Piano Jazz - Boz Scaggs With Marian McPartland

[Sketch by FrenchFan]

[September 2003]

Boz was a guest on Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" radio show.

[The following transcript is not 'word for word'.  Grammar has been changed in a few places, um's and ah's have been excluded.... etc.]

Marian:  Hi I'm Marian McPartland, my guest today is Grammy winning singer songwriter Boz Scaggs whose newest release is "But Beautiful".  A collection of romantic tunes from the American Songbook.  He infuses them with soulful ease combining rock, jazz and rhythm and blues, to create his own insightful and original sound.

Marian: Hi Boz

Boz: Hi Marian

Marian:  How are you ?

Boz:  I'm great, how are you ?

Marian:  I'm good.  Are you ready to sing some of these insightful soulful tunes ?

Boz: (laughing)  Well, by all means.

Marian:  What made you decide to start doing all these beautiful ballads, its sort of a  new thing for you isn't it ?

Boz:  Well, yes and no, its not necessarily a new thing... that is the songs are not new to me.  I think any musician, anyone growing up in the latter part of the 20th century can't miss these songs, they are around us, they are everywhere.  As to recording them, well it wasn't a snap decision, it just sort of came upon me through a series of events.  I suppose the most important event was in meeting the piano player Paul Nagel who I worked with on these songs.  He was part of a trio working with a saxophone player who I invited to work in my studio to make an album.

Marian:  Who was that, was that Eric ?

Boz:  That was Cornelius Bumpus the tenor player.

Marian:  Love that name !

Boz:  Great name, great player. New York dude.  He was in Steely Dan at the time that I met him, then he came and worked for me on the road for a while.  He is a fine jazz player and wanted to make a record of some original tunes, and I invited him to use my room and he invited Paul Nagel in turn to come back him up on that CD.  That's how I met Paul.  It was I think Paul's being there and encouraging me to sort of follow my interests.  We got together in the afternoons casually and played some songs.  We went into the book and "oh you remember that, you want to try that, oh lets check that out".  We juggled the songs around and eventually got around to performing for a few people.  One step at a time one thing after another.  Then we decided after some time to record them all.  We got together with the quartet. 

I had a benefit to do in fact San Francisco and one of the prerequisites for the benefit was that it be all acoustic.  It was a little different, a little out of my realm because I am electric blues, rhythm and blues, pop, rock musician, different kind of music.  So we stuck with the quartet and did it acoustically for this benefit show in San Francisco.  It felt great, so we kept the line up and went into my studio.  One afternoon we did 18 or 20 songs and listened to them.  It sounded right, it felt right, so off we went.

Marian:  I would love to hear you sing one.  We have a wonderful bassist with us Gary Mazzaroppi, we don't have the rest of your quartet but I would love to play some of these songs.  What could we do ?

Boz:  This isn't on the CD - "It Could Happen To You".


It Could Happen To You

Hide your heart from sight
Lock your dreams at night
It could happen to you

Don't count stars
Or you might stumble
Someone drops a sigh
And down you tumble

Keep an eye on spring
Run when church bells ring
It could happen to you

All I did was wonder
How your arms would be
And it happened to me

Keep an eye on spring
Run when church bells ring
It could happen to you

All I did was wonder
How your arms would be
And it happened...
You know it happened to
Happened to me


Marian: Boy, that really felt nice.  How do you decide what you are going to do on the record, maybe your whole group chimes in ?

Boz: Paul was very instrumental in helping me choose the material, Paul Nagel, the pianist we talked about.

Marian: You must really like him a lot ?

Boz: I just adore him, lovely lovely man.

Marian: And a good piano player evidently.

Boz: Yeah, yeah, that's really where it all begins isn't it.  When I heard Paul playing with Cornelius I just wanted to know more.  I was in the right place.  In the room with the right guy and it was just delightful meeting him an hearing him play.  He led me from one song to the next and opened up a whole dimension of music for me. A world of possibilities.

Marian: What kind of music were you doing before this all happened ? Did you have another kind of a group ?

Boz: Over the years I have done a number of things.  The 70's was the peak of my career, I had a big touring band and hits on the radio.  I was moving in pretty fast circles there. I had wonderful musicians.  I was working pretty much in Los Angeles at the time. It was a songwriters dream to be able to have that lot of beautiful players at the other end of the phone, the arrangers... It was a remarkable time. I met some great players and still keep in touch with that world to some extent. I still go out and play that stuff.

Marian: What was that band called ?

Boz: It was after me, Boz Scaggs, I recorded under that name and wrote songs and that was me.

Marian: Then you worked with the Steve Miller Band ?

Boz: Back at the very beginning of my career I actually went to High School with Steve Miller. We had a little band in High School. I went travelling, I went off one way and he went another and we got back together again. He had started a band in San Francisco in the 60's, back in the music revolution that took place in San Francisco. One of the musicians in his band dropped out and I joined up when he asked me to come back. I was living in Sweden at the time.

Marian: You were living in Sweden ?

Boz: Yes, I had been in Europe for about 2 1/2 years travelling, I was a dharma bum.

Marian: That sounds pretty interesting, were you performing there ?

Boz: I was. I made my first record there. I was playing little clubs, working in the kitchen for part of the day and giving guitar lessons another part of the day and working in clubs at night, all sorts of things to keep travelling.

Marian: Sounds like you have had a pretty interesting... I was going to say a chequered career.. (Boz laughs). But it certainly sounds pretty interesting.

Boz: Its' been an interesting time. Music has sort of been the only real thread that's run through it all. Its followed one thing to the next. Music has been the ticket to travel in some ways.....

Marian: To meeting people.

Boz: To meeting people. Music has tied it all together for me.

Marian: Its been the same for me too. Well, lets tie up another song. How about "How Long Has This Been Going On."

Boz: That sounds very appropriate right now.

Marian: Yes it does.

 

How Long Has This Been Going On

(Gershwin/Gershwin)

I could cry salty tears
Where have I been all these years
I'm like wow like tell me now
How long has this been going on

There were chills up my spine
And some thrills I can't define
Listen sweet I repeat
How long has this been going on

Oh I feel that I could melt
Into heaven I'm hurled
I know how Columbus felt
Finding another world

Kiss me once then once more
What a dunce I was before
What a break for heavens sake
How long has this been going on

Oh I feel that I could melt
Into heaven I'm hurled
I know how Columbus felt
Finding another world

Kiss me once then once more
What a dunce I was before
What a break for heavens sake
How long has this been going on
How long has this been going on


Marian: That's such a nice song.

Boz: Yeah.

Marian: George Gershwin, do you do a lot of his ?

Boz: No I don't, I've been looking for more.

Marian: You could do just about anything I guess the way you sing.

Boz: Oh, thank you Marian.  What are some other songs that come to mind ?

Marian: Embraceable You, I loves You Porgy, Fascinating Rhythm. There's a whole new record for you !

Boz: Yeah. Boz does George, Scaggs does Gershwin.

Marian: Absolutely ! Tell me about how you got started, were you from a musical family, did you listen to records or what ?

Boz: I wasn't from a musical family, no.  There was music on in the house, my parents collected recordings and loved music.  I think that early exposure was part of it. Just having music on when you are a little kid opens up some of the.. whatever they are.. ideas in the little parts of the brain like music.  I grew up in that era of America in the 50's where we made the transition from the old style top 40 songs to rock and roll coming on the radio.  Blues were on the radio where I grew up in Texas.

Marian: Texas ?

Boz: I grew up in a small town north of Dallas in Texas. There was everything coming off the radio waves. There were nights turning from one station to another, hearing country music, rock and roll, jazz. We had a lot of choice at that time and couldn't get enough of it.

Marian: How did you learn the guitar.  Did you just pick it up and learn it by doing or did you take lessons ?

Boz: I learned by doing. Just by listening.  I listened to all sorts of guitar music and picked up little bits here and there.  It was a time when there was a lot of folk music going on so you could learn to strum a few chords. With the blues, the guitar being one of the main blues instruments, you can learn to play some very simple basic things, so you're in the middle of it and one thing just led to another. I learned by listening and learned by playing with various groups.

Marian: You got quite famous with that band, the band got very famous didn't it ?

Boz: Steve Miller became famous some years later starting a band in San Francisco. There was a big pop explosion that took place in the 60's. and I joined his band for about a year after High School. We made our first recordings and did our first national tour and went to Europe and that was the beginning of what was to become my profession. It was just following what I liked to do for many years and it slowly became apparent that this is what I do and this is what I'm probably going to do for the rest of my life, I'm a professional musician it came to occur to me.

Marian: And there is nothing nicer as far as I am concerned.

Boz: I don't think that I ever had any real choice as many of us don't. You usually do what you have to do and do whatever you have to do to support your habit of music.

Marian: How about supporting your habit a little more. I see we picked a tune that I really love "Easy Living" could we do that ?

Boz: Sure, lets do that.


Easy Living

(Robin/Rainger)

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love
And I'm so in love
There is nothing in life but you

I never regret the years that I'm giving
They're easy to give when you're in love
I'm happy to do whatever I do for you

For you... maybe I'm a fool but it's fun
People say you rule me with one wave of your hand
Darling it's grand
They just don't understand

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love
And I'm so in love
There's nothing in life but you

For you... maybe I'm a fool but it's fun
People say you rule me with one wave of your hand
Darling it's grand
They just don't understand

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love
And I'm so in love
There's nothing in life but you

 

Marian: That was so nice.  Easy Living is one of my favourite tunes and I love it in that key. Keys really are important to me and I guess they are to you too.  I would much rather play in D flat than C.

Boz: Does that give you more black notes to play ?

Marian: I don't know. I never thought of it that way.  I like to play in keys like B flat, G flat. I'm not too crazy about C.

Boz: The blues players have the particular keys they like because they can reach for particular notes.  The guitar E, A are the ones where you have lots of open strings.

Marian: I remember thinking that at one time, now I can get to play in my favourite keys which are E and A.

Boz: I did a recording in Memphis once with a great rhythm section, a great B3 player, a Hammond organ.  There are some gospel keys, I think A flat might be one of those keys. There are certain gospel tinged little inflections that they traditionally reach for, so there are some odd keys at least to a guitar player.

Marian: It is so different when those blues players play on those instruments than somebody like Joey De Francesco, its a whole different way of playing but its so interesting.

Boz: Its so interesting, so natural.  I love to watch the fingers of good gospel B3 player because they glide and float over the keyboard in a way, unlike any other keyboard players I have seen.

Marian: Well some of things you did, were they blues or were they out and out rock n roll tunes.

Boz: I have done a lot of different things. I have done out and out rock n roll, I have done ballads, but mostly its rhythm and blues and blues tinged.That's my first love, that's what I grew up playing. I came from a part of the country where there was a lot of that and that's what we played and that's how I fashioned my voice. Everything eventually leads back to that for me.

Marian: Everything does lead back to the blues.

Boz: It does in a way, and I think that's how I got here.

Marian: I don't know if you feel like doing "Summer Time", that's a blues ?

Boz: We could try that, sure.

Marian: Do you like that tune ?

Boz: I love the song, I've never sung it but every wants to sing Summer Time don't they ?


Summer Time

Summertime
And the living is easy
Fish are jumping
And the cotton is high

Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good looking
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Spread your wings
And take to the sky

Until that morning
There's nothing to harm you
With mammy and daddy standing by

Mmmmmm summertime
And the living is easy
Fish are jumping
And the cotton is high

Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good looking
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're gonna rise up singing
Spread your wings
And take to the sky

Until that morning
There is nothing to harm you
With mummy and daddy standing by
With mummy and daddy standing by

It's summertime
Ooooh the living is oh so easy


Marian: That was nice, I'm so glad we did that, I was thinking should I suggest something that we hadn't talked about, but I thought that worked really well.

Boz: So did I. Its nice to get into that blues thing, its so rich isn't it.

Marian: I know, I thought I would like to hear more of that.  That's really your bag.

Boz: It really is a lot of where my things come from. You've been leaning in that direction today too so I'm glad we finally got to get into it up to our knees.

Marian: I love to lean in that direction so we can do anything.

[Marian played her composition "Twilight World".]

Boz: Nice piece Marian.  I'm curious, did you title that song or did Johnny Mercer title that song. How did that come about - Twilight World ?

Marian: It was my title and he went with it. He made the lyric fit the title.

Boz: It feels like that, it says that "Twilight World".

Marian: He was so great, I was thrilled to have him do a lyric for me.

Boz: I'd love to get a copy of those lyrics.

Marian: I would be very happy to, believe me. Meanwhile lets do another song.

 

For All We Know

For all we know
We may never meet again
Before you go
Make this moment sweet again

We won't say goodnight
Until the last minute
I'll hold out my hand
And my heart will be in it

For all we know
This may only be a dream
We come and go
Like a ripple on a stream

So love me tonight
Tomorrow was made for some
Tomorrow will never come
For all we know

For all we know
This may only be a dream
We come and go
Like a ripple on a stream

So love me tonight
Tomorrow was made for some
Tomorrow will never come
For all we know


Marian: Gee that's such a lovely tune.  It's got such nice lyrics. We haven't really done any up tempo things have we.

Boz: Not really.

Marian: Can we do one do you think ?

Boz: Lets try "Its All Right With Me" a Cole Porter song.


Its All Right With Me

(Cole Porter)

It's the wrong time
And the wrong place
Though your face is charming
It's the wrong face
It's not her face
But its a charming face
That it's all right with me

It's the wrong song
In the wrong style
Though your smile is lovely
It's the wrong smile
It's not her smile
But such a lovely smile
That it's all right with me

You can't know how happy I am that we met
I'm strangely attracted to you
There's someone I'm trying so hard to forget
Don't you want to forget someone too?

It's the wrong game
With the wrong chips
Though your lips are tempting
They're the wrong lips
They're not her lips
But they're such tempting lips
That if one night you're free
Dear it's all right
Yes it's all right
It's all right with me

You can't know how happy I am that we met
I'm strangely attracted to you
There's someone I'm trying so hard to forget
Don't you want to forget someone too?

It's the wrong game
With the wrong chips
Though your lips are tempting
They're the wrong lips
They're not her lips
But they're such tempting lips
That if one night you're free
Dear it's all right
Yes it's all right
It's all right with me...
With me... ...with me

 

Marian: It's All Right !!! That was really nice, we should do more up-tunes.

Boz: It was fun.

Marian: Boz we haven't done the title tune of your album. We really ought to do that because its such a lovely tune "But Beautiful". How did you choose that for the title, I guess you get to choose everything because its your label ?

Boz: It's mine, I can do what I want with it.

Marian: I had my own label, I still have it. I think its great to have your own label, you can do exactly as you please. How long have you had your own record company ?

Boz: Since the record came out.

Marian: So you have a new fight with your own record company.

Boz: I must admit I am !

Marian: Good luck. It has been great to have you on the show and I wish you great success with your record and your record company. Meanwhile I think we should do But Beautiful.

 

But Beautiful

(Burke / Van-Heusen)

Love is funny or it's sad
Or it's quiet or it's mad
It's a good thing or it's bad
But beautiful

Beautiful to take a chance
And if you fall you fall
And I'm thinking
I wouldn't mind at all

Love is tearful or it's gay
It's a problem or it's play
It's a heartache either way
But beautiful

And I'm thinking
If you were mine
I'd never let you go
And that would be but beautiful
I know

Love is tearful or it's gay
It's a problem or it's play
It's a heartache either way
But beautiful

And I'm thinking
If you were mine
I'd never let you go
And that would be but beautiful
I know

Marian: I'm glad we saved that tune till last, it was wonderful, it knocked me out.

Boz: Good, me too :)

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