Friday, November 23, 2018

Music: Lots of buzz around Bees Deluxe

By Jay N. Miller/For The Patriot Ledger Posted Nov 22, 2018 at 6:10 PM

Bees Deluxe is a band that set out to yank blues into the 21st century, with guitar inspired by Jimi Hendrix and music influenced by a panoply of jazz, blues and rock artists. Last summer Bees Deluxe released their latest album, and their first one of all original material, “Voice of Dog,” and they’ve just returned from a tour through the Midwest.

Saturday night the Newton-based band headlines the Haymarket Lounge at City Winery in Boston.

Bees Deluxe delights in blurring any genres or categories people might want to assign to their music. They were in regular rotation at the Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, which closed last June, but most venues are not as familiar with the wide horizons of their music.

“When we play blues clubs they say, ’Hey you guys sound pretty jazzy,” noted keyboardist Carol Band. “Then when we play a jazz club, they’ll say, ‘Hey, you sound pretty bluesy.’ What we do is not easily defined, but blues can be sung or played in a lot of different ways, with many musical approaches. Of course we’ll get occasional requests to play “Johnny Be Goode” or ‘Mustang Sally’ or something like that, but we just say, ‘yeah sure, we’ll get to it,’ and then ignore them.”

A quick perusal of the material on the three previous Bees Deluxe albums shows how widely their music ranges, as they have covered a mind-boggling variety of tunes. There are traditional blues like J.B. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Daughter,” treated respectfully but with guitarist Conrad Warre’s inventive use of Hendrixian effects. There’s sizzling rhythm and blues like the easy groove of Bobby Blue Bland’s “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog the Way You Treat Me.” There’s a more subtle Crescent City feel to a dance-friendly take on The Meters’ “Jungle Man.” Conrad Warre’s guitar work is set in stark relief on a dazzling cover of jazz titan Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” showing the melodicism and sheer virtuosity that underlies everything the quartet tackles.

South Shore fans should check out the Youtube video of Bees Deluxe doing B.B. King’s “Downhearted (How Blue Can You Get?),” from the 2017 North River Blues Festival at the Marshfield Fair (as recorded in sterling video and sound by the ubiquitous MoeJoe Vision), where they preserve the character of the original while also artfully exploring new tangents.

Considering that’s the kind of stuff they covered, an album of all Bees Deluxe originals is really intriguing, to say the least. One tune “Industrial (Espionage)” has the surreal atmosphere of a film noir soundtrack, as Warre mysteriously intones “the spies look for me, and they look for you, at the end of the world...”

Probably the song on the new album that will get the most attention is “Imaginary Conversation Between Bjork and Buddy Guy,” since the Scandinavian folk-pop singer and the legendary Chicago guitarslinger seem to have little in common musically. But as Band creates an otherworldly framework of floating soundscapes, Warre crafts a marvelous guitar instrumental that is both concise and expressive, and you can almost imagine Guy and Bjork really jamming.

“What can we say about the components or that song?” Band, said laughing. “I’m playing a warped kind of keyboard progression, really a duet between my organ and synthesizer, all ethereal and a little bit whacked out. And then Conrad and his Buddy Guy solo comes along over the top of it.”

One can’t help but wonder how this quartet – with Allyn Dorr on bass, and Paul Giovine on drums – got its start and initially found an audience.

“We are not your average blues band, playing the classic 1-4-5 progression all night,” said Band. “It is challenging music to play, but we try to take the road less traveled. Even when we do covers we aim for the songs that are not expected. We might do a Billie Holliday song, for instance, and after we finish someone may request a Billie Holliday tune – well, we just did one, but it wasn’t one they expected. That kind of thing is a point of pride with us. We’ve covered all the Kings for guitar fans – B.B., Albert, Freddie – and we also even do Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog.” We just don’t do them like people might expect them.”

We mentioned that many of today’s younger and most exciting blues acts are actually rocking harder than most of today’s supposed rock bands, and noted Tinsley Ellis as a prime example.

“Oh sure, we are big fans of Tinsley Ellis, and sent him one of our previous CDs where we covered his song “A Quitter Never Wins,” said Band. “He gave us some really good feedback and liked it. But it is always a challenge to get young people to hear new music these days. There’s so much that is computer-generated, and it all seems to be about the beat, which is fine. I went to see Flying Lotus, which is John Coltrane’s nephew, and it was all electronics...just not my type of music.”

Bees Deluxe, despite their tendency to veer far afield, also generally keeps a solid groove underneath everything they play, so that audiences may not know what they’re hearing, but they like it and can usually dance to it.

“We’ve gained some fans around the area and around the country now,” said Band. “We have a lot that do come out to see all the time, a small but rabid following. Those who haven’t heard us before often come up to us afterwards and tell us we sounded amazing, so that’s gratifying. We play Grumpy’s in Falmouth a lot, and that’s more of a traditional blues and roadhouse rock place. But the last time we were there people were coming up and saying they felt our music was so cool. I think that the fact that most of it is very danceable is a good thing.”

“If people are up and dancing, they’re generally going to enjoy the music,” Band added. “We are careful not to alienate people by playing too much of any one thing, so if we play something that is very thought-provoking, we will follow it up with something more fun and danceable.”

There are also ways that even the Bees Deluxe originals can be accessible to new ears.

“With our originals, if the audience hears something that sounds comfortable, or seems somewhat familiar, they can become attuned to it very easily,” Band noted. “Even when we do something like the Bjork/Buddy Guy tune, fans can latch onto some of the parts of it. It may be strange, but we try to make sure it’s never off-putting, or too foreign for them.”

Bees Deluxe consists of musicians who’ve played in all sorts of styles. Warre is the conceptual leader, and his omnivorous musical tastes permeate their songbook. Bassist Dorr came from a similar variety, blues bands, country bands, and the reggae group Loose Caboose. Drummer Giovine studied at UConn and Berklee School of Music, and has played everything from heavy metal to wedding bands, and a stint with blues and soulman Keb Mo.

“I come from a more basic coffeehouse, and then jazz background,” said Band. “Blues was new to me when I started with these guys, but I had fun with it as a learning experience. We all have very varied musical backgrounds, and I think that comes through in our music with Bees Deluxe.”

Bees Deluxe bills itself as an “acid blues” band, but that’s a term that might, indeed, include almost anything and everything, but best of all, constant surprises.

By Jay N. Miller/For The Patriot Ledger
Posted Nov 22, 2018 at 6:10 PM
Original post:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

We capped off the tour with a live on-air performance at WUML' "Blues Deluxe" Saturday afternoon show with John Guregian. Next weekend we celebrate our return to Boston with a debut appearance at City Winery Haymarket Lounge. Advance tickets here:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

THANK YOU. Greetings from Bees Deluxe & everyone at Flippin’ for the Blues As the mid-term election looms, we want to thank everyone who helped support Bees Deluxe’s “Flippin’ for the Blues” tour. From New Hampshire to Ohio we met amazing candidates, talented musicians and wonderful people who came out, dug deep and renewed our faith in the power of acid blues. Thanks to the Maura Sullivan campaign, Brett Anders and the Jugghead Band who graciously shared the Cisco Brewery Stage in Portsmouth. Then it was onto Syracuse where Congressional candidate Dana Balter and her campaign manager, Mike Arnold greeted a group of devoted brunchers at the Empire Brewery. The next stop was Allentown where Gary and Kathy hosted us and we played at the Pig Pen Fun Bar for Susan Wild. Paul rode the animatronic pig and we were thrilled to play with Brian Brazil and Dana Gaynor’s band. Gary toured us around Allentown and we feasted on Allentown’s unique Lehigh Valley (not to be confused with or eclipsed by the Philly-style) Cheesesteak. Next stop Harrisburg and the Midtown Arts Center where Congressional candidate George Scott packed the house and Dana Gaynor and Brian Brazil again provided the perfect counterpoint to our acid blues. From Harrisburg, we drove to Cleveland and the House of Blues where we were honored to play with the Sam Hooper Band to benefit IndivisibleCLE. Carol’s childhood friend Grace showed up and brought her 90-year old father. Proof that you’re never to old for acid blues or political activism.

A quick visit to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and we were off to Columbus where Ann and Richard Levin opened their home to us and introduced their friends to acid blues. The Knight Ave 5 was a terrific venue. Candidate Danny O’Connor was dynamic and even brought his parents! It was a night of optimism and great music with Keith T-Bone Colbert and Bees Deluxe. We were sad to leave Columbus but piled into the van travelled to Pittsburgh where the Allegheny County Democrats packed the house with Congressman Mike Doyle who introduced candidates running for State Senate, State Rep and other positions. It was great to see so many young women on the ballot and so many Halloween costumes in the audience! Thank you The Monday Blues Review and Stone Throwers for playing sets that had all the bartenders singing along.

From Pittsburgh, we did a marathon drive to meet our friends in Brooklyn and wrap up the tour with a celebration at Rocky Sullivan’s. We were joined by Mike Kramer the Cornelia Street Band who’s lead singer, Jennifer Shane Colthart was simply on fire. Thanks to Joan McCabe for buying everyone pizza and to J.R. Rost for graciously hosting us while we were in Red Hook and for surprising us with his amazing voice and Orbison-esque set.

Then we zoomed to Albany the captial city New York, and discovered the Albany County Democratic Committee waiting for us at Pauly’s Hotel and on stage local legends Honey Suckle Vine and the Wildcat O’Halloran Band throwing their musical hats into the ring. We’re back in Boston now. We had a great time but more importantly, we raised more than $20,000 for the Democrats and met musicians and generous strangers who are now our new friends.

We couldn’t have done it without you. We love for you to join us for a homecoming concert at City Winery on Saturday, November 24th we hope that you’ll be with us this Tuesday at the polls. VOTE! We look forward to a bluer future. Advance reservations for the City Winery show are available here: