guest star: bill overton – making music (and molasses)

Stitely Entertainment (SE): What are the five songs you’re listening to the most right now?
Bill Overton: “You Are Too Beautiful” (NOT “You Are So Beautiful”) and “Lush Life” from the John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman album.  Johnny is my favorite singer, so anything by him is on my list; The tunes are wonderful musically and lyrically, but Hartman takes you to the heart of the feeling and emotion in them.

I’ve been digging “The Hurricane” by Bob Dylan, which, of course, is the story of the fighter, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who could have been champion but was framed for murder.  Dylan set the bar so high that very few other songwriters have come close to his depth and power.

There’s a mesmerizing clip of the flutist, Hubert Laws, playing “Windows” on Youtube that I’ve been checking out.  He and James Moody brought the flute into the jazz mainstream.

And, last but not least, I’ve been learning some Jimmy Webb tunes from the Glenn Campbell recordings.  “Galveston” is a really gorgeous, haunting tune that came out while the Vietnam war was still raging and “Wichita Lineman” is a beautiful tribute to a working man’s dedication to his wife and family.  I’m a sucker for that stuff.

SE: Who or what inspired you to be a professional musician?
Bill: There was never a time when I didn’t want to be a full-time musician.  I have loved music and been committed to it from the first time I heard it.  I always thought that playing together was the coolest, most fun thing you could possibly do.   Whatever band I was in in high school rehearsed three times a week and played a couple of gigs on the weekends.  These gigs were
almost always street dances, proms or frat parties.  I had a blast, made some money and learned a ton.

SE: Do you have any regular gigs?
Bill: I play regularly with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.  We’ll be playing every Monday at Andy’s for the 5:15 set starting in June.  This group has been going for twenty-five years and we’ve played with so many greats (Joe Williams, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath, Phil Woods, etc.).  We perform every year for the Kennedy Center Honors event in Washington, D.C. and the year Quincy Jones was honored, he conducted the band.  The picture shows me playing lead alto with him conducting.

SE: What was your first concert?
Bill: It was the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Memphis in August of 1970, and I smuggled in my little Westinghouse reel-to-reel and taped most of it.  I still have the tape.  They played “Fire,” “Foxy Lady,” “I Don’t Live Today” and others from the record, as well as covers like “Sunshine of Your Love.”  I went to so many concerts back then.  I always loved hearing Blood, Sweat and Tears.  My favorite group to see live was Jethro Tull.  The original players were all in their thirties at that time and were really seasoned, mature players who sounded great live with beautiful dynamics, even in those cavernous coliseums that every town had.  Their live show was wild, too, with lots of illusions and the like.  One night Gentle Giant opened for them.  They were unbelievable.  They all played the hell out of five or six different instruments and sang and had a great live sound, too.  Later on I heard Weather Report with Alphonso Johnson in a club and was blow away.

SE: If you could share the stage with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
Bill: I spent twenty years in New York and got to play with many of my idols: Mel Lewis, Doc Cheatham, Mickey Roker, Major Holley and many others.  Still, I’d love to play with Eric Clapton, but not with HIS band; just jamming.  I’d also love to play with Peter Erskine.  His time and musicality are most unique.  I’d also love to sing a duet with Alison Krauss and then take her home to a cabin in the woods and live the country life, making whiskey and sorghum molasses.

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SE:  You are stuck on a desert island forever. Which three albums do you want with you?
Bill: That’s like asking which three of my nineteen children I would take with me.  I don’t have to bring any albums with me, anyway, since my favorites are playing in my head all the time. But, I’ll say The Complete Atlantic Recordings of John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald Live in Berlin and Cannonball Adderly with Nancy Wilson just to give you an idea.

SE: Beatles or Stones?
Bill: Apples and oranges, in my opinion.  I love then both for who they are, but if it’s one or the other I have to go with the Beatles.  I was ten years old when they hit and it is really impossible to convey the excitement, wonder and adoration I, as well as every other person my age, felt for them.  The music was so fresh and wonderful and they were charming and obviously having a great time, not to mention that they were all killer performers and writers.  My friends and I got every record hot off the presses and learned every lick we could.  They just kept getting more and more amazing, too, with every new record.


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