Category Archives: Springsteen

Late afternoon with the mighty Max Weinberg

94826_300Florida Times-Union – Sitting in with the UNF Jazz Ensemble 1 this weekend, it’s drumming legend and, as Bruce Springsteen would say, the star of late night telly-vision: the mighty Max Weinberg.

Weinberg, a 30-year resident of E Street and emperor of the most excellent Max Weinberg 7 on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, stands among the most visible and rock-solid drummers in the business — and, it should be noted, has proven himself an incredibly game comedic straight man as well (let’s just say one-liners like “I’ve found that reindeer will lick just about anything you put in front of them” weren’t something that popped up a whole lot on Born in the U.S.A.).

But he’s also an in-demand guest speaker who logs regular appearances at colleges around the country with his one-man multimedia show, An Evening With Max Weinberg. And the chance to cameo this weekend with UNF’s acclaimed jazz ensemble provided an opportunity too good to miss, he said.

“I’m thrilled to be playing with the great stage band at UNF,” Weinberg said from New York last week. “They’re wonderful musicians down there.”

Weinberg does these kinds of jazz and jump-blues-leaning shows somewhat regularly and said that such gigs, as well as his work on Conan, help him pad out his musical resume even more. “I think at 54 I’m playing with more versatility and finesse and polish than I ever have,” he said. “We’ve done a cross-section of music on the show — not just rock ‘n’ roll.”

Indeed, he’s keen on trumpeting that cross-section — jump-blues, big-band jazz and swing — to schools as well as the folks in TV land.

“One of the main requirements for being a drummer is to be able to convincingly play any kind of music, or you end up not working,” he said, laughing. “Certainly with Springsteen it’s all rock, but on TV I wanted to play all types of music. The jump-blues is something I started back in the ’90s, and that led me into the big-band era update that we do now, music downsized for a seven-piece band instead of 17 or 18.”

But, he added, some of his newest interests are a couple of decades ahead, closer to the era spotlighted by bandmate Steven Van Zandt on his Underground Garage radioshow. “Lately on the show we’ve been redefining ’70s music, and I find that some of that earlier punk — Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash — was more melodic than the punk played in the last 10 years,” he said. “Like ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’ — that’s a good melody that can be adapted to sax or trumpet, so that’s what I listen for. The drums are basically high-energy rock ‘n’ roll.

“Though,” he adds, “it seems to funny to play a Clash song wearing a suit and tie.”

For Saturday’s concert, which is free, Weinberg will sit in with Jazz Ensemble 1 for a number of handpicked tunes, including “one of (his) favorites: our version of Come Fly With Me inspired by the Count Basie recording,” he said.

He’s also lined up numbers by Buddy Rich and Henry Mancini, songs he does regularly with a seven-piece that he can now flesh out for a crowd more than double that. (Weinberg added that during his set he’ll play alongside UNF’s drummer. “I don’t like to leave anybody out,” he said.)

After the show, which benefits the ensemble, Weinberg will take questions from the audience “across all topics,” and stick around for autographs.

This fall’s found him busy in Bruce-land as well: Weinberg contributed interviews and insight to a 30th anniversary edition of Born to Run coming out on Tuesday, Nov. 15, which includes a DVD of a previously unreleaed full 1975 concert. “Thirty years ago,” Weinberg said, “Yeah, that really brings back a lot of memories. And that concert is really something outrageous.”

Little Steven Van Zandt: Just a prisoner of rock n’ roll

Florida Times-Union — He’s not the only one, nor the oldest, nor the richest. But Little Steven Van Zandt might be the most charismatic, dedicated and visible crusader around these days scrapping to preserve the dirty purity of what they used to call rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s a thread that runs through the activities in what appears to be a fairly insane (and probably paisley-colored) day planner. Van Zandt, 54, splits his time these days as lead guitarist for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, shooting the sixth (and reportedly final) season of The Sopranos and hosting a radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage, which airs locally from 10 p.m. to midnight Sundays on WFYV (104.5 FM).

The show, like all his projects, is powered by one core rule, Van Zandt said.

“The old and the new can live side by side, and in fact strengthen each other,” he said by phone last week. “The old stuff gives the new stuff depth. The new stuff gives the old stuff relevance. My philosophy is: Cool is timeless. And that’s how people respond. We get e-mails from 12-year-olds and 62-year- olds.”

That workmanlike investment in the sprawling history of rock is driving Van Zandt to spend most of August on a last-ditch crusade to save CBGB, the grimy, venerated New York club that became the nucleus of punk in the ’70s by first spotlighting acts such as Television, the Ramones and Blondie. The club’s 12-year lease is up on Wednesday, Aug. 31. And its owner, Hilly Kristal, and its landlord, the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a non-profit organization that benefits the homeless, have been embroiled in a tangled and long-running legal logjam over disputed rent payments for months.

“We’re making progress,” Van Zandt. “The clock is ticking, though.”

The club scored a legal victory late last week when a Manhattan civil court judge ruled that CBGB didn’t have to pay long-disputed back rent to the BRC — and that it couldn’t be evicted on that basis.

But its future is still cloudy. When CBGB’s lease expires in two weeks, its rent will be doubled to more than $40,000 a month. Yet Van Zandt remains optimistic that the club will still be standing when the legal smoke clears.

Van Zandt took the role as mediator for the club — the only one he’s heard of that regularly pops up in travel books — out of something close to duty. “I couldn’t say no, you know what I mean?” he said.

“Part of our fight in this revolution to support this rebirth of rock ‘n’ roll, this huge contemporary garage-rock scene, is creating a new infrastructure, because most of the old infrastructure is gone. To lose yet one more club . . .” he trails off. “This is the last club left! Leave us at least one!” he added, laughing.

If the club infrastructure is crumbling now, the radio infrastructure has been exploded for years. Which is why the Underground Garage is such a critically acclaimed novelty — here’s a show that spins Ramones, Carl Perkins and Amboy Dukes nuggets next to stuff by the White Stripes, the Caesars and the Kaiser Chiefs. It’s not a cliche to say that it’s the kind of thing that just ain’t done anymore.

“We’re the only format in the world that plays new rock ‘n’ roll,” Van Zandt said. “You can hear hard rock, you can hear hip-hop, you can hear pop, but you can’t hear new rock ‘n’ roll anywhere.”

The show’s a certified winner — three years in, it airs on Sirius satellite radio and 130 FM stations in 190 markets nationwide. David Moore, program director for WFYV (104.5 FM), said the show is No. 1 in the male 25-to-54 demographic for its time slot, and No. 2 among non-talk stations — all for a Sunday night slot that’s “not a day or time usually associated with high levels of rock radio listening.”

But for all its critical noise, Van Zandt seems surprised, even perplexed, that it hasn’t been ripped off more.

“We have seen some influence in odd ways,” he allowed. “Steve Jones [of the Sex Pistols] as a DJ in L.A. This Jack format, oddly enough, is kind of a result of our success — even though they’re not including new music, unfortunately. But I must be honest, I am a little disappointed we have not been able to convince people to play more new music. I don’t really think audiences are gonna run for the hills if you play something new once in a while.”

To that end, Van Zandt is working on a TV version of the Underground Garage, one of seven music-oriented pilots he has in various stages of development and more avenues by which he can get new music in front of a nuttily crowded marketplace.

“I wanna make that relationship between playing new bands on the radio and seeing new bands on TV, it makes a big difference,” he said. “We’ve now played over 100 new bands in the past three years, and we wanna put the faces to the sounds.” He said he hopes to have something on by the first of the year.

He also remains fully active on E Street as well, and has contributed to a release commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Springsteen classic Born to Run. He predicts there’ll be another record and tour with the band. “There is a very cool thing that’s gonna come out about that,” he said.

And after a 21-month hiatus, Van Zandt will reprise his role of mobster Silvio Dante when the sixth season of the Sopranos starts on HBO in March. The cable channel last week announced an extra eight “bonus episodes” in addition to the previously announced 12-show run.

But for the next two weeks anyway, Van Zandt’s energies are centered on the club. “We’re staying very optimistic about this,” he said. “It’s quite a fight, though.”

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