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Friday, March 14 • 11:00pm - 11:30pm
Tony Scherr

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Tony Scherr Twist In The Wind It took years for Tony Scherr to find himself as a singer, guitarist and songwriter. For the entire first act of his career, Scherr “only” played bass, laying the foundation for the Bill Frisell Trio, Steven Bernstein’s Sex Mob and John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards while simultaneously becoming a first-call sideman on recordings with Rufus Wainwright, Rickie Lee Jones, Shawn Colvin, John Scofield just to name a few. On March 17, 2008, the indie label belonging to Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, Smells Like Records, releases Twist In The Wind, Scherr’s second album as a guitar-slinging singer/songwriter. Bonnie Raitt raves about “his slide-playing, his voice, his songs”; Willie Nelson, master of understatement, calls him simply, “one of the best,” while The New York Times observes, more specifically, that, “Mr. Scherr plays on a big scale, from delicate strings of passing chords to blaring, splintery rackets. It’s all dramatic and quite beautiful” (Ben Ratliff). Twist In The Wind features 11 original songs and two covers (Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me," and the jazz standard "The Good Life") with Scherr on vocals and guitar, his brother Peter Scherr on string bass, Chris Brown on Hammond organ, Kenny Wollesen on drums, and includes special guest appearances by Bill Frisell, Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson’s longstanding harmonica player), percussionist Mauro Refosco (Lounge Lizards, David Byrne) and singer-songwriter Kate Fenner. Tony Scherr was born in rusty New Haven, CT in 1965. He took up string bass at five, actually a tiny plywood cello tuned like a bass. His teacher, the renowned double bassist, Diana Gannett, moved away after three years, so he decamped to cello for a few more years before “rebelling” and turning to guitar at 12. “No one could get me to put the guitar down for anything,” he says of the switch. Around the same time, Peter Scherr ditched his violin for string bass. Now a rhythm section, they started listening to “anything and everything,” forming band after band: “We were playing in local bars in our early teens, teaching each other how to play.” When Pete left for college, Tony inherited all his bass gigs, learning from anybody around. When the time came, he applied to the music school at North Texas State University in Denton because, “you didn’t have to audition and I couldn’t read.” Denton is a good music town, with a club scene drawing on the college and nearby Dallas/Ft. Worth. Feeling shy around all those hot shot school players, Scherr put the guitar down for a while. He was now back to playing the bass every waking moment: “I said yes to everything,” he remembers. After a few years, he dropped out of school to join Woody Herman’s band. Scherr says, “It was like stepping into a different era; seeing the entire country from a stinky bus, often backing great artists like Rosie Clooney, Clark Terry, Tony Bennett, Joe Williams and Mel Torme. I learned many things in that time, how to read music, but just as important, how to play loud rockin’ bass fiddle for dancing. I found a correlation between big band and rock guitar, between drunkenness and vandalism, many things that still make sense to me.” In 1988, upon leaving Woody’s band he landed in New York. He immediately started working around town playing mostly jazz with the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Al Gray, Stanley Turrentine, Steve Kuhn, and many others. At some point, he fell in with Dakota Staton, a self-described “singer of songs” out of Pittsburgh. “I learned so much from Dakota,” Tony says. “She was a great storyteller, she knew how her band should sound. She showed me the power of stillness, how to play a downbeat, how to write ten lead sheets on a napkin. Useful things.” He was feeding quarters into a candy store hobbyhorse on a Brooklyn street and ripe for change when the drummer Kenny Wollesen walked up a few winters later. It was the beginning of a life-changing friendship. Through Kenny, he met many new friends; guitarist Brad Shepik, songwriter Jesse Harris (The Ferdinados), Michael Blake and David Tronzo (Slowpoke), and Steven Bernstein and Briggan Krauss (Sex Mob). “I was amazed,” Tony recalls. “Kenny and those guys never played any music they didn’t totally love. They’d rather paint houses. They couldn’t understand my mercenary life and they changed me for good.” Scherr played four years with John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, during which Steven Bernstein’s Sex Mob was born. That band was where “I learned how I actually sound on the bass. Bernstein used my big band past and love of rock n’ roll to subversive ends. Steven knows that music is not just for musicians, he involves everyone in the room; the music is great and he is very entertaining. It is different every night, and joyful.” After a while, Bill Frisell heard Sex Mob and hired Tony and Kenny to form a new trio. “Frisell is one of my biggest heroes, a total original with a rare gift for connecting with people.” Scherr picked up the guitar again around 1993. “It was a source of great freedom and expression.” He soon joined Jesse Harris’ band The Ferdinandos, at the center of the exciting songwriting boom at the old Living Room. Around the same time, he bought an eight-track tape machine and used it to record Slow Poke (Blake, Tronzo, Wollesen, Scherr) At Home, which became an underground hit and was re-released on Palmetto in 2007. Consequently, he began recording and producing many friends at his home studio including: four albums with Jesse Harris (two on major labels), a Grammy-nominated country record for Rick Moranis (The Agoraphobic Cowboy), Kate Fenner’s solo debut (Horses and Burning Cars), and Jenny Scheinman’s upcoming vocal debut out on Koch Records. In ‘96 Scherr connected with musicians Chris Brown and Kate Fenner, who had just moved to town from Toronto. “Chris and Kate are so generous and talented,” Tony says. “I was deeply impressed with the way they lived, their incredible self-reliance and resourcefulness. They have a wonderful gift for bringing people together; I met and started playing with so many great Toronto musicians. It took me a little while to figure out what I was already a part of,” he says now. “But it was Chris and Kate, along with my dear friend Katy Sullivan, who died a few years ago, who encouraged me to sing and write songs.” On an “I will if you will” dare, Scherr and Canadian friend Leslie Feist (then the rhythm guitarist in a Canadian rock band By Divine Right) shared their solo singer/songwriter debuts on a double bill at Ted’s Wrecking Yard in Toronto sometime in 1999. Later that year, brother Peter (who still lives in Hong Kong) visited New York for Thanksgiving and on a whim they threw together a gig at the old Living Room (their first since adolescence), and immediately made plans to capture the new sound in the home studio. Come Around, Scherr’s debut solo record released on Smells Like Records in 2001, drew immediate acclaim. Playboy was “haunted” by what they heard and they were hardly alone: Time Out New York rightly acknowledged Scherr as an “estimable” songwriter. Tony recalls “I had all this pent up stuff to express and it ran me right over and kept on going; I finally had my own music and it was showing me who I was.” He soon started to receive as many calls to play guitar as bass. He’s played some guitar on every Norah Jones record, as well as with Willie Nelson, Teddy Thompson, Richard Julian, and many more. Scherr went on tour opening for Ani DiFranco and played guitar on her record “Knuckle Down” and live DVD “Trust.” In company with Norah, Feist, Cat Power, Bright Eyes, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, Scherr is featured on the recent soundtrack for Ethan Hawke’s “The Hottest State,” singing the ghostly Jesse Harris ballad, “You The Queen.” In late fall 2006, with his current live band featuring legendary drummer Anton Fier, and the amazing Rob Jost on bass, Scherr started a weekly residency at Marion’s Marquee Lounge on
http://2008.sxsw.com/music/showcases/band/64898.html

Friday March 14, 2008 11:00pm - 11:30pm
18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn 500 N IH 35

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