NYBJS ARTIST-MEMBER INTERVIEW
MARCH 23, 20002
BY SUSAN O'KANE
A CONVERSATION WITH MULTI WOODWIND INSTRUMENTALIST
BEHIND EVERY GREAT MUSICIAN ONE OFTEN FINDS A GREAT MENTOR: MUDDY WATERS AND BUDDY GUY; BUDDY GUY AND JOHNNY LANGŠ STORIES IN THEMSELVES, THESE UNIONS EXEMPLIFY THE GENEROUS NATURE OF TRUE ARTISTS TO SHARE THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES. BARON RAYMONDE CREDITS THE ORIGIN OF HIS SUCCESSFUL MUSICAL CAREER TO ONE SUCH ASSOCIATION. JUST A COUPLE OF YEARS AFTER GAINING HIS MASTER OF MUSIC DEGREE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS, BARON WAS ON THE ROAD WITH MATT 'GUITAR' MURPHY , A STINT THAT WOULD LAST FOR 11 YEARS.
"MY PARENTS BOTH DIED WHEN I WAS FAIRLY YOUNG, AND MATT SORT OF TOOK ME UNDER HIS WING", BARON EXPLAINED. MURPHY SUFFERED A STROKE BACK IN DECEMBER AND LOST THE USE OF HIS HANDS, AND CONSEQUENTLY, THE ABILITY TO PLAY GUITAR. "HE'S A REALLY, REALLY GREAT GUY, AND WE'RE ALL PULLING FOR HIM TO MAKE A FULL RECOVERY".
SINCE HIS YEARS WITH THE MATT GUITAR MURPHEY BAND, BARON HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN A MYRIAD OF CREATIVE PURSUITS; MOST RECENTLY, COMPLETING A 42-CITY US/CANADA TOUR WITH ROD STEWART. HIS CREDIT LIST BOASTS A DIVERSE ARRAY OF LIVE PERFORMANCES TO TELEVISION AND FILM WORK, AS WELL AS SOLO RECORDING AND ARRANGING. HE HAS PLAYED IN OFF BROADWAY'S LOVE JANIS; THE CABARET REVUE, IT AIN'T NOTHIN BUT THE BLUES; FOR THE KENNEDY CENTER TELEVISION FILMING OF THE MARK TWAIN AMERICAN HUMOR AWARD; FOR THE BRAVO CABLE NETWORK PROGRAM, BROADWAY'S BEST; LIVE PERFORMANCES WITH ELVIN BISHOP, LUTHER GUITAR JOHNSON, ROXY PERRY, THE TEMPTATIONS, THE GE SMITH BAND, THE MOHEGAN SUN ALLSTARS, THE NUFF BROTHERS, THE JEFF PEVAR BANDŠ THE LIST GOES ON!
NEEDLESS TO SAY, I WAS THRILLED WHEN BARON AGREED TO DO AN INTERVIEW FOR NYBJS. HE WAS GETTING READY FOR A GIG AT LUCILLE'S IN NEW YORK, WITH RARAAVIS AND THE FANTASY HORNS, SO WE AGREED TO A RELAXING CONVERSATION IN PLACE OF A FORMAL INTERVIEW.
"I'm doing a lot of things; I'm kind of a 'hired gun' right now. I like being involved in lots of projects, but I'd like to have my own band again. In the '80s, when I was living in Texas, I had my own band called "Test Flight". We played R&B and soul and some funky jazz. I'd really like to pursue my own thing, but right now, I'm too busy doing everyone else's thing!"
Tell me about your gig tonight at Lucille's. I found the Raraavis Internet site (www.fantasyhorns.com), and I'm intrigued by The Fantasy Horns - I click on your picture, you all turn into rather Šsexy ...females ...?
(Laughing). Yes, that's the concept. The band, Raraavis is actually a Florida-based blues/rock trio. Nes Raraavis writes all the stuff and does vocals and plays lead guitar. He's heavily influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan. "RR" is the percussionist and Lyle Lingle plays bass. They're both from Florida and played with lots of original acts in the (South Florida) area before Raraavis. The horn section is made up of Neal (Pawley on trombone), Don (Harris on trumpet), who used to play with Tower of Power, and myself on sax. I guess it can be described as 'blues trio meets Tower of Power horns'. It's three rhythm section / three horn players.
And the Fantasy Horns?
The Fantasy Horns are the band's dancers. In the videos, the horn section is replaced by these "fantasy" horn players. At tonight's gig and during the tour shows, they're holding contests to find a dancer to be featured in Raraavis' next DVD. It's a high-tech production of music and video art.
How do people find out about the contests? Are they only open to professional dancers?
No, anyone can try out. They're promoting the contests on local rock stations in the states where we're playing. People can also go to the websitewww.fantasyhorns.com to find out more information on tour dates and locations.
I picked up your CD, Before The Memory Fades, which is just so pretty. These are all your original compositions?
Yes. That CD was done in the studio; mostly production work with keyboards and programming drums, and real percussion played by Bashiri Johnson. George Witty played keys and did the drum programming. He produced and played with the Brecker Brothers. I met George when I was playing with Matt Murphy of the Blues Brothers and we've stayed in touch over the years.
Who is the singer?
On the vocal version of Giving Up Your Love, Daryl Tookes, who performs with Sting, did lead, as well as background vocals with Angela Clemans and Roseanna Vitro.
Any plans for a new recording?
Yes, but again, It's a matter of finding the time. I've worked on some other artists' recordings I was on Roxy Perry's last CD, and Frankie Paris'; he's a New York blues guy. Neal Pawley and I play horns on his latest CD, which I co-arranged with guitarist, Mark Bowers. Most recently, I played and arranged the horns on the American Masters Series (soon-to-be-released), American Masters Sing The Blues. This includes old classics, like Pookie Hudson's Good Night Sweet Heart and Bobbie Lewis' Tossin' & TurningŠ
Speaking of busy, you recently completed a US and Canada tour with Rod Stewart, promoting the release of his Human CD. How did that come about?
A friend of mine, keyboardist, Chuck Kentis, was the connection. So when Rod needed a horn section for the City of Hope benefit he was doing, Chuck said 'you should call Baron', because he knew I was playing with a lot of the top horn sections in New York: The Blues Brothers horn section; The Uptown horns section. I was away with GE Smith from Saturday Night Live doing some commercial work in Dallas when they called. They called back and said they didn't need a section, but just a horn on one song.. I forget which..Do You Think I'm Sexy, or something like that. So when I showed up to rehearsal, they started throwing me more music. The benefit had all these other people in it: Jewel, Brandy, Darius from Hootie & The Blowfish, and they were all doing Rod Stewart songs; then the last guy that came on stage was Rod.
So they said, can you learn flute on this? I had only prepared for the one song, so they gave me a disc of all the music they wanted, and I went in the back room and transcribed it. They recorded me, and at the rehearsal the next day, Rod showed up and listened to the recording. He came over to me and said 'you sound great', but I didn't think I was going to get asked to do it, because he was looking for a blonde female sax player at the time.
Pretty hard to come by!
Farthest thing from me! But I thought, 'wow, this is cool; this is an honor!' The next thing I knew, his manager came by and said, 'you should join the band'. I still really didn't think they were going to ask me to do itŠ After rehearsal the next day, they asked me to play on Rosie O'Donnell, and then I went to the benefit. After Rosie aired, I called them and they asked me to play in the band.
You were required to play other instruments, aside from sax, as well. What's the likelihood of someone who primarily plays sax also being able to play flute, for instance?
They do. A lot of saxophonists play clarinet, all the flutes: alto, piccolo. A lot of top saxophonist wind players in New York play all of them. As a matter of fact, if you do a Broadway Show, you really do need to play all of them; clarinet, base and alto clarinet, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone sax.
Yes, well you can learn the music by ear, but I usually write it down and then memorize it. On a rock gig, you would usually transcribe it. For horn players, a lot of times, they have charts. But if it's a tour, you usually memorize the music, then play on stage without it.
University of North Texas is known as being an excellent music school.
Yeah, but you've still got to practice. If I don't keep up on my music it can fall apart real quick.
One of the goals of NYBJS is to act as a networking portal for artists, producers, fans, & etcetera. What's the best way to get in touch with you?
I'm easy to get a hold of through my website, SAX BARON.COM
The home page is great, which opens with your image and a sound clip from Giving Up Your Love. It's really very good.
Thanks. Joe Goldberger, a drummer who used to live in New Jersey, also does musicians' websites, and he designed it for me. It's still evolving. You've got to keep people's interest by putting up new stuff all the time.
WE WERE GOING THROUGH STACKS OF CDS, STAGEBILLS, PROGRAM FLYERS, AND A MASS OF PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN DURING BARON'S VARIOUS GIGS AND TOURS. BARON RAYMONDE IS NOT ONLY A MUSICIAN EXTRAORDINAIRE, BUT A WARM AND GRACIOUS INDIVIDUAL. NYBJS EXTENDS ITS GRATITUDE TO HIM FOR GENEROUSLY GRANTING US TIME FOR THIS INTERVIEW, AND WE EXTEND OUR BEST WISHES FOR EVERY SUCCESS IN HIS FUTURE MUSICAL ENDEAVORS.
BARON'S CD, BEFORE THE MEMORY FADES, CAN BE PURCHASED THROUGH MP3.COM. FOR FURTHER READING, CHECK OUT THE ARTICLE ABOUT BARON IN SAXOPHONE JOURNAL (JAN/FEB 2002 VOL. 23, NO.3), AND FOR A LIST OF CURRENT AND UPCOMING GIGS, VISIT WWW.SAXBARON.COM.