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“Raw, reckless, and in the moment” – Nils Lofgren’s ‘Blind Date Jam’

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“Raw, reckless, and in the moment” – Nils Lofgren’s ‘Blind Date Jam’ (Photo by Eric Marcel)

Some musicians prefer to spend their time away from writing, recording, and touring, in decidedly non-musical pursuits. For Nils Lofgren, whose CV reads like a rock history road map, down time only means more time for music.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and lead guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, has announced his ‘Blind Date Jam’ project – an opportunity to watch and listen to Nils and his friends jam, with no rehearsal, no homework, and little advance discussion.

“It’s raw, reckless, and in-the-moment,” Lofgren said excitedly of his ‘Blind Date Jam’ project, during a phone interview from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I just throw out an idea, count 2-3-4, and we just go to town.” 

The guitarist, songwriter, and singer, has created an 80-minute video (with beautifully recorded audio), featuring a band of friends, performing uncharted music ‘in the moment.’  Available through his website, www.NilsLofgren.com , for $10, Lofgren says that it’s an idea that has brewing for a while.

“About 6 or 7 years ago, I did a two-man jam with a great pedal steel player named Mike Smith,” Lofgren told me. “Now I have a great rhythm section, including Gary Bruzzese on drums, John Willis on bass, and my buddy Greg Varlotta, who does my acoustic shows with me. He plays everything.”

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Lofgren’s life on the road. A road that has taken him around the world many times, from his band Grin, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, to historic stints with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, and work with Ringo Starr and Lou Reed.

“I’ve been blessed to be involved with so many great bands, productions, rehearsals, and well put-together shows, with – hopefully - much more to come,” Lofgren told me.

The concept for “Blind Date Jam” was born out of experiences Lofgren has had as a member of several iconic bands.

“I realized that there are always these moments where you’re kind of killing time and somebody starts a little riff, and everyone jams quietly but nobody ever hears it. With ‘Blind Date Jam,’ there’s no production, no rehearsal, no set-list, no homework – just musicians who respect each other, playing for the love of music. I lead this first one. I count it off and we just wing it.”

Fans who preorder Lofgren’s ‘Blind Date Jam’ will receive an immediate bonus in advance of the full jam’s mid-November release.

“You’ll get an immediate ‘home jam’ that I do with my loop stations, playing keyboards and guitars, acoustics and electrics. We’ll get the full jam to you on November 17,” Lofgren says. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a fleshed out ‘Blind Date Jam’ with my friends, with none of us knowing what’s going to happen.” 

Lofgren recalls a moment from his early 20’s, when he arrived at a rehearsal hall in Hollywood, and was asked to perform and record unfamiliar songs for what turned out to be Neil Young’s epic ‘Tonight’s The Tonight’ album.

Now recognized as one of Young’s most essential albums, “Tonight’s The Night” was recorded in 1973, and released two years later.

Lofgren had joined Neil Young’s band in 1969, at the age of 18, providing guitar, piano, and vocals, to the classic 1970 album ‘After The Gold Rush.’ 

“Neil and his producer, David Briggs, came to us and said, ‘Look, this is going to be kind of anti-production record. We want you to play songs live and we don’t want you to really know the songs too well,” Lofgren remembers. “Since we were recording an album of Neil Young songs, he sat down with us to go over chord progressions for 3 or 4 songs. Then we’d go play them as a set, not really knowing the song.”

On “Tonight’s The Night,” Young strove to maintain spontaneity in the music, which was is also Lofgren’s aim for “Blind Date Jam.”  

“Neil said ‘I don’t really want you to get familiar enough with the song to work out a bridge or a verse part.’ On ‘Blind Date Jam,’ I’m taking that idea a step further, where we don’t even talk about it before we’re on the band-stand.”

Lofgren says that his ‘Blind Date Jam’ is a project that many home musicians will find relatable.

 “This is a home-grown effort that I hope I can do more of,” Lofgren told me. “There are lots of home musicians who go down to the basement with friends, and some guitars. These are some of my friends who love the unknown of jamming, and the excitement of not rehearsing. This is my start of the Blind Date Jam.”

Lofgren’s “Blind Date Jam” was filmed and recorded near his Scottsdale home.

“Our neighbor, Janie Ellis, owns this beautiful little art studio down the road called Cattle Track Arts Compound. My wife, Amy, designed a beautiful set, with lots of southwest imagery.”

A resident of Scottsdale for 21 years, Lofgren was recently inducted into the Arizona Music Hall of Fame.

“I got to sing and play, and acknowledge my son, Dylan, who gave me the award,” Lofgren says of the ceremony, held in August. “Amy was there and it was a beautiful night. I take those awards with a grain of salt because there are so many great players that are as good or better than me who don’t get the acknowledgement. This is home, and being inducted into the Hall of Fame was great.”

Lofgren says that he and his wife are still trying to process the death of Tom Petty, and are glad that they made the trip to see him again a few months ago.

“Amy and I are insane fans of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers,” Lofgren says. “They didn’t schedule a Phoenix show on their last tour so went to Red Rocks (iconic music venue in Morrison, Colorado).

Benmont Tench, keyboardist for the Heartbreakers, welcomed the Lofgrens to the show.

“We had a great visit with the band and saw one of the stellar bands in music history do a great show,” Lofgren says. “We’re getting more and more depressed every day at the loss of Tom. He was one of our musical heroes. It just reminds you, man, how fragile life is. Life is so tenuous and short. You’ve just got to value every relationship you can.”

Nils and Amy Lofgren first met at a venue which looms large in E Street Band history.

“That’s a story unto itself,” Lofgren said. “I met Amy in 1981 at The Stone Pony (legendary Asbury Park, New Jersey, music venue, where Springsteen and members of the E Street Band have been known to pop up for surprise jam sessions).

“15 years later, I was playing a great rock bar here in Scottsdale called The Rocking Horse, and we met again and have been together ever since. Amy is from West Orange, New Jersey, and she settled out here in Arizona as a professional cook about 30 years ago. I love living here. I love the slower pace of life and the mild weather. I was born in Chicago and grew up around Washington DC, and I don’t miss the four months of snow and ice every year.”

Or the snowy winters in Maine, one of which Lofgren experienced on an early 1970s tour as a member of Grin.

“We were making our way through Maine and driving through a blizzard, and I think the show was in Bangor. We got there and were excited to do it, and I think we heard on the radio that it had been cancelled. You’re a young musician, excited to play, and then you find out that it isn’t going to happen, and you have an unplanned day off.”

Lofgren recalls that the members of Grin decided to make the most of their unexpected night off.

“So we found some great lobster restaurant, and had a great meal, and we had a little day-drinking going on. It was an unexpected night off in Maine but we had a ball anyway. I love getting up to that part of the country, but I prefer to do it in the spring, summer or fall.”

Nils and Amy Lofgren recently returned from a few days in New York City, where they were invited to take in opening night of Bruce Springsteen’s acclaimed one man show, “Springsteen on Broadway,” at the Walter Kerr Theater.

“Patti (Scialfa -Springsteen’s wife) and Bruce invited us and we saw this beautiful show – it was wonderful. The whole band was there. We had a good few days in New York, seeing family and friends and the band. Patti came out and sang a couple of songs. It was absolutely gorgeous, in such an intimate, quiet setting. It was Bruce with his songs, piano and guitar. It was brilliant. I knew he would be.”

Initially scheduled for eight weeks, Springsteen’s show has been extended into February. Rumors are circulating that it could be extended further.

Lofgren says that he is writing new material now for a solo album which he’ll begin recording early next year, followed by some solo shows. He adds that he is hoping to schedule more “Blind Date Jam” sessions in the near future.

“If people like this, we’ll do something like it every three or four months,” Lofgren told me. “Right now, I’ve got a bunch of great rock players. But down the road I’m hoping we can combine different genres, and all different kinds of musicians. I just started with something basic and simple that I thought turned out really well, and hopefully people will enjoy it.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 25 October 2017 10:19

1 comment

  • Comment Link Betty Schwalenberg Saturday, 28 October 2017 16:54 posted by Betty Schwalenberg

    I’ve loved his music since Grin in 1971/2

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