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Interview: Cool Disposition Blues Pursuits November 18, 2010

Posted by David W. King in Interview.

How much higher praise can a band receive than to have the wife of the late, great William Clarke leave upon your Myspace comments, “I like what you guys are doing.” If anyone should recognize good music, Jeanette Clarke-Lodovici should. When she adds, ” Bill would have too.” This is an endorsement of the highest order.

Cool Disposition merits this praise. They have based their sound on the solid bedrock that is Muddy Waters, incorporated the very best elements of 40s West Coast swing and 50s Chicago blues, and have woven this into their own experiences.

Cool Disposition includes two members, Dan Schwalbe and Marty Bryduck, who were part of George “Mojo” Buford’s recording/performing bands for Blue Loon Records. (Mojo was, of course, one of Muddy’s last great harmonica aces after Little Walter, James Cotton, Jr. Wells). Cool Disposition is rounded out on harp by Boston transplant and KFAI radio personality Harold Tremblay, New York native Greg Beach on bass, and founder Mickey Bauer fronting the group.

Formed in 1999, they have received airplay on the internationally syndicated “Blues Deluxe” radio program promoting their 2003 Cold Wind Records release, “Rompin’ At The Ribshack”.

The band has performed at notable clubs such as Blues On Grand, Des Moines IA; Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as numerous festivals: Bayfront Blues Fest-Duluth, Minnesota: Central Iowa Blues Society Winter Fest-Des Moines, Iowa; Boundary Water Blues Fest- Ely, Minnesota; Marquette Area Blues Fest-Marquette, Michigan among others

BDA Mickey, you are credited as being the founder of the group Cool Disposition. How did you bring these guys together to perform as they are today? How long have you guys been together as a band?

Cool Disposition What Cool Disposition has grown into began about 1998 with the premature demise of my first band. That was a group called Cryin’ Shame which a friend and I assembled from scratch. We kicked around about a year, rehearsing and developing originals, only to split up after a few gigs. Nobody knew how to hustle.

When the rest of those guys called it quits, I still desired to get a solid band together and keep it together. So, I hung onto the rehearsal space, and spent the next several months starting over, auditioning players again. Eventually, I hooked up with a guitar player from an online blues forum, and the rest of the lineup came together mostly thru that process. The original 5 members hung together about two years.

In 2001, two of the guys bowed out, leaving Harold Tremblay, Greg Beach, and myself to carry on with a number of bookings on the calendar. In addition to his playing, a big part of what Harold brings to Cool Disposition is his networking and PR skills. So for the next two years, he took on the task of lining up experienced jobbers from the Twin Cities blues scene for our gigs. There were roughly half a dozen regulars that jobbed with us, and another 7 or 8 that pulled a couple shows.

This was a real critical point for us in my opinion. We learned a lot working with a revolving cast. The Twin Cities gets overlooked I think, but we have a bevy of talented traditional 50’s blues musicians.  For example, he’s retired now, but Shorty Lenoir lives here, and he worked some gigs with us. Let me tell you, it was a real confidence boost that a guy whose background includes time with Mark Hummel and Sue Foley, would take a stage with us. Then there was a fabulous musician name Jon Ross who lived in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area for awhile. He worked quite a few shows with us. Guitar, drums, bass, whatever we needed for the gig. Jon is a full time touring pro from the east coast. These days he’s out with Duke Robilliard. He was also in James Cotton’s band for a while. Kim Wilson’s too. Needless to say, we really had no business working with such talented musicians as these at that time.

Those days were a great learning experience. However, after so long, the merry go round did get tiresome. We wanted to be more arranged and original. Eventually we settled in with Dan Schwalbe and Marty Bryduck as our two primary hires around 2003 and it quickly became permanent. They have really been willing to invest of themselves into what we do.

BDA Prior to launching Cool Disposition, what was your personal experience; your musical background?

Cool DispositionMost of my 20’s were spent in basements and garage bands learning how to sing, writing songs, all the usual things. Learning covers never interested me much. Before I got hip to blues in the mid 90’s, those years were geared more towards an original, bluesy, classic rock thing in the mode of Bad Company and Zeppelin. I’ve got some crazy recordings from those days around somewhere. Eventually though, I found my ears perking up the most whenever some Stevie Ray, or bluesier Clapton was on the radio.

I already mentioned Cryin’ Shame. After blues music got a grip on me, that band was the culmination of my basement days. It ended before it really got started. Too bad too. Stylistically, that line up was very well suited for the club scene. The material was organ driven, rockin’ blues. More roadhouse in nature. About a year after we broke up, and while I was assembling Cool Disposition, we reunited briefly to professionally record ten originals. So I’ll always have a CD from those days if little else. No doubt, you can tell it’s from the early days, but I’m proud of it nonetheless. Honestly, I think it contains some of my better songwriting. In fact one of our live staples to this day, “Too Much Rhythm”, comes from that recording. Maybe someday, a couple of the others will resurface. And since the projects overlapped, I had Harold guest on a few tunes, essentially tying the two bands together. In my mind, Cryin’ Shame was really the first version of Cool Disposition. If you compare the songwriting approach in both, you can’t help but hear a common theme.

I purged several hundred rock CDs from my collection because I didn’t want any of that influence seeping into my blues pursuit. It’s easy to absorb stuff without realizing it. This included things I felt were inappropriate for the direction I was headed.

BDA Each member of the band, likewise,  has come from a different background.   Dan Schwalbe and Marty Bryduck, were part of George “Mojo” Buford’s recording/performing bands for Blue Loon Records.  On harp is Boston transplant and KFAI radio personality Harold Tremblay, and on bass, New York native Greg Beach.  How was it decided that your sound would expand upon the bedrock influence of 50’s era Chicago Blues and 40’s jump/swing, and this would be your focus?
Cool DispositionThat question partially cuts to the heart of why Cryin’ Shame hung it up. There were some artistic differences. I was steadily moving away from rock, be it classic rock or blues rock. That’s not where the others wanted to go. At one point, I purged several hundred rock CDs from my collection because I didn’t want any of that influence seeping into my blues pursuit. It’s easy to absorb stuff without realizing it. This included things I felt were inappropriate for the direction I was headed. So it seemed like the best way to learn the blues was to be immersed in nothing but the blues. That’s what I wanted to do.

As time went on, I found myself mostly drawn to the more dynamic, less pounding blues from the 1950’s, and the modern versions thereof. I just really dug the music with harp, and more of an ensemble approach. Great hooks, great songwriting. Space for the music to breathe. Typically a lot less theatrics and rock star posturing, the type of stuff I had just outgrown. Less is more. That doesn’t appeal to everybody, but that concept really struck home with me.

Also, a key factor was that my voice was simply better suited for that style of blues. God didn’t give me the husky voice, and I’d quit before faking it. But I could sing and swing with Little Walter some. And it felt right. Lynwood Slim used to live here in the 1990s. This was before I got involved in our local scene. But when I began learning about local blues history, I kept hearing names like Mojo Buford, R.J. Mischo, and Lynwood Slim. So I checked all those cats out. I heard Lynwood, and was especially knocked out. That was the stuff. Now, I’m not half the vocalist that Lynwood is, but I heard a similarity in our voices. It was on my mind whether there was a place for me in this music or not. After hearing Lynwood, I was convinced that, yes there was. Of course discovering Slim, led to finding others. Chiefly, William Clarke, Kim Wilson, James Harman, Sugar Ray Norcia for example. What’s not to dig about their music?

BDA The band has been recognized  as Minnesota’s 2007 Champions. Tell us about this experience.
Cool DispositionThis came about as a result of winning our local qualifier for the International Blues Challenge. Our society calls it the “Road To Memphis”. We were fortunate to be voted to represent Minnesota, and that’s exactly how we approached it. We made the 16 hour drive to self promote as well as give the rest of the country a glimpse of what blues in Minnesota is capable of.

BDA You are scheduled to shortly release a new CD. Tell us about this release. How many CDs have you released together as a band?

Cool DispositionYes, we have a new one, just released in February. It’s called “Jumping In The Mudd”. It was the most ambitious undertaking we’ve yet been involved with. Took us about 3 years to finish, although we also released an EP in the middle of it to have something to take to the IBC. The disk has 16 tracks, all originals. Harold contributed a pair, and I wrote the others. It’s really a diverse collection of blues and traditional R&B. We’ve been getting real positive feedback thus far. Somebody referred to it as a “No-clunker” release on a blues forum, which I take as high praise given the volume of music.

We dressed up four of the songs with a couple of dynamite horn players. A lone baritone fattens up another called “My Better Half”. It’s really satisfying to hear these songs the way they are meant to sound. During the sax sessions, I was on cloud nine. Bruce McCabe adds piano on about half the record. He is probably best known as Jonny Lang’s “Lie To Me” songwriter and sideman. But he has also toured and recorded with lots of name acts, as well as his own bands. He’s currently working with Bernard Allison. We laid one down called “Dog Walker Blues” that features just Bruce, Marty on drums and myself that I really like. I’ve rambled enough here, so I’ll spare your readers a breakdown of all the tunes. Head over to our Myspace, and listen to them, judge for yourself.

I will add that we were pleased that Dick Shurman was willing to give us his stamp of approval. Having produced Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter… that counts for a lot in my book.

With our current lineup, this is our first full length studio CD in addition to the five song limited edition EP we put out in 2007. That was called “Buzz Awhile”. Both were engineered by Jeremy Johnson. Jeremy himself is one of our top guitarists in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and has toured internationally with R.J. Mischo and Big George Jackson. Other than that, our first release went out on Cold Wind Records, and was a live recording from 2002, entitled “Romping At The Ribshack”.

Mickey Bauer
Cool Disposition

Voted MN’s 2007 Blues Champions
Hahpin@yahoo.com OR

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