Episode 111: The Skip Heller Quintet
Air date: 5.14.2014
Skip Heller is a walking encyclopedia - a comprehensive repository of information about music that spans the width and breadth of more artists, songs and history than most music fans will ever even know exists. And it’s not just trivia. Heller knows music like a savant sports statistician knows who had the best batting average in the 1948 World Series. It’s a kind of reverence when someone knows who built the house we are all living in. But Heller is not just an academic, he’s an active player, composer and arranger who fronts more than one ensemble that bears his name; for the past few years he has been billed as the Skip Heller Trio, the Skip Heller Quintet, Skip Heller and The Hollywood Blues Destroyers and he has worked with scores more. Heller’s Quintet is a group of accomplished players which allow him to fully explore his more recent stylistic forays into ‘countrypolitan’ swing and jazzy blues and he leads them like a master conductor. Nothing less than excellence is required, and the band strives to meet his exacting expectations. Given his extensive experience, his originals sound like standards, and standards - played by whatever combination of crack musicians he has assembled for the particular gig - sound like originals. It’s a blessedly anachronistic thing Heller has going, and it’s a sort of national treasure that he is playing the role of guardian of traditional styles with nary hint of twee irony or flash-in-the-pan posturing.