A New Year of Music

Many have heard the band A is Red perform, but the instrumental ensemble led by drummer-composer and producer Don Harvey (Ian McLagan, Billy Bragg, Joe Ely, Ronnie Lane, Storyville, Charlie Sexton), has a verve when they all perform on stage. And according to Harvey’s website, “the ensemble plays original cinematic music and interpretations of songs by Ronnie Lane, Townes Van Zandt and Alejandro Escovedo.” And the iconic group “features “Eastern Soul" singer Nagavalli Medicharla. At the end of January, A is Red will release a new album No Place to Fall, Live at The Townsend.

G.M. Burns: Talk about what the playing experience was like to perform at the Townsend while recording the show live for your new release?
Don Harvey: Similar to any intimate live performance at The Townsend but different in that we were flying free and under a microscope simultaneously.

G.M. Burns: Tell us about some of the songs performed and how you decided which ones would be heard for the new CD?
Don Harvey: Herman Yablokoff’s 1934 composition, “Der Dishvasher,” is somewhat similar to Nat Ning Cole’s “Nature Boy” because Yablokoff may have actually been the composer, not Eden Ahbez. It suited us and it’s quite obscure. We all listened to many Alejandro Escovedo tracks and decided on “Bury Me,” because of the groove, bass line and theme resonate with us. I love Alejandro’s diverse styles. “Spiritual Babe” is dear to my heart as bassist Scott Garber and I have played with Ronnie Lane, who wrote it. I recorded it with Ian McLagan & the Bump Band on the Spiritual Boy album and performed it with Mac & the Bump Band for years. I played the recording at Mac's bedside before he passed. It is engrained forever in my heart. Also, it rocks.

G.M. Burns: During the research for this interview I saw Nagavalli Medicharl perform with your band "Yasmin", tell us about the song and what it means?
Don Harvey: It was inspired by Yasmin Levy, an Israeli recording artist who sings in the Spanish-Jewish Ladino language. She is a beautiful and soulful singer who’s music resonates with my distant Sephardic roots.

G.M. Burns: How did A for Red come together? And what is the groups’ style musically?
Don Harvey: The ensemble has evolved quite a bit since 2012. Keyboardist Stefano Intelisano co-wrote 3 pieces with me on Light Shines Through and was a big part of developing our sound. Trumpet player Kevin Flatt began playing around the same time and has always been the band’s main voice. My friend George Reiff introduced me to guitarist Chris Downey who has shaped and refined our vibe and made me a better player. Nagavalli Medicharla gives us a world music/other-worldly quality we would not have without her. We are so fortunate to have her. When Scott Garber joined us our rhythm section was complete. Scott and I have played together on and off for about 18 years. I’d been asking John Bush to come sit in with us for what seemed like years. When he finally did he instantly put the finishing touches on the A is Red sound. I never want to play without him again. Jan Flemming is the newest addition to the ensemble. Live at The Townsend was the very first show he played with us. His accordion & keyboard playing have given us a whole new element to explore.

G.M. Burns: What is in your CD player now?
Don Harvey: Sometimes I go back and rediscover artists I’d not listened to in a long time. Recently my son Adam turned me (back) on to Citizen Cope. Been listening to Every Waking Moment quite a bit. My current shuffle play includes Avishai Cohen, Tigran Hamasyan, Brian Eno & David Byrne, Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow, Jeremy Nail, Max Richter, Rebekah Del Rio, Rob Laufer and many others

G.M. Burns: Can you say what your hopes are for 2020?
Don Harvey: Love and peace.

by G.M. Burns