Nov. 26, 2014
The Addition, San Francisco
Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 19, Richie Kotzen released his debut self-titled solo album. He’d been discovered by record producer Mike Varney and signed to Shrapnel Records at the height of Mr. Varney’s quest to expose the “unsung guitar heroes ” of the day, and Kotzen was one of those elite few. Now on Loud & Proud Records, with the release of The Essential Richie Kotzen on Sept. 2, 2014, the number of Kotzen solo albums has risen to 19.
But that’s just a small part of Kotzen’s career accomplishments, which include being a member of Poison (and one album, Native Tongue), being a member of Mr. Big (and two albums, Get Over It and Actual Size), and being a member of Vertu (one album, Vertu) with jazz greats Lenny White and Stanley Clark–all centering around his mad guitar skills. But somewhere along the line, there seems to have been a disconnect between what he does and what his fans perceive he does. At long last, after joining forces with bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr.Big) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold) and fronting the super-trio, The Winery Dogs, the spotlight has widened a bit to focus on ALL of his mad skills, giving him the respect and credit that is long overdue and allowing the fans to know exactly who he is and what he throws down.
In August, I ran into Kotzen when he was performing at former label-mate Jason Becker’s fundraiser, the “Not Dead Yet 3” benefit concert. I was able to get this video interview with him, where he talks about Jason, his early Shrapnel days, as well as his new solo album and the reason/meaning behind the title of this article…
On Nov. 26, 2014, Kotzen and his solo band made a stop in San Fran to play at The Addition (formerly Yoshi’s SF) during their present tour in support of The Essential Richie Kotzen album. The intimate setting allowed fans to watch and appreciate his music from the comfort of their seats, without having to fight off a crowd at the front of the stage to get a view. At one point, Kotzen left the stage, and drummer Mike Bennett launched into a phenomenal drum solo, joined later by bassist Devon Wilson, who dedicated a few bars to the late Jack Bruce of Cream. This was topped off by Kotzen taking the stage again – only this time, he was on the throne behind the drumkit, demonstrating yet another one of his talents. But the highlight of the night was when Kotzen introduced his teenage daughter August Eve, who came on stage to sing a cover version of MGMT’s “Electric Feel.” This girl was goooood! Overall, the show was exceptional, leaving the audience wanting more.
Prior to this show, I was able to get Kotzen on the phone to talk about his latest, The Essential Richie Kotzen…
Then we spoke a bit more in depth about his pick-less guitar style, how he describes himself as a musician, and his phenomenal voice…
To hear the interview in its entirety, the one below is for you…
If you’ve never before heard the name Richie Kotzen, I’m here to tell you, he is the most talented, prolific player you’ve never heard of! For a glimpse of his new solo album, check out this video.
And with Richie Kotzen, the music never stops. The Winery Dogs are scheduled to go back in the studio to record their next album at the beginning of the new year. If you haven’t yet heard The Winery Dogs, click here.
Although it’s sad that much of the mainstream world is unaware of Kotzen’s brilliance, the man is on a burner right now, and I believe that his time has finally come. I encourage you to seek out his work, and I’m sure you will agree with Mike Varney, who said, “Richie is the single best singer/guitarist of the day, and that I’ve ever known.” I’m right with you, Mr. Varney. I agree implicitly, and then some!
Can I hear a “Hell yeah” or a shout-out to send to Richie Kotzen in the comments below? Don’t be shy!
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