Avi Salloway Brings ‘Strong Vermont Roots’ and Global Sound with Billy Wylder | Vermont Arts
A 2007 graduate of the University of Vermont, Avi Salloway’s connection to Vermont dates back much further than that.
While growing up in a musical family in Barrington, Rhode Island, the now Boston-based musician and activist spent summers “immersed in the music and life of Green Mountain” at Camp Killooleet in Hancock, which was run by the brother of late folk icon Pete Seeger, John, and his wife Ellie Seeger (and is now headed by Seeger’s niece, Kate Seeger).
“Vermont has definitely been a touchstone for me for much of my life,” Salloway said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
So Salloway feels right at home when he brings his band Billy Wylder to Green Mountain State, which he will do on September 4 at Zenbarn in Waterbury Center and September 5 at the Moonshine Music Festival in Manchester.
Salloway, 36, launched the latter in 2015 and will be headlining the sixth annual party – created “to bring people together to experience great live music, public art, freedom, dance and deepen their connection to local organic farming and community building, ”according to a press release – located at the Earth Sky Time Farm, which it still produces.
“We definitely have strong roots in Vermont,” said Salloway, who started making a name for himself with fellow UVM-er Celia Woodsmith – now a Grammy nominated member of Della Mae and Say Darling – as a duo. praised Avi & Celia and later as Hey Mom.
Salloway formed Billy Wylder in 2011, naming the self-proclaimed “art-folk-rock” group as a tribute to his late grandmother, Wilma “Billie” Hotaling. Soon after, however, he was asked to tour with Bombino, the stage name of Nigerian singer and guitar magician Omara Moctar, whom the New York Times called “one of the greatest guitarists of the world.” blues alive in the world ”.
Salloway played guitar in the 2013-2016 Bombino band, traveling the world and soaking up the distinctive “desert blues” sound of the Tuareg guitar master, an experience he describes as “an incredible journey” that “Deeply inspired my guitar playing and my view of the world”.
Touring with Bombino and traveling the world also inspired him to write material for his 2018 Billy Wylder second album, “Strike the Match”. Following up on his 2013 debut album, “Sand & Gold,” “the recording highlights Salloway’s penchant for creating songs that sound amazingly up to the minute while remaining steeped in tradition, ”according to PopMatters.
“It connected a lot of points for me, musically and culturally,” said Salloway, referring to the folk music of the Seegers and his grandparents, to the folk and blues music of early Mississippi. “It just informed my whole musical balance, of how I hear music and where it comes from and where I’m able to let it take me when I create with my own voice.”
Billy Wylder is on tour to support an EP, “Watcha Looking For”, released in April. The spellbinding set of four songs harmoniously blends hypnotic desert blues with rich folk and rock textures for a singular sound that captivates with fascinating songs and skillful musicality.
The propulsive title track is a highlight, with desert blues-rock meeting psychedelic pop on a lively, dancing groove. Ditto for the bewitching “Sahara”, which overlaps a deep group and an incredible instrumentism with great effect. And “Santiago” is a languid and sensual star reinforced by the words of Leonard Cohen of Salloway.
It also seriously whets the appetite for more music, which Salloway says is already underway. “We’re already playing a handful of new songs that I’ve written since the EP came out,” he said. “Some of them have already been recorded and we are planning to return to the studio this fall to work on our next album.”
Billy Wylder’s core group is a quartet that includes Rob Flax on violin and synth, Dana Roth on bass, and Zamar Odongo on drums. The talented musicians bring a variety of perspectives to the group, Salloway said: Odongo is from East Africa, Roth is from Israel and Flax is from Chicago.
“There are a lot of different influences that we grew up with that we were exposed to through our own kind of musical stories,” said Salloway, “that kind of weaving is making its way into the sound of the band. “
Billy Wylder has performed several shows in Vermont already this summer – June at Red Square during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, July at Backside 405 in Burlington and August at Brattleboro and Radio Bean – making stops at area lakes and rivers along the way.
“We love Vermont,” Salloway said, “and especially with all of my roots and my community there, it’s always special to come back there.”
“Coming out of this extremely intense chapter of isolation and division, fear and loss and all these really heavy traumatic experiences,” he added, “we are so excited to be able to share our music and our art. and continue to bring people together in a safe way to truly transcend it all.
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