Episode 024 of *The Upful LIFE Podcast* welcomes Hammond B3 organ maestro WIL BLADES to the show for a lengthy conversation about his career, Bay Area music culture, saddling up to jazz and funk legends, the Adam Deitch Quartet, Amendola vs. Blades, and beyond. From bright eyed young cat in Chicago, to one of the rising stars in jazz and groove music, he’s among the more impressive organ players in the culture today.
Just a few days before he was moving to SoCal, Wil invited me over to his home in Berkeley, CA to have a spirited discussion, and was game to go deep about his own journey, the nuances of Hammond B3 organ, his passion for rare groove, the oral tradition of music, the history of the Boom Boom Room, and so much more. It was an honor to give Wil a chance to really let the people know who he is and how he got to be such a respected and celebrated musician, and to shed a lot of light on historical cats along the way.
7:00 – Wil Blades INTRO
12:45 – Amendola vs. Blades “Hi Lo”
15:00 – WIL’S INTERVIEW STARTS
1:33:30 “Art Bar” – Adam Deitch Quartet
We start the conversation in Wil’s youth growing up near Chicago in Evanston, IN, learning both the drums and guitar as a youngster, taking ques from his older brothers. We also spend some time talking about how we discovered music as kids in the 90’s, and how that is so markedly different from how Wil’s teen children find their favorite artists today. From there, he takes us back to the late 90’s, moving across the country to the Bay Area to join an Oakland jamband and attend college. Wil explains how SF and Oakland were very different back in those days, and how a particular college professor with a heavy resume and unique teaching style put him on to the importance of the oral tradition in music.
At the time of the interview, Wil was preparing to move to Los Angeles after twenty years in the Bay. Wil gives us a colorful reflection on the music scene when he first arrived in the Bay Area, and for much of the convo he continues to tell the tale about how the music and culture would evolve over the next two decades. Wil was/remains also a huge part of the scene at renowned SF venue Boom Boom Room, a hotbed for blues when he arrived, but later evolving into the epicenter for all things NOLA and funky here in NorCal. Wil breaks down what it was like as John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room, and how talent buyer Alex/Xander Andreas‘s vision has helped the club to continue to flourish with the funk.
Wil Blades has studied with some of true legends, and talks in great detail about his time with master organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, the late iconic funk/jazz drummer Idris Muhammed, an beloved late hollow-body guitarist Melvin Sparks. Wil has spent time with and performed alongside each of these giants, and it was riveting to hear how he organically and serendipitously came to connect with such luminaries, and what a thrill it was to hear of ho w each of them put him on game.
Wil makes sure to explore the essential particulars of organ/drums relationship. Two thirds of the way through the interview, we finally arrive at the Adam Deitch Quartet, Wil’s fantastic project with the Lettuce/Break Science drummer wunderkind. We play a portion of the Blades-penned “Art Bar”, then return to our dialogue.
Wil retraces the steps on how that relationship came together, and gets into the magic that makes it all happen with Deitch, Eric Benny Bloom (trumpet) and Ryan Zoidis (sax). We discuss the making of their critically-acclaimed LP Egyptian Secrets, and reminisce on some classic AD4 gigs thru the years. Wil spends some time discussing his tremendous Amendola vs. Blades project with Bay Area groove merchant Scott Amendola, and their new LP Everybody Wins (Royal Potato Family), and their short West Coast tour. Wil Blades finishes out this phenomenal interview by talking about what’s he excited about in moving down to LA after two decades as a prodigal son of the Bay.
Vibe Junkie JAM of the Week (2:04)
“11th Hour” – DROPICAL, Circling Out EP(Jumpsuit Records)