Boz Scaggs Interview - Boston Herald

Jazz on ‘Speak’ easy for Boz Scaggs

By Bob Young - November 21, 2008

Boz Scaggs has never been shy about wading into waters far from the safe harbor of hits such as “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle,” both from his breakthrough 1976 album, “Silk Degrees.”
He has teamed with rockers Steve Miller and Donald Fagen, r & b heavy Booker T. & the MGs, and bluesman Charles Brown. Five years ago he released a CD of standards, “But Beautiful,” that topped the jazz charts. Now, between tending a wine vineyard in Napa County, Calif., running his San Francisco nightclub, Slims, stints with bluegrass and rock groups, Scaggs is back for a jazz encore.
On his new CD, “Speak Low,” Scaggs, 64, interprets material by Johnny Mercer, Duke Ellington and others. He performs two shows Sunday at the Wilbur Theatre, with a jazz ensemble led by pianist Gil Goldstein.
Herald: As a nonjazz singer coming at this project, did any jazz players give you a hard time?
Scaggs: I haven’t had any threatening phone calls, and no one has bugged me. As an artist, I’m interested in all kinds of music. Like most people in this day and age, there’s all kinds of music around us. I’m a singer and musician who likes to try a lot of different things.
Was there anything daunting about it?
I’m not a jazz musician and I’m not trying to be. I’m just singing songs in my own style and with my own interpretation. There’s nothing particularly daunting about it, but it is challenging technically. Some of the songs, like “Invitation” from the newalbum and “Sophisticated Lady” from “But Beautiful,” have some odd jumps of melody and peculiar harmonic stuff. It’s challenging, but that’s why we do it.
What was your primary inspiration for the album?
The songs were the inspiration. I went through thousands of songs and got down to about 100. From there, it was just a matter of trying them on and exploring them, finding interesting arrangements and songs that fit my style - sort of taking ownership of them to create a new interpretation and put my own spin on them.
You’re best known for your pop songs, but you make a point of performing all kinds of styles. Why?
I grew up in a time when radio was exploding with a variety of music. Rock ’n’ roll was born, and rhythm and blues was evolving out of New Orleans and Memphis. It was taking all kinds of forms and shapes. The music of the last half of the 20th century and the beginning of this one goes in a lot of different directions. For someone like me who loves music, there’s no reason for me not to try the songs that Jerry Lee Lewis did or Hank Williams did or Bobby “Blue” Bland or Chet Baker did. It’s my lifeblood.
Will you sing material from other parts of your career at the Wilbur?
It will be a mix. I’ll be playing five or six songs from “Speak Low” and some songs that people know from the radio that have been adapted by this group and arranged in the style of these other traditional songs.

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