Mighty Max Weinberg blasts R&B with all-star band at Dakota
– John Bream, June 28
This show began as a group lead by Max. Then he decided to add the great Bill Champlin (multi-Grammy winning songwriter, singer, keyboard player – Sons of Champlin and Chicago). On Saturday, we learned that Bill’s son, Will Champlin is coming as well. Will is an up and coming young LA musician and bandleader whose own music – a unique blend of R&B, soul, pop, rock and jazz – is getting rave reviews.
And now, Today (Sunday), we’ve just learned that they’re bringing sax dynamo Mindi Abair. Mindi played with the band in LA on Friday night and they had a ball, so they decided to bring her along for the Dakota shows and a festival they’re playing in Milwaukee on Wednesday. (We’re wondering who the next surprise will be.) This will be Mindi’s first ever appearance in the Twin Cities.
You might’ve heard her contemporary jazz recording over the years, or you might’ve caught her performance on Ameican Idol this spring when producer Don Was asked her to perform the sax solo for Paul McDonald’s “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll. (Who Was That Mystery Sax Player On ‘Idol’ Last Night?)
If you have any doubts about how deep this lady can dig, check out the YouTube video below of her playing with Tower of Power a few weeks ago..
As for Max, here’s a guy who’s place in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band ensures a place in Rock ‘n Roll Hall history. On top of that, he created a 2nd career leading the Max Weinberg 7 on the Conan o’Brien Late Show. And his affection for big band swing led to the Max Weinberg Big Band linking him to the tradition of Buddy Rich.
The band that he’s bringing to the Dakota is a departure from the big band sound of last summer. It’s a seven piece group that traces the musical arc which helped create his legendary careers with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, NBC’s Late Night With Conan O’ Brien and the short, yet sweet, Tonight Show. It also will include a healthy dose of soulful funk and R&B, taking full advantage of his new collaboration with Bill Champlin.
Bill Champlin is not a household name to most of us, perhaps, but ask anyone in the upper echelons of pop and rock, and the recognition and respect is immediate. Even before joining the band Chicago, where he spent 28 years on vocals, keyboards and guitar, he had made a mark in music. The 1st big impact came through his west coast band, The Sons of Champlin. According to Micky Hart of the Grateful Dead,
“They were breathing fire. They were the most talented of all the San Francisco bands.”
After the breakup of Sons, he moved to LA , became one the area’s most respected session players (working with Patti LaBelle, Lou Rawls, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Donna Summer, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Jimmy Smith, Amy Grant, Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers). and won a couple of Grammys for writing songs – one for George Benson and one for Earth Wind and Fire. Then came Chicago.
This is a pretty special show. Professional musicians we know, ranging from Paul and Billy Peterson to the guys with Little Anthony and the Imperials, have described Bill Champlin in absolute superlatives – his singing and his playing.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“Let’s put it this way … Abair’s one Apple commercial away from superstardom.” – Brian Soergel, Jazz Times.
“He’s known the world over as the soulful singer/keyboardist of the iconic jazz-pop band Chicago. His featured spots on the hits “Look Away” and “Hard Habit to Break” are among his mainstream highlights. But Bill Champlin’s defining work with the Sons of Champlin and as a songwriter put him on the musical map long before he arrived in Chicago. Bill and the Sons were blowing the doors off venues back in the ’70s – and they returned to doing the same in the late ’90s and into the present.”
— Greg Rule, Keyboard Magazine