Alisha Pattillo Isn't Hurting for Gigs These Days
L-R: Tausz and Pattillo are Billabong Island Sound
Photo courtesy of Alisha Pattillo
There's at least a 66 percent chance that Alisha Pattillo is awake right now. And, if she is, she's probably doing something to advance her music career.
Pattillo is the ultra-active jazz saxophonist who leads Alisha's Quartet and runs the Thursday Jam Session at Dan Electro's with her friend, Erin Wright. She's a Rocks Off 200 alumna and go-getter who regularly gigs with artists in and outside of her chosen genre. Her latest project is Billabong Island Sound, a joint venture with musician and engineer Roger Tausz.
"I'm busy, but there are plenty of hours in a day," she assures us. "I'm a sleeping queen -- I need my eight hours. If I get less, I'm not very pleasant to be around. But once I'm up, it's go time."
At the moment, Pattillo is preparing for a Friday-night release and download party at Costa's Elixir Lounge on Richmond. The event runs from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. and anyone is invited to stop by to hear Billabong Island Sound's debut CD, Spring Baby, and to purchase download cards right on the spot.
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Pattillo said Tausz, who owns Bong Island Sound Studios, invited her to stop by the studio to "mess around" on some Acid Pro drum and bass tracks he'd written. That was July of last year. By August, they'd decided to create a full-blown production of the music.
"This project had a real organic development about it, we had no game plan, we just started writing songs together," Pattillo says. "Roger or I would come up with a riff or a melodic idea, to which we would develop and create melodies, structure and form. We had no idea when it was going to be finished, we took the 'lets keep working on it and see what happens approach.'"
As the songs developed, Pattillo tabbed some of her favorite local musicians to add their talents to the mix. Wright and James Wilhite added guitars, Kenny Borak played flugelhorn, Daleton Lee drummed and Ben Ackley played Rhodes. Every musician on the CD is a local professional, but the songs have the decided influence of "The Aussie and the Hippie," she being the former and Tausz the latter.
"'Billabong Island Sound' came from a combination of my Australian background -- hence 'billabong' -- and the name of Roger's studio, Bong Island Sound," Pattillo says. "My mother would never forgive me if I released a project with 'bong' in the title, so Billabong seemed a nice way to join Roger's studio name and my influence."
The album is streaming on Spotify. It opens with the summer breeze of "Gnarley" and the cool jauntiness of "Hip Enough," then takes an ominous turn on "Grandfather." That track seemed like a good one to focus on when asking about how the songs were constructed.
"'Grandfather' was during that 'come over and mess around on some tracks' stage," Pattillo says. "It was one of the earlier songs we did, it may have been the first. 'Gnarley' and 'Hip Enough' were the last two we recorded. So, I guess you can see the evolution from mostly Roger's influence to more of what I wanted to add to the album.
"It's called 'Grandfather,' because there is this loop that reminded Roger of the sound of a grandfather clock," she continues. "This was his most completed track, I just added soprano and got Daleton to lay down two drums tracks. It has a mysterious, Middle Eastern feel to me, so I thought soprano sax would work well. It is dark-sounding, so I went with that vibe
"Roger's an incredible cat to work with, a great engineer, plus he's so easygoing that he was on board with everything," Pattillo says.
Aside from the new CD, she's keeping her calendar filled. Mondays, she's at Costa's performing on steak night with her quartet, which presently features Wright on bass, Ackley on keys and drummer Dominique German. . "I think secretly the band members look forward to this gig for the steak," she said.
Pattillo has also recently been a member of Ezra Charles' band, but his semi-retirement has meant seeking another way to fulfill her "blues addiction," so she's working with John McVey and the Stumble every Wednesday night at Shakespeare Pub.
"There's a lot of room for improvisation and exploring, it's a real treat to be a member of this group, they are the real deal blues cats," she says.
Story continues on the next page.
L-R: Pattillo, Dwight Adams, Erin Fisher Wright
Photo courtesy of Alisha Pattillo
Thursdays, she's at Dan Electro's continuing the jazz jam she and Wright began last year at Costa's.
"The jam's going great," Pattillo says. "The new venue offers a better performing experience for our jammers then our previous venue. There's a stage, lights, a sound system and a sound man. It's a great sounding room, and so far the feedback from everyone has been positive."
Some of that feedback has come from touring pros in search of a jam. Pattillo says John Legend's horn section came to the jam during the Oscar winner's recent Houston rodeo visit. Trumpeter Dwight Adams stopped by to jam when he was in town to perform with Stevie Wonder.
As if all that wasn't enough, Pattillo's even a model, of sorts. Since 2013, she's been an Antigua artist and has touted the manufacturer's saxophones in Down Beat and In-Tune magazine ads.
"They make great saxophones, and I'm super-honored to be a part of the Antigua family," she says. "Besides coming across as 'fancy,' one of the perks is attending trade shows. These shows are great for networking, meeting other musicians, stores, vendors, manufacturers. It's a really cool scene to be a part of. Other Antigua artists are also full-time pros, some tour with Prince, Trombone Shorty, the list goes on. Definitely cats I want to be associated with."
As she continues to challenge every spare hour in her day, there are artists who want to be associated with Patillo, too.
"I've always had a good work ethic, which helps keeps things rolling and allows me to complete projects I start," she says. "I take pride in my work, and never would want to release anything 'half-assed' -- if it's not up to standard, I keep working on it until it is."
"The music industry is very competitive, and if you don't keep working on new material, networking with new people, practicing new things, it's very easy for nothing to happen," adds Pattillo. "Most musicians work for themselves, which means it's totally up to the individual on how they want to mold the product.
"The reality is that most pro musicians in this town are just as busy as I am," she continues. "There's a lot of opportunity here, but at the end of the day every individual is responsible for making things happen for themselves. My advice is to surround yourself with those that inspire, and keep moving forward."
Billabong Island Sound's CD release and download party begins at 7 p.m., Friday, April 3 at Costa's Elixir Lounge, 2239 Richmond.
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