On Stage (Bonus): Little Steven carves out his own niche

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Little Steven

Some know him as Steven Van Zandt. Others know him as Little Steven. Some refer to him as Stevie Van Zandt. Still others think of him as Miami Steve.

There is one thing all can agree on. Van Zandt is a rock legend – a guitarist extraordinaire who has become an integral part of rock music’s DNA.

Van Zandt, who might best be known as Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band guitarist, has played on around 20 of Springsteen’s albums and has released eight solo albums.

Little Steven’s most recent album “Soulfire” was released earlier this year via Wicked Cool/Big Machine/Ume and was named one of the top 50 albums of 2017 by Rolling Stone. Now, Van Zandt is on the road working the album.

On October 1, Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul will perform at the Electric Factory (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215-627-1332, www.electricfactory.info).

The “Soulfire Tour 2017” celebrates of Little Steven’s sensational new solo album, which is available as CD, digital download, and 180-gram black vinyl.

“Soulfire” is Van Zandt’s first solo album in close to two decades and without question his purest and most uniquely personal artistic statement thus far.

He revisits songs that span the length of his career as artist, performer, producer, arranger, and songwriter, focusing directly on the hugely influential “soul horns-meet-rock ‘n’ roll guitars” approach he first pioneered on Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ classic first three albums.

“I cut ‘Soulfire’ back in November,” said Van Zandt, during a phone interview Friday afternoon as he traveled to a gig in Boston.

“I did it six weeks, which was really quick. I recorded it at my studio – Renegade Studio – here in the City (New York). It’s not huge but it’s as big as the Chess or Motown studios were.

“The studio is totally analog. I’m not a fan of digital. It just sounds different to my ears. Certain instruments don’t have the frequency response that I need.

“Even though it has to go to digital at some point, it has a different quality when it hits the tape – a distinct tone and texture. Most of all, we want the essential emotional experience to be paramount. Actually, I still love mono.”

Van Zandt is a musician, performer, songwriter, arranger, producer, music supervisor, TV producer, actor, director, Broadway producer, TV and film composer, live event producer, international DJ, activist, historian, teacher, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is recognized internationally as one of the world’s foremost authorities on both contemporary and traditional Rock and Roll.
After creating the “Jersey Shore” sound with the Asbury Jukes he became a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and went on to become a successful solo artist.

His songs have been performed by artists such as Jackson Browne, Pearl Jam, Jimmy Cliff, Damian Marley, Gary U.S. Bonds, Darlene Love, Nancy Sinatra, Brian Setzer, and Black Uhuru.

In 2001 he launched “Little Steven’s Underground Garage”, his internationally syndicated radio show and it became the most successful syndicated Rock music radio show in the past 40 years. Steven also created and produces the first two channels of original content on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, the Underground Garage (Channel 21) and Outlaw Country (Channel 60). In 2006 he launched his record label, Wicked Cool Records, to further support new Rock and Roll.
“Soulfire” was arranged and produced by Van Zandt at his own Renegade Studios in New York City, co-produced and recorded by GRAMMY® Award-winner Geoff Sanoff (Fountains of Wayne, Stephen Colbert) and co-produced and music directed by guitarist Marc Ribler.

Ribler was recruited by Van Zandt as Darlene Love’s music director for Love’s 2015 Van Zandt-produced album “Introducing Darlene Love” and then “borrowed back” to serve that same role with The Disciples of Soul.

Background vocals on “I Don’t Want To Go Home” and “The City “Soulfire” was mixed and mastered by Van Zandt’s career-long collaborators and friends — Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Who, Bryan Adams), and Bob Ludwig (Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, The Band, Sly and the Family Stone).

The songs on “Soulfire” all have their own history.

The title track “Soulfire” was co-written with Anders Bruus of The Breakers. “I’m Coming Back” was originally found on Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes’ 1991 LP, “Better Days.”

“The Blues Is My Business” was written by Kevin Bowe and Todd Cerney and recorded by Etta James in 2003. “I Saw The Light” was written for Richie Sambora & Orianthi. “Some Things Just Don’t Change” was originally found on Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes’ 1977 LP, “This Time It’s For Real.”

“Love On The Wrong Side of Town” was co-written with Bruce Springsteen. “The City Weeps Tonight” was going to be the first song on his first solo album. “Down and Out in New York City” was written by Bodie Chandler and Barry De Vorzon and originally recorded on James Brown’s 1973 “Black Caesar” soundtrack.

“Standing in the Line of Fire” was co-written with Gary U.S. Bonds originally found on Gary U.S. Bonds’ 1984 album “Standing In The Line Of Fire.” “Saint Valentine’s Day” was originally found on The Cocktail Slippers’ 2009 LP, “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

“I Don’t Want To Go Home” was originally found on Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes’ 1976 debut LP, “I Don’t Want To Go Home.” “Ride The Night Away” was co-written with Steve Jordan and originally found on Jimmy Barnes’ 1985 LP, “For the Working Class Man.”

“Maybe half the guys who played on the album are on the road with me now,” said Van Zandt. “People come and go these days. Top musicians are booked years ahead.

“There are 10 different genres of music in my current live show so I need them to play with authenticity. It’s hard finding the right guys.

“There are 15 of us onstage – including five horns and three girls — and we’re travelling with 27. I’m hearing things bigger now. It’s expensive but it’s worth it.

“It’s not only bits and pieces of previous albums. I’m doing covers for the first time in my life – including songs by James Brown and Etta James.

“I’m re-introducing myself to my fans and introducing myself to a whole new generation.”

And, there is one more difference about “Soulfire.”

“For the first time in my life, I’ve put out a record that is not political,” said Van Zandt. “In the past, it was politics through music. This time, it’s music first. I just don’t feel I need to explain Donald Trump.”

Video link for Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul — https://youtu.be/yRqIfs1qXE8.

The all-ages show at the Electric Factory will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $50.

These days, a lot of solo recording artists use band names instead of their own names when embarking on a career in music.


Gabbi Coenen is one of them.

Instead of going out as Gabbi Coenen, the singer-songwriter from Perth, Australia records and tours as RVBY MY DEAR.

A formally-trained pianist from the age of four, Coenen formed RVBY MY DEAR as an outlet for her songwriting in late 2012. The new RVBY MY DEAR EP, “Cycles,” was just released on September 22.

Now, Coenen is touring the Northeast in support of the disc with a stop scheduled for September 30 at Trafalmadore (South Hicks and Dickinson streets, Philadelphia, https://www.facebook.com/tralfamadorezoo).

After a year-long hiatus of writing and recording with producer Andrew Lappin (St. Lucia, Jack + Eliza) and engineer Chris Gehringer (Nick Jonas, Rihanna, The 1975) in 2016, RVBY MY DEAR returned to release the first single and video from “Cycles,” – a song called “10:17.”

RVBY MY DEAR’s sound is influenced by 90’s British acts such as Portishead and Massive Attack, the orchestral balladry of Bjork and Fiona Apple, as well as the modern beat-driven sounds of Daughter, Beach House, James Blake, and London Grammar.

“My background is singing jazz,” said Coenen, during a phone interview last week from her apartment in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

“I studied jazz at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts. There are a lot of talented musicians in the Perth jazz scene. I came to the United States because I needed a fresh start. I came here in 2011 on an artists’ visa to study at the New School for Jazz in New York.

“But, I was interested in writing my own songs instead of just doing jazz. Another reason I came to the states was that my mom lives in Los Angeles.”

Once established in New York, Coenen began writing pop/rock songs and performing with a band. Coenen’s music explores the space between quiet melancholy and simmering rage, with a cinematic sheen.

“I started the early version of my band in 2012,” said Coenen. “I’ve released an EP every year/year-and-a-half since then. Each one builds on what I’ve done before.

“It’s tough to get shows here in New York because so many D.I.Y. venues have been shutting down. Still, my career has been steadily growing.”

That growth will definitely continue as “Cycles” starts to reach more ears.

“I’m excited to get this new music out here because I think it’s really good,” said Coenen. “I put the single ‘10:17’ out myself and it got good reviews. Hopefully, I’ll have another single out by the end of the year.

“I have a new album that is completely done. We did it all last year. I wrote in 2015 and 2016. We recorded four songs in the spring and five in the fall. Then, we mixed it this year.

“We recorded at a lot of different places. We did a couple in Brooklyn with producer Andrew Lappin. He moved to L.A. and we finished it there. He has a small studio at Sunset Sound.”

The band — Gabbi Coenen, vocals/bass/songs; Darren Denman, keys/piano; Prawit Siriwat, guitar; Abel Tabares, drums — features lush synth and guitar harmonies, propulsive electronic-inspired beats, and Coenen’s floating moody vocals.

“I used to sing and play keyboards with the band,” said Coenen. “Now, I sing and play bass. Bass used to be my main instrument in high school. Then, I got more into vocals. I stopped playing bass and just did voice for seven years.”

Coenen released “Balloons,” her debut EP as RVBY MY DEAR in 2014, followed by the singles, “Flourisher” in 2015 and “Unravel” in 2016.
Coenen’s songs often follow a gradual crescendo, navigating the typical verse/chorus pop structure in new ways, and span genres from calm introspective ballads to aggressive guitar-heavy breakbeats and hook-laden pop anthems.

“In my live show now, I’m doing eight of nine songs from the album,” said Coenen. “And, I’m playing many of the songs from my EPs.”

Video link for RVBY MY DEAR — https://youtu.be/_RLJXWp3hYM.

The show at Trafalmadore will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Joon Moon

Franco-American band Joon Moon will be coming to Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) on October 1 in support of its debut album “Moonshine Corner,” which just came out September 23.

As 2015 was wrapping up, an unknown outfit called Joon Moon took the music world by surprise with its first single “Chess.”

The four cuts on the “Call Me” EP — a mix of pop and soul, electronic music and jazz, melancholy and elegy – gave a preview of the album to come.

Joon Moon is the France-based outfit of house producer/keyboardist Julien Decoret (Nouvelle Vague), drummer Raphaël Chassin (Vanessa Paradis, Rufus Wainwright) and American expat and singer extraordinaire Krystle Warren (Martha Wainwright, Erykah Badu).

“We first started working on the album two years ago,” said Chassin, during a trans-Atlantic phone interview last week from the band’s base in Paris

“I composed all the songs and we started to produce it in our studio – the two of us playing piano, drums and bass and adding other instruments like organ.”

Decoret said, “We’ve always used a lot of different instruments but this was the first time we had them all together on one album. We’re used to having a lot of instruments on our songs.”

The talented duo has the musical versatility to expand Joon Moon’s range of instruments and musical styles.

“Julien plays all the instruments except horns,” said Chassin. “Most of the strings we used were double bass. He played eight tacks with double bass. The double bass has a very distinct sound –a real special sound.”

After 10 years of touring the world playing double bass with Marc Collin’s Nouvelle Vague ensemble, excursions into house music on the Yellow Productions Art of Disco compilations and co-producing Florent Marchet’s Bamby Galaxy album, it was time for songwriter/producer/renaissance man Decoret to focus on a new challenge.
With Chassin on drums working on the production and arrangements and Warren on vocals, Joon Moon came to life and traveled to a world where trip-hop, jazz, soul and electronic music live side by side.

“The combination of piano, bass and drums – it is very important to us,” said Chassin. “We wanted to have this soul music influence that we really love – old Chess Records as well as Motown and singers like Al Green.”

Decoret said, “Our influences are soul but there is also an influence from Baroque music and Bach – and by composer Steve Reich with his repetition.”

The use of old sounds and recording techniques gives Joon Moon’s music a sense of timelessness, and is the basis from which the band moves forward — mixing in more modern influences such as a sax line that could have been written by Steve Reich or some repetitive nature of song writing which espouses the codes of dance music.

“Our music is a real mix of influences,” said Decoret. “If you look inside each song, you’ll find different influences.”

Chassin said, “We tried not to sequence too much – to not use loops. It was definitely our choice to be organic.”

Video link for Joon Moon — https://youtu.be/5rmJuws0sdQ.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which has M.A. Kingston as the opening act, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

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