The Roots Of Lionize: From Miles Davis To Led Zeppelin

It's hard to find a band that reps Miles Davis in the same breath as much as they do Led Zeppelin, but Lionize are that band. Recording in Jamaica with Steel Pulse's Sidney Mills, supporting beardos like Kylesa, Clutch, and cKy? Yes, that's Lionize for you. Opening for Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster, a band that sounds like Gregg Allman and Black Sabbath's Vol. 4 hooked up, tonight at Fitzgerald's? That is also Lionize.

I asked Lionize about some of the bands that coalesced in their respective heads to make the sound of Lionize, which to us is a highly enjoyable strain of reggae rock. This is isn't girly feet-in-the-sand jazz, these guys have actual chops, the kind you get by touring and jamming for hours on end.

Check out Lionize tonight supporting Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster, with Grace In Folly also on the bill.

Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

This is one of the records we've listened to most as a group in the van.  Most importantly this record pioneered a lot of what we do harmonically.  The first track "So What" has a harmonic structure that simply rests on one mode, the same as many Lionize songs such as "D.C. Is Tropical", and "No Exit". In fact almost any funk tune from James Brown to The Meters and even Herbie Hancock's Headhunters group rely on the same basic principles of modal harmony first explored on this record. 

Of all the groups that have influenced our band, I'd be shocked if this record was not in the majority of their top ten records.  It is also important to note that this might be the best personnel to ever appear together on one record.  Miles Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane, tenor sax. Cannonball Adderly, alto sax, Bill Evans on piano, and Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb on bass and drums. - Chris 

My Favorite Things, John Coltrane

Any selection from the Coltrane discography could have legitimately made it onto this list. I chose to highlight My Favorite Things because of the piano playing.  McCoy Tyner's approach to much of this record, and specifically the title track, has probably had the biggest effect on the way I play the keyboards in Lionize.  Much of the material again rests on one or two modes.

The way Tyner uses fourths and fifths in moving patterns is exactly the way I'm voicing my parts on most of the our tunes.  Keeping things open and not crowding the melody is hugely important for me in this band, as our vocals require a lot of space to breath and improvise. I imagine one would have the same goal when attempting to accompany John Coltrane. - Chris   

Band of Gypsys,  Band of Gypsys

The best live record anyone could have ever made.  It sounds like they're just making everything up as they go, but the group improvising is so intuitive it's like they'd been rehearsing for years (they hadn't). 

The Band of Gypsys are a rock band playing funk music, with players that are good enough to play the most far thinking jazz music. The level of comfort and communication is what Lionize is reaching for every time we get up on stage.  - Chris 

IV (Zoso), Led Zeppelin 

This is one of the albums that absolutely changed my life at 12 years old. Up until this time, from ages nine until eleven, my music collection consisted of my parent's vinyl collection and some old CCR, Nirvana and reggae cassette tapes I owned.  This was my first actual compact disc purchase at a record store called "The Whiz" in Rockville, Maryland and it absolutely blew my mind.

I remember the artwork on the front and back of the album, which has no band name or record title, made the album so mysterious that I had to purchase it. I played the record so loud and often that I destroyed the speakers on my brand new boom-box in about a week. This album would lead me into life-long obsession with the greatest rock and roll band of all time.

The guitar work, melodies, thunderous, funky drumming and hyper-intelligent songwriting was unlike anything I had ever heard. These revamped blues tunes were the heaviest thing I can remember hearing up to that point and still are. The drums at the beginning of 'When the Levee Breaks' were the largest and most frightening thing I had ever heard on tape. There is something about this record that I don't any band as ever been able to duplicate since.  - Nate 

Uprising , Bob Marley & The Wailers 

Uprising is a record that draws you in immediately with the opening clean guitar strumming, and as soon at the drummer fills in with the snare and toms it hits you over the head like a ton of bricks. This is Marley's last record before his death, and you get feeling that he knows this is his last artistic imprint on the Earth.  It's a stunning display of songwriting and recording, and the band is at its absolute finest.  

Every tune on Uprising is one of Marley and Aston Barrett's best, and then the album concludes with the haunting "Redemption Song". The album is almost a synopsis of the band's entire career. It spans sounds of roots, ska, funk, rock and roll, and ends with a stripped down, apocalyptic tune that is a gorgeous and sad folk song, much like how Marley started out, alone with an acoustic guitar. -Nate

Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Red Hot Chili Peppers

When I was 12, my family went to Cape Cod on vacation. I was playing the saxophone in middle school jazz band at the time. We stopped for gas right next to a used music store where I bought BSSM for six dollars. I spent the rest of the trip listening to it on repeat with my state of the art Sony Discman. I wanted to sound as huge as the low-end heavy "Sir Psycho Sexy" and as mean as the sixteenth notes in "The Greeting Song."  

Before our vacation ended I had decided I had to be just as bad-ass as Flea, convinced my parents to buy me a cheap Fender in Orleans, Massachusetts, and taught myself to play every bass line on the record. I still think it's their best effort and I certainly wouldn't be a bass player had I never heard it.

Honorable Mention: Mothership Connection, Parliament. -Henry Upton

Houses Of The Holy, Led Zeppelin

I was familiar with early Zeppelin before I got this record around age 16 or 17. The bizarre naked girls climbing some kind of earthen temple intrigued me from the outset and with "The Song Remains the Same" and "The Rain Song" kicking it off it was immediately unlike any of their other material I had heard.  

"The Ocean" was somehow feel-good and menacing all at once. "The Crunge" was one my first experiences trying to play odd meters with its keyboard driven, James Brown-inspired  5/4 groove. "Over the Hills and Far Away" was somehow folky and monstrous at the same time. It was their first record of all original material and I always felt listening to it that you could hear the chances they were taking and the different influences they were incorporating. That as much as anything continues to inspire and for my money, it competes with IV for best Zeppelin album.  -Henry Upton

Thrust, Herbie Hancock

I was already listening to jazz and blues when I joined the band but I had yet to understand how I could incorporate and apply the awesomeness I was hearing. Charles Mingus I am not. Our keyboard/organist Chris Brooks actually loaned me Thrust, knowing that I was big into funk music and all it really took to flip my wig was track one: "Palm Grease."

It starts with one the quirkiest, funkiest, most headbobbingly filthy drum grooves I've ever heard.  The shaker comes in. Herbie plays a few light chords to ease you in and then, BLAM! Paul Jackson drops in the dirtiest bass line like a ton of a bricks in my tragically unhip teenage face.

Next comes the B section with the syncopated almost go-go style cowbell break. Then the fabric of space-time continues to be ripped apart by a sonic assault of funk. There are other songs on this album and they are amazing in their own way but for me it really didn't matter. You had me at "Palm Grease", Herbie. You had me at "Palm Grease". -Henry Upton

Uprising - Bob Marley & The Wailers

Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin

I would have to say Uprising by Bob Marley and Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin are a couple of favorite inspirations. The combination of John Bonham and Carlton Barrett, two of many drummer influences just does it for me. I love reggae music and I love rock and roll.

The way Bonham wrote his parts for records and improvised at live shows has a strong affect on my playing all around. Carlton Barrett had away of  playing very consistently and just nailing it! Hearing these records as a youth and knowing these drummers were so passionate with their playing and writing allowed me to be inspired into the musician i am today.  - Mel

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty