Talk with Artist Keith Henry Brown

Keith Henry Brown created the cover of Jack Phillips album Down in the Jungle Room. We have some unique pictures of how the album cover evolved.

Keith, how did you meet Jack Phillips?

KB: I believe he saw my work online and contacted me through (the) website.

JV: Who settled on the idea of the tribute to the 1968 Underground album by Thelonious Monk? in_production.html

KB: It’s revered in the jazz community – a classic. I’ve certainly been aware of it since I was a teenager. I’m not sure Jack knew that it as my reference. But I showed him sketches and he liked it. I chose it because it ‘s one of my favorite jazz LP covers and it seemed like an appropriate composition. Jack’s music of course is very different from Thelonious Monk’s.

JV: Are there multiple ideas that weren’t used after the initial black and white sketch?

KB: Yes, we went through many versions. Mostly about getting a good likeness of Jack.

JV: You have designed and illustrated several jazz CD covers for Christian McBride, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Duke Ellington, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and many others … do you like to create the idea with no input or is there usually a committee involved?

KB: The process is a little different every time, but usually I discuss the project with artist, throw out ideas, produce sketches and we work it out from there until everyone’s happy.

JV: How long were you at Marvel Comics and what titles did you work on?

KB: A couple of years. Various characters

We thank you for your time, Keith. .
December 24, 2010, yes nine years and four months ago, Jack Phillips released his first album in ten years! The title track “To Whom It May Concern”, is reminiscent of the 1989 duet by Cher and Peter Cetera, the classy “After All”, from the film Chances Are. Phillips earlier Revival Time release in 2000 was under the name John R. Phillips, and the new moniker comes along with his new approach.
With material more uplifting the new music like “Winter Keeps Us Warm” is driving pop, something that – believe it or not – the Doobie Brothers and Kenny Rogers could cover… in fact, Kenny should cover it, backed up by The Doobies. Everything here is over three minutes and under five, and the authoritative handle exhibited on the opening track, “I Can’t See”, shows much promise – promise the artist fulfills on this intriguing new collection of material.
A decade in between releases is quite some time to ponder and meditate upon your next move, lyricist James Russell giving his perspective on songs like “I’m Movin’ Out”, the quasi-disco “The Trip Will Make You Well” (as if Giorgio Moroder decided to leave the soundtrack world for albums again) and “Motherlode”. The album has different facets, “The Next Thing We Knew” sounding like vintage Ronnie Milsap while “Bright One” bridges pop and country in a refreshing way. Perfect for Top 40 radio of both genres
Some of Jack Phillips’ amazing catalog:
First Hand (1982)
Portrait (1986)
Revival Time (1999)
To Whom It May Concern (2010)
Alowishus Para Tomas (2011)
One Night Only – Live in New York (2012)
Café Nights In New York (2012)
Down In The Jungle Room (2017)

Jack Phillips and his band have performed in New York at The Bitter End, The National Underground and The Knitting Factory to name a few. Currently Jack and his jazz band (Conal Fowkes on piano, Debbie Kennedy on bass and Klaus Suonsaari on drums) perform frequently in New York at Don’t Tell Mama, The Duplex, and will be returning to The Triad soon


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