the continuing adventures of lyle lovett

lyle lovett 3

Lyle Lovett aboard Smart and Shiney during the 2011 Ariat Reining Cup at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena.

There are some things you just don’t ask a rancher, not even if he also happens to be one of the country’s most celebrated song stylists.

But there Lyle Lovett was two weeks ago on The Late Show with David Letterman, eager to discuss a summer tour with his famed Large Band that hits the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond on Thursday and perhaps give a plug to his recurring acting duties on the FX series The Bridge. But Letterman wanted to talk about the size of the Texas ranch built by Lovett’s grandfather in 1911 that still serves as the songwriter’s home today.

“I was always told not to ever answer those kinds of questions and certainly don’t ever ask them,” Lovett said. “Never ask anybody how big their place is, how many acres they have or how many cows they have.”

Never at a loss for a gracious phrase, even when ranch protocol is breached, Lovett smiled and replied that the acreage was simply “more than you could mow in one afternoon.”

Letterman politely conceded and countered with horse talk that brought Lovett to Lexington by way of a youtube clip of him astride his horse Smart and Shiney competing in the 2011 Ariat Reining Cup at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena – an event that came a mere seven months after Lovett and the Large Band closed the 2010 World Equestrian Games in the same venue.

“Dave’s producer told me before the show, ‘Dave wants to talk about horses and we found this this clip…’”

Of his acting exploits, Lovett is encouraged and excited. While he takes it as seriously as any other part of his very versatile work life, he views acting as a kind of extracurricular activity, one his musical career has helped place in proper perspective.

“I don’t pursue acting work the way actors do,” Lovett said. “But every now and then, somebody will ask for me. I’ve enjoyed every acting job I’ve ever done, just for the change of pace, the chance to eavesdrop on somebody else’s creative process, and to appreciate the differences.

“You know, we are 32 people on the road for this tour with the Large Band. That includes band, crew, everyone. But when I start feeling like that’s a lot, I think about what a day on a film set costs and how many people it takes just to make that work. It makes me appreciate just how flexible I am as a musician. I can work whenever I want. I can call my agent and say, ‘Let’s tour in two or three months’ and we can do that. Certainly with acting work, it’s not that way.”

Still, the most visible public profiles Lovett maintains are his roles as singer-songwriter and bandleader.

The former was bred out of a longstanding tradition of expert Texas songsmiths that fused folk-hearty narratives with expansive country and Americana soundscapes for a sound that was remarkably emotive, exact and human.

“I feel really lucky to have had that kind of direct access to great songwriters like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Willis Alan Ramsey and Steven Fromholz, and to be able to have heard Willie Nelson when he first came back to Texas after his days in Nashville. To be able to experience all that first hand really made me want to play guitar and write songs.”

Then there is the scope of that writing. Since his 1986 self-titled debut album, Lovett has fashioned songs of darkness (Baltimore) and grace (The Road to Ensenada), of desolation (Nobody Knows Me) and whimsy (Here I Am), and in one joyous instance – 1996’s That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas) – a song so overflowing with Lone Star pride that it was used in public service announcements for the Texas Travel and Tourism Board.

Of the many ensembles he has taken on the road over the decades, none has offered as complete a view of the vastness of Lovett’s songwriting as the Large Band – a part honky tonk troupe, part Western swing brigade and part jazz orchestra. This summer, the group sports 14 members. Among them is veteran soul songstress Francine Reed, who is touring with the Large Band tour for the first time in four years.

“What makes me fearless and confident going into a tour, what makes me look forward to just having a good time are the people I get to stand on the stage with,” Lovett said. “I look forward to every show, no matter if it’s hot outside and if there are mosquitos swarming around. The band makes me enjoy each show absolutely.”

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 4 at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond. Tickets are $34-$80. For tickets, call (859) 622-7469 or to go to

critic’s pick 337: johnny winter, ‘step back’

Johnny-Winter-Step-BackAt the height of his performance powers, Johnny Winter was the baddest of the bad – a wicked Texas guitarslinger equally versed in the blues traditions of his home state and the electric boogie offshoots that ignited once that music found its way to Chicago. But what made Winter truly distinctive was his ability to awaken white, rock ‘n’ roll schooled audiences to the lessons of the blues.

Step Back is Winter’s final recording – an album completed and planned for release this week well before the guitarist’s death in July at age 70. Dominated by all-star jams and duets featuring pals like Eric Clapton, Brian Setzer and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, the record presents the air of a primo blues and boogie party, a setting established in full by the brass and sass of the Blues Brothers Horns on the album-opening cover of the Ray Charles hit Unchain My Heart. Here, as is the case throughout Step Back, the thrill doesn’t come from the all-star support (if anything, the horns tend to overstate the mood). The excitement comes instead from Winter, his voice weathered by age but his guitarwork as forceful as ever. It’s as if his resolute blues attitude is shaking a fist at the heavens, the sign of a defiant spirit that remains far more youthful than the body and voice that contain it.

The celebrity jams are all great fun, even if a few of them seem tailored more for the guest contributor than the guest of honor, like the raunch ‘n’ roll of Long Tall Sally with Leslie West and the swing-style Okie Dokie Stomp with Setzer. But the solemn slow-blues dynamic of Sweet Sixteen with Joe Bonamassa is a genuine surprise.

On the other hand, a meeting with another elder Texas blues intellect, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, on Where Can You Be hits the bullseye with a patient, smoldering blues roll that seriously satisfies with its unhurried Lone Star groove.

Not surprisingly, the high point comes when Winter shuts down the guest list to take on Son House’s Death Letter by himself. Every vocal blemish and blur is worn like a badge of honor here against the lone, wiry accompaniment of steel guitar. The sparseness is so complimentary to the sage-like demeanor of the performance that you almost wish Winter would have cut an entire album of solo acoustic tunes.

Don’t for a second think Step Back is a definitive Johnny Winter record. For that, scroll back to any of the 12 albums he cut with the Columbia/Blue Sky labels between 1969 and 1980 (the most recommended being 1970’s Second Winter and 1977’s Nothin’ But the Blues) or the mammoth boxed set True to the Blues, released earlier this year, that covers those records.

Consider Step Back, instead, as the bruised but regal victory lap of a mammoth blues career.

in performance: the blasters

The Blasters

The Blasters: Keith Wyatt, Bill Bateman, Phil Alvin and John Bazz.

“This one goes out to me,” said Phil Alvin last night at Willie’s Locally Known as The Blasters tore into the somewhat fatalistic 1985 tune Trouble Bound.

The remark was a form of self-deprecating commentary regarding the ragged condition of Alvin’s usually soaring tenor voice. But the song, like the rest of the 90 minute set, was far from the wreckage the singer seemed to think it was.

Yes, the high end of Alvin’s range was, as he described, “pretty beat up” – a reality that probably would not have been so obvious had the bulk of the Blasters’ roots driven, ultra-elemental rock ‘n’ roll not called on a fair amount of vocal acrobatics that Alvin wasn’t willing to back off from. So tunes like Precious Memories (pulled from 2005’s 4-11-44 album) and the jittery I’m Shakin’ (from The Blasters’ seminal, self-titled 1981 breakthrough record) put Alvin through some pretty rough turns.

Others with more a moderate vocal range, like the show opening American Music and a very Little Sister-ish Border Radio, let Alvin’s deeper register do the heavy lifting and sounded quite fine.

The West Coast-bred post punk roots music of The Blasters, which began leaning more toward rockabilly following the 1986 defection of the singer’s brother (and the band’s principal songwriter and guitarist) Dave Alvin, doesn’t revolve entirely around the vocal leads – at least, it didn’t last night. The founding rhythm section of bassist John Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman, along with guitarist Keith Wyatt, supplied rhythmic support that was clean, soulful and remarkably agile. That translated into solid-as-oak support for Alvin during swiftly paced tunes like Rock and Roll Will Stand and Long White Cadillac, which the band still plays at about twice the tempo of Dwight Yoakam’s hit cover version.

It was on more mid-tempo rockers, though, that the exactness of the band’s rhythmic drive really became a thing of beauty. A wonderful case in point: another 1985 gem, Dark Night, whic wrangled with the swampy ingenuity of a vintage Creedence Clearwater Revival song (Feelin’ Blue came to mind) before locking in for a big beat groove with Alvin that let The Blasters solemnly blast off.

critic’s pick 336: the allman brothers band, ‘the 1971 fillmore east recordings’

abbfillmoreeast“Hope this comes out pretty good,” utters Duane Allman at the onset of The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings. We’re cutting our third album here tonight.”

Yeah, it came out pretty good, alright. Roughly three months after the March 1971 performances the guitarist and the rest of the Allman Brothers Band gave at Bill Graham’s historic music hall, the recorded results surfaced as The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East. The album broke the ensemble’s career wide open, further heightened Allman’s already heroic status as a generation-defining guitar stylist and expanded the scope of blues, rock and jazz directed jam bands everywhere.

What The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings does is gather all the available source material that went into the original album – specifically, four full sets performed over two nights – along with the equivalent of an encore, a June 1971 show that served as the final concert staged before the Fillmore East’s closing. All of that is spread over six discs to construct a remarkably comprehensive overview of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s truly landmark concert recordings.

First, let’s explore the surprises. All of the new edition’s first disc and most of the second consist of previously unreleased music. What is especially distinctive here is that an already expanded ABB (fleshed out by harmonica ace Thom Doucette and percussionist Bobby Caldwell) is further augmented by saxophonist Rudolph “Juicy” Carter on co-guitarist Dickey Betts’ heavily jazz-inspired instrumental In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and three other tunes. Carter’s contributions don’t so much offer new insights to these recordings as simply a fresh perspective. He was dismissed from the Fillmore engagement’s final March evening.

The rest of the The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings gathers material initially issued on 1972’s Eat a Peach and the 1992 double-CD The Fillmore Concerts. Those recordings summarize the Allmans at their best, from Berry Oakley’s whiplash bass intro to Whipping Post to Allman’s jubilant slide guitar intro to Statesboro Blues to younger brother Gregg Allman’s bluesy, boozy vocal lead on One Way Out. And that says nothing of the wild ensemble groove that fuels the 35 minute Mountain Jam.

The final disc, originally issued as a bonus on the 2006 reissue of Eat a Peach, is a monster. Performed without any guests, the band rips through essentially the same set of tunes featured on the earlier discs but with noticeably greater cohesion and confidence. The nearly five minute guitar and percussion coda capping Whipping Post is a gorgeous, formless cooldown that underscores the Allmans’ sense of invention at the time.

Taken as a whole, this is a lavish and perhaps even indulgent embellishment of a classic album. Mostly, though, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings makes a watershed rock ‘n’ roll moment in time sound more alive, vital and complete than ever before.

all the way to 11: ‘this is spinal tap’ turns 30

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spinal tap in 1984: derek smalls (harry shearer); nigel tufnel (christopher guest) and david st. hubbins (michael mckean).

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”

What a telling comment from guitarist David St. Hubbins, one of the three aging Brit rockers on a downward career slide in Rob Reiner’s still-gutbusting 1984 mock documentary This is Spinal Tap, which plays twice on Wednesday as part of the Kentucky Theatre Summer Classics series.

The joke, of course, is that despite the dimwitted revelations that flow from the lips of St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) – insights like, “I believe virtually everything I read… that’ s what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything” – the fact remains that This is Spinal Tap is a wickedly clever film. It’s not just glammed up ‘80s nu-metal getting skewered, it is all things rock ‘n’ roll – the personalities, the egos, the banal stage productions, the even more banal music and the seeming implausible bits of dumb luck that play into stardom.

While it is most reflective of the ‘80s, there is also a gentle, almost reverential swipe at Beatlemania, especially in the Yoko Ono overtones of Jeanine Pettibone (June Chadwick), St. Hubbins’ girlfriend who takes over managerial duties for the band by booking one dismal show after another.

“If I told them once, I told them a hundred times,” she says after seeing the marquee billing for a humiliating gig at a children’s zoo. “Put Spinal Tap first and put Puppet Show last.”

Reiner gets in on the fun, too, inserting himself into This is Spinal Tap as filmmaker Marty Di Bergi. In essence, a director playing a director, he presents interview questions within what had to have been a heavily improvised script that are as vacuous as the band’s replies. A typical exchange:

Di Bergi: “Do you feel that playing rock ‘n’ roll music keeps you a child? That is, keeps you in a state of arrested development?”

Smalls: “No. No. No. I feel it’s more like going to a national park or something, and they preserve the moose. That’s my childhood up there on stage. That moose, you know?”

Di Bergi: “So when you’re playing you feel like a preserved moose on stage?”

Smalls: “Yeah.”

There are cameos galore by the likes of Anjelica Huston, Bruno Kirby, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Paul Shaffer, Fran Drescher and others. But the film belongs to McKean, Guest and Shearer playing heavy metal lightweights as deliriously clueless to the star turns defining their celebrity status as they are, in one of the film’s most famous scenes, to directions to a concert stage from backstage.

All that plus an under-sized Stonehenge, albums with titles like Smell the Glove and Intravenous De Milo and pod-shaped stage cocoons that require blowtorches to open make up the world of This is Spinal Tap.

It’s only mock ‘n’ roll, but you’ll like it.

‘This is Spinal Tap’ shows at 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main. Call (859) 231-7924.

revenge of the windbreakers


spinal tap in 1992: cover art for ‘break like the wind’

In honor of Wednesday’s 30th anniversary showing of This is Spinal Tap at the Kentucky Theatre, here is a 1992 interview I conducted with Harry Shearer, one the film’s (and the band’s) three comic architects.

The occasion was a summer tour for which Spinal Tap transformed itself from a purely cinematic creation into an actual live performance band. There was even a new album, the poetically titled Break Like the Wind, to tie into the tour.

To our fine fortune, though, Shearer insisted on being interviewed in character as Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls. During our talk, he discussed those pesky pod props used during shows that were always a trial to climb out of, the clumsy reputation he feels his band earned as a result of This Is Spinal Tap and how tough it can be finding your way to the stage some nights. 

Q: How does it feel to be on tour again? 
A: Great. The amps are louder than ever now, so we’re able to feel the power more than ever. We’re able to dominate an audience far better as a result. It’s serious pain. 
Q: Is pain important to Spinal Tap? 
A: Oh yeah. It’s part of our philosophy as artists. What every artist wants to communicate is pain. True pain. What we do is play so bloody loud that we actually inflict physical pain on you. Also, our lyrical and thematic concepts are so multilayered and confusing that you experience mental pain trying to figure them out. So you really do feel our pain. That’s true communication.

Q: So if an audience member fled from one of your concerts screaming in agony, would that be a sign that you are getting your message across? 
A: That would be like a Nobel Prize. 
Q: Do you feel Spinal Tap has anything to prove with this tour? 
A: If we’ve got anything to prove, it’s just the movie was a hatchet job. We want people to know that the Spinal Tap you think you know is not the real Spinal Tap. 
Q: You really feel that the movie was a hatchet job? 
A: I know it was. We found the stage plenty of times. But they never showed that, did they? I made it out of the pod at least six times out of 10. For eight years, it was ‘Oh, Derek, you going to make it out of the pod tonight?’ 
Q: Do you think audiences agree with your opinion of the film? 
A: Listen, you can only pull the wool over people’s eyes for just so long before they go, ‘Oh, that’s hot and scratchy.’ Especially in the summertime. 
Q: Spinal Tap supposedly disbanded after the film was released. How is it that you got together again to make Break Like the Wind
A: We met up at (band manager) Ian Faith’s funeral. It was a joyous event. People really hated Ian’s guts. Well, they would have if he had any. So it was a real celebration of death. The vibe was so great that we didn’t want to leave. People were dancing on his grave. It was great fun. 
Q: Your current drummer is Ric Shrimpton, the brother of Mick Shrimpton. Wasn’t Mick one of your drummers that blew up? 
A: Well, yeah. Come to think of it, Ric broke his ankle Friday night before the gig in L.A. So it’s like old Mr. Curse going: ‘Don’t forget about me. I’m still here. I’ve still got my power.’ 
Q: How has the reception been at the shows this summer? 
A: The reception’s been good. We even get cable in some cities. The crowds have been great, too. 
Q: In the time between This Is Spinal Tap and Break Like the Wind, could you spot Spinal Tap’s sound in younger bands? 
A: Sure. I could all along. Only now, they admit it. All these Seattle bands admit to being influenced by Spinal Tap. But in the old days, it was always ‘ Spinal who? Sounds like a disease.’ 
Q: Is there any ultimate goal Spinal Tap would like to achieve? 
A: I’ll say this. We’ve been around for 25 years. It seems long past time for us to be in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Especially since there’s no bloody hall. Just the fame. So if they change their minds and realize they’ve made a mistake, now’s the time to do it. They don’t even have to take a plaque off the wall. The whole hall is only on paper at this point anyway. They can just take an eraser to it. 
Q: Do think Spinal Tap runs any risk of breaking up again? 
A: No. I think we’ll stay together as long as we remember how to play. What we stand for, people crave. We’re not like any of those labels. We’re not ‘pre’ this or ‘post’ that or ‘punk’ anything. What we do is just good old generic rock. Yes, generic rock — that’s what we stand for.

in performance: the fairfield four

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the fairfield four: bobbye sherrell, larrice byrd sr., joe thompson and levert allison. photo by lee olsen.

“I believe we’re in the right place,” remarked tenor singer Bobbye Sherrell at the midway point of the Fairfield Four’s regal program of a capella gospel last night at Willie’s Locally Known.

On a number of fronts, Sherrell’s estimation of the evening hit the bullseye. For starters, the singing and sermonizing that surrounded this largely traditional set of hymns and spirituals made for inviting sanctuary from the storms that tore through Lexington throughout the evening. Such a setting wasn’t lost on baritone singer Larrice Byrd, Sr., who couldn’t help but reference the downpour outside before launching into the joyous ensemble testimony of Noah.

There was also the matter of the setting. The vocal quartet’s last Lexington shows were decade-old appearances at Rupp Arena and the Kentucky Theatre. The intimacy afforded this performance, especially tenor singer Levert Allison’s churchy audience interaction during Four and Twenty Elders and the booming bass singing of Joe Thompson at the onset of That’s Enough seemed to delight the audience, which awarded the 90 minute set with lasting, attentive quiet. The Fairfield singers seemed equally pleased with the venue, too – even to the point of sending an “amen” to the kitchen staff at Willie’s.

Then again, you almost sensed that any place was the right place for the Fairfield Four. The group’s collective performance enthusiasm seemed as jubilant and sincere as its singing. From the show-opening harmonies of Today, all four vocalists exuded a level of honest, unrelenting cheer. Sure, obvious devotion to the spiritual cast of the music fueled much of that. But the group didn’t overplay that aspect of their repertoire. The singers weren’t out to convert anybody. But when they delivered an exuberant Oh, Rock My Soul, you couldn’t help but be moved by the conviction and celebration of their singing, even if you weren’t sitting in the same parish, so to speak, when it came to what the songs said.

The performance was also as rootsy as it was righteous. You could regularly detect source material within the vocals on songs like the title tune from Fairfield’s 1992 album Standing in the Safety Zone that suggested such primal pop genres as doo-wop.

Mostly though, the show boiled down to a musical communion between four friends. The legacy of their group may be massive (dating back to 1921, in fact). But last night, they summoned spirits through the most lasting, natural and convincing musical device of all – the human voice.

zach brock concert moved to DAC

Just a quick update for anyone planning on taking in tonight’s performance by New York-by-way-of Lexington jazz violinist Zach Brock. The concert is still on but the location has changed.

The thunderstorms and heavy rains that hit Lexington just after 6 p.m. made the show a no-go at its original outdoor location of Moondance Amphitheatre. The concert has now been moved indoors to the Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main. Showtime is tentatively slated between 9 and 9:30 or when the sound equipment originally set up at Moondance can be transported downtown. (The original start time at Moondance was 7 p.m.)

The performance is still free, too.

the sum of the fairfield four

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Fairfield Four: Joe Thompson, Bobbye Sherrell, Levert Allison and Larrice Byrd, Sr. Photo by Lee Olsen.

For all of its critical and commercial success, the math didn’t always add up with the Fairfield Four.

When the Rev. J.R. Carrethers formed the a capella gospel group in 1921 with his two sons among the membership, the lineup was a quartet – hence the ensemble’s name. But photos from throughout its storied history, from versions led by the Rev. Samuel McCrary in the ‘40s and ‘50s to the Grammy winning roster featuring Isaac Freeman and Willie “Preacher” Richardson featured on the multi-platinum 2000 soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, reveal the head count within the group grew to five and sometimes six singers.

Yet the name never changed. For 93 years, the touring gospel that flowed from Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville has been credited to the same troupe, regardless of the number of enlistees. It has always been the Fairfield Four.

This weekend, with its first Lexington appearance in over a decade at hand, the group is finally a quartet again. That means its current lineup – Joe Thompson, Levert Allison, Larrice Byrd, Sr., and Bobbye Sherrell – had to relearn a few very old traditions.

“Well, they started out with four, which is how they got the Fairfield Four,” said bass vocalist Thompson, 79. “It was from the church that all these guys belonged to. Then some started dropping out and they added more. Then Sam McCrary came in. He’s the one that really kept the Fairfield Four going. At first, he was my pastor. He baptized me.

“Now we have to learn how to sing with four people all over again. Most of the group got kind of lazy when they added that fifth person. It made it much easier on everybody. But I remember when the group got hooked up with a barbershop quartet. I would listen to it and go, ‘Man, these guys are doing the same thing we’re doing.’ The chords and everything were the same. We just slide into them a different way. So now we’re learning how to sing all over again in that barbershop style.

“Of course, it may be a barbershop style. But what we’re doing is a big ol’ gospel thing.”

Thompson, a cousin to original Fairfield Four members Harold and Rufus Carrethers, began singing with the group on a fill-in basis during the 1950s.

“They used to come get me out of high school to make trips when one was sick or something happened in someone’s family. They would call my mom and ask her if I could go with them. They would have me sing whatever voices they needed.”

For pop and Americana audiences, recognition of the Fairfield Four came much later. John Fogerty enlisted the group for his Blue Moon Swamp album in 1997. That same year, Elvis Costello collaborated on Fairfield’s Grammy-winning I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray. And once the O Brother soundtrack became a sensation, the singers found themselves on the road as part of an all-star tour with the likes of Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley that opened at Rupp Arena in January 2002.

But the full force of the Fairfield Four comes when you hear its four (or five) voices singing on their own. A fine example: the roar of the traditional hymn Hallejujah on the 2001 concert album Wreckin’ the House, where the only accompaniment to the members’ booming harmonies are their fervent handclaps.

“I look at these guys when we’re practicing and you can just see the excitement on their faces when we learn something new in the arrangements we try to put on these old, old songs,” Thompson said. “I just wish you could see the smiles. It’s a lovely thing in my eyesight.”

Fairfield Four performs at 8 tonight at Willie’s Locally Known, 805 N.Broadway. Admission is $20. Call (859) 281-1116 or go to

violins, guitars and a linden tree

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zach brock. photo by janis vogel.

Inspiration can sprout anywhere. In one especially vivid instance – namely, an original composition on his new Purple Sounds album titled Brooklyn Ballad – Zach Brock discovered it towering out of the ground.

The inspiration the internationally acclaimed, Lexington-born jazz violinist found was something exceedingly precious for any musician working in New York – a tree. Specifically, it was a massive linden tree that grew outside of the one bedroom apartment Brock and his wife lived in for eight years after relocating from a fruitful jazz scene in Chicago.

“I don’t know how old this thing was, but it went up at least eight stories and was just gorgeous. There is so much ugliness in New York all the time that just to have one beautiful tree you can look at out of your window when you’re trying to write some music was wonderful. I didn’t realize how much it meant to me.

“Then, right before I wrote the song, this is probably in 2010, I came home one day and these guys sent by our landlord came in the front yard of our apartment building and cut the tree down. People lost their minds. I mean, there were people in our building throwing things out their windows at these guys. There were people crying and wringing their hands. I couldn’t believe we were all freaking out about a tree, but it was like they came in and took away the most beautiful thing we had. Coming to understand what that meant to myself and this little community I had become part of… the music kind of came from that place.”

Much of the rest Purple Sounds explores the kind of community that exists between jazz violin and guitar. In doing so, Brock chose works that celebrated several historical alliances that employed such instrumentation, including Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty (Twenty Small Cigars), Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti (the standard After You’ve Gone) and Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli (a fresh arrangement of the duo’s signature tune Nuages).

For Purple Sounds, Brock’s guitarist of choice was Norwegian born Lage Lund, Brock’s roommate when the two studied at Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

“Lage is a dyed-in-the-wool musician’s musician. I think it’s pretty hilarious that he doesn’t even appear in the Downbeat polls and stuff like that. But people come to his gigs and study his playing. It’s crazy. You play gigs with him and he’s got admirers from all over the world. You go online and there are people trading Lage Lund solo transcriptions. So I just wanted to rekindle my musical relationship with him.”

For his homecoming concert tonight at Moondance Ampitheater, Brock will go local with Lexington jazz mainstays Raleigh Dailey (piano), Danny Cecil (bass) and Paul Deatherage (drums) along with local guitar mainstay Bruce Lewis, who lived and worked for many years in Eastern Europe.

“The last time I saw Bruce Lewis, I think, was in Vienna,” Brock said. “I was playing there with a band and he was living in Budapest. He drove over with his two sons just to see our gig. I remember when I was a youngster playing some gigs with him and seeing him with all the different groups he’s played in.

“Raleigh is a real monster, too. All of our opportunities to play together have been in stuff where he and I might be doing a sideman thing, like when we played with the (Lexington) Brass Band. That’s great, but it’s also like you hardly get to play together. So I’m looking forward to this. I’m just excited to get back to Lexington and kind of chill at the end of the summer.”

Zach Brock and Friends perform at 7 tonight at Moondance Amphithater, 1152 Monarch St. in Beaumont Circle. Admission is free. For info, go to

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