New York, NY - September 30, 2005 is a date that will live in infamy for two reasons. First, it's the day that former House Majority leader Tom Delay was indicted. Secondly, that night jazz guitarist Skip Heller - in an inexplicably good mood - took the stage with his trio at The Flying Monkey in Huntsville, Alabama to record what would become his new live" album, Liberal Dose. Available March 7th on his fledgling label imprint Skyeway Records, Liberal Dose will become the first official live" album ever recorded in Huntsville, AL (however, if AllMusicGuide is to be believed, an Elvis Presley bootleg from Huntsville, AL was once illegally issued). Every copy of Liberal Dose will come with its own handmade packaging inspired by the cover art and concept of Folkways Records, the revered record label that introduced the world to the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.
I've based my career in many ways on Pete Seeger, who traveled around and swapped, shared and wrote songs that drew on and gave to everything about the best of this country," declares Heller. I'm not singing protest songs, but I travel around the country playing with different local rhythm sections for small audiences, and it forces the music to change every night, forces me to learn all the different regional shades of jazz."
Joined on the date by Alabama musicians Chris Spies on organ and David White on drums, the trio had long since become a working unit having played with Skip Heller on several dates in and around Alabama and the Gulf Coast in 2004 and 2005. In fact, this particular region of the country has become a stomping ground for the Left Coast guitarist who originally cut his teeth in his teens on the Philadelphia jazz scene.
I've formed all these amazing alliances with musicians around the country, and I've both learned the local jazz habits in all kinds of towns and taught people about the Philly music tradition I was blessed to come up in, that I still consider myself working in," states Heller. Chris and David are both fantastic musicians, like brothers to me, and they really get up inside the music, Plus, from the different kinds of gigs they have to do to be a working player in that part of the US - New Orleans, blues, country, modern jazz, Casino shows - they're comfortable with all kinds of different music."
On Liberal Dose, Heller chose to present completely original material drawn from throughout his 15-album plus career (that includes such underground jazz gems as Homegoing, Fakebook and Bear Flag), as well as, debuting a handful of songs for the first time on record. Sticking to the great American organ jazz tradition in which Heller has carved his niche as of late, the trio swings out of the gate with The Weavers-inspired tune, Isn't This A Time," before launching into the Heller-staple, Meydele," based on Jewish wedding music (no doubt a first encounter with such sounds for many in the Huntsville audience).
As Liberal Dose progresses, it becomes fascinating to hear Heller filter nearly every style of modern music through his guitar and somehow make it sound of a piece as one cohesive whole. From the classical strains of Funeral March From The Mahler No. 5" to the lonely highway Americana of Dave Alvin" to the soaring, Santana-esque lead guitar wail of Glamour Profession." Rounding out the night are three recent Heller tunes: the gorgeous jazz balladry of A Letter Home To My Wife," the politically-charged organ showcase McMansion On The Hill" with it's thoroughly jammed-out climax and finally the ever-optimistic, utterly sweet closer, President 'Guitar' Watson."
Skip Heller will get back on the road in March 2006 shortly after the release of Liberal Dose, reuniting with the album's trio for a string of dates in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, while picking up other configurations as he moves through Philly and New York City, Kansas City and St. Louis, and of course, his hometown, Los Angeles.