Brian: That was Veronneau and their track, "Waiting in Vain." With that it is, well let me just tell you, they're an award winning international band that has been captivating audiences across North America and Europe with their vocal and guitar based world jazz. A delicious blend of bossa nova, jazz, samba, and swing performed in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Bring your A game when it comes to the listening because they bring it on four different languages. Their recent release, "Joie de Vivre," the joy of living and jazz, samba project earned rave reviews and climbed into the top 10 of leading jazz and world music charts which was an unbelievable accomplishment for these folks that are right here in D.C. Veronneau's passion for musical creativity as been honored with awards, grants, and commissions. They've curated the Strathmore Music Center's jazz samba project festival. They produce music for documentaries and a musical play and created a live interactive performance with contemporary dance troupe Company Danzante here in D.C.
I personally came across these folks because they also are host of Music Alley, which is a phenomenal, phenomenal show about D.C. Music here on 96.7 FM and they are all about the music scene here in D.C. When I heard about them and then I heard their music, it was a no brainer that I definitely wanted to get them on here so that I could share them with you because they are just phenomenal. Listeners, it is with great pleasure that I introduce Lynn and Ken from Veronneau. Say hi guys.
Lynn: Hey Brian, how are you?
Ken: Hello there. How you doing?
Brian: God, it's such a treat to have you guys here. Such a treat.
Lynn: It's a wonderful pleasure to be here.
Brian: Tell us about that track that we just played. Tell us about that.
Lynn: "Waiting in Vain," so that's a Bob Marley tune if you listeners might've recognized it. A beautiful, classic reggae and we decided to play with it a little as were embarking on the jazz samba project which brought us into deeper, deeper into bossa nova and samba. We thought, "Hey, how about we try to do a little bossa nova with that tune," and this is what came out of it. You know, another piece of it was the horns which normally, we don't perform with horns. This is a treat for to bring on horns. I just knew that I had to have the horns on that piece.
Brian: They sound so good, it's true.
Lynn: That's Jim McFalls on trombone and Jeff Antoniuk on sax and it's just so lush. I just love it.
Brian: Wow, phenomenal track. Tell us about you guys now and the band. Where did it come from? How did it start?
Lynn: Ken, You tell again how the band started and all of that.
Ken: This particular band, because Lynn and I have both been playing music for a long time in Europe and over here in America. We'd been doing in America a lot of acoustic folk stuff and hop things just as a duo. We kept on saying, "You know, it'd be really nice to play nice venues or a decent venue," and so on. Maybe even actually get paid and so on. Lynn had this feeling that-
Brian: The dream. It's the dream. Uh huh.
Ken: Jazz, jazz could do it. I met another guitar player, David Rosenblatt. I put off meeting him for a long time because everyone said, "You should play with David. He plays guitar," and I kept thinking, "Yeah, he probably knows like three Eric Clapton songs and that's it." I'm not very hopeful.
Brian: Some people may think that status but apparently that's not status. Okay.
Ken: You know, maybe "Stairway to Heaven" but just the intro.
Brian: Oh okay.
Ken: When I actually went around and met David, my jaw dropped. He's just this stunningly good jazz guitar player, particularly in the Brazilian style. He was brought up as a kid in Brazil.
Ken: He went back there on a scholarship to study jazz guitar in Brazil. He brought that Brazilian side to what we do. We got together very, very quickly, about six years ago, something like that.
Ken: We played our first gig in December. We were in the studio, recording the album by March. It's been non-stop ever since.
Brian: Wow. Now I know you guys do original music and you also play a lot of covers or great interpretations of great songs that most folks know. The decisions, where does that come from? Who makes those calls?
Lynn: I think the band and everybody together brings material to the band and then we decide if we like it, if we can arrange it. We do the same for the originals too. It may start from a rhythm, it may start from a riff, it may start from some lyrics, and then we get together and we arrange together. It's very difficult for one musician who specializes in one instrument to write for everybody convincingly.
Lynn: Right. I think I appreciate the fact that we're all very open minded about that. I would never dare try to write a guitar lick.
Ken: That works the other way as well. I'll come up with a great song and lyrics and Lynn will go, "That's un-singable. It simply cannot be sung."
Lynn: There's too may words.
Ken: She would go through there and red line the, a, if, and, and get rid of those extraneous words so that it's pronounceable.
Brian: Right. That makes sense. What about outside of the band? Yeah, outside of band. Tell us about you guys, personally.
Lynn: Oh when we're not playing music. We're married.
Brian: In case you didn't know. Public service announcement, they're taken, sorry guys.
Ken: I liked the vocalist so much I went and married her.
Brian: Yeah you did. You're a lucky man, you. You're a lucky man.
Ken: Yeah, I always tell people I married, I overachieved in the marriage state so you know it was-
Brian: You married up, I think I heard them say, yeah?
Ken: I'm married up, yeah.
Lynn: I think he's taking advantage of being on the air to say these sweet things.
Brian: Uh huh, absolutely. As he should.
Ken: We do music full time outside of this.
Ken: We do music full time and we both did have day jobs and we left them at six years ago and things snowballed. It started off as being let's just leave the albums are doing well, let's just do performance and so on and look after our little boy. It snowballed into all the other things you mentioned, the plays, the films, the dance. I also mentor musicians for the Strathmore. Lynn and I have doing a second time with curating a series of local world music at the Creative Cauldron Falls Church. We found ourselves involved in so many different aspects of music that we never imagined.
Lynn: I'm also a session singer on certain projects. Yeah, earlier in the show you were saying how incredible the pool of talent we have in the area. I agree with you, I don't think we'll ever get to the bottom. It's rich, it's interesting, it's diverse and we're extremely lucky that we have the time and energy to be involved with so many people.
Brian: What is your favorite part about the D.C. music scene specifically?
Lynn: Wow the incredible wealth of talent. Sheer, raw, deep talent.
Brian: Wow, yeah definitely. Ken, any thoughts there?
Ken: I think also particularly in the genre, you know it's interesting, we're listening to the records you're playing. The records, I'm showing my age there, the records. Your old school.
Brian: Uh huh.
Ken: It's a breath of fresh air to hear that because we don't tend to hear that as much. We tend to be listening to world and jazz music more.
Brian: I see.
Ken: Within our world, a lot of those musicians, there's a lot of cross fertilization. We'll see a guitar player or bandoneon player or a vocalist popping up on each other's albums all the time. That's really nice. It's really nice that you can say, "We'd like to collaborate. Would you be interested?" and it's usually yes. There's not a competitive sense in D.C.
Brian: That's awesome.
Ken: I have been told by some musicians who've lived and worked professionally in New York that they either came back to D.C. or they came to D.C. and fell in love with it because there was the possibility. It was a much less pressured, much less competitive situation. There's work, there's money, not a lot, but there's money. They really enjoyed either coming back home or setting up home here as musicians.
Brian: Now what about the best show you've ever played? What comes to mind?
Lynn: Oh wow, what comes to mind, that would have to be the Strathmore Music Center, the large stage there.
Brian: Yeah, that's a big one up there too.
Lynn: That's a big one, yes.
Brian: For those who have never been to the Strathmore that are listening, where is that one? What is that one?
Lynn: It's in, is it North Bethesda or is it Rockville there?
Ken: It's North Bethesda. North Bethesda.
Lynn: North Bethesda, Maryland. It's just on the outskirts of the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. The center's about 10 years old and it really is the state of the art facility.
Lynn: The sound is phenomenal. It is actually very beautiful. It holds about 2,500 people.
Lynn: We've had the opportunity to perform there in an extravaganza. I call it Lynn's extravaganza. It was a jazz samba project festival that we had curated and Ken was deeply involved with the entire two weeks of workshops and documentaries and exhibits and tons of concerts of course. It was the finale and I thought, "I need a big finale. I want a big finale," so I had the whole horn section and wonderful players. I had a Latino choir and I had a samba dancer. It was fun.
Brian: Oh man, what a treat.
Ken: Oh and a harmonica player. We brought in one of the world's top harmonica players from New York who has played with us a few times.
Lynn: Oh yes, yes. I forgot.
Ken: He too loves to come down to D.C. Jumps on the bus when he's not touring in Brazil or Japan or something to play with us.
Ken: We had Hendrick as well, Hendrick [Meurkens 00:10:48].
Brian: What about a time when you guys tried and failed?
Lynn: Do you want to tell, Ken?
Ken: Yeah, when we tried and failed. I think the biggest, the most surprising thing, we went to a venue out in Shenandoah Mountains and one thing we do all of the time and always have to is we promote. We really do the work to do the work in this field is so important. You're in a partnership with the venues and you can assume they're not going to do the promotion. If they do it's a bonus. We go to radio, we go to newspaper, we do the social media, we do the whole thing. We did our work, go to an area we've never been to in the Shenandoah Mountains and we went out there and there were five people in the audience.
Brian: Oh my goodness.
Ken: We've never had that before. That was a real shock to us.
Lynn: A gorgeous venue. The sound was absolutely amazing.
Brian: Oh man.
Lynn: But nobody came.
Brian: Nobody came.
Lynn: You know they say if you build it, they will come. No, they didn't come.
Brian: It's so true. I think every musician's got that story where you're just playing to the sound man. That really, oh man, okay.
Ken: They were a very receptive five people. At the same time, you're thinking, "Are they staying because they'd be embarrassed to leave or are they actually really enjoying it?"
Brian: Yeah. I got one last question that I love to ask and that's if you have one piece of advice to offer, what would it be?
Lynn: Ken is always about do the work and be diligent and promote and support the venue as much as you are supporting your audience too. I'm sorry, I'm speaking for you, Ken, now. I would like to like to add, as a band leader, I support my band. I look out for my band. I make sure they have the material that they need to work. I make sure they have schedules. I make sure they know where to go, how to dress and what to expect. I like to look out for my band and Ken likes to look out for the business.
Ken: For the business. We do tour. We tour out in Europe and when we go there it's like a military operation that put together. We got a sheet that says this is where you need to be at this time, this is the time we'll pick you up in the car.
Brian: Preparation is key, it sounds like.
Ken: Yeah. Here are the phone numbers of where we're staying and all the rest of it. We really do the work in advance for those tours.