Jay Collins and the Kings County  Band

Jay Collins and the Kings County Band

BandJazzSinger/Songwriter

With his Kings County Band, Collins mixes up blues, Afro-Cuban rhythms and funky New Orleans style into a modern patchwork of root-bound sound, though his fluidity and flights of improvisation as well as his music's attitude could have only been inspired by jazz.

Biography

"Jazz is a huge part of what I learned about music, but it's just a piece of what I do," says singer-songwriter, saxophonist, flautist, pianist and bandleader Jay Collins. With his Kings County Band, Collins mixes up blues, Afro-Cuban rhythms and funky New Orleans style into a modern patchwork of root-bound sound, though his fluidity and flights of improvisation as well as his music's attitude could have only been inspired by jazz.
Coming up as a young player on the late '80s and early '90s jazz scene in Portland Oregon, Collins caught what he considers to be the city's last wave of a golden age.
"Lots of jazz musicians had migrated there for the quality of life," he explains. "You could still learn to play just by hanging around the older musicians." Collins played some of his first sax gigs with Portland jazz mainstays Ron Steen and Mel Brown then went on to play with West Coast bassist Leroy Vinnegar and to record with hard bop drummer Dick Berk.

By 1993 Collins had established himself in New York, assembled a band and by the mid-'90s had recorded three instrumental jazz sax records, Uncommon Threads, Reality Tonic and Cross Culture. He recorded and toured with French pianist Jacky Terrason as well as the avant garde's Andrew Hill whom he'd met in his Portland days. "The cool thing about being in the East Village in the '90s was there were still a lot of artists living there and there was all kinds of music going on… jazz venues every couple of blocks."
During his time on New York's Lower East Side, Collins also immersed himself in the rhythmically charged world of Latin music. He spent the late '90s leading local sensations Mambo Macoco and played with Nuyorican percussionist Bobby Sanabria Y Ascension, touring Cuba and the Caribbean with them. "Learning about Afro-Cuban rhythms and their connection to American and New Orleans music has been key to what I'm doing now," says Collins.

In 1999 Collins felt the pull to change musical direction; he formed a new band and began to move beyond the boundaries of instrumental jazz. "I needed something more…I wanted to express myself more fully with words. I was into experimental jazz and had always liked words and poetry so at first I tried putting my poetry to music," he says, though he didn't actually sing a note until he was 30 years old. " At first, my idea was to write the songs and have someone else sing them, but then I decided to take singing lessons and get into it." Collins also kept up his sax and flute chops as a sideman while working out his own songs on piano. Ironically it was while playing a jazz gig that he was recommended for a spot with legendary rocker Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band.
"I knew the songs of Robert Johnson, Freddie King, B.B. King and the Allman Brothers because I grew up hearing them," he says. "My stepfather is a guitar player, he's African-American, and his record collection was heavy on the blues. Working with Gregg sent
me back in that blues and roots direction. It's also really informed my singing. I've learned a lot just from being onstage, night after night, standing next to that caliber of singer."
In 2004, the first album by the Jay Collins Band, Poem For Today (Hipbone Records) featured Collins on sax and vocals, Dred Scott on piano and Diego Voglino on drums and Moses Patrou on percussion and backing vocals. "I was still transitioning from instrumental jazz. The vocal influences are mostly Tom Waits, Ray Charles, Dr. John," says Collins. At the recording sessions, Collins met vocalist Amy Helm (Ollabelle); the pair married in 2007 and since then, Collins has gone on to play with Amy's dad, Levon Helm, as a member of Helm's Midnight Ramble (he also toured with English neo-soulman James Hunter).
Collins' latest recording, The Songird and the Pigeon, emphasizes diversity--an equal measure of roots music as well as Latin percussion--and a growing confidence in his singing and songwriting abilities. Recorded in Brooklyn at the Bunker Studios, the album once again features Dred Scott and Diego Voglino along with Tim Luntzel on bass and Moses Patrou on vocals. Guitarists Ed Cherry and Chris Bergson sit-in as does guitarist Scott Sharrad who came in for the recording and ended up staying with the band. Amy Helm is also on board for a vocal appearance on the gospel-tinted "Waltz for a Boy."
"We pared things down…it's a stronger, more unified record," says Collins. The Nawlins-grooved title song takes on spirituality versus religion while Collins also included what he calls some of his "stranger" pieces, like the beat-inspired "Financial Consultation, a poem set to an Afro-Cuban percussion section. "Shotgun Past" is a "murky, strange, John Lee Hooker kind of thing, with humor interjected." And there's the playful funk of "The Money Hole:" "That's the one where we really open it up," he says.
The album closes with the old time saloon sound of "My Dreams Came Back Last Night," delivered ju

Lyrics

Good Morning Grey

Written By: Jay Collins

Good morning grey I’ve seen you coming, and I’ve been wasting my time while the years going by keep me running.
And I don’t know how to say, I don’t want you to go away
this morning grey.
I’ve grown to love your smile,
come and sit with me awhile
this morning grey
and take my blank pages
and write down your story, your story, your story on me.
And tear down these cages that won’t let my love run with you and finally be free.
Good morning grey I’ve heard you arriving, and I’ve been running so long on a prayer and a song just surviving.
And I think that now’s the time, to make sure you’ll always be mine
this morning grey.
The rain is on it’s way, I can’t waste another day
this morning grey. So
take my blank pages and write down your story, your story, your story
on me and
tear down these cages that won’t let my love run with you and finally be free.
Hear these words I say, on this morning grey.
Time, like so much sand, slips right thru my hand.
(repeat)
so take my blank pages and write down your story, your story, your story on me and
tear down these cages that won’t let my love run with you and finally be free.
Good morning grey I’ve seen you coming, and I’ve been wasting my time while the years going by keep me running.

Discography

"The Songbird and the Pigeon"- Jay Collins and the Kings County Band (Sundown Recordings 2008)
"Poem for You Today" Jay Collins Band (Hipbone Records 2004)
"Cross Culture" Jay Collins (Loose Leaf 1998)
"Uncommon Threads" Jay Collins (Reservoir 1995)
As a side-musician:
"Fall Changes" Chris Bergson Band (2 Shirts Records 2007)
Jason Lindner Big Band "Live at Smalls" (Anzic Records 2007)
"Live at the Beacon Theatre" Allman Brothers Band (DVD Peach Records 2003)
"Quarteto Ache" Bobby Sanabria (Khaeon 2002)
"Live and In Clave" Bobby Sanabria (Arabesque 2000)
"What It Is" Jacky Terrasson (Blue Note 1999)
plus others...

Set List

A typical set is one hour, and is usually about 8 to 9 songs. The band does a few covers by Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Robert Johnson, The Meters, etc. but mostly plays originals and has enough material for 3 one-hour sets.