Thursday, July 14, 2016

Another Visit with the Versatile Violinist Scarlet Rivera

On Saturday July 23, Scarlet Rivera will be returning to the Northland to perform in a Rolling Thunder Reunion benefit concert at Weber Auditorium, sharing a spotlight with headliner Eric Andersen. The two first performed together in the kickoff of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue at Gerde's Folk City back in 1975. Eric and Scarlet will be accompanied by Steve Addabbo and Cheryl Prashker among others. Lonnie Knight is slated to warm up the evening for the headliners.

My first visit with Scarlet was in 2112 as she prepared for a fund-raising concert for the Duluth Armory. She'd been here the year before and has returned annually since, almost making Duluth a home away from home. When she's amongst us we certainly strive to make her feel like family. She one of the world’s most prominent, active and versatile violinists. She is known for her contributions to the recordings and performances of some of the most influential artists of our time including Bob Dylan, Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, Keb ‘Mo, David Johansen and Sylvia Tyson (Ian and Sylvia). In addition to her contributions on others' records she's also recorded fifteen albums of her own.

EN: Do you recall your first time meeting Eric? How were you introduced?

Scarlet Rivera: Eric and I met when I lived in upstate New York and previously lived in NYC for years. We were both invited to the same wedding party of a Viet Nam vet, we don’t remember who, and he and I hit it off, talking for some time and jamming a bit together. It is surprising that we didn’t continue on doing anything together after that, as it was a perfect fit musically, both then as it is now.

EN: The Rolling Thunder Revue launched at Gerde's Folk City. What was that first performance like? You were rubbing shoulders (or elbows) with some rather famous names. It must have been a heady experience.

Scarlet: Gerde’s Folk City launch… I wouldn’t call it a launch at all…but a teaser for what was to come in Rolling Thunder Revue (RTR). I say it was more a teaser than a launch also because it didn’t represent the full spectrum of artists, musicians that would embody RTR, but a handful of special and chosen people who would become part of RTR. It was there that I met Allen Ginsberg and I sat in with Kinky Friedman, who I would later sit in with on a regular basis at the Lone Star Cafe. That is another place that was quite a scene unto itself….

EN: What have you been working on since you were last with us here in the Northland?

Scarlet: I have been working in a Bluegrass band in LA, called Appalachia West, and on a CD soon to be released called Magic Music…also the name of the band, a member and co-writer in Voices of Van Gogh, and sing now in all the groups I’m in! Finally I’m singing with a thumbs up from all the musicians and audiences. Better late than never. Why did I wait so long to use my God given voice? That’s a long story.

EN: I can't recall if I asked you, what was your biggest takeaway from performing with Duke Ellington? That is, what was your biggest lesson... or memory?

Inventive charmer.
Scarlet: My time as a soloist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, conducted by his son Mercer Ellington, was another simple twist of fate... that I would be brought to meet Mercer for a private audition by his daughter who I met at a party the night before, and she had to bring me. After talking and playing some improv for Mercer, he looked at his calendar and offered me a date… I said I was free. The date would be at Carnegie Hall!

And performing Black, Brown and Beige Suite, which had not been performed in 40 years. It represented Duke’s hope of peaceful integration… but it was not well received at the time…racist then…and still here we are confronting the same things that disturbed Duke Ellington about the U.S. Rhapsody in Blue, by Gershwin was released the same year and got all the praise…while Black, Brown & Beige was passed over…

Another unforgettable thing was to go to Venice Italy with the entire Duke Ellington Orchestra plus a Gospel Choir to perform the Carnivale of Venice.

* * * *
This will be an exceptional concert and it is my earnest hope that some of you reading this will join us. Concert and Ticket Information HERE

Photos of Eric with Scarlet in L.A. taken by Carol Rothman.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

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