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The Blue Note 

The Source talks hip-hop with Curtis Salgado

When asked how it all began for him as a musician and what led to the decision to make music his life, Curtis Salgado chuckles and says, "I should have went with software, apparently. Why didn't I come along then? Music hit me as a kid and that's what I'm fascinated with." That fascination has been the foundation of Salgado's career for the last several decades and is what has kept his music powerful and relevant the entire time.

Salgado is more than just a blues legend. He has had a career that has spanned more than 40 years, co-fronted the Robert Cray Band, toured with Santana and The Steve Miller Band, and helped turn John Belushi into "Joliet" Jake Blues. The last decade has seen him go through a liver transplant, and winning the 2010, 2012 and 2013 Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year award. In other words, the man doesn't really slow down.

His connection with music hit him from a very young age and never left his bloodstream. "My folks were jazz enthusiasts," says Salgado. "They grew up in the swing era. I grew up listening to Anita O'Day with the Gene Krupa Orchestra and Count Basie. Count Basie had a jazz band, a swing band out of Kansas City. He played blues, too. It's all interconnected. I like all music. I'm fascinated with things like what made Johnny Rotten popular? The funk scene, the punk scene, the country scene... all of that stuff."

Once he was in school, Salgado brought his love of the early jazz artists along for the ride. "When I was a kid in grade school," Salgado says, "you had to do book reports in order to get particular marks. You had to pick a thesis. My subject was always music. I would bring Count Basie and Fletcher Henderson; boogie woogie piano players like Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons. I brought Gene Krupa with Anita O'Day singing. I love this stuff. I know music and I know history."

Salgado shouldn't be categorized as just simply a blues musician, though. He plays along the slim divide between jazz and blues while respecting both disciplines. "Jazz is blues" says Salgado. "Miles Davis was one of the baddest blues players on the planet. People have to put a category and label on something to sell the product."

In interviews over the years, Salgado has professed interest in fusing funk and blues, creating new sonic landscapes to play around in. "I wanted to take hip-hop beats (which is basically James Brown) and then put in the nuances of the Mississippi Delta Blues. Not the typical stuff but maybe just some riff that stuck out and then fuse that in with the funk."

That fusion album, many years in the planning, might still see the light of day. Even as newer recording artists dabble in those waters, Salgado sees the genius in them and is inspired even further. "You know, other people have already done this. You know who knocked me out recently? That guy Kendrick Lamar. He was on the Grammys and I was like, 'Wow, what did I just see?' That was like a Michael Jackson moment."

As legendary as Salgado is, he is mostly humble, self-deprecating and funny. One quote stands out as getting to the heart of Curtis Salgado. "I'm fascinated with music" he says. "With the innovators. I wish I could be an innovator. For me, I'm writing everything under the R&B umbrella. Straight ahead, just trying to write good songs with strong simple melodies. I think that's what works. That's what I like."

Curtis Salgado

Saturday, April 23, 7:30 p.m.

Tower Theatre,

35 NW Wall St., Bend


About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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