Hazy Ray: A Bluesy, Jazzy, Mess of Soul

Hazy Ray has been called “A bluesy, jazzy mess of soul,” “whiskey sex” and lead singer Josh Summey’s favorite, “garage jazz.” I’m grateful  someone described New Orleans/Texas based Hazy Ray’s music so I don’t have to. The numerous influences and styles that make up Hazy Ray’s unique sound make it challenging to describe them succinctly; but their work is unmistakable and easily distinguished from their plethora of influences.

The five members of Hazy Ray (Josh Summey: lead vocals/guitar, Patrick Michael Hays II: trombone/vocals, Mitch Curtis: double bass/vocals, Ryan Normohamed: lead guitar, and Willie McCullen: drums), were gigging in Houston recently and taking care of business with producer/engineer/manager Mike Tristan of Wire Road Studios. Fortunately, I caught their performance at Avant Garden in Houston, TX. Their energy on stage is  unconstrained; when Hazy Ray is in the house – it’s going to be funHazy Ray is currently on tour in Texas, Louisiana (where 3 members reside), Alabama and Nashville, TN. They make their way back to Texas frequently – if you missed them this time ’round, follow Hazy Ray for updates about concert tours, CD releases, and all things Hazy Ray.

I joined them (with producer/engineer/manager, Mike Tristan) the following morning at Wire Road Studios to lay down some some promotional tracks. An epic recording session of 18 songs in 4 hours: don’t try this at home kids, recommended for professionals only. Afterwards they sat down with me for an interview and later that same day – tore it up at Phoenicia in downtown Houston. Hazy Ray is on a mission I know they’ll accomplish: success. They’ve got the right mix of talent, business savvy, determination and my favorite quality: humor.

Patrick Michael Hays II, Mitch Curtis and executive assistant, Dario Scalco in the kitchen at Wire Road.

Check out Hazy Ray’s day at Wire Road Studios interview viddy. Credit to : Willie McCullen and Mike Tristan. Please note Willie’s (drums) skillful rhythms and I-am-the-click timing. My position in the control room didn’t allow for much visual focus on Willie, but he deserves recognition…he is solid. I have to specially acknowledge the bobbing head, with a beard reflected in the control room glass…that’s Mike Tristan, Hazy Rays‘ manager/producer/engineer. Mike’s an integral part of Hazy Ray, and a great example of why managers and artists should be friends first. Trust and support are reciprocal components of the artist/manager relationship and these guys give each other plenty of both…and it’s for real.

Ryan Noormohamed and Willie McCullen at Wire Road.
 Ryan Noormohamed gets a grip.

Mitch Curtis and Hazy Ray listen back in the control room at Wire Road.
Josh Summey
    Ryan Normohamed

    Top to bottom: Willie, Mitch, Ryan, Michael, Josh.
    Ok – I confess. I asked them to pose totem style…they were reluctant but in Hazy Ray fashion: they had fun with it!
    Mike Tristan (producer/engineer/manager).

    Interview Video and recording session with Hazy Ray at Wire Road Studios.
    You can browse Hazy Ray’s current release (produced by Mike Tristan) ‘Deep and Shallow’ here.
    Follow Hazy Ray’s tour schedule on their website.
    Follow Hazy Ray on Twitter
    Like and Follow Hazy Ray on Facebook
    Check out their SoundCloud
    Follow Mike Tristan on Twitter
    Drop some comments about Hazy Ray - would love to hear from some new fans!
    Hazy Ray’s Upcoming Shows:
    Friday, August 3rd - The Judge’s Vinegarroon BBQ (1805 Church Street, 7-10pm) – Nashville
    Saturday, August 4th - The Judge’s Vinegarroon BBQ (1805 Church Street, 8-10pm) - Nashville
    Monday, August 6th - Roosters BBQ (123 12th Ave N, 9-10pm) - Nashville
    *Writer’s Round with Joshua Ray from Hazy Ray
    Wednesday, August 8th - Taps (2117 Belcourt Ave, 8-8:45pm) - Nashville

    Houston Rapper, Wes Coas, Releases “Styles Davis”

    Recently I attended a listening party for Houston rapper Wes Coas at Music World Studio in Houston, TX. “Styles Davis” is his 4th solo album release and in my opinion, his best to date. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this album, I went to the party without any expectations. Even if my expectations were unusually high, I wouldn’t have been disappointed in this excellently produced EP with lush beats and an introspective view of Wes Coas‘ challenges, and triumphs. What a pleasure to participate – thanks Wes Coas.

    Houston has produced a myriad of rap artists. In the current decade Rolling Stone Magazine dubbed Houston the “Rap Capitol of the World.” In any ‘Capitol’ there are numerous like-minded folk, and Houston has certainly been guilty of creating too many artists (of all genres) that are indistinguishable from their peers. Not so with Wes Coas, “Styles Davis” release.While the word ‘fresh’ made be over-used today, there’s a good reason for it, there’s a lack of ‘fresh’ material out there and music lovers are constantly searching for something new…something that isn’t stale. “Styles Davis” is fresh…and lush. The beats in ‘If You Knew (the Agenda) are comprised of trumpets, french horns, strings, sitar, baritone sax, triangle and more. If that sounds interesting – take a listen because it is. This track takes me somewhere, the range and texture in the beats fully explores the musical space around Wes’ vocals producing a very effective contrast.

    Wes Coas shares the spotlight with vocalist Ju-Ju in the breezy “Celebrate” another favorite track of mine:

    Another excellently produced track is “Murderer.” Wes Coas‘ straight-forward no BS vocals are delivered against a background of stark, spaghetti-western guitar beats that expand throughout the piece to deliver a range of tone that underscores his hard-hitting message.

    I recommend a trip to Wes Coas website to check out the rest of “Styles Davis”. Let us know what you think, drop some comments – we want to hear from you.

    I can’t leave this blog without calling very special attention to Wes Coas’ manager O. Washington. ‘O’ is the consummate networker, marketer, nose to the grindstone kind of manager that gets things done. He’s also one of the few that get it right when it comes to social media (my expertise). He covers all the bases and he’s learned one one obvious trick that others continue to ignore (which is beyond my comprehension as a social networker): the simple concept of email! Wes Coas and other artists of FMG (Flycat Music Group) are always on my radar because O puts them there…in my inbox. I know every release, event, blog post,, etc. about every artist on the FMG label and I never have to search. FMG keeps me updated and that, my friends, is just one of the very important rules about ‘net’working: don’t make us search for you – you gotta come to us. O knows it, and gets it.

    You can hear/buy “Styles Davis” here.
    You can also find Wes Coas on FMG website
    And here
    And Facebook.

    Jen the Music Maven, Wes Coas, Cy Jackson, O. Washington at Music World Studio, Houston, TX

    You can catch Wes Coas and other FMG artists !LIVE! at the FMG Summer Jam in San Marcos, TX.

    Credits from the “Styles Davis” project go to:

    Executive Produced by G.Rose
    Assoc. Produced by O. Washington and G.Edison
    Production: 7th Letter , Bass Heavy, Epik, Flawless
    Additional Vocals: The Frontman, Bass Heavy, Sasha
    All songs recorded and mixed by Bass Heavy @ Mission Control Studios. Katy, TX
    Mastered by: www.SoundsRightMastering.com
    Artwork: 7th Letter
    A&R: International O
    Photography: El-Shamesh Photography


    op/rap houston t 

    Happy 4th of July to Firecracker Talents: Boyan Bo and Wandering Kotka

    Happy 4th of July Friends!

    I’m fittingly paying a heartfelt (unsolicited) tribute to a couple of artistic firecrackers I’ve had the great fortune to know and work with. Some people are life-changers; some are game-changers Wandering Kotka and Boyan Boiadjiev (aka Boyan Bo) are both. I think of them as the quintessential modern Renaissance couple. A typical conversation with them reveals their extensive knowledge of music, art, technology, business, cinema, world travel, philosophy, epicureanism, and politics; their delivery is uncompromisingly witty. They’re an enormously positive influence in my life; I’d be a different person today if I’d never met them.

    My first hint of Boyan’s genius was in a college music theory course we took together. Intensely curious, and knowledgeable about all genres of music (and I mean all), he unknowingly began to influence my musical path more than a decade ago – unraveling complex rhythms and compositions (chord progressions, scales, modes, etc.). He gave me a sophisticated comprehension of music on a level I was only beginning to appreciate when we met. He is one of the top 2 musical talents in my repertoire of friends that possesses stellar agility as  guitar virtuoso and composer.

    In the past 3 years Boyan earned his MA from Indiana University in Performing Arts Center Management, returned to Bulgaria, traveled extensively throughout Europe, applied his business acumen as a manager and coordinator for world music festivals and has returned to the states to do what I love most about him: make music! He’s just released his first full album “..Prime?”

    Boyan Bo..Prime?

    ..Prime is a wonderfully complex mix of world, pop and folk music. Folk music is ‘music of the folk’ and in Boyan’s compositions, ‘folk’ can run the gammit of Celtic, Spanish, and numerous other ethnicities. ..Prime? is a beautiful fusion of Boyan Bo’s extensive influences; striking familiar chords and journeying through new musical territory. it’s at once familiar and compelling. I have many memorable musical ‘moments’ – something stops me in my tracks and forces me to recognize the exquisiteness of music. Thank you Boyan Bo for giving me such an experience this week. I’d been working furiously to meet a deadline; I matched my music to my pace – after several hours of EDM to push me beyond my limit I was ready for a break. I left my office exhausted; eager to put the hectic day behind me. I settled into my car and turned the key, ..Prime? was in the CD player. My space was instantly and unexpectedly filled with grace. The stark switch from EDM to ..Prime? was startling , in the best way ..Prime? transformed me from weary worker to refreshed soul. I sat in my car, laid the seat back, turned it up and let the power of musical genius refresh me. I sat through several songs before I ever turned out of the parking lot. It was one of those ‘moments’ when music stopped me and forced me to appreciate it..I had no choice. I urge you to give ..Prime? the chance to drop your jaw and luxuriate in Boyan Bo’s talent.

    One more note (pun intended!) about Boyan Bo. His versatility includes powerhouse rock (as I like to call it) and heavy metal (jazz & classical, too). You can visit his Facebook page, Website, YouTube, or Blog and check out his “Heavy Metal Rhythm Series” instructional videos and notes.

    Check out Boyan Bo’s “Heavy Metal Rhythm Series”

    When Boyan Bo married Kotka my first thought was, “I hope she likes me!” I knew I’d be crazy about her – how could I not adore whoever Boyan Bo was marrying; she had to be extraordinary. I flew to Bloomington, IN to attend Lotus Fest with them; it was the first time Kotka and I met. They graciously met me at the gate, she gave me a big hug; immediately took my arm and welcomed  into the fold. It was like a scene from a movie…our meeting happened just the way I would have scripted it. Little did we know then that we’d be collaborating on future projects; she’s such an integral part of my ventures that I couldn’t imagine going forward without her.

    Kotka title is ‘free-lance illustrator and graphics designer’, but her own words describe her passions and abilities more appropriately:

    “The truth of it is that I enjoy making things, especially pretty things or things that make people smile! My tools of choice happen to be pen, paper, and Photoshop. Unfortunately “compulsive doodler, maker, and beautifier” doesn’t fit well on a business card, so “illustrator and graphic designer” it is!”

    Kotka’s imagination and creative energy can be experienced through a myriad of platforms in several places.  Kotka’s website details her design services and products which also includes CD art covers. Kotka’s Facebook includes 2 digital art books both of which I am a gigantic fan of. All sites offer a feast of original design…


    When I met Kotka and she showed me some of her artwork, I was duly impressed and never dreamed we’d be collaborating on projects together. When I started Jen the Music Maven, the first thing I wanted was a logo. I had a general concept but needed to see it played out artistically so I could envision the artistic side of the marketing campaign beyond just the logo. Kotka came to mind right away. I’m an artistic visionary but unfortunately, not an implementer; I can barely draw a stick figure. This is the drawing and notes I initially sent to Kotka about my idea for a Jen the Music Maven logo.

    Jen’s original notes for Jen the Music Maven logo

    Kotka’s interpretation of Jen the Music Maven!

    Do I really need to point out that Kotka is incredibly intuitive? I added a note to my original design that said I wanted the logo to reflect my personality so people could see that I incorporate fun into my work; she came up with the playful ‘Kick-Up Maven’ as we call her. What’s not to love?! She changed my original color ideas (thank the stars!) and created this striking palette. I knew I’d made the right decision when she showed me this and we’ve been collaborating on several projects ever since including social media campaigns, logos, websites, tee-shirt designs etc. for over a year now. Kotka is the rare person who combines  artistic abilities with exceptional inter-personal skills to create a joyful work environment for our projects. Opening her emails is like Christmas – don’t know what to expect but I know I’ll be delighted.

    I can’t leave this entry without calling special attention to two books she’s written that have created a unique and special bond between my and my granddaughter, Jeannie. I have an affinity for all cultures; I love learning about them, experiencing them, and incorporating them into daily thoughts and practices. It’s helped shape me as an individual to have a variety of experiences and ideas from which to choose to channel my world through. I was ecstatic when Jeannie showed interest in other cultures at an early age. How do I nourish this? My first encounter with different cultures came through books at a very early age – pictures, myths, fairy tales and fables from around the world were daily reading fare in our home. While the internet is an great source of information, Jeannie needed to be exposed on a more intimate level, holding a book in her hands, running her fingers across photos, taking the book to bed with her, sitting in my lap while I read and explain to her. I needed books! At the same time I came upon these realizations Kotka finished her first book: Girls of the World (available in beautiful paperback at Lulu.com). It teaches youngsters the letters of the alphabet by showcasing a different girl dressed in native costume to the corresponding country representing that letter. Pictured on cover is “R” for Russia.

    Jeannie was so enthusiastic about this book and rightfully so. Each girl’s costume was painstakingly research for accuracy and gorgeously detailed in vibrant eye-catching colors that race to the hearts of little girls. So when Kotka published “Divine Dames” (also available at Lulu.com) I was thrilled. Another alphabet book that explores goddesses and divine female entities from around the world. Each entry comes with a detailed, memorable explanation of the female that represents each letter. Finally – I had the perfect way to relay to Jeannie not only the visual differences in cultures, but their beliefs and myths, exposing her to a broader way of thinking at a very early age.

    Featured on the cover of Divine Dames is Durga, a Hindu warrior goddess that represents the power of divine, fierce compassion. The book includes more explanation of Durga and examples of her famous combination of humor and ferocity.

    Divine Dames impacted Jeannie – she wanted to know more, she made me read every word of the book including the bibliography – I’m not kidding. She started to see herself as a goddess, (as opposed to a ‘princess’ in the modern ‘spoiled’ sense) a female who is brave, courageous, compassionate and exemplary. For the next several days when we ran across any differences I’d ask her: Do you think a goddess would eat her carrots if she knew it would be good for her? Or, “A goddess might be brave enough to get her head wet in the pool”. I could see the light bulbs firing as she changed what she ‘could’ do from what she was comfortable with and frightened of. Jeannie and I are indebted to Kotka for envisioning such a powerful book. It has my highest recommendation. I wish all little girls could begin to own their strengths and influence at a very early age.

    I’m so thankful to have been a part of Boyan Bo and Kotka’s life thus far and I’m looking forward to accompanying them upward and onward for the rest of their journey. I hope you’ll come along. You can follow their creative output here:

    Boyan Bo Website

    Boyan Bo Facebook

    Boyan Bo Twitter

    Boyan Bo YouTube

    Boyan Bo Blog

    Wandering Kotka’s Website

    Wandering Kotka’s Facebook

    Please comment and let readers know your thoughts about this dynamic duo!