Aaron Neville

with Bob Putignano

Bio: Aaron Neville has four Grammy awards: in 1989 for Best Pop Duo with Linda Ronstadt; in 1989 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance with the Neville Brothers, for in 1990 for Best Pop Duo with Linda Ronstadt, and for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals with Trisha Yearwood in 1994. Neville was also named "Best Male Singer" two consecutive years in the Rolling Stone. Recently Neville hooked up with Sony/BMG Burgundy label and recorded well known hits by Otis Redding/Steve Cropper, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and others contemporaries of soul. "Bring it Home...The Soul classics" produced by Stewart Levine, features Joe Sample, Ray Parker Jr. Neal Larsen, Mavis Staples, Dave Sanborn, Chaka Kahn, brother Art Neville and more.

Bob P: "Bring it on Home...The Soul Classics" This is a very nice CD, with a lot of great players (Joe Sample, Neil Larsen, Mavis Staples, Chaka Khan, Ray Parker Jr., Freddie Washington,) and your vocals.

AN: Freddie Washington played on a lot of my recordings, and Joe Sample of the Crusaders is tremendous.

Bob P: How did this project come about?

AN: Burgundy records approached me about doing a soul record and thought it was a good idea, so did I. We got hooked up with producer Stewart Levine (B.B. King, The Crusaders, Hugh Masekela, Simply Red, more,) who put all the musicians together, who are really magicians.

Bob P: They magicians, and Levine's production work is impecable, when the CD arrived I listened to it four times in one day, that does not happen often to me.

AN: And it's not slick, the music works like padding for the vocals.

Bob P: Mavis and you on "Respect Yourself"

AN: Oh yeah, that's her song, that track will definitely make you dance, we had to leave room on this recording for Mavis!

Bob P: I recently saw you with the Neville Brothers at the Montreal Jazz Fest, and you guys were on fire.

AN: Having 100,000 plus people out there watching us really turned us on, we had a ball.

BobP: Back to the CD, how were the tracks selected?

AN: We recorded twenty tunes, I picked them all, and Burgundy wanted narrowed down to thirteen.

Bob P: So will there be a volume 2? As I think you have a nice hit on your hands.

AN: I hope it's a hit that would be great, and I would not be mad at all about there being a volume 2, (laughs.)

Bob P: Tell me about your early days in NOLA?

AN: Back then we did what we did for the music, no money. We worked on the docks unloading cargo to make money. Speaking of the old days we just did a double bill with the original Meters, and I am glad they are getting together again because they should be making music.

Bob P: Who put you on the map?

AN: "Tell it like it is." Plus Art had a band called Art Neville & the Neville Sounds with Art, myself, Cyril and a guy named Gary Brown, we also had a group called the Soul Machine with the same lineup, which is pretty much how the Meters were born, and helped my cause. Allen Toussaint put the Meters on the map, using them with Dr. John, Allen's "Lady Marmalade" and so many other classic hits from NOLA.

Bob P: Did you know at the time the music you were making timeless music?

AN: Originally we were mostly a cover band, we thought it got special when we made music that was "our funk" lead by Papa Funk- Art Neville, the music was our salvation, it was great, even though we made no money.

Bob P: And you were around so many unsung heroes like Deacon John, Wardell Quezergue, James Booker.....

AN: Deacon is so bad, that last Deacon John Jump Blues CD was so good with Wardell conducting who is the truest unsung hero of all, Wardell is behind so much stuff recorded that no one knows about. Wardell was hired by Joel Dorn do our "Fiyo on the Bayou" recording around '81. Wardell's charts with Leon Pendarvis on "Mona Lisa" were outstanding, but those NY session guys saw Wardell and though he was country guy, that is until they heard his charts, which made them all cry- me too!

Bob P: Dorn told me about a time he brought Wardell to NY, and thought he made a big mistake when he asked Quezergue if he needed a piano to compose, and Wardell said all he needed was his tuning fork.

AN: There is no-one like Wardell, every time I listen to his work I go- wow, he's brilliant!

BobP: A lot of NOLA musicians have been very busy since Katrina, kind of like something good coming out of some catastrophic.

AN: That's true, as we have been touring the world we have been running into more NOLA musicians than ever before, Irma, Davell Crawford, Dirty Dozen, Dr. John- like they say, a door closes and another window opens.

Bob P: Have you been back home?

AN: I have not been back since Katrina, I have asthma and my doctors told me it would not be a good idea for me to go there with all that toxic stuff in the air. I want to go, but it will be a while. I have eyes down there keeping me abreast- it's messed up!

Bob P: It sure is messed up, look what happened to Fats Domino?

AN: Unbelievable, cold blooded, I hope it will be a better world- soon.

Bob P: Back to the new CD, "Dock of the Bay"

AN: Has more "ism" to it with a nice new groove- I met Otis with Art, we were on the road together for two months, Otis was a real nice guy, and a great showman with a killer band.

Bob P: "Ain't That Peculiar"

AN: Love it, too bad about Marvin he had so many fears, he truly was the "Trouble Man." "Any Day Now" by Sam Cooke also moves me- gospel is usually hollering, but man Cooke was so soft and smooth.

Bob P: Was the CD done mostly live in the studio?

AN: Yes, but the vocals were added as we went along, like Mavis and Chaka, and even some of mine.

Bob P: Burgundy Records has another CD that's a favorite of mine- "Sing Me Back Home" credited to the New Orleans Social Club.

AN: Oh yes, with Ivan, Cyril George Porter, and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews who is another bad little dude who can play anything.

Bob P: Any final thoughts?

AN: I'll be seeing you all soon when this CD comes out! (Laughs)

Bob Putignano www.SoundsofBlue.com

Bob Putignano
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society