Musoscribe’s Best of 2019: Interviews

I lost count of how many interviews I conducted in 2019. I think the number is right around 175. I enjoyed ever single one of them, but as is typical, a few will go down among my all-time favorites. Here’s a quick roundup of ten of those, with links to the full features (and often more).

Tony Bennett – It’s not often that I get the opportunity to interview a true living legend, a household name. The acclaimed jazz vocalist definitely deserves those descriptions. He was a candid and effusive interview subject, so much that I carved two complete features out of our conversation. Here’s the first, and here’s the second. Bonus: my 2015 review of a box set collecting his work with Bill Evans.

Chocolate Watchband – I’ve long been a serious student and fan of 1960s garage-, psychedelic- and garage-a-delic rock. The star-crossed Chocolate Watchband was all of those things. My in-depth interview with singer Dave Aguilar charts the band’s history and recent rebirth. Bonus from the archives: my 2015 interview with CWB guitarist Tim Abbott.

Chick Corea – Decades into his esteemed career, the jazz keyboardist and composer has more ideas than one project can hold, so he keeps something like a half dozen bands going, seemingly at once. I spoke to him about that and more. Bonus: my 2011 review of a Corea best-of set (and other albums).

Creedence Clearwater Revival – With the long, long-delayed release of CCR’s Woodstock performance, I took the opportunity to reconnect with the band’s crack rhythm section, Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, talking about the 1969 festival. Bonus: My first chat – many years ago – with Stu, and another from 2014 with Cosmo.

Lenny Kaye – Had the longtime Patti Smith Group guitarist never done anything beyond compiling a bunch of 1960s classics onto an album in 1972, he’d deserve an important place in music history. The incalculably influential Nuggets would eventually take on a life of its own. I scored the opportunity to speak with Lenny Kaye about that album. Bonus: my extensive 2010 interview with Barry Tashian of the Remains, one of the great bands featured on Nuggets.

The Midnight Hour – One of the most intriguing musical projects I’ve encountered recently is the product of the vision of two established artists: soundtrack composer par excellence Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, formerly of A Tribe Called Quest. The Asheville date by their group, The Midnight Hour, was among my favorite live shows of 2019, but that’s a subject for another blog entry. Here’s my interview feature. Bonus: from over a decade ago, a quick review of a fascinating compilation album, Droppin’ Science: Greatest Samples from the Blue Note Lab.

Purple Image – I’m a pushover for stories about artists who made a great album but somehow never hit the big time. An early 1970s Cleveland group of African American musicians called Purple Image is just such an act. Here’s the story.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – For more than two decades, this Mexican duo has been honing its brand of “acoustic speed metal.” But it’s not that, really. Incorporating flamenco, rock and other styles, Rod and Gab create something unique, powerful and passionate. Their newest album features a transcendent cover of my favorite song ever, Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” Here’s the interview.

Carlos Santana – The path to getting this interview to happen is a story in itself. But I’ll save that for another time. ON the eve of releasing a new album, Santana opened up and reminisced about Woodstock, “Spernatural” and a whole lot more. The interview was worth two stories: here’s one, and here’s another. Bonus: an interview from 2018 with Carlos’ talented brother, Jorge.

Rick Wakeman – Speaking of losing count, I can’t tell you offhand how many times I’ve interviewed the keyboard virtuoso. Three, maybe? Four? In any event, he’s always lively, always fun, always quotable. My 2019 interview yielded two features. Here’s the first, and here’s the second. Bonus: Lots more Wakeman here.

I have a feeling 2020 will have some special interviews as well. I’m already lining ’em up.