There’s no better way to spend New Year’s Eve EVE than with Grammy winning musician and producer Billy Vera and a very special Soul Jazz edition of Saturday Night Fish Fry.
By Matt Silver
This Saturday night at 6 p.m. PT, Billy Vera, the celebrated singer/songwriter, Grammy winner, and most soulful host of KSDS's "Saturday Night Fish Fry," is trading in his usual brand of jump jazz, rhythm and blues, and boogie woogie and setting course for a decade-and-a-half into the future, to the early-to-mid 1960s, when hard bop, R&B, funk, and gospel got together and expressed themselves through Hammond B3 organs and amplified saxophones and smoky electric guitars and honest, assertive, maximally soulful vocals that brooked no BS—or jive, as it were.
We’re talking organ burners like Richard “Groove” Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Brother Jack McDuff, and The Incredible Jimmy Smith. We’re talking the vocalists — male and female — who showed us that being soulful and nobody’s fool were not mutually exclusive concepts; nor were singing fearlessly and unapologetically yet also lovingly and tenderly. Roberta Flack, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington, Etta Jones, Gloria Lynne, Esther Phillips, Dianne Reeves, Arthur Prysock, Billy Eckstine, Lou Rawls, Jesse Belvin, Percy Mayfield, Jimmy Scott, Joe Williams, and how about our esteemed host himself, the Grammy winning vocalist, producer and bona fide hitmaker, Billy Vera—these are the voices you’ll hear tonight from 6-8 p.m. PT.
Over two hours, Billy will bring you the quintessential soul jazz icons of the early-to-mid 60s, performing legendary tunes written and arranged by the likes of Oliver Nelson, Marty Paich, and Johnny Mercer, among others.
And they’re bringing all their friends with them.
Friends that include the esteemed clergy and venerated nobility of the soul jazz idiom— the “High Priest” Ray Charles, the “High Priestess” Nina Simone, Count Basie, and Larry Chance of The Earls. And then others — Benny Golson, Art Farmer, McCoy Tyner, Curtis Fuller, Arnett Cobb, Hank Crawford, Red Holloway, and George Benson — who require no foppish appellations or ceremonial titles; you only need listen to these cats to know why they're THE OGs! And let’s not forget Eddie Harris and Les McCann, the provocative pair of soul jazz pioneers who taught us to play in "Cold Duck Time" and implored us to think critically ("Real Compared to What?").
And speaking of OGs, Billy Vera is a prince among them, and, somehow, over the course of just a two hour show, Billy will manage to play music from everyone mentioned above INCLUDING a trio of tunes on which he himself supplies vocals and another he produced that would shoot to No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart. You'll recognize the vocalists straight away; it's star-powered duet with a gorgeous arrangement.
It’s a soul jazz dim sum—and then some. Tonight—the eve before New Year’s Eve—from 6-8 p.m. on Billy Vera’s Saturday Night Fish Fry. Right here on KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM in San Diego and streaming everywhere at jazz88.org and on the KSDS mobile app!