Monday, April 25, 2011

Musical Guest {Leon Redbone}


I thought that it was about time to start a long overdue irregular feature on vintage music. I don't listen to much Rockabilly, Motown, Pop or, with a few exceptions, anything after 1959. Whenever anyone mentions any modern musical acts, I just stare blankly at them. But what I do listen to, and have been for my entire life, is Jazz. Which brings me to my first musical guest.

Leon Redbone is a still touring gravel voiced interpreter of early Twentieth Century Jazz, Blues and Tin Pan Alley standards. Not much is really known about him. From what I could find out, Mr. Redbone is a mysterious and eccentric carbon-based life form known for his trademarked Panama Hat, dark glasses, suits, facial whiskers and cult following. He started performing in nightclubs and folk festivals in the Toronto area in the early 1970's. Even before he had a recording contract, Rolling Stone wrote an article about him, stating that his performances were so authentic that you could hear the surface noise of an old 78. He gained a larger public profile when he made several appearances on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the Seventies and Eighties.

In addition to being a vocalist, he is also extremely proficient on the acoustic guitar, particularly with finger picking and is a talented whistler. His stage presence (I have not seen him live, but would love too) is very simple, usually just him in a chair with his guitar, mixing stories, jokes and eccentric tales about himself with his songs.
So far, Mr. Redbone has released fifteen albums, although you might have heard him singing with Zooey Deschanel over the closing credits of Elf and a number of his songs were featured in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (last year's Woody Allen movie) including this one:

What I like about Leon Redbone in how he uses his own, unique voice to interpret Jazz and Blues songs, some well known and some not, and how you can hear how much fun he is having and how much he loves playing these songs. It really hurts when you hear a musician play a song and you can tell that they are tired of singing the same song over and over again, but at least with Mr. Redbone, he is still just as fresh and lively now as he was in the Seventies.

Here he is in 2008 talking about the origins of Jazz and then singing "Mr. Jelly Roll Baker"

Mr. Redbone and band playing "Ditty-Wah-Ditty" on Johnny Carson in 1988

1 comment:

Walt said...

I saw him in Seattle in the Seventies, opening for Randy Newman. He was great, just him and his guitar except for a few songs accompanied by a guy with a tuba.
He spent much more time tuning his guitar than talking.
Glad to hear he's still putting on a good show!