Sam Amidon Celebrates Arthur Russell With The Red Bull Music Academy
This weekend, the Red Bull Music Academy Festival will conclude with a two-night tribute to the legendary late composer, cellist, and generally awesome musician Arthur Russell. Russell, who unfortunately received most of his notoriety posthumously, has a lot to celebrate—Since his his death in 1992, he’s gained a steadily-growing cult following for his work bridging the gap between avant-garde, classical, disco, dance and rock. The event, held on Saturday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is titled “Master Mix: Red Hot & Arthur Russell” and will feature all your favorite musicians jamming out in tribute to their favorite musician. Dev Hynes, Cults, Thao Nguyen, Richard Reed Parry, Rubblebucket and Sam Amidon will perform. Amidon, known for his jazz-inspired folk ballads, said he’s excited for this weekend, in more than a few words.
Galore: How did you get into Arthur Russell?
Sam Amidon: A friend played him for me about 10 years ago. We were on a tour bus, and he was just like, you’re going to like this, it’s really good. And I did, you know, because it really is just very good.
Oh, interesting, I would have thought you grew up listening to him.
SA: Nope. I grew up listening to a lot of different things, but I feel the music I like does have things in common with his. I’m a total jazz nerd—like right now, I’m listening to a lot of Don Cherry, and Miles Davis. Well, actually not Miles Davis right now, because it’s his birthday, and that’s when everybody listens to him, but I listen to him all the time. I’m celebrating his birthday by not listening to him. Anyway, at the root, all of Arthur Russell’s work is very improvisational, and I love that quality in music.
What I find so interesting about his work specifically is also that he’s able to be experimental because he’s so confident and earnest.
“I like to work with musicians that I can’t totally predict.”
SA: For sure, it’s very compelling. That’s more interesting to me than technique.
It’s also strange thinking about how his compilations were put together after he died. Like I wonder what the change in sound would be, had he been alive to compile his own music.
SA: Well, he was such a perfectionist, that I think it was really difficult for him to finish things, so maybe it work But I think there’s a strength in that! I’m not really interested in people who just play predictably…there’s no life in that! What I love about recordings is that they’re a documents of a moment in someone’s life. I love to think about what the musicians were experiencing and experimenting with in the recording process though.
Well, you also have to be super confident to be able to Do you feel like in your own work, you choose to work with musicians who are really confident?
SA: Well, I like to work with people who can kind of just pick things up. I’ll maintain a structure in my songs that still leaves room for a lot of experimentation. I like working with musicians that I can’t totally predict. that you don’t know exactly what they’ll do or play at any point.
And so after this weekend, what are your plans for the summer?
SA: I’ll be touring up and down the East Coast. I’ll be in Prospect Park in July, I’ll be in a few different places. I’m excited!