Reverend Zen: Angels, Blues and the Crying Moon
Guitarists Chris Carter, Nick Moloch, Gil Paris and Chris Vitarello are all on various tracks of the album. Chris Carter has been called one of the premier R&B guitarists in New York City by Hugh Mc Cracken. He's featured on "Bad Attitude," "My Sigmund Freud," "Dangerous Times" and "Boy Genius". Nick Moroch is a regular in David Sanborn's band. He plays the phenomenal solo on the "The Boston Shakedown". Gil Parris has a really incredible melodic sense with his solos that comes out on "Don't Try to Tell Me" and "Her Love". Chris Vitarello, who does a lot of playing with Jimmy McGriff, covers some of the guitar parts on "Only a Fool". All of them are great players, so after our written guitar parts were recorded we'd usually give one or two of them a crack at the solo and then choose the one we liked best on a particular song.
The background vocalists on the earlier songs are Sheryl Marshall, who's worked with Buster Poindexter and New York City's Uptown Horns Review, and Soozie Tyrell who's now a regular with Bruce Springsteen. The more recent songs feature Margaret Dorn and Vaneese Thomas. Margaret has toured and recorded with everyone from Boz Scaggs and Michael Mc Donald to Celine Dion. Vaneese Thomas is like the consummate musician who's worked with Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Sting and anyone else you can think of. Vaneese is originally from Memphis. She's the daughter of Rufus Thomas and her sister is Carla Thomas. She's like an encyclopedia of Memphis R&B, soul, Stax, and Elvis. As a girl she walked the Civil Rights picket lines with her mother.
AAJ: Once this project was completed and released, how soon after did you realize you had a hit?
JE: It's been pretty much of a gradual process, but things picked up about four months after we started getting the album out to CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon.com, print publications, internet music sites, radio stations, internet radio, various song contests and press releases through Billboard.
AAJ: How many different awards has it been nominated for, and how many has it received?
JE: At last count I think there was 31 or 32 awards from the Billboard, VH1 and Unison song contests, ASCAP, the Songwriters Association of Washington, D.C., the U.K.'s Singer-Songwriter Awards and the Los Angeles Music Awards. Among those are a finalist and five runners-up awards from VH1, an ASCAP Plus Award, two finalist awards from the Unison International Song Contest and four Best Song Nominations in the Adult Contemporary Artist and Blues Category of the Los Angeles Music Awards. Reverend Zen ended up receiving Blues Song of the Year for "Bad Attitude" and was named 2007 Blues Artist of the Year by the LA Music Awards.
AAJ: How did you react when you first learned that you were in the running for these awards? What were they?
JE: It's always terrific to receive recognition and publicity for your work. The first finalist award was from the VH1 Song of the Year Contest for "Dangerous Times" in their AC Category. We've also received five runners-up awards from them in their AC and Lyric Categories for "Magdalena," "Don't Try to Tell Me," "The Boston Shakedown" and a new, unreleased song called "Fingerprints". The Unisong International Contest Finalist awards were for "Magdalena" and "Bad Attitude" in their Lyric and Blues Categories. The ASCAP Plus Award was pretty much a cumulative activity award from ASCAP's Jazz and Popular Music Division. The other three Best Song Nominations from the LA Music Awards were in their Adult Contemporary Artist Category for "Don't Try to Tell Me," "The Boston Shakedown" and "Dangerous Times".
AAJ: How did you market it to these different groups that has given you these nomination nods?
JE: With an infinite number of old and new recordings available these days, I tried to look for anything that would set Reverend Zen apart and give our CD more visibility. I didn't have a $100,000 PR budget for the album. I just read, spoke to other musicians and spent a lot of time researching on internet sites. The song competitions, ASCAP Award and the LA Music Awards, I all tracked down myself and sent out the Reverend Zen CD or individual songs to them. We're also on four compilation CDs from Research Music in Miami, The Independent Artist Alliance in San Francisco, R.P.W. Records in British Columbia, Canada and MVY Radio on Martha's Vineyard. I was really just trying to get the band noticed.
AAJ: And that you have. There have been many comparisons drawn between Reverend Zen's music, which jumps many different genres, and for example Steely Dan. Do you feel these comparisons are fair?
JE: Yes, as a starting point that's fair. Fagen and Becker do many things very well musically and they're a big influence. So are Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Debussy, soul, blues and R&B.