Jazz, blues, funk and rock are no strangers to Nick Colionne, who likes to mix all four when he performs live. Colionne is the headliner for this year's Fall Into Jazz concert Friday, Sept. 16, at the Schwartz Center for the Arts. Colionne will not only play, he'll also mentor local students as well.
Nick Colionne doesn’t like to be pinned down to one genre. In one live performance, he can go from singing in his silky baritone to ripping a rock guitar riff before calming down into a blues number. The man doesn’t like to plan, so when audiences show up to the Schwartz Center Friday night, they should plan to be surprised.
“I’ve gone from playing a slow Wes Montgomery song to playing a Jimi Hendrix song,” he said. “I let the music take me. I don’t like to think; when I think I start messing up stuff.”
Q You’ve been recording solo since 1994. How has your sound evolved since then?
A That first record you’re trying to find your niche, and who you are. You’re just beginning to dip into finding your own identity. I started coming into my own when I was really confident in my sound. People would say, “You kind of sound like Wes Montgomery, you kind of sound like George Benson.” I wanted to sound like me.
When I got to my CD “Just Come on In” in 2003, I started to hear my own tone. I’ve played a lot of different types of music in my career. Why try to just put it all away and say I’m just going to sound like a jazz guy? No. I’m going to sound like everything I’ve ever played. This big whole bowl of stuff, it’s like a bowl of potpourri.
Q You’re known for your high-energy live shows. What can we expect?
A It’s reckless abandon — whatever comes out, that’s it. I was kind of setting things up with “No Limits,” that’s why I called it that. Wherever the music takes me, that’s where I’m going. I’m playing for everybody. Some people don’t like jazz, some people don’t like blues, so I’m trying to give everybody some taste of what they like.
Q Are we going to hear a lot from your latest, “Feel the Heat”?
A Yes, you’ll be hearing a few songs from “Feel the Heat,” and some from past projects. I’ll kind of mix it up a little bit, I’m trying to play some of the things that people are familiar with from my past projects and some things that they’ve never heard before. I like to come out of the gate blasting, so to speak. I like to push it right from the beginning.
Q You’ve been mentoring students for 16 years, and you’ll be doing two workshops here in Dover for students, too. Why is that so important to you?
A It’s something that’s kind of been with me all my life. I have friends who call me the Pied Piper because kids just follow me. I just love children, and I want them to have a better chance of being a professional musician than I had. There was nobody coming in my school mentoring nobody.
So the first school I mentored I just kind of happened into it. The principal came to me at a show and said they needed to raise money for a music program for her school. I said you don’t have to pay me, but I want to meet the kids. So I went to the school the day before and took some guitars and had a little assembly, and asked who played. My road manager and soundman, Chris, was one of the first ones who came up. He’s 24 now, he was 8 then, and he became one of my first students.
The next thing I knew I was there every Monday. They offered me a job as a music teacher but I said I don’t want it. I’ll come here to teach them but I want the kids to know that I don’t come here for a paycheck. I come here because I love them.
Whether a kid is going to be a professional musician or not, the arts are very important. It gives your mind some freedom, something that you can do or be into that is yours. It can give you a lot of peace of mind.