Surrounded By Moving Air: 6 Big-Band Composers Pushing The Format Forward
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Surrounded By Moving Air: 6 Big-Band Composers Pushing The Format Forward

Bebop may have eclipsed big band in the 1940s, but large-ensemble jazz never stopped—and Etienne Charles, Miho Hazama, Anna Webber, Jihye Lee, Steven Feifke and Charlie Rosen are plumbing new dimensions of the tradition

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2021 - 11:46 pm

Steven Feifke has to jump out to teach a class, so one Zoom interview becomes two. When the 29-year-old pianist and bandleader returns onscreen, he looks genuinely astonished.

"This kid is a prodigy," he reports, "She's 15 years old, a trumpet player writing this incredible big-band music. She's one of my most talented and driven students. I've never heard or seen something like this before. That's an interesting thing, the passing-of-the-torch kind of vibe." Later, Feifke says, he'll Zoom with his old teacher, Jim McNeely, likening their summits to a yearly physical—not by a doctor to a patient, but from one big-band composer to another.

Big band. What do the words connote? If you're Feifke's age or close to it, chances are your parents watched an old-school bandleader like Count Basie on a black-and-white TV. And the narrative constructed by everyone from the Lincoln Center to Ken Burns' Jazz, has always been that big band faded away in the 1940s, and small-group, improvisational artists like Charlie Parker replaced it. But large-ensemble jazz never went away—and many of the form's most compelling voices are in the ballpark of Feifke's age.

Six of those relative youngsters are Etienne Charles, Miho Hazama, Anna Webber, Jihye Lee, Steven Feifke and Charlie Rosen. While they're all links in the chain of tradition, they sound radically different from each other. Some of them, like Feifke, make swinging music comparable to the canonical greats. Others, like Webber, make otherworldly, uncategorizable sounds. Lee freely admits her music hardly swings at all—which, to some devout scenesters, is tantamount to blasphemy.

Lee is fine with being told she's not "jazz" enough. But if we are to take to heart Wayne Shorter's famous "Jazz means 'I dare you'" dictum, then these six are quintessential jazz musicians. If you picture big-band leaders as a homogenous bunch of senior citizens reanimating the past, one listen to any of these composers should put that caricature to bed. They are women and men; Black, Asian and white; and often the products of wildly divergent schools of thought.

Outstanding big band jazz doesn't just still exist; even after 13 largely gig-free months, the form is gaining momentum at a frightening speed. Here are six luminaries leading the charge in the 21st century.

A Trinidadian Steeped In Many Heritages: Etienne Charles

Etienne Charles. Photo: Jason Henry

Is big-band jazz just treacly old standards with an audience of grandparents? Etienne Charles finds the notion not just risible, but provably false. 

"When you listen to Chairman of the Board, that's all original music," the 37-year-old trumpeter and bandleader tells of the Count Basie Orchestra's epochal 1959 album. "There are no standards on that record, and everybody in the band was young. Like, under 25."

The prodigious Charles, who was born in Trinidad, has a profound understanding of New Orleans trumpet tradition. "It's a great tradition," he says. "It's deep in rhythm. It's about a dancing rhythm. It's about playing in a way that makes people want to bounce."

Despite his yearslong presence in large-ensemble music, this is the first interview Charles has ever given about his writing in that field. "Everybody's like, 'Oh, you have a big band? Nice.'" he deadpans. But don't sleep on that side of his work: Charles' big band contains first-call players like alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, tenor saxophonist John Ellis and vibraphonist Joel Ross.

Charles has his debut big-band album ready to go when the pandemic subsides. While you wait, investigate his latest record, 2019's Carnival: The Sound of a People, Vol. 1, and behold his command of a confluence of Caribbean styles.

"For me, the Caribbean is one big region. It's one big place to me," he says. "So, when I swipe a nyabinghi rhythm from Jamaica, when I use the Belair from Martinique, when I use the gwo ka from Guadaloupe, when I cite the twobadou or the macaron from Haiti or a ballad style from French Guiana or Venezuelan merengue—all those people are me. I have roots all over the Caribbean, so I see it all as fair game."

An Aural Painter Of Dazzling Colors: Miho Hazama

Miho Hazama. Photo: Agnete Schlichtkrull

One important thing to understand about big-band is that it's a format, not a genre. While it may have connoted the latter in the mid-20th century, the large ensemble is now a palette for any style you can think of. When it comes to Miho Hazama, "palette" can be more literally defined.

"I have so many colors in my palette in my brain," she tells over Zoom from Japan. "Sometimes, it's gold, a really sparkling color. Sometimes it's neon. Sometimes it's really flashy or it's really dark. I always consult with myself how many colors I would like to use, or how colorful this music can be. It's like a collaboration with your favorite painter."

That internal collaboration results in music with a tangible sense of surprise. Her latest album, 2018's Dancer in Nowhere, is vigorous and vibrant, keeping the listener on their toes from the first minute to the last. (To say nothing of excellent albums from deeper in her catalog, like 2015's Time River.)

These attributes partly derive from Hazama's needle-sharp ensemble, m_unit, which she calls her "castle" and "playground." "I do whatever I want," she says. "Nobody controls me in that orchestra. I think [the music] is just coming naturally from my interest."

Overall, if you're interested in the nexus of jazz and classical, seek out Hazama immediately. While she views "jazz" as the most helpful tag, for now, expect her to break out of that category in the future. "That's something where I want to place my label at this point," she says. "But in the end, I love to say I'm a composer and arranger without any genre."

A Crafter Of Mazes & Volatile Microtones: Anna Webber

Anna Webber. Photo: Cisco Bradley

Anna Webber's upcoming album, 2021's Idiom, might be her most visionary and startling work to date. What might be accidental sounds to another artist are presented in the center of the sound-field. Strange melodies become lodged in mid-air, causing the entire arrangement to violently boil over.

How does Webber explain this uncanny music? With something of a shrug. "All of the Idiom compositions are basically me trying to make sense of some of my improvisational language," the saxophonist/flutist explains from Berlin over Zoom. "Finding really specific things I do while improvising, isolating those and then forming a piece out of them."

One's ear might pick up surreal harmonies on Idiom, which splits the difference between a trio and a large ensemble. But that's less due to the notes on the page than Webber analyzing the physicality of her instruments. That way, she leverages specific microtones and resonances to compositional ends.

Webber co-leads the Webber-Morris Big Band with Angela Morris and performs in trios, quartets and various other configurations. In short, she lives and works in the now. "There are still people whose entire professional career is playing standards," she notes. "There's nothing wrong with that, but there's also music that's being created now, for this moment in history."

"I just feel like we're not living in the '40s, '50s, '70s or '90s," Webber continues. "We're living now, so I want to write the music that makes sense to me at this particular moment in history and not try to replicate something from the past."

An Idiosyncratic, Personal & Intrepid Storyteller: Jihye Lee

Jihye Lee. Photo: Hyemi Kim

There's a reason Shorter's famous "I dare you" quote comes up. Those three words galvanized Jihye Lee. As evidenced by track titles like "Relentless Mind," "Unshakeable Mind," and "Struggle Gives You Strength," the composer's new album, 2021's Daring Mind, is all about personal transformation from within.

This theme stems directly from Lee's firsthand experiences. Born in Korea, she moved to America in her twenties without ever having visited before, with no knowledge of the English language. After enrolling at Berklee College of Music, "I didn't know if I should be a classical composer or a film-score composer or a singer/songwriter," Lee told JazzTimes in 2021. "I was so afraid and overwhelmed."

Why did she end up going for big-band music? "I was overwhelmed by the sound and energy when I first saw the jazz orchestra in front of me," she tells "I didn't plan to like it, but the music happened in front of me and I fell in love with that."

Lee's music is luminous and personal, despite it not resembling traditional big-band jazz. This has led to some consternation from purists. "Some older generations, in their scope, say "Oh, you should be in this box. This box where know jazz is,'" she says. "But I still demand I'm a jazz composer because I really think jazz is a daring spirit. In that sense, I'm a jazz composer."

In the end, Lee wants her work taken on its own terms, both in terms of format ("The symphony can be jazz; the orchestra can be rock") and who she is. "I'm Asian. I'm Korean. I'm a woman. But I don't want to be categorized by sex or ethnicity," she says. "I don't want you to see my music with any kind of background. Just hear the music."

A Swinging Traditionalist & Sower Of Rapport: Steven Feifke

Steven Feifke. Photo: Chris Lee

While the previous four composers either weave between genres or disregard them entirely, Feifke proudly wears his primary influences on his sleeve: Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer. "I'm certainly inspired by both of those people very deeply," he says. "I also love Maria Schneider and Jim McNeely and all those cats."

Steven Feifke Big Band's new album, 2021's Kinetic, is his first as a leader. "It's a working big band," he stresses. "It's not a studio big band that only comes together to record." That means the ensemble includes close friends and colleagues of his, like the trumpeter and vocalist Benny Benack, who plays a killing horn and does a mean Frank Sinatra to boot.

And while the pandemic means the ensemble hasn't been able to perform its monthly residency in New York, "It's something I'm eternally grateful, that I got that opportunity to spend with my band in performance," he says. "I think that's the sound that's captured on my record," he continues. "The energy of a live performance with the polish of a studio album."

When asked how he would define his voice as a bandleader, "I'm not sure it's up to me to define," Feifke replies. " "I hope my music has an intimate feel, allowing the members of the band's individual personalities to shine and fitting that into the large-ensemble textural plane."

What's the result of this holistic approach? "For every performance, every song, the focus isn't on the ensemble or me or any individual member, but rather on the music itself."

A Transmuter Of Songbooks & Player Of Games: Charlie Rosen

Charlie Rosen. Photo: Mehdi Hassine

As the last five composers have established, big band is not necessarily a genre, but a vessel in which to pour any kind of music. By way of the 8-Bit Big Band, a jazz/pops orchestra that performs video game music, Charlie Rosen is actively testing this hypothesis.

"I wanted to [form] the big band that reinterprets video-game music in the same way the great 20th-century jazz arrangers reinterpreted the Great American Songbook," Rosen told JazzTimes in 2021. On their latest album, 2020's Backwards Compatible, he has top-shelf musicians to help him execute this vision, like Feifke, Benack, saxophonist Grace Kelly and bassist Adam Neely.

Rosen comes from a musical theater background and, as such, makes every decision in order to "dramaturgically support" the content of the music. "What arrangers and orchestrators do is hear the potential in pieces of music and expand them by using their palette of available sounds," he says. 

For the 8-Bit Big Band, these could be selections from Super Mario OdysseySonic the Hedgehog or other AAA titles. Catch them whenever concerts happen again, and you'll hear traditional instruments blended with whirling sequencers, with the game in question projected overhead.

Rosen has courted an audience of rabid gamers who might not otherwise have given big-band music a chance. What can it communicate to the uninitiated? "It doesn't matter if you have any musical training whatsoever. I think human beings have an innate ability to recognize when something is being done well."

And all it takes to get it, he says, is to stand in front of a big band at full tilt. That's what happened to Rosen as a child; that's what hooked him for life. "The power of a horn section was the thing that made me be like, 'This is awesome. This feels so good and so epic,'" he recalls with a hint of awe. "Being surrounded by that much moving air."

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11 Essential Compositions & Arrangements By Steven Feifke, The Youngest GRAMMY Winner For Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
Steven Feifke

Photo: Anna Yatskevich


11 Essential Compositions & Arrangements By Steven Feifke, The Youngest GRAMMY Winner For Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

At the 2023 GRAMMYs, 31-year-old Steven Feifke won Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for 'Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra,' with trumpeter Bijon Watson. Here are 11 essential arrangements and tunes by the prodigious pianist, who's just getting started.

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2023 - 09:47 pm

When first interviewed pianist, composer, arranger, educator, and bandleader Steven Feifke in 2021, he stressed the cruciality of creating open spaces for his accompanists to blossom.

"I hope my music has an intimate feel, allowing the members of the band's individual personalities to shine and fitting that into the large-ensemble textural plane," Feifke said back then.

Upon receiving a golden gramophone for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs — for his co-led big-band album with trumpeter Bijon Watson, Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra — Feifke hasn't let a wisp of egotism cloud his creative vision. Even despite the fact that, at 31, he's the youngest-ever bandleader to win a GRAMMY in that storied category.

"I always just want to make sure that I'm elevating someone else's thing and adding to it in such a way that it doesn't take away from that person's craft," he tells in 2023. "There are times to allow the music to be what it's going to be, and there are times to understand the vision and then allow the music to be what it's going to be."

This applies whether he's arranging and orchestrating for another artist — like acclaimed vocalist Veronica Swift, on This Bitter Earth — or for his own small, yet rapidly expanding, discography. Feifke's willingness to foster a capacious environment for those around him remains his personal stamp.

"He is a student of big-band composers and writers, and big-band leaders, and bands of the past. But he puts his own fresh spin on things," Watson, who also won his first-ever GRAMMY for Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, tells

As per Feifke's egolessness on the bandstand? "That's definitely a great way to describe it," Watson adds. "Almost to a fault. Because he is an amazing piano player… I think his playing is definitely underrated."

To mark Feifke's big win and GRAMMY landmark in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble category, he has shared "This Promised Land," the debut single from his upcoming big-band album, Catalyst, out June 16 via La Reserve and Bandstand Presents.

"'The Promised Land' is a reference to the land of Israel," Feifke shared in a statement. "Israel is the meeting place for so many intersecting faiths, cultures, and ideas. It’s seen millennia of conflict, but also millennia of progress, innovation, and change.

"This piece acknowledges the many perspectives around Israel through angular rhythms," he continued, "and a simple melodic mode that transforms in as many different ways as possible."

Concurrently, asked Feifke to hand-pick 11 past tracks — whether his compositions, arrangements, or both — that he feels sums up his still-young career. (And for the tunes on Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, Watson spoke his piece as well.)

These quotes have been edited for clarity.


From 2015's Peace in Time, composed by Thelonious Monk, arranged by Steven Feifke

Feifke: I love the tune, and I love Monk and his music. I was introduced to Monk in high school by my teacher there, Jeffrey Leonard. He did this really cool thing where there was a four-year cycle in the jazz program.

Every year that I was there, I was in one of the ensembles at Lexington High School. The first year I got to school, it was Duke Ellington, and then we did Miles Davis, and then we did John Coltrane, and then we did Thelonious Monk. That's a four-year cycle, basically, where you study and play the music of those people throughout the year in the jazz classes.

Where I went to high school, it's a public school, but the jazz program is pretty solid. All of this stuff is for credit and all that. He took it seriously as a professor, so I took it seriously as a student. I think that's how I hope I teach now as a professor at Berklee.

That's when I first got into Monk's music. I wrote this arrangement, however, as part of my audition to the Thelonious Monk competition in 2011. I was 19 at the time, and I was shocked to get into it, but very grateful nonetheless.

Steven Feifke Bijon Watson Accept 2023 GRAMMY

Steven Feifke and Bijon Watson accepting their GRAMMY for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

I remember meeting Herbie [Hancock]. I have this extremely derpy picture of me and Herbie where I'm just smiling ear to ear, just being like: This is Herbie Hancock! Herbie is just one of my absolute favorite artists of all time. Not just piano composition or arranging. Dude, come on. It's freaking Herbie. It was awesome. Also, I was so young — so much younger than a lot of the other guys who were there.

[Composer and pianist] Kris Bowers won that year. This is back in the days of MySpace Music, and I used to go to Kris's MySpace page and he had a song up there called "Hope." It was a beautiful piano trio plus string orchestra composition that he had written. He played it at the competition.

I was basically meeting so many of the people who I looked up to artistically. That's what role the arrangement played in my life. I liked what I'd written, I guess, and I expanded it for the septet. It's just my take on Monk's piece.

When I recorded my first album, Peace in Time, I featured this as the opening track to feature two of my best friends, [saxophonist] Andrew Gould and [trumpeter and vocalist] Benny Benack III, who are both still members of my big band today.


From 2019's Prologue, comp. Juan Tizol, arr. Feifke

Feifke: [This standard] was recorded shortly after our Peace in Time recording session. I wrote it to feature Chad [LB]. He's ridiculously killing, and this [arrangement] is written around his virtuosity as a tenor saxophonist.

I was always really inspired by the Dave Grusin arrangement of "Something's Coming" that featured [saxophonist] Michael Brecker — while this is a totally different song and arrangement. I was really deep into Duke's music at the time. I think I spent an entire year — almost a year and a half — only listening to Duke Ellington.

Ironically, this song was composed by [trombonist and composer] Juan Tizol, but with that said, this is such a staple of the Duke Ellington songbook. I just wanted to do my own arrangement of it with Jimmy Macbride on drums, Nick Dunston on bass, and Chad on tenor saxophone.

Chad just takes this whole arrangement and runs with it. When I first sat down to write this, I immediately heard Chad's voice on it. But when we got into the studio, he just lit it up and took it to a whole other level that I couldn't possibly have imagined.

He truly is one of the great saxophonists of our generation, and it was an honor to feature him on this.

"This Bitter Earth"

From Veronica Swift's This Bitter Earth, 2021, comp. Dinah Washington, arr. Feifke

Feifke: I don't think my approach changed more for [working with Veronica] than it does for anything. My hope is just that when I'm arranging or orchestrating music for someone — even if it's for my record featuring somebody — whether it's [vocalist] Kurt [Elling] on "Until" or whomever on whatever.

I always just want to make sure that I'm elevating someone else's thing and adding to it in such a way that it doesn't take away from that person's craft. Whether that's the macro version of the craft — the vision for the overall album — or the micro version of the craft, which would be, in my opinion, being able to express themselves musically on top of whatever I've written.

I'm trying to stay out of Veronica's way, but also nudge here and pull there — support over here, surround there. Veronica had such a clear vision for this album before she even went into the studio. We were hanging out quite a bit before that record came out, and she shared some of her vision with me, and shared that this was going to be the opening track.

I immediately knew: Oh, wow, this is the direction of the record, because most opening tracks are a little more loud, and this is loud in a quiet way. I don't know if that makes sense. She's like, "Come here, step into my world for a second, and my world is 'This Bitter Earth.'"

Orchestrationally, that helped. But the approach is not different, I think. There are times to allow the music to be what it's going to be, and there are times to understand the vision and then allow the music to be what it's going to be. This was the latter.

"Singing In The Rain"

comp. Freed / Brown, arr. Feifke for "The Masked Singer" on FOX feat. Katherine McFee and David Foster, 2021

Feifke: While not strictly on an album, some of the works I arrange, orchestrate and compose happen to be for television and film media.

I used to intern for a company called JinglePunks in my senior year at NYU. I got to write some music for some pretty cool shows like Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

This arrangement though is pretty cool. I was also able to highlight some of the sounds of the studio orchestra that reminded me of Nelson Riddle and Johnny Mandel — two of my absolute favorite arrangers/orchestrators of all time.

And speaking of composer/arranger/orchestrators, I am a huge David Foster fan. He has worked with literally everybody, and all of the music he has created and shared throughout his career is absolutely killing. And Katherine McFee? Come on. She is one of the greatest vocalists of all time, in my opinion. Getting to write for her was really special.


From 2021's Kinetic, comp. Steven Feifke

Feifke: This track is special to me, because it's the title track off of what I like to call my "second first record." In 2015, I released Peace in Time. I had a septet. That used to be my thing; I didn't have a big band or a trio yet. When I released [my first big-band album] Kinetic, I just had a better picture of my career and where I wanted to be going.

I've released simultaneously in a very spontaneous and focused way since Kinetic, because I feel like I'm more in touch with myself as a person — as a human being first, and then second, as an artist.

With Peace in Time, I look back on it and realize how much I still had to learn. How much I still have to learn now and always. Even with things like the mix, for example. I was super happy with the recording process, but I feel like on Kinetic, I got a second first chance.

[On the title track] I featured [drummer] Ulysses Owens, Jr., who has been something of a mentor figure to me over the years. He has had me arrange music for several of his albums, and featured me as the pianist on his record "Falling Forward" alongside [bassist] Reuben Rogers, [vibraphonist] Joel Ross and [vocalist] Vuyo Sotashe.

[Ulysses] really brought it on this track. It wouldn't have been the same without him. Not to mention  — he is the drummer on Generation Gap!

"The Sphinx"

From 2021's Kinetic, comp. Steven Feifke

Feifke: I wrote this song during my second year of my masters program at Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of the great Jim McNeely and Mike Holober.

While I was in school, I was juggling a lot of outside writing and touring projects, and I wound up only having about 36 hours to write this entire piece. Originally it was written for a studio orchestra, but when I recorded Kinetic, I reorchestrated it for a big band. It features Lucas Pino on the tenor saxophone.

Part of the reason I chose to go to Manhattan School of Music was that at the end of every semester, you got to have one of your pieces performed by a studio orchestra.

That's extremely rare: a full-sized orchestra complete with everything that you could possibly imagine — a full brass section, a full string section, full percussion. There's no other program that really does that, anywhere in the world, to my understanding.

Steven Feifke Vertical Embed Image

Steven Feifke. Photo: Anna Yatskevich

During this semester, I was swamped with commissions and traveling as well. I got back, and I basically had 36 hours at the piano, and I stayed up for 36 hours. I wrote this piece from start to finish, from zero notes written down to all the notes written down.

We played it, and it was pretty stream-of-consciousness. I approached the composition in a pretty specific way as a result, because I wanted a major leaning — almost an Arabian Nights mode to start in D major.

Then, to talk about the theory a little bit, I tonicized the key of D major for the first almost two thirds of the piece, and then it uses the relative minor of D major — B minor — to exude a little bit of a darker texture and flavor and ultimately use a plagal cadence to modulate into F# major to the end. Hence the name "The Sphinx." Compositionally, very little of the song changed from the studio-orchestra version to the big band.

Whatever your tool or color palette is, I think it's important to bring it out in the best light possible as an orchestrator. I think that's the orchestrator's job. In the process of shifting the orchestration, a big band is still a huge band. It's a lot of people. I didn't feel like I lost anything when I moved over. I just had to work to find some of the color combinations a little bit.


from 2021's Kinetic, comp. Steven Feifke

Feifke: Two of the most important roles in a big band are the drums and the lead alto saxophone, and I'm lucky that these two guys — [drummer] Bryan Carter and [saxophonist] Andrew Gould — have such an incredible hookup.

This song is inspired by the ocean — Wollongong Beach in Australia — and the two of them really demonstrate the power of the ocean on this track.

Those two guys are such powerhouses of music and human spirit that they often play supporting roles to bring my music to life. This song was a chance to just let them loose and let them be water in one way, shape or form.

They are also featured heavily on the title track of my forthcoming big-band album, Catalyst. Stay tuned.

"Sunrise in Harlem"

From 2022's The Role Of The Rhythm Section, comp. Feifke

Feifke: I began writing this in 2018, and I continue to work on it always. The version on The Role of the Rhythm Section is just where it is for now.

This track speaks to a few things: In NYC, you can go out, hear your first show at 8 pm, then go out for a late dinner, falafel, taco truck — whatever it is. Then, go out and hear a second show, go out for a drink with a friend before you wind up at the Dizzy's or Smalls jam session, and then by the time you come home, the sun is rising.

Some of my best memories are of nights like that, filled with music the whole night through, and coming back to my apartment in Harlem and being the only one awake as the sun is rising.

The other sense is that the title is an allusion to the Harlem Renaissance. "Sunrise in Harlem" speaks to all of my heroes who at one point or another lived in New York. Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk being two of the grandfathers of bebop. Benny Golson, Herbie Hancock… the list goes on and on. And it's my small way of paying tribute to them.

"I've Got Algorithm"

From 2022's Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, comp. Steven Feifke

Feifke: This is my play on Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm." A little on the nose, but… [Laughs]

Bijon Watson: As collaborators, we were putting together what the album would look like, and we wanted to cover a lot of ground in terms of styles of music we wanted to play. We knew we wanted to do blues, do rhythm changes, do something contemporary, do something that featured the strength of the players and the band [as well as] these different styles.

Feifke: Bijon and I talked a lot about who else to feature on this track, seeing as it opens our Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra album.

Without Chad LB on this track, it just isn't the same. Chad has been one of my closest musical collaborators since we met as students at the Stanford Summer Jazz Institute in 2009.

We chose to feature Mike Rodriguez on the trumpet. Mike is one of my favorite trumpet players of all time. The first time I ever got to play with Mike was on a concert with the NYU Jazz Orchestra. I was a student; he was a professor.

I remember sitting behind the piano just saying to myself: Wow, wow, wow, after every single line. Having him on the Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra album was something special.

Watson: We wanted to do a traditional Ellington- or Basie-style tenor-battle type of thing.

Feifke: That's a rhythm-changes chart without a good old-fashioned tenor battle? We were lucky enough to have [saxophonists] Roxy Coss and Tom Luer in our section, and they both brought the fire here for real.

Bijon and I have often spoken about our mutual respect for the incredible John Clayton. When I was growing up and checking out big band music for the first time, I was listening to a lot of Clayton and Hamilton — of course, featuring Bijon on lead trumpet — and I certainly borrowed a lot of techniques and colors from Maestro Clayton on this one.

"Until (Matter Of Moments)"

From 2022's Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, comp. Sting, arr. Feifke, feat. Kurt Elling

Feifke: [Vocalist] Kurt Elling is featured on this track. In fact, he requested we do it on the album.

Watson: Steven and I are both huge fans of Kurt Elling.

Feifke: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little starstruck during our first "collab call."

Watson: The way he approaches albums when he [appears on them], he doesn't hold back. It's whatever he's feeling, whether it's the SuperBlue project he has now, or the way he takes pop tunes and makes them his own from a jazz standpoint. Or the American Songbook — the way he can put his own stamp on it.

Feifke: The arrangement is customized to fit Kurt's voice. Because of the timbre of his sound, I was able to access higher frequencies in the ensemble such as flutes and trumpets in mutes, and flutes and flugels as countermelodies to Kurt's singing.

The ending of this track is probably my favorite part. The way Kurt built the stacked vocals — that wasn't arranged. He just did it. So incredibly special. It truly speaks to the kind of artist Kurt is that he heard that and just went for it.

"Remember Me"

From 2022's Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, comp. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez for Coco, 2017

Feifke: Bijon is known for his incredible lead trumpet playing on records with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, and many others. Chances are, if you've listened to any of those artists, you've heard the incredible trumpet stylings of Mr. Watson.

When we set out to start Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, Bijon told me, "Don't shy away from the pyrotechnics, brother!" Which I didn't. I took full advantage of Bijon's seemingly limitless lead-trumpet capabilities. But the time came for a ballad on the record, and I asked Bijon if he liked the song "Remember Me" from Coco so we could show off the sensitive side of Bijon Watson.

Will Brahm is also featured prominently on guitar, providing beautiful accompaniment on the duo intro and an incredible solo later on in the track. While Bijon is filling the solo-chair role, Tanya Darby effortlessly steps in on lead trumpet for this track.

The resulting track is one of my favorites on the Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra record. It truly shows off Bijon in a light that, as a fan of his, I humbly hope he takes more readily in the years to come.

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ReImagined: Judy Whitmore Dazzles With A Classic Interpretation Of Frank Sinatra And Count Basie's "The Best Is Yet To Come"
Judy Whitmore

Photo: Courtesy of Judy Whitmore


ReImagined: Judy Whitmore Dazzles With A Classic Interpretation Of Frank Sinatra And Count Basie's "The Best Is Yet To Come"

Judy Whitmore introduces fans to the music she grew up with in this jazzy full-orchestra performance of "The Best is Yet to Come" — a song that was made famous by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, and won a GRAMMY thanks to Ella Fitzgerald.

GRAMMYs/Dec 6, 2022 - 09:02 pm

An American standard originally composed in 1959, "The Best is Yet to Come" has been recorded by an array of vocal greats, including Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, Bob Dylan, and Ella Fitzgerald — the latter of whom won a GRAMMY for her rendition in 1984. But it's most closely associated with Frank Sinatra, who recorded it with jazz pianist Count Basie for their 1964 album, It Might As Well Be Swing. In fact, the song was so important to Sinatra that its titular lyric is carved into his tombstone.

In this episode of ReImagined, vocalist and cabaret-style performer Judy Whitmore delivers a faithful, buoyant rendition of "The Best is Yet to Come." A full orchestra performs behind her, including horns, jazzy drums, a sweeping string section, and a grand piano — creating a swinging performance that does Sinatra proud.

Whitmore's cover choice is no coincidence, as the singer has been inspired by American classics literally since birth — her namesake is legendary actor and musical performer Judy Garland. Like Garland before her, Whitmore has taken on a diverse and multifaceted career. She's a bonafide Renaissance woman, whose resume includes accomplishments as a theater producer, best-selling author and pilot, who also happens to have a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

Singing has been a lifelong passion for Whitmore, and she has several albums to show for it, including 2020's Can't We Be Friends. That project, which includes her spin on standards like "'s Wonderful," "It Had to Be You" and "Love is Here to Stay," is Whitmore's "love letter to The Great American Songbook," her website explains

"This is the music I grew up with, and I don't want people to forget it," she details. "I think it's one of the most extraordinary bodies of work ever created."

Press play on the video above to watch Whitmore bring her love of American classics to her version of "The Best is Yet to Come," and keep checking back to for more episodes of ReImagined. 

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage
Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring


Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage

"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP,  Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.

Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.  

Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face." 

But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life. 

His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves. 

Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)

Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") —  their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.

While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens. 

Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.

Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up. 

Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically. 

"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?

We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds. 

We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick. 

I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?

Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol. 

You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way. 

Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about  freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?

I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier. 

I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff. 

So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.

[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.

I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.

Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?

I did, yes.

You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?

I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.

It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.

But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is]  informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.

Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.

We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.

It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].

We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.

You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.

It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.

When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.

You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?

Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."

We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.

You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.

With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.

Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.

You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?

I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.

But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.

I remember when you went on "Viva La Bamback in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.

Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?

In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.

We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.

The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.

There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.

It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.

It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.

Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?

Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.

The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.

The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?

Yeah.  Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].

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