There’s a multigenerational tradition at the foundation of both folk and jazz. Double Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby, who came out of the former and says he’s been shaped by the latter, will epitomize this when he headlines the Fox Theater in Redwood City on Wednesday, Sept. 4, as part of his Sky Trails Tour 2019.
Perhaps the most notable — though not necessarily most instantly recognizable — name in the Sky Trails band is James Raymond. The son that Crosby put up for adoption in 1962 and reunited with 33 years later, Raymond is a singer, songwriter, keyboardist and producer who has been collaborating and gigging with his biological father since 1997.
“He was a shock to find in the first place,” Crosby noted, by phone from a tour stop in Bismarck, N.D. “But the real shock is how good he is!
“James is the best musician in the family,” he continued, with one of his trademark infectious laughs. “He’s the best writing partner I’ve ever had. We’re in the middle of so many unbelievable pieces of music. It’s gonna freak you out.”
After releasing three solo studio albums from 1971 to 1993, Crosby has put out four more in the past five years. He credits next-generation musicians such as Raymond and Snarky Puppy mastermind Michael League with inspiring him.
“I worked in The Byrds and with CSN (Crosby, Still & Nash),” he said, referencing the two Rock & Roll Hall of Fame bands in which he was a member. “And now, to get blessed with a whole new bunch more of enormously talented people? Not sorta, not maybe, not kinda — really enormously talented. I am the luckiest son of a b–ch in the world, man.”
The first in his recent series of albums, “Croz” (both his nickname and, in some circles, new slang for “excellent”), was produced by Raymond and features guest contributions from vocalist/guitarist Mark Knopfler and trumpeter/jazz advocate Wynton Marsalis. Its follow up, 2016’s “Lighthouse,” was produced by League, a bassist/multi-instrumentalist whose jazz fusion Snarky Puppy collective has spawned the annual GroundUp Music Festival in Miami and a legion of young fans.
“I met Michael, and he asked me to work on a benefit record with him. And I did,” Crosby said, as hailstones began to fall outside his window — much to his amusement. “I went down to New Orleans with him, and I met (Canadian singer-songwriter) Michelle Willis.
“And I was also introduced to Becca Stevens,” a jazz-oriented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., he added. “And I was just shocked. I didn’t know there were young people out there that stunningly f—ing good.”
Crosby then formed the Lighthouse Band with League, Willis and Stevens and has also brought Willis aboard to his current Sky Trails group. “That tells you what I think of her: She’s in both (bands),” he pointed out.
For the Sky Trails tour, Crosby and his bandmates will draw from his entire songbook. And the set list changes regularly, too. “Since my book goes all the way back to The Byrds and all the way up to s–t we wrote last week, we have an insane amount of material — CSN, CSNY (CSN + Neil Young), Crosby-Nash, Crosby solo, Joni Mitchell songs.” (Crosby produced Mitchell’s debut album, “Song to a Seagull,” and contributed to several others.) “And we take stuff out and put new stuff in every night.”
Crosby sought out the new names that now collaborate with him on concert stages and in writing sessions and recording studios. “I’m always looking to play with people who love it as much as I do. And who are much better at it than I am. That’s my criterion.
“Part of it is, man, people found out on Twitter that they can send a tape of their brother’s band or this song that they think they wrote. And I’ll maybe give it a quick listen,” he said. “And that’s precious to them, because somebody ‘legit’ will actually say what they think.”
Those following Crosby on social media will find his tweets are as forthright yet friendly and humorous as he is during a 15-minute phone conversation. He’s asked to weigh in on things and to recount history, and he’s indeed surprisingly accessible.
Tact is always a concern when critiquing unsolicited music, he admitted. “You don’t want to be cruel. You want to say, ‘Well, you probably need to work on that a little bit more.’
“I have discovered people through Twitter, though,” he said. “I found these three sisters in England called The Staves. They sing unbelievably well. And I got to know about Sarah Jarosz on there. Sarah Jarosz is one of the best folk musicians in the country.
“I do look around for those who are really good and up and coming, because it’s insanely hard for them, man,” he said. “I do try to focus attention on ’em cause they need it. They need a break. This streaming thing is so bad for us. It’s great for everybody else. Everybody else loves it. It’s like you did your job for a month, and they paid you a nickel.”
While amplifying undiscovered talent, Crosby is grateful for working with and being stimulated by the younger musicians currently in his orbit. “I don’t know how come I’m so lucky,” he concluded, “But boy, there isn’t any question that I am.”
Freelance writer Yoshi Kato can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: David Crosby & Friends: Sky Trails Tour 2019.
Where: Fox Theatre Redwood City, 2215 Broadway St., Redwood City.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 8 p.m.
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