On Stage: Dave Koz and Larry Graham Jr. are side by side

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Dave Koz and Larry Graham Jr.

There are people who never seem to wear the same outfit twice. Dave Koz seems that way when it comes to touring his live shows. Koz’ tours come in many different formats and are presented at a wide variety of venues.

In recent years, Koz has visited this area with an assortment of different shows and an array of guest performers such as Bebe Winans, Sheila E and Jonathan Butler. Sheila E will also be a performer at this year’s show.

On August 17, the veteran smooth jazz saxophonist will bring his “Dave Koz and Larry Graham Jr. Side By Side 2017 Tour” to Dell Music Center (33rd Street and Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-685-9560,www.ticketmaster.com) as part of Dell Music Center’s 2017 Essence of Entertainment Concert Series.

“We started doing these Side By Side tours about 6-7 years ago,” said Koz, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in North Carolina.

“I’ve been doing a summer tour every year since 1991 — except for 2006 after the passing of my mom in 2005. Last year, I was on tour with David Sanborn, who is my Number One sax hero.”

A nine-time Grammy Award nominee, Koz has charted nine Number 1 albums on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Album chart, including 2015’s “Collaborations: 25th Anniversary Collection” (Concord Records), which features some of his most memorable creative partnerships – including duets with such artists as Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, Michael McDonald, Barry Manilow and Luther Vandross.

Another chart-topping album for Koz was “Summer Horns,” his 2013 collaboration with Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair which paid tribute to the horn-fueled, rock/funk/soul bands of the 1960’s and 70s.

On this tour, Koz is teaming up with one of the most cel4ebratede bass players in the world of rock, funk and R&B — Larry Graham Jr.

As bassist for Sly & The Family Stone, Graham helped give the band its distinctive sound with his “thumping and plucking’” technique (widely known as “slapping”). He also contributed vocals on hits such as “Dance to the Music” and “Everybody is a Star.”

Together with the other members of Sly & The Family Stone, Graham was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also received the Rhythm & Blues Pioneer Award. He has been honored with Grammy nominations for his work as a founding member of Graham Central Station and as a solo artist.

The world-famous bassist has also recorded with Aretha Franklin, led Psychedelic Psoul (Eddie Murphy’s band) and performed alongside Prince.

Koz has found a way to turn hero worship into one of the hottest shows of the season. After last summer’s hugely successful “Side By Side” tour with Sanborn, is now touring with Graham, another one of his all-time idols.

“Larry Graham Jr. revolutionized music with his bass guitar and his soul,” said Koz. “He is an amazing human being.

“A few years ago, he was a guest on one of my music cruises. We became friends back then and played together. Later, we decided to do it on land.

“Amazingly, Larry didn’t even start playing music on bass. He was a guitarist. He played bass out of necessity in his mom’s band. Once he started playing bass, he developed his signature way of playing the instrument ‘slap style’.”

Graham pioneered the art of slap/pop playing on the electric bass in part to provide percussive and rhythmic elements in addition to the notes of the bass line when his mother’s band lacked a drummer — the slap of the thumb being used to simulate a bass drum and the pop of the index or middle finger

Slap-pop playing melds a percussive thumb-slapping technique of the lower strings with an aggressive finger-snap of the higher strings. The slap and pop technique incorporates a large ratio of muted notes to normal notes in order to add to the rhythmic effect.

According to Koz, “I’ve been a huge fan of Larry’s since my earliest days discovering music. This man has literally set musical history in motion several times in his illustrious career.

“We’ve been great friends for a long time, but to finally get to share the stage with him in this intimate way is truly a dream come true — a perfect summer, if you ask me.

“With this show, I come out and play a half-hour of my stuff. Then, he comes out and plays his music and we play together. He’s such a performer – five decades of non-stop performing. He’s such a rock star – dance, music and moves.”

Video link for Dave Koz and Larry Graham, Jr. – https://youtu.be/f3t5wR0EVVw.

The show at the Dell, which also has Sheila E as a co-headliner, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $32

The remaining show on the Dell’s 2017 Essence of Entertainment Concert Series features Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly on August 24.

The world of Hollywood and the world of music have always been intertwined – especially when actors venture out to try their hand as recording artists.

The Bacon Brothers

It’s 2017 and you can find recent music tracks by such actors and actresses as Kiefer Sutherland, Priyanka Chopra, Hugh Laurie and Jennifer Lopez.

The Hollywood/music world merge that has the most longevity and has produced the best canon of good tunes is the Bacon Brothers.

The Bacon Brothers, who grew up in Philadelphia, will return to the area on August 18 for a show at the Valley Forge Casino (1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, 610-354-8118, vfcasino.com)

Kevin Bacon is an award-winning actor with 80 films and dozens of television and stage credits to his name, resulting in numerous Emmy and Screen Actor’s Guild nominations cited in his resume.

Older brother Michael initially began making music in Philadelphia before moving to Nashville where his songwriting career blossomed. An Emmy-winning composer, he most recently scored the documentary “That Way Madness Lies” currently on the festival circuit.

Other recent works include the audiobook: “You Don’t Look Your Age…And Other Fairytales” and the HBO documentary “Underfire: The Untold Story of Private First Class Tony Vaccaro.”

“We grew up in Center City Philadelphia – 21st and Locust,” said Kevin Bacon, during a phone interview last week from Manhattan. “Mike went to Central High and I was at the Parkway Program and then Masterman High.”

Michael Bacon said, “The first songs we wrote were in the late 1960s. Kevin would sing me a melody and I’d do the chords. Gradually, our skills went up.”

As time went on, Kevin built up his acting resume but the the Bacon Brothers also moved forward.

“We had been writing to try to pitch songs to other people or to put the songs in my movies,” said Kevin. “We did a demonstration tape. A friend invited us to sing at his venue – the TLA.

“It was me and Mike on acoustic guitar. After the show, we got invited to do another show. It just evolved from there. It’s really about writing a song and playing it in a band.”

The two siblings share a singular body of work that’s found them spending more than 20 years of working the road and paying their dues, resulting in seven albums – “Forosoco” (1997), “Getting There” (1999), “Can’t Complain” (2001), “Live: The No Food Jokes Tour” (2003), “White Knuckles” (2005), “New Year’s Day” (2009), “Philadelphia Road” (2011) and “36 Cents” (2014).

Sold-out gigs in New York, LA, Nashville, Chicago and San Francisco followed, as well as a high-profile show opening for The Band at Carnegie Hall and appearing alongside the likes of Shania Twain and Wyclef Jean on the TNT Network’s “The Gift of Song” special. In eight years of recording and touring, the band has become a top live draw and continues to build momentum. Now, following on the heels of last year’s “Driver,” a resilient tale of lost youth imbued with tender memories, the Bacon Brothers’ new single “Broken Glass” also echoes that personal resolve. Written by Kevin and recorded at Lehman College studio where Michael teaches, the song was co-produced by both Bacon brothers.

According to Kevin, “It’s a very personal song. I think that the songs are strong when they are personal. It took a long time. Some come easy, some not. But I’m proud of it and very happy with what Mike and the guys brought to the mix.”

That song will be followed by Michael’s composition “Two Rivers,” a tender reflective ballad recorded during the Lehman sessions.

“We cut ‘Two Rivers’ about four months ago,” said Kevin. “We recorded it at the same time we did ‘Broken Glass.’”

Now that three years have passed since the release of their last full-length, the brothers are looking ahead to a new album.

“We’ve been building up songs,” said Michael. “We’ve been in the songwriting zone. We have nine or 10 that are good and four or five in the backlog. If we can get them done, we’ll be ready for a new CD.

“For us, each CD is a milestone. It’s what we’ve done up to that point in our career.

Kevin said, “We want to record but we don’t know where yet. A lot of studios in New York are closed down. We really like being in a real old-fashioned studio and be playing in the same room.

“We’ve been staying busy this year – chop wood, carry water. We have a strong work ethic. We’ve played quite a lot of shows this summer.

“Mike is also busy as a full-time music professor at Lehman College and I’m finishing an HBO documentary about Sandra Lee, the Food Network star who has breast cancer.”

Video link for the Bacon Brothers — https://youtu.be/KQZcNuAcf7I.

The show at the Valley Forge Casino will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $60.

There is another family music act playing in the area tonight – a family act with a completely different story.

Grown Up Avenger Stuff

Grown Up Avenger Stuff will headline a show at The Barbary (951 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-634-7400, www.facebook.com/thebarbary).

Grown Up Avenger Stuff is a powerhouse unit driven by veteran guitarist John Thomsen and his sons — Hunter Thomsen (bass, vocals) and Tyler Thomsen (drums/percussion, vocals).

They have extensively toured the states including appearances at one of the largest music festivals Summerfest (Milwaukee), NoDa Summerfest (Charlotte), Center of the Universe Fest (Tulsa) and batches of shows at SXSW.

Their freewheeling, high-energy live shows have gone international with dates at K-Days in Edmonton (one of Canada’s top festivals), and Indie Music Week and Canadian Music (Toronto). They have also performed in European cities in Italy, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

The band’s sound comes from the unique histories of the GUAS band members — John’s years of pure rock guitar work, combined with Tyler and Hunter’s gospel roots playing in church every week starting at 12 years old.

“The kids lived with their mom,” said John Thomsen, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Columbus, Ohio.

“They were three and six when their mom and I separated. They were raised in a very serious and somewhat-restricted religious environment. It was Pentecostal and they were not allowed to listen to rock-and-roll music.

“When they would visit me, I’d play music by the Beatles and Pink Floyd for them and they didn’t like it. I bought them instruments so they’d appreciate rock music – but they didn’t. Still, Dave Grohl is gonna get you sooner or later – same with the Beatles.

“My brother was in a serious band back then and I was playing music too. My son Tyler started playing drums in church. I went to the church to hear Tyler play and he was really good. And, Hunter had a great ear.

“Still, I didn’t want them in my band. Drawing your kids into a life in music is not what they’d consider being a responsible parent.”

But, with the Thomsens being musicians and being family, it was almost inevitable that they would start playing together at some point.

“Over time, we’d play in our basement together,” said John, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I had them help me record some music.

“I was looking for people to join me in my band. I wanted my own band so that I’d have control. I wanted to find serious people to put together a really good band. I had a good starting line-up – but they all left.

“Other people auditioned but none of them were as good as Tyler and Hunter. I realized then that it would work with them in the band. They wanted to do it and they were the best option.

“This line-up came together around 2011. Hunter was the last to join. He was so young and he wanted to stay so young.”

Hunter explained the band’s history from his perspective.

“Tyler and I started playing music in church,” said Hunter. “Eventually, we were transitioning as teenagers – transitioning with rebel ideas and rock music. We played three times a week from when we were around 12. We’d always played together as a rhythm section.”

Tyler said, “I have filled in with other bands. But, there has never been the tightness that I have when I play with Hunter.”

Grown Up Avenger Stuff’s most recent recordings are the “Eclectica” album, which was released in February 2016, and the “A.I.M.” single, which came out in January 2017. A new album is on the horizon but, in the meantime, GUAS is happy to be tearing things up on stage.

According to John, “What you get from us live is pure fun rock and roll. The connection and chemistry between us is so strong, especially between Hunter and Tyler, that there are times when it feels like magic on stage – and there’s no better feeling than when we’ve got the energy going and we’re connecting with the audience.

“It’s taken us a few recordings to emerge with our own sound free from the references to our influences, and there’s freedom in knowing who we are and being able to express everything in our own unique way.”

Video link for Grown Up Avenger Stuff – https://youtu.be/LAt2CmYq6Oc.

The show at The Barbary, which also features Canyon, Everlit, and Belmont, will start at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $10.

If you’re heading to the shore this weekend, you might be thinking about fish – fishing in the ocean or the bay or enjoying fish at a seafood restaurant.

Samantha Fish

If you’re heading to the Philadelphia Folk Festival this weekend, you’re probably thinking about music – and about dealing with the heat at the festival grounds in western Montgomery County.

You might also be thinking about fish. Fish and a festival in the country don’t seem like they could occupy the same sentence.

But, they do.

On August 18, one of the headline attractions at the evening concert will be Samantha Fish.

Samantha Fish is a guitarist. She’s also a talented singer and an adept songwriter. But, more than anything, she’s a guitarist with roots in rock, blues and Americana.

This week, Fish is headed to the Philadelphia Folk Festival (Old Pool Farm,

Clemmers Mill Road and Salford Station Road, Upper Salford, pfs.org/) with her searing lead guitar style and expressive voice. Her latest album, which was produced by Bobby Harlow, is titled “Chills and Fever.” It was released March 23 on Ruf Records.

“We recorded the album at the end of last year in Detroit,” said Fish, during a phone interview Monday during tour rehearsal sessions in New Orleans. “For me, it’s a rock-and-roll/soul album with blues as its foundation.”

Fish has music in her DNA.

“My dad played and my mom sang in church,” said Fish. “My dad’s friends all played music. They’d come over to our house and play. It was a social thing. My uncles played metal with heavy guitar. My dad’s friends played country-and-western and blues.

“I started with drums and did that for a couple years. I’m glad I did because it gave me the rhythmic foundation. When I picked up guitar – that’s when I started singing. Not long after, I started writing songs.

“Songwriting is something you have to work on if you want to learn how to write good songs. I still play songs today that I wrote when I was 20. My songs are rock, country and soul – all bluesy even though I’ve never written a standard blues song.”

Musical diversity has always been crucial for Fish – listening and playing.

“I listened to a lot of soul music — people like Otis Redding and Ray Charles,” said Fish. “I was also influenced by blues acts — especially North Mississippi blues — people like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.

“With my guitar playing, I felt accomplished on guitar when I played as a trio and felt up to par. With a trio, there is no place to hide.”

“Currently, I’m playing with a six-piece band. I’ve been doing a trio my entire career – playing with a trio for a decade. I’ve always wanted to have a bigger band with lap steel and pedal steel. I could hear it when I was writing.

“The band I have now has two horns, keys, bass, drums and guitar. It was the right time to do it. It’s exciting because I can do other things. I can really focus on singing a little more.”

Video link for Samantha Fish – https://youtu.be/TRILQk5ydU0.

Samantha Fish’s live set at the Philadelphia Folk Festival will be in the evening on August 18. The concert, which also features David Amram,
The Infamous Stringdusters and Old Crow Medicine Show, will start at 7:30 p.m.

The line-up for the evening concert on August 19 includes Wesley Stace, RUNA, John McCutcheon, Cry Cry Cry, Sierra Hull, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Ranky Tanky, Graham Nash, and The Weight Band with The King Harvest Horns.

The evening concert on August 20 will feature The Great Groove Band, Tift Merritt, Eric Andersen, Baile An Salsa, Susan Werner, and TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’Mo’ Band.

Con Brio

Con Brio, which is performing August 18 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com), has been touted by many critics as “the best new live band in America.”

Fresh off a stream of sold-out shows touring in support of their latest album, “Paradise,” the band has been making new fans as well as devoted fans across the west. Now, the funk ensemble is heading east and will make its area debut this weekend.

Formed in 2013, Con Brio — Ziek McCarter, Vocals; Brendan Liu, Trumpet; Marcus Stephens, Tenor Saxophone; Benjamin Andrews, Guitar; Patrick Glynn, Keyboards; Jonathan Kirchner, Bass; Andrew Laubacher, Drums — is the offspring of seven musicians with diverse backgrounds but a shared love for the vibrant Bay Area funk and psychedelic-soul sound pioneered by groups like Sly & the Family Stone.

“The band was formed organically – jam sessions, recording sessions and playing around,” said McCarter, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon as the band was driving through Nebraska on its way to a show in New York City.

“It’s a tight-knit music community in the Bay Area. At the start, myself, the sax player, the drummer and the bass player all were in multiple bands and we played with each other in passing.

“We started a band and picked up members along the way. This line-up has been together for two years now. We did covers at the beginning. Now, we have a lot of originals. But, we still do covers to this day.

“With con Brio, whether it’s a cover song or an original, it’s our music. The first Con Brio show was early in 2013 at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco.”

By 2015, when the band self-produced its debut EP “Kiss the Sun,” Con Brio had already become a West Coast institution on the strength of their magnetic live show.

After a busy 2015 spent touring the U.S. and Europe, Con Brio headed home to parlay the momentum, chemistry and tight live sound into a full-length record. The result was Con Brio’s new album “Paradise.”

“We recorded demos when we toured in 2015,” said McCarter. “We came back and went into the studio in June 2016. We re-recorded all those songs and some newer songs with producer Mario Caldato, Jr.

“We knew even before our first show that we had something good. We wrote songs that we were passionate about. We had a community. Now, we’re taking it to the next level.”
Video link for Con Brio – https://youtu.be/86hPhh14VdI

The show in Ardmore, which also features Dumpstaphunk and The London Souls, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely on August 19; Splintered Sunlight on August 19; Steal Your Peach and Brown Sugar on August 20; and Brett Dennen on August 23.

Dustbowl Revival

On August 18, the Dustbowl Revival will return to the area to headline a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

The Dustbowl Revival, which is based in Venice, California, merges old school bluegrass, gospel, pre-war blues and the hot swing of New Orleans and bravely brings together many styles of traditional American music. Known for their high energy live shows, the Dustbowl Revival has been described as a “string band-brass band mash-up.”

The lively group’s line-up includes Zach Lupetin (guitars, vocals), Liz Beebe (vocals, washboard), Daniel Mark (mandolin), Connor Vance (fiddle), Matt Rubin (trumpet), Ulf Bjorlin (trombone), Josh Heffernan (drums) and James Klopfleisch (bass).

“The band started in 2008 and expanded over the years — from a string band at first to eight people down the road,” said Lupetin, during a recent phone interview last week from a tour stop in Tampa, Florida.

“The first expansion was fiddle and mandolin. It’s like a little traveling circus. The full big band line-up has been going strong for about four years. It can expand or contract at times.

“I’m from Chicago and was playing folk and blues when I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The idea for a band like this came to me when I was in college at the University of Michigan. I was dreaming about a band that played songs in different genres at once.

“I was in a blues-rock band and started listening to pre-war jazz. I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Once I got to L.A., I placed an innocent ad on Craigslist for musicians who loved music from that era. From that, I got together instruments that don’t usually go together.

“I wanted to do something authentic and high energy. I think American music has a lot of different roots. For me, it all starts with the blues and branches out from there. Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Bob Wills, Mahalia Jackson — all playing this very heartfelt soulful music.

“We try for that. I started learning traditional songs that were the seeds of rock and roll. Music should be real. I don’t want to make over-produced empty music. And, we want to have family appeal. Our audience is a pretty wide mix.”

In 2013, the Dustbowl Revival was named “Best Live Band in LA” by The LA Weekly.

“Around 2013, we decided that we were going to do it for real,” said Lupetin. “Liz Beebe joined the band and we began doing 150-200 gigs a year.

“We’ve had different musicians come and go but the core members have been around for a long time. To play around the country, you need a dedicated group.

“It’s really just old-time party music. It’s just a matter of putting it in a different environment. This band is a work-in-progress.”

Now, the Dustbowl Revival is touring in support of its new self-titled album. The album was released on Signature Sounds on June 16

“The album came out in June,” said Lupetin. “We’ve been introducing this new sound. We recorded the album in stages. We went into the studio in December, did about 20 songs and then cut it down to 11.

“Then, we recorded the album in January with our own producer Ted Hutt. It was an exciting few weeks. It was our first time to be steered by a passionate producer.

“The mixing of roots music and funk/soul was our goal and Ted understood how to do it. He brought out this brash, raw, emotional sound from the band. He knew what it should sound like.

“These songs are really fun to play. A lot of them are upbeat, dance-friendly songs. But, there are also dark, emotional love songs that before we didn’t have the courage to record. We’re playing all the new songs in our shows now.”

Video link for Dustbowl Revival – https://youtu.be/LkowartIvJg.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Heather Maloney as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are A.J. Croce and Robbie Fulks on August 19, Stu Larsen and Lily Mae on August 19, MIKNNA and Red Giant on August 20, Delta Rae and Lauren Jenkins on August 22, Jonny Lang and Jack Broadbent on August 23 and Fireside Collective and Matt Wheeler on August 23.

Arlen Roth

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Arlen Roth on August 17, Jackie “The Joke Man” and Rich Harkaway on August 19, and Open Mic with guest host Jason Ager on August 20.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host The Julian Hartwell Project with Joe Kenney on August 19.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents “Beatles vs. Stones – A Musical Showdown” on August 18.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will host Eric Gales along with David Jacobs-Strain & Bob Beach on August 17, Close To You (The Music Of The Carpenters) on August 18, Tony Sands: It Was A Very Good Year on August 19, Ray Wylie Hubbard and The Grahams on August 19, Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience on August 20, and Jarekus Singleton & Selwyn Birchwood on August 23.

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