Phil Madeira Trio

Phil Madeira
Bryan Owings
Jesse Murphy

Phil Madeira is no stranger to the occasional left turn.

He started out as a drummer, mesmerized by everyone from Ringo to Levon to Joe Morello. Come again? Joe Morello, of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” fame.

He was a young man when the songwriting bug bit, he moved from the drum throne to the piano bench, channeling Randy Newman, Leon Russell, and Monk. Yeah, Monk.

Another left turn brought him to the guitar, which in turn brought him to the lap steel. His heroes were a mixed bag, once again- Clarence White, Jimi Hendrix, and John Scofield.

His professional start was playing keyboards with acclaimed Christian Music guitarist Phil Keaggy​. That, in turn, opened doors for him in the Nashville community when he moved there in the Eighties.

After writing a slew of songs for a number of top selling Christian artists, Madeira woke up one night at the Bluebird Cafe where he was listening to a local blues outfit called The Kingsnakes. “That’s when I remembered who I was before Christian music, and who I was before commerce was part of the equation. That night, I went home and pulled out my old National guitar and wrote two blues pieces- “Change Of Heart” and “Storm Rollin’ In”. I knew I was resetting my compass.

The left turn led to a long-term membership in Americana icon ​Buddy Miller’​s band, primarily playing Hammond organ and accordion, as well as singing harmonies. Miller, with his wife Julie, had also exited the gospel world, and found welcoming fans in the then fledgling Americana world.

Meanwhile, Phil’s songs were being recorded by artists like ​Keb’ Mo’, Bruce Hornsby, Garth Brooks, and Alison Krauss​, and he was playing multiple instruments on artists from many genres, from Edwin Hawkins to Vanessa Williams to Amy Grant.

The eclecticism came naturally, growing up in a minister’s home, with a pianist mother who listened to everything from Tchaikovsky to Mahalia Jackson. Madeira leaned toward the Mahalia side of his mother’s preferences, and what he brought to recording sessions was that soulfulness. Sometimes it helped him and sometimes it hurt him, because Nashville is not necessarily always about “soul”.

However, one soulful artist did pay attention when she started hearing Phil’s work, primarily with Buddy Miller, but also having heard his production work on albums like “Straight Down Rain” by the late Greg Trooper. That artist was ​Emmylou Harris​.

Madeira is now in his 11th year of playing in Harris’ band ​Red Dirt Boys​.

A long time member of that esteemed outfit and an oft utilized musician, producer, and songwriter in the now flourishing Americana Music scene, one would think Madeira might have run out of left turns. But while he still maintains his coveted chair as a multi instrumentalist in Emmylou’s band, he makes his own music out of sheer desire.

A gifted performer, Phil has quietly released several albums over the years, but 2018’s “Providence”​ has made a splash, garnering international praise and critical acclaim. The Nashville Scene proclaimed the record ​“some of the best — and funkiest — piano music to come out of Nashville in recent memory.” ​ With a nod to Dr. John, Randy Newman, and Mose Allison, Phil takes you home, literally and lyricall, to his childhood in Rhode Island. The record twists into the jazz territory that has captivated Madeira since his early days as a drummer listening to and trying to emulate Joe Morello and Mitch Mitchell. To top it off, his friend ​John Scofield​ cameos on one of the album’s funkier tracks, “Crescent Park”.

Summer of 2019, Madeira went into a Nashville studio with four of the most choice players in town and recorded his first instrumental record, “Crickets”, as in ​without a word​.

“The encouragement from the jazz community here has been remarkable”, says Phil. “I expected pushback, being a self-taught musician who can barely read a chord chart,” he modestly confesses. “It’s just slightly sophisticated blues,” he says, “Right out of the Fifties and Sixties playbook. I can hear bits and pieces of what turned me on as a kid- Ramsey Lewis and Herbie Hancock, and of course, Monk, whom I later discovered.”
Nashville’s revered ​Rahsaan Barber​, who plays saxophone in the quintet, recently wrote​, “Phil Madeira​ ​is just the breed of composer and pianist that we need more of in jazz. His playing is full of wit, humor and soul.”
“I’m not playing over anyone’s head”, comments Madeira. “I love challenging myself to grow musically, but I want to take the listener with me. I want the ride to be enjoyable.”

His Jazz debut album “Crickets” cheerfully debuted in April of 2019. A few days later, Madeira was inducted into the ​Rhode Island Music Hall Of Fame​. That accolade is just one of several prestigious awards he has been a part of: A​ Grammy in 2014 for his song “From This Valley” with the Civil Wars, a Dove in 2009 with Cindy Morgan for “Country Song Of The Year”, and ASCAP’s Humanitarian of the Year award in 1986.

This year at the Newport Jazz Festival, Phil Madeira will appear on piano and vocals, backed by longtime drummer ​Bryan Owings​ (Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin) and bassist ​Jesse Murphy​ currently with Brian Blade and Norah Jones Trio (John Scofield’s Überjam band, Meshell Ndegeocello, John Zorn).

Madeira is currently working on his next vocal record, and album of self-written love songs.

Production credits:
Emmylou Harris, John Scofield, The Wood Brothers, Buddy Miller, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, The North Mississippi Allstars, The Civil Wars, The Lone Bellow, Sam Bush, Bruce Cockburn, Steve Earle, Ollabelle, Teddy Thompson, and many more.

Musician credits:
Mavis Staples, John Scofield, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Lari White, The McCrary Sisters, Buddy Miller, LeeAnn Womack, The Wood Brothers, Vanessa Williams, Keb Mo, Taj Mahal, Amy Grant, and many more.

The Newport Jazz Festival® is a production of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, duly licensed.

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