I listened to what my parents had on the radio – instrumental jazz standards, ‘the crooners,’ classical music and some pop music of the day. This was in the mid to late 1950’s in St. Louis, MO. I remember distinctly hearing Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ with full orchestra and the opening clarinet phrase lifting me out of myself. I didn’t understand what I was listening to at the time; I was probably 3-4 years old. I just knew I wanted to be around music for the rest of my life. – @elliottranney
Listen to the Live interview
Episode #352 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax :
GETTING TO KNOW ELLIOTT RANNEY
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
I have always been drawn to music as far back as I can remember.
I listened to what my parents had on the radio – instrumental jazz standards, ‘the crooners,’ classical music and some pop music of the day. This was in the mid to late 1950’s in St. Louis, MO. I remember distinctly hearing Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ with full orchestra and the opening clarinet phrase lifting me out of myself. I didn’t understand what I was listening to at the time; I was probably 3-4 years old. I just knew I wanted to be around music for the rest of my life. I remember hearing early rock ‘n roll in Kindergarten at Osage Hills School in Kirkwood, MO, 1959. It was incredible. When the weather was less than delightful, we would gather before school in the gym. The gym teacher, Miss Meyer had a portable record player playing ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and other popular stuff; the older guys, duck tailed hair, taps on the bottoms of their shoes; the ladies in ‘poodle skirts’, would dance the latest moves. They seemed so grown up to me.
In the early years of my musical growth, the usual suspects filed by with great fanfare:
Elvis, The Beatles, Dylan and a host of others. The moment I first found my initial music direction was when I first saw the film, ‘The Graduate.’ The music lifted me and carried me away & I’ve never been the same since. I was also greatly influenced by Joni Mitchel. Her writing and performance had also raised the bar for me. I thought I had figured out how Joni played the great voicing I heard, on ‘Blue & Hissing of Summer Lawns.’ It was only years later did I learn to my chagrin, that she played mostly open tuning.
In college after a hitch in the USN(Navy),
I was reintroduced to Jazz through the ‘Guitar Ensemble’ at St. Petersburg College (1976). For me, jazz is very demanding and challenging and I’m still learning the language. I started incorporating elements into my own writing, and found my ideas had depth and sounded more sophisticated. I began listening to Monk, Coltrane, Weather Report, Michael Franks & Jobim to name a few. When I moved back home to St. Louis and was at a crossroads. I needed to know where to put my energy in my writing. Folk seemed too rudimentary. To me, Jazz has far more to explore than other music styles. I met a High School friend, Latin percussionist – Pat Rodriguez, at our ten-year reunion and we formed a duo – Panacea. We’ve been performing together since 1982. I thought the focus ought to be on ‘Island Music’ since it was a logical step with having light percussion. I started listening to Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim and Michael Franks and began writing simple Bossa influenced tunes. I have adopted Bossa as the overall groove of my music focus along with Swing and ‘The Cool School. Jazz has become the language in my music.
Bellevue Shuffle is an instrumental.
I started writing it by noodling on the guitar and playing random progressions.
I found myself playing a progression that was in a song I had written awhile back and wondered what it would sound like if it was played backwards. Somehow, it all came together and in a short time I found my theme song. Brought my son Stephen on upright Bass and Joe Winters on drums into the studio and recorded the rhythm tracks. Next, I invited two ‘Sultans of Swing,’ – Christopher Voelker – violin and Jon Ferber – guitar, to lay down their solos and was thrilled with what we all had accomplished. The rest of the album followed with having the rhythm tracks being recorded in a three-month span. It took a couple of years to bring in the soloists, master and release the record.
I am a Folk-Jazz artist. Being a singer/songwriter,
I use the language of jazz and organize the arrangement in a typical way: verse, chorus and sometimes a bridge to connect it all together. It all depends on the music, how the song develops organically. What you should expect from this album is a mix of instrumental and vocal tunes. My first album, An Aging Sailor’s Dream, was mostly vocally supported tunes. On Bellevue Shuffle, I wrote mostly instrumental pieces. There is an assortment of short preludes that help connect the selections. I mainly write for ensemble with classical guitar as the focal point of the music. On this album, I have a basic trio, guitar, upright bass & drums. There are many genres represented in Bellevue Shuffle. Swing, Cool, Bossa, Folk-Jazz. I pay homage to some of my musical hero’s from a range of genre: Tom Waits, Walter & Donald, Michael Franks/Tom Jobim, David Grisman/Tony Rice and Miles Davis.
I live in St. Louis, MO., but have been playing at popular wineries.
I find the variety of music I play has served me well in these venues. The music scene in St. Louis is diverse and thriving. We have restaurants with live music, small coffee houses, touring venues, (Off Broadway) and larger houses, (The Fox, The Sheldon). The National Blues Museum has opened in St. Louis, and is part of the Grammy organization. Some of the areas to explore are: The Central West End, on Euclid Ave., Cherokee Street, The Grove, ‘The U-City Loop’, and mid-town on North Grand near St. Louis University. We have a nice collection of micro-breweries that have music: Schlafly Tap Room & The Schlafly Bottle Works and Urban Chestnut Brewery. The easiest way to find music is to pick up a copy of the Riverfront Times. I have recently bought a digital video camera and plan on documenting my shows to use for promotion. Albums and songs don’t do the job any more. Booking agent want to see what you look like and sound. On August 10, I will be taking my show to Evangeline’s in the Central West End and videotaping before a mostly live audience.
I like to hang out with my wife, Ellen Claire Ranney,
a true Renaissance Woman, artist, song writer and licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I also do Kundalini Yoga every week. I will be looking forward to retiring from the day job in 2019 to focus on music. I have started studying improvisational Jazz guitar. I plan to continue playing out more; more open mics(networking); writing music and learning more cover tunes.
I think I am on the outside looking in, at the music business.
I have experienced ups and downs dealing with petty distractions, personalities and awkward situations sometimes. It’s about being a salesman. It’s difficult not to take things personally. I am the music I play. I am very proud of what I have put together as a product. As far as overcoming pitfalls and hurdles, I try to take it all is stride. I work at being in the moment in everything, on and off stage. None of this is easy.
I have had some big moments in my music career. My first album,
An Aging Sailor’s Dream (2001) was re-released in Japan in 2012 on the Rip Curl Records label. I have been able to be an opening act for Brewer & Shipley (the ‘One Toke Over the Line’, guys, remember?) for a number of shows at The Focal Point, Maplewood, MO. At my sixtieth birthday show at Picasso’s Coffee in St. Charles, MO., Tom Shipley and wife Jan showed up, and after the show, Tom approached me telling me that I am the ‘real deal.’ He said, “You are the most original songwriter I know. Start believing it.”
I grew up in the era that emphasized albums.
Singles were around but seemed to work more in the AM radio format. Albums for FM. I am drawn to the album format. I like how an artist will have a collection of songs that seem to be tied together somehow by common threads of music style and lyric themes. Singles are great if the artist needs to be relevant in this short attention span world that social media has taken us to. I recently read an article in a web-zine Indie On the Move about that, written by an artist that offered his take on the idea. His idea argued for releasing singles over an extended period of time with the seemingly correct amount of time in between releases, keeping the name in front of their fan base and the focus to keep growing the brand. I guess it depends on the individual artist and his/her goals in the business. It works great if there is a team to tie up all those loose ends and allow the artist grow the art. James Taylor and other big names have that.
Social media is fine for promotion.
It’s just one of an assortment of tools. So many musicians in town are constantly on FB asking to have people come to their show. I use it as a onetime posting. Anything more is spamming and I’m on the receiving end of too much of that. I have been using e-mail and upon occasion meet friends who tell me to keep sending the notices of when I play. I think once I am able to play out more, I will be able to promote myself better. All I can promise, is a relaxing evening filled with engaging music. I work hard to deliver on that promise.
I would really dig hanging out with Donald Fagen or Walter Becker.
These two guys have raised the bar for creativity, taking music and lyric to dizzying heights. Just pick a song and the groove is intoxicating, the musician and lyric precision cuts like a knife, flaying open the mind, depositing the virus called Steely Dan. I would like to have them give me an honest review of one of my songs.
What is current and trendy? I am the wrong person to answer that.
For me, that is the wrong question. I think the question could be: How do you stay relevant in the music business? Being authentic and uncompromising with one’s sound is more valuable. I think knowing who you are and the path you tread and the music you create is what is important. Sometimes it takes years to figure that out. It also is very dependent in being able to know who your audience is. I am fairly certain what types of venues where my audience is likely to go to. This is something every performer should know. Playing just original music restricts the venues I can play, so I need to have cover tunes that keep with the style of music I write. I play some fairly esoteric cover tunes that few will try due to being difficult to master. This allows me to stand out from the ‘singer-songwriter’ crowd. Being able to play finger style has a clear advantage. This is how I try to stay relevant.
Social Media Links:
Number One Music: https://www.numberonemusic.com/elliottranney