Lowdown on Boz Scaggs

Erie Times-News - June 19, 2008

The singer will open the Chautauqua Institution season on Saturday in the Amphitheater.

By Dave Richards - Staff Writer

He's a soul man, Boz Scaggs. You can hear it in the stylish, sophisticated R&B that graced his 1976 breakthrough album "Silk Degrees." Scaggs brought a polished, classy vibe to the breezy record, which included huge radio hits, "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown."

Scaggs, who grew up in Texas, started his career in the 1960s. After living in Europe, he relocated to California and joined former classmate Steve Miller on "Children of the Future" and "Sailor."

He released six albums, including 1974's acclaimed "Slow Dancer," before "Silk Degrees" vaulted him to fame. He became more meticulous with subsequent releases and, by 1980, had tired of the demands of pop life. A layoff turned into a 10-year break,

In recent years, Scaggs has opened a winery, Scaggs Vineyards, hit the road more frequently, and explored jazz standards. His 2003 release "But Beautiful" hit No. 1 on Billboard's jazz chart; a follow-up arrives this fall.

Scaggs opens Chautauqua Institution's 135th season on Saturday. He talks about his career below.

Dave - You're touring a lot more recently after taking time off.

Boz - I took about a decade off. I took the '80s off -- it just turned into that. I had planned on taking six months away from touring and recording, and it ended up stretching on. I started recording again about six years later.

I just had a lot of personal business to take care of, and got caught up in other things. Music just went away from me for a while. I didn't have anything to say, and I had other personal business to attend to. I feel like I am able to be where I am today, and do what I am doing, probably because I had the opportunity to get away from it for a while.

Dave - Is this a retrospective tour?

Boz - We're concentrating on a short list of under 20 songs right now. Eventually, as the summer goes on, we'll expand the repertoire, and I'll be doing more of a mixed bag, depending on the type of venue. I'm doing everything from blues festivals to more jazz festival things. Each calls for a different list.

I won't be doing any of the standards in the near future, although we'll be rehearsing those as we go and can [do some] if any are called for. Primarily, we'll be doing the hits, some blues, and some of my favorites -- just odds and ends that aren't mine that I haven't recorded.

Dave - What led you into trying jazz standards?

Boz - I'm not really a jazz singer. I don't pretend to be, but I'm working with jazz musicians. It's one of a variety of things that I've pursued as a singer. It's the most challenging area. Blues comes naturally and R&B. I've been a pop singer, I've written ballads. I've done a lot of things, but as a singer, the challenge has been in doing these standards.

This approach came about as a result of some jazz musicians who were working in my studio in San Francisco. I let them have the studio to make their own album, and as a result of getting to know them, I started trying out some songs eight of nine years ago.

Dave - How do you look back on the 1970s, when you were having big hits?

Boz - It was a complex little cocktail. It was a natural extension in many ways of what I'd been doing and had been working on for a number of years. I'd had a number of albums before the big success of 'Silk Degrees.' It was an extension of that work and the players I had around me. It was real gratifying on many levels but also kind of a blur. Keeping up with the career became more of the job than keeping up with the music.

Dave - Congratulations with the winery.

Boz - Well, wine is good. We're releasing a red [Montage] this fall that's just what we're looking for. We've been experimenting with bottling and making wine about eight years now. I think we've got a vintage now, we're hitting the spot. We've got a wine we like.

Dave Richards can be reached at 870-1703 or by e-mail at dave.richards@timesnews.com.

The skinny
Boz Scaggs, David Jacobs-Strain will perform Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Chautauqua Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y. Gates open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $38 and are available at (716) 357-6250, and online at
www.ciweb.org. For more on Scaggs, visit www.bozscaggs.com.

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