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Loyola University New Orleans Faculty and Alumni Celebrate Big Win at 59th Annual Grammy Awards

Loyola press release - February 13, 2017

Loyola College of Music and Fine Arts faculty celebrate a Grammy win this week after Bobby Rush’s Blues album Porcupine Meat won the “Best Traditional Blues Album” award at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, held Sunday, Feb. 12 in Los Angeles. Top music stars were in attendance at the annual awards ceremony, which recognizes the year’s best recordings, compositions and artists.

Porcupine Meat was produced Loyola’s own Production of Recorded Music Instructor Scott Billington. Assistant Professor of Music Industry Technology Jeff Albert wrote arrangements for the horn section and played trombone alongside Popular and Commercial Music Instructor David Torkanowsky, who played keyboards on the album.

Bobby Rush is known as “The King of the Chitlin’ Circuit,” and at 83, he’s considered one of the great blues and R&B entertainers of all time, still performing 200 shows each year. He remains one of the major creative forces in Blues music.

Porcupine Meat won Best Traditional Blues Album amid steep competition. Also nominated for in the Traditional Blues category were the following albums:

  • Can’t Shake the Feeling — Lurrie Bell
  • Live at the Greek Theatre — Joe Bonamassa
  • Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II) — Luther Dickinson
  • The Soul of Jimmie Rodgers — Vasti Jackson

“Needless to say, I am thrilled. I’ve known Bobby Rush for some 25 years, and we had always talked about making a record together and it finally happened,” Billington said. “I think the album represents the very best that the New Orleans music community has to offer in terms of getting behind an artist.”

“I am so happy for Bobby Rush, who is a great human and has put a lifetime into this music. It is always an honor to get to work with great artists and musicians, but Bobby and Scott made it fun,” Albert said. “I have long been an admirer of Scott Billington’s work, so when I had a chance to co-teach a class with him, I jumped on it. That class turned into working together on this record. What a joy.”

Loyola University New Orleans is a Catholic, Jesuit university located in the heart of the picturesque Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. For more than 100 years, Loyola has helped shape the lives of its students, as well as the history of the city and the world, through educating men and women in the Jesuit traditions of academic excellence and service to others. Loyola’s more than 40,000 graduates serve as catalysts for change in their communities as they exemplify the comprehensive, values-laden education received at Loyola.

Located within Loyola’s College of Music and Fine Arts, Loyola’s acclaimed School of Music is a conservatory in which professional musicians are trained in a rich academic environment, and where students can roam the halls and converse with Grammy Award winners and internationally renowned musicians.

About Scott Billington:

With over 100 albums to his credit, among them two Grammy winners, 12 Grammy nominees, and many other award winners, record producer Scott Billington balances a broad musical background with a knack for bringing out the best in the artists with whom he works. Billington makes records which are renowned not only for their production values, but for their soulfulness, a quality that extends to his work as half of the remix duo Tangle Eye. He has also been active in the music industry as a writer, multi-media author, educator, graphic designer, and musician.

Along with recordings by such legendary American musicians as Ruth Brown, Charlie Rich, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Boozoo Chavis, Irma Thomas and Johnny Adams, Billington was involved in the introduction of such roots music innovators as Buckwheat Zydeco, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Beau Jocque. For Rounder Records, he created the label’s highly regarded Modern New Orleans Masters series. Newsweek called the series “the best possible introduction to the deep, rich world of pop music made in New Orleans.”

In other parts of the world, Billington’s talents have been tapped by the Holmes Brothers, soul singer Solomon Burke, singer/songwriter Bill Morrissey, Boston’s Klezmer Conservatory Band, and Germany’s Blues Company. In the course of his career, he has worked in the recording studio with such renowned musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Elvis Costello, Danny Gatton, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Van Morrison, Scott Hamilton and Donald Byrd.

The body of Scott’s work is characterized by a respect for tradition, but with a forward-looking vision that often inspires his artists to achieve the same. His roots-oriented records make full use of contemporary technologies and ideas, especially on remix projects such as the Tangle Eye album, Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey Remixed. Yet, his work is ultimately about the pursuit of emotion, spontaneity and engaged musicianship. “I like to create situations where the music actually happens, and to capture that,” says Billington. “There’s an emphasis on pre-production — finding songs, working on musical arrangements and hiring the right players — but I leave room for accidents. I try to make records that surprise and move people”

As a writer, Billington’s work has appeared in the Oxford American, Gambit, the Boston Globe and numerous other publications. He has lectured at Harvard University, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Loyola University (where he is an adjunct professor), and at several Grammy in the Schools events. He is the author of Allons en Louisiane, an interactive CD-ROM.

Billington has worked for Rounder Records for over 40 years, currently serving as Vice President of A&R. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, the children’s musician Johnette Downing, with whom he performs regularly.

About Jeff Albert:

Jeff Albert is a musician, music technologist, and educator. He is an Assistant Professor of Music Industry Technology at Loyola University New Orleans, and in May of 2013, he became the first graduate of the doctoral program in Experimental Music and Digital Media at Louisiana State University, where his teachers included acclaimed musicians Stephen David Beck and Jesse Allison. Albert also holds degrees from Loyola University – New Orleans, and the University of New Orleans, and has served on the faculty of Xavier University of Louisiana and the University of New Orleans. His areas of research include the intersections of improvisation and technology, performance paradigms for live computer music, and audio pedagogy.

Albert was named a Rising Star Trombonist in the Downbeat Critics Polls each year from 2011-2016, and performs regularly in the New Orleans area, and throughout the US and Europe. In 2013, the Paris based record label Rogue Art released his CD, The Tree on the Mound, which features Kidd Jordan, Hamid Drake and Joshua Abrams. In addition to leading the Jeff Albert Quartet, Albert is a member of Hamid Drake’s Bindu-Reggaeology band, and co-led the Lucky 7s with fellow trombonist Jeb Bishop. Albert has performed with many great improvisers, including Georg Graewe, Tobias Delius, Dave Rempis, Jeff Parker and many others. He has been a member of the bands of New Orleans greats George Porter and Wardell Querzergue, backed artists like Stevie Wonder and Bonnie Raitt, and performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and the New Orleans Opera.

Albert has given presentations at the conferences of the Society for ElectroAcoustic Music in the United States, the Symposium for Laptop Ensembles and Orchestras, the International Society for Improvised Music, the Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium, and the inaugural Symposium on Integrated Composition Improvisation and Technology. His article “Improvisation as Tool and Intention: Organizational Approaches in Laptop Orchestras and Their Effect on Personal Musical Practices” was published December of 2012 in Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation.

Albert was the founder and chief instigator of the Open Ears Music Series which ran from 2007-2016, a board member of the non-profit New Orleans International Sound Exchange, and writes the blog Scratch My Brain.

About David Torkanowsky:

As a piano player and band leader, David Torkanowsky is equally comfortable pushing the edges of jazz, funk, blues, and rhythm and blues. Aside from his solo projects, Torkanowsky has collaborated with so many musical legends—Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Danny Barker, Earl Turbington, Tony Dagradi, George Porter Jr., Zigaboo Modeliste, Dianne Reeves, and Error Garner, among them—that he now enjoys his own legendary patina.

Torkanowsky’s five-decade musical career began before he was born. His father was a maestro of the New Orleans Symphony for more than a decade, and his mother—a flamenco dancer—performed in Spain with the great Carmen Amaya.

Torkanowsky eschews being called a “pianist.” That word, he says, pertains more to people who can handle Chopin and Liszt. But he has made his own imprint on jazz as a piano player, beginning well before his training at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Torkanowsky says Berklee taught him a lot. But, he says, the real masters who schooled him in the art of performance were home-grown right here in New Orleans.