Interview: Mars Williams - A Liquid Soul 20th Anniversary Concert Preview (Sunday, 1.20.13 at Double Door)

Interview: Mars Williams - A Liquid Soul 20th Anniversary Concert Preview (Sunday, 1.20.13 at Double Door)

What began over twenty years ago comes full circle this weekend as Liquid Soul prepares for a twentieth anniversary party, fittingly enough, Sunday night at Double Door.  Founder and musical director Mars Williams checked in this week with his thoughts on the anniversary as well as news on the possibility of new Liquid Soul music and the chances of resurrecting the band’s fabled Sunday night residency series… 

In the mid-nineties, Elbo Room was the place to be as “beyond acid-jazz” ensemble Liquid Soul began a Sunday night residency series that would eventually grow to cover a nearly ten year span in a Grammy nominated career that continues now more than twenty years later.

“When Jesse De La Pena, Tommy Klein and I first came together, we were experimenting with playing jazz standards over beats Jesse would lay down, and just improvising over those beats. Adding Ricky Showalter on bass and Dan Leali on drums, we had a working group.” says ensemble leader and saxophone player Mars Williams of the band’s initial development on those early Sunday nights.

The steadiness of the early gigs allowed the band to test out new lineups and experiment with sound.  “The Sunday night residency gave us the opportunity to continue exploring and layering different styles. Through different musicians sitting in, we found certain guys who really complemented our style, so we added them to the band: Ron Haynes (trumpet), John Janowiak (trombone), Frankie Hill and Dirty MF (vocals)” explains Williams.

Sunday nights signal the end of the weekend and as such, aren’t exactly the most popular night to be checking out live music.  But in the early to mid-nineties, Liquid Soul changed that.   What started at Elbo Room in 1993 playing to small Sunday night crowds in the club’s dreary, basement music room started to generate a buzz and eventually Elbo Room (and later Double Door) became the place to be for a lively Sunday night party focused on music in an atmosphere where members of the Chicago Bulls became regular fixtures and concertgoers genuinely never knew what to expect.

As myriad band members came and went over the course of twenty years, each one adding something unique to the band’s always evolving stew, the band developed a unique sound steeped in what, at times, seemed to be just about everything:  jazz, blues, rock, funk, hip-hop, R&B and dance.

Liquid Soul live in 2012 (Photo by Tim Ellis - French Quarter Photography)

Photo by Tim Ellis – French Quarter Photography

Somehow, the train never left the tracks and the band earned their first Grammy nomination following the release of Here’s the Deal in 2000.  “Without someone in that role to steer the music in a certain direction, and that has the respect and trust from the other musicians, yes, it could have spiraled out of control.” Williams concurs.

Liquid Soul released their last studio album One-Two Punch in 2006.  And as the band surpasses twenty years, exciting developments lie ahead for fans of the outfit in what looks to be a very busy 2013 and beyond for Liquid Soul.  “A new record is definitely in the near future… Jesse and I just talked about releasing a remix version of the first Liquid Soul CD.  Plus, I’m compiling a lot of live archived recordings from the Sunday night shows at Elbo Room and Double Door…  I also plan to record a live record and a record of freestyle jams.”

Williams also hints that the anniversary shenanigans expected this Sunday night at Double Door could be the beginning of more.  “’I’m also in the process of finding a venue for Liquid Soul to do another residency. Residencies give us the opportunity to hash out and try new ideas. We plan to start in April with playing the first Sunday of every month at the Abbey Pub.”

Rare is the band that can look back, never exploiting the past, while looking wholly into the future.  Liquid Soul has managed that, continually refining a sound over the course of an impressive career that’s never sounded stale, remaining all the while a band incapable of being pigeonholed.

“What I wanted was an outlet to play and collaborate with great musicians in a FUN musical environment, encompassing and fusing all the styles of music I love to play, with a focus on groove. I think we achieved that! All the success was an added bonus.”


Liquid Soul – 20th Anniversary Show

(Featuring all original members)


Live at Double Door

1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Chicago, IL 60622


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Doors open at 8PM

Show starts at 9PM

General Admission = $10

VIP Seating = $20 SOLD OUT


Click HERE to purchase tickets


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