Interview: Professor Louie & Crowmatix

Woodstock, NY, veteran and The Band collaborator Aaron ‘Professor Louie’ Hurwitz & The Crowmatix band are set to release new recorded versions of songs co-written by Jules Shear and The Band members, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Stan Szelest & Jim Weider. These rare “Basement Tapes” were originally recorded in 1991 and the new versions are set to be released by Funzalo Records on October 27.

Jules Shear explained it was producer Rick Chertoff who first called him at his Woodstock home and told him to go cross town and pay a visit to The Band and offer his services as a songwriter. It was 1991, and the remaining members of The Band were trying to convince record labels that they could soldier on without Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel. Chertoff, a fan of The Band, commissioned a demo on behalf of Columbia Records and dispensed Shear to meet with them.

Longtime The Band cohort, creative aide, producer, engineer and fellow performer Aaron ‘Professor Louie’ Hurwitz was the man behind those original sessions, so it only makes sense he brings them back to life. The 50-year music veteran, who was part of The Band organization from 1985 to 2001, producing all three of their 90’s albums, (Jericho, High On The Hog and Jubilation) has now re-recorded a number of The Band/Shear collaborations with his longtime band The Crowmatix and has joined forces with Funzalo Records to release them.

With Professor Louie, vocals, piano, Hammond organ, accordion, The Crowmatix feature many of The Band collaborators and Woodstock legends, including bassist Frank Campbell (Levon Helm’s Woodstock Allstars Music Director,) drummer Gary Burke (Bob Dylan, The Band,) and guitarist John Platania (Van Morrison) and vocalist, percussionist Miss Marie (Rick Danko, The Band.)

We caught up with the Professor Louise as he talks about the re-recordings and more!

What brought about the re-recordings of The Lost Band Tracks?
Brad Hunt from The WNS Radio Group has worked Professor Louie & The Crowmatix music on radio for years. Brad mentioned to me that Mike Lembo from Funzalo Records who represented Jules Shear (composer) in 1991 was interested in re-recording the songs. Mike mentioned to me that he spoke to a few different acts and managers before we had our conversation. No one seemed very interested. When I spoke with Mike he realized that I was involved in the original recordings. I always believed in the songs and knew that Professor Louie & The Crowmatix could do a great job on recording new versions of the songs.

Can you tell us something about the album or recording sessions that’s not public knowledge…yet?
One thing that is very important that gets overlooked are the musical lines that Garth Hudson and I worked on for a long time on the original demos. Garth is like no other musician and is a large part of the reason The Band became one of the most influential artists in history. Luckily, I wrote down most of the lines and made notes of the keyboard instruments we used in 1991. Also, Jules Shear singing some leads with The Crowmatix on River of Honey.

How did you get connected with Funzalo Records?
After Mike and I spoke, he came up with a plan for recording and releasing The Lost Band Tracks on Funzalo/Woodstock Records..

How did The Crowmatix Band form.
It started around 1990. I joined a band in Woodstock by the name of The Crows. Right around that time, a lot of Crow bands came out, The Counting Crows, The Black Crows. I was working with “The Band” at the same time and Levon wanted to start playing some solo shows. We needed to come up with a name and since Levon and the guys had a group around 1963 called “Levon and The Hawks” we decided to keep with the bird theme – The Crow. We had some fun with a play on words using The Chromatic Scale but spelled it Crowmatix. The Crowmatix were the best Band in the area so I started utilizing The Crowmatix for demos for “The Band”. At the same time, I started playing shows with Rick Danko and he liked the Crowmatix so much that we started playing shows with him. When the drummer Randy Ciarlante of the original Crowmatix ended up joining “The Band”, Rick brought in Gary Burke to take the drum seat for The Crowmatix.
We have gone through some personnel changes over the years but it is now the strongest it has ever been with Gary Burke – Drums, John Platania – Guitar, Frank Campbell – Bass, Miss Marie – Vocals-Keys. To quote Bill Hurley from The Extended Play Sessions “Rock Royalty”

“Professor Louie” & The Crowmatix band is not your first go around, can you tell us a little bit about your history in the music business and your past projects.
I started playing in R& B, Blues and Rock Bands around Peekskill NY and NYC. Went on tour and got a good music performance education on the road. When I wasn’t on the road, I hung around the NYC recording studios. Atlantic Records in those days was accessible so I got some knowledge of recording hanging there.

I always wanted to experience first-hand where the great R& B & Blues acts were coming from. I was living in Brooklyn, NY at the time and a great Gospel group use to rehearse at an afterhours club around the corner of my loft on Monday nights. They were called “The Mighty Gospel Giants of Brooklyn”. I began working with them and I hit the road. They were well respected on The Gospel Circuit with three albums out on Mercury Records. I got a chance to hear the greatest of all Gospel Singers and musicians.

It always is hard for musicians to make a living. I was driving a cab in NYC and working assorted jobs when not playing and decided that I should start learning how to engineer in the studio as my day job. Since I was a keyboard player & technical, synthesizers were a natural for me to learn. I started getting calls to play synths at sessions. Once people found out I could also engineer and play keyboards, I started getting some good work on records and movie scores in the studios around NYC.

I became a known engineer and started working with great Producers, Tom Dowd, Eddie Kramer, and others so I got a firsthand education about producing. I was engineering and playing keyboards on a Livingston Taylor record in Woodstock with Artie Traum, when he introduced me to Garth Hudson and Levon Helm from “The Band”. At that time, they wanted to reform “The Band”. Artie recommend me to sign up with them. The relationship with “The Band” lasted from 1985 till they finally ended at the end of 1999 with Bassist Rick Danko passing.
I was fortunate enough to be qualified as engineer, producer and perform on most of their recordings for fifteen years including three major releases, solo recordings, movie & television projects. It was the best job I ever had. Along the way I got a chance to work with groups like Mercury Rev on their Gold Album’s, Commander Cody, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage and the great Irish director Alan Parker…to name a few.

Do you have any favorite songs from The Lost Band Tracks?
I must say I like them all. However, “Too Soon Gone” is a standout.

What was the first gig you ever attended?
I had been to clubs and small High School shows but the first major concert I saw was at The RKO 58th St in NYC. Murray The K use to have numerous acts on his shows so I got to see The Cream, The Who, Mitch Ryder, Wilson Pickett, The Blues Project, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles & more on same show.

If you could work with any new artist or band on a new song, who would it be and why?

I would like to work with a few of the new Rap artists to combine directions. I would like to work with them on a mix of more arranged and interesting music combined with Trap or Rap Beats. Work more on their gift for lyrics and get away from what they might think makes them sell and utilize their lyric and street talents.

What’s your dream tour line-up?
Professor Louie & The Crowmatix with the lineup we have now.
We do perform 50% shows with Horn Sections so I would like to have that more consistent. We have done shows with Orchestra & Choir and would like to be able to perform that way more frequently.

Where can our readers find your music and please share all your social platforms too.

Professor Louie & The Crowmatix are on all download sites. Amazon, iTunes etc.
Ask your local Record store for our music.