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Shuggie Otis
Friday 07/31
Shuggie Otis @ The Howard Theatre
$35 / $40
Irony is a part of life. Though the music business may at times have nothing to do with "real" life, irony is a part of the biz. Just ask singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis. Shuggie Otis, for those not familiar with him through David Byrne's heroic disinterment of his 1974 album, Inspiration Information or through his authorship of the wonderful Strawberry Letter 23 - is the son of legendary R `n' B bandleader Johnny Otis. A musical prodigy he was playing with his father by the time he was 13 and from the word go displayed an uncanny mastery of the blues guitar. He wrote "Strawberry Letter 23," a gold single for the Brothers Johnson that went to number one R&B and number five pop in spring 1977. George Johnson was dating one of Otis' cousins who gave him a copy of Otis' 1971 Epic LP, Freedom Flight. Immediately, Johnson liked "Ice Cold Daydream" and "Strawberry Letter 23." The duo recommended it to their producer, Quincy Jones, and recorded a cover version that sticks pretty close to Otis' original version of "Strawberry Letter 23." By the time "Strawberry Letter 23" was a million-seller, Otis had been dropped from Epic three years earlier. The 24-year-old guitar virtuoso was sure he would get a new record deal. Ironically, the record executives would be impressed that he wrote a million-selling song, but they weren't interested in anything else he'd done. Disillusioned, Otis dropped out of the music business before returning to it in the late `80s, playing with his father, Johnny Otis' band. Later the axiom "good things come to those who wait" took effect. Spurred by sales and critical kudos of reissues of his 1974 Epic LP, Inspiration Information, from Sony Music Special Projects and David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, Otis performed "Strawberry Letter 23" on May 2001 appearances on Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. Though in recent years he has chosen to remain out of the spotlight, he continues to be revered through musical circles, as evidenced by his 2009 performance with Mos Def in LA. Feb 2013 sees the re-release of Inspiration Information via Sony distribution, complete as a double album package with a set of sought after unreleased masters. He will perform his first live dates outside America in over 20 years.
Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit
Friday 08/14
Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit @ The Howard Theatre
$27.50 / $35
Referred to in a recent Relix feature as “The Jamband Velvet Underground,” the influential dada-jam trailblazers Col. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit will return to rattle the landscape this summer with a series of live performances – than band’s first since a much-talked-about 2011 reunion at the Georgia Theatre in Athens. With the daring, iconoclastic Hampton at the helm, the Aquarium Rescue Unit played a seminal role in fostering today’s vital, thriving improvisational music community. And their presence is still felt: Since Hampton and the band parted ways in 1993, the band’s members have gone on to both inspire and enliven the music of the genre’s most revered practitioners: Herring (guitar) with Widespread Panic,The Dead, Jazz is Dead, the Ringers, and his own solo project. Burbridge (bass) with his band the Peacemakers and with the Allman Brothers and the Tedeschi Trucks Band; and Sipe (aka Apt. Q-258, drums) with his own trio and collaborations with Phil Lesh, Béla Fleck, Susan Tedeschi, Trey Anastasio, Jazz is Dead, Alex Machacek, Debashish Bhattacharya, and many more. For these dates, the ARU will also be joined by keyboardist Matt Slocum, who performed with them at the 2011 Georgia Theatre show. Which leaves the good Colonel (retired)...a seismic catalyst of the first order, Hampton’s presence was first felt as a member of the cult Georgia ensemble the Hampton Grease Band. From there, Hampton – a mesmerizing blues-inflected vocalist, freewheeling guitarist, and caustic ringmaster – applied his boundless energy, cosmic wit, and fearless exploratory zeal to pursuits as varied as standup comedy, wrestling, and music ranging from free jazz to hillbilly blues. The Aquarium Rescue Unit coalesced during a weekly jam session in Atlanta before taking their act on the road, signing with Capricorn Records, and helping to found the first H.O.R.D.E. tour. “Bruce is a visionary that has enriched the life of anyone that's worked with him,” says Jimmy Herring. “He gives you an outlet that encourages finding your own voice, but he's quick to point out that freedom can be a prison…” “Being a part of Bruce's musical world is a liberating experience in that he entices the players to discover their true and full expression,” explains Jeff Sipe. “With Col. Bruce there's always the threat that something radically different is going to happen midstream,” Oteil Burbridge adds. Periodic Aquarium Rescue Unit reunions, both with and without Hampton, have taken place over the past two decades, but these shows represent the band’s first sustained run of dates since 2007. The sets will feature a mix of new and old material. Most crucially, every performance will be recorded for a possible live album release on the Abstract Logix imprint. While listeners and musicians are already salivating at the potential of this reunion, no one is more excited than the ARU members themselves. “While the youthful ARU was exciting live, I think the more experienced ARU can have more of an impact,” Burbridge reflects. Sipe concludes, “After 26 years, we’re all friends and are still inspired. Getting together again is for me a rare privilege and one that's filled with magic, because each of my friends are so brilliant and truly awesome.” When asked for his thoughts on the upcoming reunion, Hampton simply responded, “Activate.”