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Interview:
Brian Setzer Orchestra still has plenty of jump, jive and wail after 20 years
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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In 1994, Brian Setzer launched his Brian Setzer Orchestra -- in the face of skeptical promoters and other naysayers, confident himself that the world was ready for a 17-piece rock 'n' roll big band.

Twenty years later he's still doing it. 'Nuf said.

"Nobody's ever done it like this," says Setzer, 55, a co-founder of the rockabilly group the Stray Cats who's also released a variety of solo albums, including this year's "Rockabilly Riot!" "I don't know many people who have a big band going and keep it active like this. People, when they hear it, they love it and they come back. It's really been a great thing."

And with the Orchestra -- whose "Jump, Jive an' Wail" became a hit on radio and in TV ads -- Setzer says that "musically, I can do whatever I want with it. And I just think about how many friends I've made over the years, guys who have been in the band for a long, long time and have taught me so much about music and made me a better musician, too. I love that about it."

Come 2015, however, Setzer plans to focus more on "Rockabilly Riot!" As its title suggests, it's a return to the music that made him famous with the Stray Cats, working again with a small combo and British producer Peter Collins, who helped Setzer get the rough-and-tumble, unvarnished sound he feels makes the music sound best.

"I don't think in terms of writing certain records at all," says Setzer, a Long Island native who's lived in suburban Minneapolis since the mid-00s. "The songs kinda come to me, and after I write three or four songs it determines itself what it should be, and after the third song for this I said, 'Well, it sounds like a rockabilly record to me.' It just screamed stand-up piano, stand-up bass, drums and just good, rockin' guitar.

"That's just really what it wanted to be. You just have to sit down and write a song, and then if you think in that rockabilly mentality, the song just becomes that."

The Brian Setzer Orchestra's Christmas Extravaganza

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21

The Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $25-$50.

Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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