Night At The Red Sea



Contact info, sound clips and more at

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, Minn.---While Minnesota to some people can only mean the strange accents of the natives in the film “Fargo," or grumpy old men fishing in little shacks outdoors on frozen lakes in bone-chilling temperatures, Ronny Loew and his band prove night after night that the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul is a hot spot for soul and funk-jazz---blazing hot in the case of this recording. The burgeoning local club scene, busy concert hall schedule, recording studios, education programs and media all have contributed to the flowering of jazz in a place once considered, if not the end of the earth, at least a place from where you could see it.

So who is Ronny Loew and why did he go all the way to The Red Sea to make his debut recording for Hot Springs Records? First of all, it ain't that Red Sea, the one where Biblical miracles took place. This Red Sea is a club in Minneapolis' ethnically and racially-diverse, music-rich West Bank district, an unofficial adjunct location of the University of Minnesota and just a few miles from Loew's St. Paul-area residence. Recent emigres from half a dozen African nations stand shoulder to shoulder with regular Minnesota-type habitues of the bar, or first-time visitors, there to check out a band about which the word is spreading rapidly in this area and beyond.

One night, in the summer of 1999, when Loew and his band were playing The Red Sea, the club's sound engineer happened to have a high-qualtiy digital tape recorder going, captured the group in action before a pumped audience, and, with a great on-location-in-progress mix plus a little editing produced the debut recording of as hot a jazz-funk band as you'll find anywhere.

“That night at The Red Sea happened by chance." Loew relates. “We had no intention of making a live CD, especially not as our first release. But that night was so magical. The performances of each musician exceeded our usual high level of musicianship, energy and creativity to the point where we realized we just couldn't keep the recording to ourselves." Enter Steve Heckler, a native New Yorker who is a social worker for Hennepin County (Minneapolis) and, with partner Steve Adams, runs Hot Springs Records on the side. They were on hand for this performance and arranged to transfer tape to CD so here we are.

“The music on this CD is a cross-section of the styles we play in the Ronny Loew Band," says the leader. “The wide range of appeal our music has is apparent from the people who attend our performances: people of all colors, young and old, rich and poor, conservative and of musicians ranging from Miles Davis to Santana to Parliament to The Grateful Dead. “Our music truly has something for just about everyone. We play songs in contemporary rhythms and with the interaction, spontaneity and creativity of the jazz tradition. I like to describe us as an R&B/funk/jazz band with a lead sax player instead of a singer. Or, you could say that I am the singer. I try to express the emotions of the lyrics and the message of each song through my interpretation of the melodies."

Loew, born in St. Paul, Minn. in 1970, began playing clarinet at 10, tenor sax at 11, baritone sax at 13 and now is proficient on all of them plus the hard-to-keep-in-tune soprano. Eventually Loew went off to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and earned a degree in Performance Studies. Searching for his individual musical voice, he realized that even though most of his contemporaries who played saxophone idolized Coltrane, Cannonball and Bird, Loew---though certainly appreciative of their achievements---was drawn to the soul-funk end of the jazz sax spectrum, closer to the Parker named Maceo along with Grover Washington, David Sanborn, Kenny Garrett, Michael Brecker and bassist/arranger Marcus Miller.

After eight years in Boston, Loew returned to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1997. Having impressed many influential musicians and others in the music business while in Boston, Loew began getting calls to do saxophone and percussion work for soul and funk-jazz artists all over the U.S. and, indeed, all over the world. His suitcase and instrument case carry stickers from Austria, China, England, Greece, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Loew was steadily building a fan base in his home town. His computerized list ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) now numbers over 1,000, many of them Twin Cities residents who have packed local jazz clubs such as the Artists' Quarter, Dakota Bar & Grill and The Luxx to hear Loew and his band. “People I had told about the band said they didn't quite get it until they heard it," Loew says. “Then, they get hooked and can't wait to see us again. I hope this CD helps hook other people, too." Today, Loew's game plan is to keep doing those national and international gigs but devoting the major portion of his time and energies to making an ever-growing name for himself playing his own music. “As I focus on my own music, I hope eventually to reach the point where I am playing with my band on a national or international level," Loew says.

Loew's bandmates here include some Minnesota natives and some “immigrants."

* Minneapolis drummer Dave Anania, first-call for many live and studio gigs, has worked with local-going-national teen-age blues sensation Shannon Curfman and has opened for John Melancamp, among others.

*Duluth, Minn. bassist Tony Axtell,also is a producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist and teacher. Axtell has played with many artists locally and nationally including Twin Cities' native Ricky Peterson, member of a large, famous Minnesota musical family and, at this writing, musical director and keyboard player for David Sanborn for more than eight years.

*Tommy Barbarella on keyboards , a first-call for TAFKAP and like Loew, a veteran of numerous world tours. “He's a treasure," Loew declares. “He's co-written numerous hits with Prince including “Gett Off" and several selections from the “Diamonds and Pearls" album and has several platinum records to his credit."

* Percussionist Esther Godinez, who also plays with TAFKAP, brings high energy and a Latin flair to the band. She's a leader in her own right and has become a major talent on the local jazz scene.

*Guitarist Andy Kotz has played with Babyface, After 7, Chante Moore and Michelle Shocked among many other artists.

*Guitarist Eric Essix, guest artist on this gig, is a Zebra recording artist who has opened for Herbie Hancock, Take 6, The Yellow Jackets, Bela Fleck and the Flectones, Dave Koz, Koko Taylor, and the O'Jays, among others. He's the youngest artist ever inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, alongside Nat King Cole, Sun Ra and Lionel Hampton, among others. While Axtell , Barbarella and Loew are Minnesota natives, the others (except Essix whom Heckler brought in for a Hot Springs Records Jazz Festival) have taken up residence here and established themselves on the Minnesota music scene but, like Loew, maintain active and busy global connections in a wide variety of settings and playing a dazzling array of musics.

Loew's choice of songs for this CD reveals the heart and soul of his musical personality. He offers the following synopsis of each song:

“Can't Hide Love." An Earth Wind &Fire medium R&B song. I felt this song was an impressive way to start out because it gives people a taste of what we do on a song that is immediately recoginzed by most music listeners. This was and is a very popular song. We stick pretty close to the original until it's time for solos. Then, as on most of our performances, we break it down and start building a new groove to support and inpsire the soloists.

“Southwyck." A Maceo Parker composition. He was the sax player in Parliament, P-Funk, The James Brown Band and many others before embarking on a very successful career in the mid-1990s. “Southwyck" has a medium funky groove that you can't help but move to. Oddly enough, when this song is performed with lyrics, it has another name: “Shake Everything You've Got." And believe me, people do, us included. This track includes some of my favorite moments on the CD. Our special guest for the evening, guitarist Eric Essix takes a solo that is so funky and passionate he whips the entire band into a frenzy. Later in the song, Dave Anania and I create a drum and sax breakdown that raises the energy level even higher.

“Run for Cover." Composed by former Miles Davis bassist Marcus Miller who recorded it with David Sanborn. Tony on bass really shines on this one. When I was auditioning bass players I asked them to learn this song. It took a long time before I finally one who could play it---Tony. Wow!

Two Step." We move from funk into a Latin groove on this tune by Kenny Garrett (also a Miles alum.) The singing melody on the bridge makes the hair on my neck stand up every time we play it. Andy Kotz on guitar is featured and I take some chances on my solo. It gets pretty intense.

“Soul Power." Another one out of the Maceo Parker/James Brown bag. Esther and Dave take some good solos and we all get really loose and happy. There are some nice hits and unison lines in the melody that show how tight the rhythm section is.

“People Make the World Go Round." A slow groove by The Stylistics. Tommy shows how he really knows how to create a vibe on this one. He sets an intoxicating mood right at the top on his keyboards, then takes an expressive emotional piano solo later on. Close your eyes and see if we don't conjure up some vivid images and take you to a different place in your mind. Where? You tell me!

“Ramblin.'" You might be surprised at hearing us do an Ornette Coleman composition, but this is a fun, funky tune that shows how tight our band really is. It ended our Red Sea set and also ends this CD.

“I hope people listening to this CD will enjoy it as much as we did playing that night," Loew says. “We enjoy playing for energized audiences and hope you will be able to hear us live someday soon....either in Minnesota or the various countries I have visited plus the ones I have yet to vistit." In short, anywhere on the planet where good, hot, funky jazz is appreciated. And, no sooner than the unplanned live album was in the can Loew and Heckler returned to their orginal project: a studio album which they believe will be a strong second release in a planned long series of successful albums by The Ronny Loew Band. Stay tuned.

So, can a Minnesota born-and-bred saxophonist crack the global jazz-funk market? Listen to this CD. It speaks for itself. Loud and clear. And there's your answer.---Will Shapira, Public Relations Consultant, Hot Springs Records, Minneapolis, May, 2000.


Listen: Night At The Red Sea: Ronny Loew: Music

Listen: Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. I by Various Artists - Download Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. I on iTunes

Subscribe to Newsletter

Rick Carter Radio - All Alabama Music

Accepting submissions and adding them daily. Artists can send their songs in MP3's to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. One song per email. Graphics and song and artist info should be included of course.

This space
for rent!

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.