PROFESSOR LOUIE & THE CROWMATIX
Crowin' The Blues
(Woodstock Records)

 

The band known as Professor Louie & The Crowmatix continues onward with the 2017 CD release of Crowin’ The Blues. The thirteen track CD features Profesesor Louie (aka Aaron L. Hurwitz on vocals, keys) and Miss Marie singing up a storm while supported by Crowmatix members Gary Burke (drums), Frank Campbell (bass), John Platania (guitars). Several guest artists appear including guitarists Josh Colow and Michael Falzarano. Amid the blues-rock tracks there's a pair of cool instrumentals with Cajun flavors called “Blues & Good News” and the CD closing instro “Blues For Buckwheat”. Many of the tracks are originals, yet there are solid covers written by legends like Elmore James, Jimmy Reed and Jimmy Rogers. PL& C were always inspired by the music of The Band and the enlightening album liner notes includes the fact that the Band’s drummer Levon Helm taught them the Jimmy McCracklin juke box hit “I Finally Got You”. Speaking about the origins of his band's name, Louie explains, "I was part of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Group, The Band from 1985-2001 as collaborator-producer-engineer-singer-player. When I played duo shows with Rick Danko, he started calling me Professor Louie. The Band used their middle names quite often such as Mark Levon Helm - Eric Garth Hudson. My middle name is Louis. I was working so many jobs for The Band, Rick started calling me The Professor." Long time PL&C fans will dive into the funky, bluesy, rock 'n' roll groove of Crowin’ The Blues. www.professorlouie.com

 


 

mwe3.com presents an interview with
Professor Louie & The Crowmatix


mwe3
: Does Crowin’ The Blues take you back to your early musical roots?

Professor Louie: Yes.

mwe3: Tell us how the new album reflects your early influences. Seems like you chose to focus upon some true classics.

Professor Louie: All the songs on the CD were carefully chosen. The cover songs such as “I’m On My Way” was taught to me by The Mighty Gospel Giants of Brooklyn when I played The Gospel circuit. I played that circuit at the tail end of the golden age of Gospel groups and got to listen and play with the greatest gospel singers of our time. The cover “High Heel Sneakers” was a song that bridged blues with rock ‘n’ Roll. We cover many artists that influenced us, Elmore James, Big Bill Broonzy, Jimmy McCracklin and more.

mwe3: But there’s some left field choices that should open a few ears! Big Bill Broonzy and Jerry Ragavoy! Does it also reflect your fondness for the songs themselves?

Professor Louie: Fondness for all these great songs and artists.

mwe3
: Can you contrast between featuring your original music alongside these classics?

Professor Louie: We love to play the older songs. Placing our original songs next to classics is a challenge and hopefully we accomplished that challenge.

mwe3: Are you trying to bring the classics into the 21st century?

Professor Louie: Not really but enlightening the listener with all kinds of stylings and artists they might not know is always a good thing.

mwe3: Are you still based in Woodstock in beautiful Upstate New York?

Professor Louie: Yes, we are here to stay.

mwe3: I miss Upstate New York. Can you tell us where you’re from originally from?

Professor Louie: I was born in Peekskill New York and spent quite a long time in the New York City area.

mwe3: How did you come up with your stage name Professor Louie?

Professor Louie: I was part of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Group, The Band from 1985-2001 as collaborator-producer-engineer-singer-player. When I played duo shows with Rick Danko, he started calling me Professor Louie. The Band used their middle names quite often such as Mark Levon Helm - Eric Garth Hudson. My middle name is Louis. I was working so many jobs for The Band, Rick started calling me The Professor.

mwe3: I know you’re real name is Aaron Hurwitz but I’ve been calling you Louie for years...

Professor Louie: As most friends have done for a long time.

mwe3: It’s a great stage name and how do the Crowmatix fill up the picture?

Professor Louie: The Crowmatix are probably one of the best bands ever in rock ‘n’ Roll. We play consistently and nothing can replace playing together for years. When you have Gary Burke on drums (Bob Dylan, Joe Jackson), Frank Campbell on bass (Levon Helm’s music director for the Woodstock All-Stars), John Platania, (guitarist for Van Morrison on his classic recordings), Miss Marie (writer-percussionist-keyboards and vocalist for Mercury Rev’s gold album Deserter’s Songs and singing with Levon Helm and Rick Danko on their solo recordings)... so you have a strong group. To quote Bill Hurley from The Extended Play sessions “Professor Louie & The Crowmatix are Rock 'n' Roll Royalty”.

mwe3: How did you meet the members of your band?

Professor Louie: Miss Marie and I met years ago in NYC auditioning for a manager forming a group. Gary Burke and I played a few gigs around Woodstock but we didn’t get tight until I was playing with Rick Danko. Rick brought him into The Rick Danko Band as the drummer.

John Platania and I sort of new each other when we were in high school 'Battle of The Bands' and played local gigs in different groups. We had worked together in the studio even before the Crowmatix. He started recording with Professor Louie & The Crowmatix in 2003, but did not start playing steady with us till 2012-13. He has made a great improvement in our live shows.

Bass player Frank Campbell was a Woodstock musician for many years and we played in groups on and off. When I first came to Woodstock in 1985, he left to go to Austin and worked for Asleep At The Wheel for quite a long time. When he came back to Woodstock we became close friends and slowly became the anchor of Professor Louie & The Crowmatix

mwe3: Has the band lineup changed a lot over the years?

Professor Louie: Not too many times. It's always is tough to keep a group together but we have managed to keep the lineup very consistent.

mwe3: What can you say about the song writing pair of Hurwitz & Spinosa?

Professor Louie: We work exceptionally hard on trying to get our writing interesting.... never settling for a song we can’t put across to an audience. Writing for us is never easy. A lot of times, we will try to combine a song I have written and one that Marie has and make it one. The lyrics have to be interesting and many times that takes the most concentration and rewriting. The music lines have to fit the song and surround the vocals correctly. We are extremely fortunate to play with the Crowmatix as they always compliment and help with arrangements. We have over one hundred songs published.

mwe3: How did you meet Marie?

Professor Louie: We met in a manager’s office in NYC who put an ad in The Village Voice looking for musicians and writers for a working band.

mwe3: The song writing chemistry between you two is great. Is “Love Is Killing Me” a first hand song or is it more based on love in general?

Professor Louie: “Love Is Killing Me” has been gaining a lot of attention… Since Marie wrote the words she should answer that one...

Miss Marie: “Love Is Killing Me” is about relationships in general. Sometimes, couples that seem to be doing just fine are not and no one knows except the two lovers involved. “No one knows what’s hidden there behind the scenes”… Love can be so strong that people try to forgive & forget the bad times and hold on no matter what, waiting and hoping that things will get better. Always looking for that golden key….

mwe3: Your piano playing is superb throughout the 13 track CD. Tell us about the pianos you're playing on Crowin’ The Blues.

Professor Louie: Most of the recordings were cut live with the full band. We have a Yamaha C3 Grand in the studio that I used to cut all the tracks with The Crowmatix.

mwe3
: What about synths and other instruments that you might use to orchestrate your sound with?

Professor Louie: I don’t think I used any synths on Crowin’ The Blues. I did use a Hammond organ and Leslie. I have a great Hammond A 100 with a Model 251 Leslie. I played my Borcini accordion on some of the tracks. When that happens Marie plays the piano. Most of everything you hear on Crowin’ The Blues’ was recorded at the same time including vocals and solos. Not many overdubs.

mwe3: I know you love instrumentals and you have several on the new album including “Blues & Good News”, which sounds half Trinidadian. Maybe you should get a copy to Van Dyke Parks. Have you done other instrumental works or soundtracks?

Professor Louie: Instrumentals are essential on a full CD and also as singles. We have always tried to include one or two on our CDs. We have worked on movie soundtracks including a couple of Hollywood films - No Small Affair with Demi Moore and Road To Wellville. We were commissioned a few years ago to write a soundtrack to the first science fiction movie made in 1903, View Of The Moon. This was a great project. I worked on a Tony Trischka Record years ago with Van Dyke Parks on the CD.

mwe3
: Is that John Platania on lead guitar on “Blues & Good News”?

Professor Louie: Yes, John is the guitar player on 12 songs of the CD.

mwe3: Are instrumentals underrated or is singing your songs with Marie the best?

Professor Louie: I think instrumentals should get more airplay. Years ago there was always one instrumental hit happening. Singing with Marie is very special and she is a great musician, she also is the piano player when I am playing the accordion.

mwe3: I saw Morris Levy was credited on the Elmore James track called “Fine Little Mama”. Is that one of your favorite Elmore tunes?

Professor Louie: There isn’t much I don’t like by Elmore James. I always felt he was one of the more exciting players and singers of all time and he kept the same band together for years.

mwe3: What draws you to that song besides its infectious boogie?

Professor Louie: It’s the lyrics: “She ain’t but five feet tall” ... “She got long brown wavy hair”...

mwe3: You’ve paid tribute to the classic Woodstock sound and the music of The Band on earlier albums. What is your favorite album by The Band?

Professor Louie: Of course I am a bit biased. I really like two albums by the Band that I co-produced, Jericho and Jubilation.

mwe3: It’s still hard to believe they made those early albums back in the late 1960s. Like the second, The Band album. What albums did you work on with The Band?

Professor Louie: I worked on many projects with The Band. The full releases I worked on were Jericho, High On The Hog and Jubilation. There were many projects including a three CD set called The Great Divide, a few bonus tracks on The Last Waltz DVD, many television shows and specials, tributes to Doc Pomus, The Crickets… too many recordings to mention. I produced solo CDs with the main principles members, three solo CDs with Rick Danko - Live On Breeze Hill, InConcert, Times Like These , and Levon Helm’s solo CD, Souviner Vol. 1 and Garth Hudson’s only real solo CD, Sea To The North. I am proud to say that I recorded The Band and the individual members more then anyone in history.

mwe3: I think Garth and Robbie Robertson are the only surviving members.

Professor Louie: Garth and Robbie are the surviving members of the original members. There are still a few of us left from the reformed Band that was together as long if not longer then the original Band.

mwe3: How many albums have you done with Professor Louie & The Crowmatix. What is your favorite album with them?

Professor Louie: Professor Louie & The Crowmatix have thirteen CDs. We have not released an album without liking it. We have always been proud of everything we released and play songs from all of them. The three we play most songs from live are Crowin’ The Blues, Music from Hurley Mountain and Wings On Fire.

mwe3: Also how many albums have you released on your Woodstock label?

Professor Louie: Somewhere around 50 full albums you can check www.woodstockrecords.com

mwe3: Will the New Riders ever make another album?

Professor Louie: We are always hoping...

mwe3
: How did you meet The New Riders?

Professor Louie: In 1999 I produced a David Nelson Band CD called Visions Under The Moon. We recorded the album in Portland, Oregon at the Aladdin Theater, that’s when I became friendly with David. I played and recorded in 2000-03 in a group called The Memphis Pilgrims which was Michael Falzarano’s (Hot Tuna) group, He became an important member of the reformed Riders. Professor Louie & The Crowmatix played quite a few shows at The Bottom Line in NYC with Buddy Cage and Michael, we had been friends for a long time. When the reformed Riders hit the road, Professor Louie & The Crowmatix opened countless shows for them. I played Hammond, keys and accordion on three of their newer releases.

mwe3: What other artists do you feature on the Woodstock Records label?

Professor Louie: There are many, some of my favorites are Buckwheat Zydeco, Waydown Wailers, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Jesse McReynolds, Levon Helm & The Crowmatix many more...

mwe3: What’s Marie Spinosa’s background in the music world?

Miss Marie: I began taking piano lessons at the age of 7 and continued for ten years playing classical music and performing in concert. After High School, I started a band with my friends and performed soul, rock and R&B tunes in clubs and some private events for a few years in NYC.

mwe3
: Who else did Marie sing with?

Miss Marie: After meeting Professor Louie, we started working together, traveling and performing, and recording with various musicians in the studios. We formed many groups over the years and Louie got local Woodstock, New York musicians together to work with him arranging demos for The Band and gradually we became Professor Louie & The Crowmatix. I sang background vocals and played percussion on Rick Danko’s solo CD and keyboardist Garth Hudson’s solo CD and a CD called Souvenir with Levon Helm & The Crowmatix. I also sang background vocals and percussion on two Commander Cody CDs as well as background vocals with Amy Helm on Mercury Rev’s acclaimed CD Deserter’s Song.

mwe3: Who has influenced Miss Marie’s singing and song writing?

Miss Marie: Early on, I was very influenced by many different singers and musicians: Rosetta Tharpe, Barbara George, Etta James, Dinah Washington, Sam Cook, Leon Thomas, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen and many groups such as The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Shirelles, The Supremes, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones…to name a few.

mwe3: What is behind the BB King cover “Confessin’ The Blues”?

Professor Louie: We had been playing the song for years when Miss Marie and myself played some duo shows. We dropped it until we decided to record Crowin’ The Blues. Marie always liked the song when she heard it on a Dakota Staton CD. The song fits her voice very well. We were listening to different shuffle
beats and that groove was what we were looking for… some people call it a box blues.

mwe3: Whose idea was it to cover the BB King track?

Professor Louie: Marie’s...

mwe3: How did you meet John Platania?

Professor Louie: John Platania and I new each other when we were in high school, although we did not go to the same school but lived in The Hudson Valley. At that time we played in Battle of the Bands and local gigs in different groups. We then went on to work on different studio productions even before the Crowmatix. He started recording with Professor Louie & The Crowmatix in 2003, but did not start playing steady with us till 2012-13. He has made a great improvement in our live shows.

mwe3: What does he bring to the Cromatix sound?

Professor Louie: John is a very special guitarist, he can rock out on solos and play the sweetest of licks. In the studio he is full of hook lines and live, he really knows how to compliment the vocals. Tremendous dynamics… and he also brings one more voice to The Crowmatix as he is quite a good singer. This lineup is probably the best we have had.

mwe3: I know he has several albums out on his own name and has worked with Chip Taylor in the past. What is your favorite John Platania solo album?

Professor Louie: Blues Waltzes and Badland Borders.

mwe3: How about the Jimmy Reed song “Bright Lights, Big City”?

Professor Louie: The title says it all… A great song.

mwe3: What’s your early recollections about that song and how did you come up with the arrangement?

Professor Louie: Years ago before there were all the blues and barbecue places, you would just play the Top 40 of the day. In order to play blues songs, you had to sneak them into the set in a special way. We used to play five or six sets of music a night. Usually 40 minutes per set. Around 35 minutes into your set you would play a break song to tell the people who were listening to and that you coming back after the break. That version of “Bright Lights Big City” was one of our many break songs. When you played all the other songs of the set you had to stay close to the original arrangements, but when playing the break songs you had the freedom to jam as long as the people were digging it and dancing… you could play what you liked. This arrangement of “Bright Lights Big City” came from that time… playing the song as a break song and jamming on it over and over.


mwe3: What influence did Jimmy Rogers have on your music?

Professor Louie: I worked at a festival in Finland with The Band and many American artists. I went out one night and was hanging with Pinetop Perkins listening to a few European groups. One of the groups played a few Jimmy Rogers songs and Pinetop turned to me and said, “If you ever make a blues record make sure you include a Jimmy Rogers song”. I promised him I would so we kept our promise.

mwe3: Why did you choose “That’s Alright”. Miss M does a fine job on it. It goes all the way back to 1950, geez that’s way back...

Professor Louie: Miss Marie has always sounded great on slow blues songs. “That’s Alright” is one of the best, it gets right to the point and the arrangement is excellent on how it treats the five chord. The 1950’s was a great creative time for the beginnings of the electric blues.

mwe3: Is “I’m On My Way” a Gospel song?

Professor Louie: Yes.

mwe3: You list it as a traditional. When does it date back to?

Professor Louie: Some say it was from an Underground Railroad song which dates the song’s origins around the 1800’s. I learned it when I played the Gospel Circuit with The Mighty Gospel Giants Of Brooklyn.

mwe3: Do you listen to music much or do you tune out the massive amounts of music coming out these days?

Professor Louie: I listen all the time to everything I can.

mwe3: Like Les Paul told me, “back then, we only had one (of everything lol) What is the future of recorded music in your estimation?

Professor Louie: I certainly can’t predict the future but I would like to hear more professional recordings all the way around with arrangers, producers and professional engineers. Demos are useful but all releases to the public should be the best all the way around.

mwe3: The other instrumental “Blues For Buckwheat” features your accordion?

Professor Louie: Yes, through an amp…

mwe3: I remember the original Buckwheat and of course Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Wheat from SNL. Is this a eulogy for lost innocence?

Professor Louie: No... not even close, The song is in honor of the great accordionist, band leader, Buckwheat Zydeco (Stanley Dural) and his band.

mwe3: Of course I’d love to hear you do more instros. What else are you planning this year?

Professor Louie: Professor Louie & The Crowmatix for Funzalo / Woodstock Records are releasing an EP on Oct 27, 2017 called The Lost Band Tracks. The songs were written and originally recorded in 1991 by Jules Shear and The Band members Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Stan Szelest, Jim Weider, Randy Ciarlante and myself. The songs were intended for The Band’s come back CD on Columbia Records.

{Below is from the press release}

“Long time The Band cohort, creative aide, producer, engineer and fellow performer Aaron “Professor Louie” Hurwitz was the man behind those original sessions, so it only makes sense he brings them back to life re-recording a number of the Jules Shear / The Band songs collaborations with his group Professor Louie & The Crowmatix”

mwe3
: Crowin’ The Blues rocks and it has staying power!

Professor Louie: Thanks so much. We are wishing anyone who reads all these questions and answers as much luck in life as possible...

Info on Professor Louie & The Crowmatix:

www.professorlouie.com
www.woodstockrecords.com
Facebook

Video:
I’m On My Way

booking@woodstockrecords.com
www.blindracoon.com
Professor Louie & The Crowmatix group photos: Jamie A. Midgley.

 

Professor Louie remembers
music legend Tom Dowd!

(additional outakes from the interview)

mwe3: Louie could you give me some quotes about working with Tom Dowd?

Professor Louie: Tom was extremely generous person when it can to sharing his engineering and producing knowledge. He never minded showing you the way. Tom was an extremely honest person if he didn't like the music or the sounds he would let you know.

mwe3: I saw that picture of you and Tom. He had to be quite the renaissance man I didn't know he died a couple towns over from me in Florida in 2002

Professor Louie: He moved to Florida years ago...

mwe3: How did you meet him?

Professor Louie: I met Tom in NYC at Atlantic Recording Studios in NYC when I was managed by Marvin Lagunoff. At that time Marvin managed Eddie Harris. Eddie had a record deal with Atlantic and they were working on Eddie and Les McCann's hit "Compared to What". I think Marvin helped produce that song (which was) a live recording from The Montreux Festival.

mwe3: What were you playing him on the accordion?

Professor Louie: We were working on an accordion part for a song from an artist from Florida that was signed to Universal Records. Tom was producing and I was engineering and playing some keys for him.

mwe3: What’s your favorite Tom Dowd related album?

Professor Louie: Layla can't be beat. The original Ray Charles & Aretha recordings when they were with Atlantic Records… Tom engineered most of them.

mwe3: I didn't know Tom worked on the Manhattan Project too.

Professor Louie: Yes… we never discussed that, but did discuss jobs other then the music business.



 

 
   
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