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Take Five With Mike Skory

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Meet Mike Skory:

I play Hammond/piano for the regional soul/blues/original band, Root Doctor Featuring Freddie Cunningham. I also have a unique rock trio call Suzi & the Love Brothers. Both acts are out of Lansing, MI.

Instrument(s):

Piano, Hammond organ.

Teachers and/or influences?

The two musicians who helped me in jazz are Ron Newman, Michigan State University College of Jazz, and vocalist Lisa Smith, Okemos, Michigan. Influences primarily blues, boogie and swing pianist like Otis Spann, Memphis Slim, Pete Johnson, etc.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

When I found a copy of Natural and Soulful Blues, by Champion Jack Dupree

Your sound and approach to music:

As natural as I can. Piano, electric piano, Hammond, clavinet.

Your teaching approach:

I teach the things I did not learn as a young student. ii/V/I theories, sight reading, reading vocal lines.

Your dream band:

Robert Cray on guitar; bassist and drummer from the Jazz Crusaders ("Put It Where You Want It" era), Detroit's Thornetta Davis on vocals, me on piano, Mike Finnigen on Hammond and vocals, a local Lansing, MI sax man named Chad Bement. There you have it: my supergroup.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

Do you mean when we were sober???

Favorite venue:

I can't complain. The thing that drives me mad is when the sound engineers are used to rock bands. Then they tend to have the bass drum and bassist up too loud.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

The CD JOY, by my band Root Doctor, because I wrote a lot of the songs. Our new CD will be all original again.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Well that depends on your definitions. I really liked the boogie-woogie guys and all the new Orleans piano players since college. So I guess it was Jelly Roll Morton or Pete Johnson.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I think I am extremely attentive and responsive to soloist and vocalists. I try to be a leader in that respect in all my projects

Did you know...

Times were tough here in Michigan in 2008-2009. My businesses and my wife's were struggling so I played two years in sing-along dueling piano bars—and I liked it!

CDs you are listening to now:

Della Reese, Story of the Blues;

Etta James, Stickin' to My Guns (Island), because I'm working with a singer who does a lot of these types of songs.

Desert Island picks:

You know, my island picks arent' all jazz but here goes... Marvin Gaye, What's Goin On (Motown);

Temptations, Greatest Hits (Motown);

Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country Western Music (ABC).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Shhhh...Don't tell anyone but I'm really more of a blues/R&B man.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Keep in touch with the street through R&B, hop hop, pop—whatever catches your ear.

What is in the near future?

My band, Root Doctor featuring Freddie Cunningham, begins recording our fifth CD on May 9, 2013. Look for it in late summer.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

If the audience sees me drifting off and/or not paying attention to them or the soloists.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Let the Good Times Roll," the Louis Jordan version.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

"Stella By Starlight."

By Day:

I do project jobs. Sometimes in the music industry like events management, booking agent, etc. Sometimes retailing or sales.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

A blues musician.

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