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Artist Spotlight: The Soul of John Black

The Soul of John Black should be a familiar name for many Santa Monica residents. After all, the band helmed by John “JB” Bigham has been a regular fixture on the Temple Bar calendar since the band’s inception in the late 1990s. On September 29, though, the Soul of John Black will be taking a decidedly different turn from its usual late-night shows in a red-lit nightclub. This time around, Westsiders can catch Bigham solo and acoustic at the Skirball Center for his Saturday afternoon performance.

For Bigham, the gig should be a welcome change.

“It’s a transition mode for me right now,” says Bigham of the musician’s life. After the release of his sophomore album, The Good Girl Blues, the Soul of John Black hit the road as a trio, spending three months covering American terrain. “It’s the first time I’ve done so much playing in my band, being out on the road, so I need a little recovery time.”

Bigham, though, is no novice. A veteran of both rock and jazz, his résumé is as extensive as it is varied. Bigham spent an eight-year period stretching from the late-1980s throughout most of the 1990s playing with the LA-based ska-funk-punk band Fishbone. He also played percussion and wrote songs for Miles Davis, a collaboration he says came about after Davis heard some of his music through mutual friends and Bigham received a call from “the big house.” In addition, he has worked extensively as a touring and session musician for a strangely eclectic group of musicians, including Eminem, Nikka Costa, and Bruce Hornsby.

“My whole musical vocabulary is based on the other people I have worked with,” says Bigham. “Everybody has their own record collection, which they are dying to play for you.”

Additionally, Bigham says that his time playing in support of other artists has helped him write and record his own music.

“You find out more about the things that you have in common, and you get a lot of information about how to make a record, just by being around other people who do it,” he says of this experience. “Everyone has their own method and it’s fun to be a part of that.”

He then adds, “I wouldn’t know how to do this any other way.”

Although Bigham still has a few upcoming engagements to support The Good Girl Blues, he is currently working on a third album. The musician claims that he just likes to get an “early start” on such endeavors and that the album will not be ready for release until 2008.

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