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topazTopaz is one of our favorite musicians here in Austin. He just owns the funk. Check him out and see for yourself. He does a pretty regular Thursday gig (GRR!) at the Velvet Spade.

AUSTIN DAZE: please describe the group topaz and your sound.

TOPAZ: I started the group around 1999. It started as a weekly jam at a cafe in Tribeca. It’s always been a very organic thing, constantly evolving. That’s what I’m doing at our weekly gigs, bringing in different cats, having lots of special guests and just letting it evolve. We’ve already had a trombone player who used to play with Ray Charles, the drummer from The Scorpions and local sax great Thomas Ramirez.
I just like to find bad ass musicians and see what they can do together. I really like to encourage people to stretch out, its really great seeing how people can evolve creatively when you give them there space.
The music is always groove based. I like to make people dance, its such a great thing to be improvising and playing off the people grooving on the dance floor. Whether your playing or dancing you can just get lost in the movement and sound. Music and dance are some of the oldest forms of communication.

AD: what do you play?

T: Tenor saxophone, but since I’ve been back in Austin I’ve been working on my singing and harmonica playing. One reason I came back was I wanted to bring more blues and roots to the equation. Kind of the way The Meters and early Funkadelic had that really earthy rootsy vibe.

AD: who is your favorite sax man?

T: Oh man that would be a long list. Everyone from Fela Kuti to Charlie Parker to Pharaoh Sanders.

AD: You are from here right? You went away and came back, why did you return?

T: I’ve been gone for about fifteen years, the majority of which I spent in New York City. New York was such a great learning experience but in the end I just started to feel claustrophobic. You know I’d get back from touring these amazing beautiful places and I’d get back to the cold dirty city with jackhammers waking me up every morning. Now I wake up to the birds singing and I see the river and the trees. I also wanted to try out some new things creatively and I thought moving might facilitate that.

AD: After being away, what do you find different about this town from when you left?

T: More asphalt, more traffic, more yuppies hurrah!

AD: How does the vibe here differ from other cities?

T: Well being from here I’m biased but for me its kind of a spiritual thing I feel more grounded here I just wake up in the morning feeling energized.

AD: What makes an Austin Music Fan unique?

Music is a part of everyday culture here, not many American cities have that. People also seem more open to all types of music, there’s less categorization. I guess people just like “a good thang” here.

AD: What does “Live Music Capital…” mean to you?

T: I don’t know, its a slogan. Hopefully it gets us more funding for live entertainment.

AD: What do you most want to achieve with your music?

T: I want to make people happy I want to bring some love into the world. There is so much hate and violence these daze and we have to fight it with love.

If I can’t do that I just wanna make people shake their ass!

AD: What do you think of SXSW?

T: Bottom line its a great party. When you are a touring musician you have so many friends all over the country, so its great when there are events that bring everyone together.

Its funny I have friends in New York who won’t drive an hour to a gig but they’ll drive 3 daze to play some shitty club I’ve never heard of during SXSW.

AD: Why do you think there is so much talent and creativity in this town which is in the middle of Texas?

T: There are lots of little pockets of artists all over this country, its hard to say what draws artists to a certain area. But I think Texas doesn’t get the credit it deserves, we’re on the gulf, we’re close to Mexico and all there’s all these great state parks. I grew up out in the hill country and I think there’s a magic out there. You know Austin used to be a frontier town and I think you can still feel some of that.

AD: Topaz seems to be taking jazz and blending it with jam band and funk style. Am I off key there?

T: That seems about right but labels are funny, most of the people I know are just music fans. Meaning they listen to everything from Zeppelin to King Tubby. I just want to bring together everything from my musical experience. That being said I hate shit thats all over the place. You have to find your own sound thats cohesive.

AD: How many CDs do you have out there?

T: I’ve released three albums: “Listen! “, “The Zone” and “The Afro-Dub Sessions”. The Afro-Dub Sessions is the most recent but I haven’t found a label for it yet in the states. However its available on i-tunes and there are a couple of copies at Waterloo.

AD: What other local acts bring you out?

T: Of the newer bands I been diggin Ghandaia, Papa Mali and Grupo Fantasma . When I would come back to visit I’d always go check out Dale Watson and of course I’m a huge Willie fan.

AD: Anything else?

T: Well talking about music never quite does it justice so come check out a show. You can find the schedule at topazmusic.com *

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