Jo Gore and The Alternative to perform
Vocalist Jo Gore grew up in Columbus County, N.C., where she sang at Spring Hill Baptist Church, absorbing the gospel tradition. She also traces her musical roots to the now-defunct Know Bookstore, where on Friday nights musicians could sit in with a house band and sing and play jazz, blues, and related styles.
Gore began singing at The Know when she was a student at UNC. She had been singing with pianist Bobby Hinton, and “everyone kept telling me that’s where I should go if I wanted to sing,” Gore said. “I wanted to do a lot of blues, and I really needed to find my own band, because I really wanted to do everything,” in different musical styles. At The Know Bookstore, she met many of the musicians who became Jo Gore and the Alternative. “I was really grateful for that experience,” Gore said.
Jo Gore and her band have been performing at different local venues since those days and will perform Friday in Durham Central Park at the first concert of the annual Warehouse Blues Series.
Members of the Alternative are Bakru Hansel (drums), Weldon Kollock (trombone), Bo Lankenau (acoustic guitar, harmonica and songwriter), Kip Perry (bass), Tim McElroy (percussion) and Chip Newton (electric guitar). She met all of the band members through her performances at The Know, or through someone who had played at the venue. She first met the drummer and trombone player at the bookstore. She calls trombonist Kollock “the don. He’s just amazing,” Gore said of Kollock, who played at the venue when pianist Yusuf Salim led the sessions. “We do lots of different styles of music, and even though he’s the most incredible jazz musician I know, he also plays other styles. He’s exceptional.”
Lankenau writes the original songs that Gore performs. She met him at a house concert about five years ago. “Someone introduced me to his music, and I said, I want to meet this guy,” she said. Songwriting and arranging is a collaborative effort. Most of the lyrics are hers, and sometimes she might create a different melody. Lankenau “gives me the freedom to interpret the song as I like,” he said.
Gore considers Sarah Vaughan her chief vocal influence, but she and the Alternative perform pop, gospel, blues and other styles in addition to jazz. Her cover songs include arrangements of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love,” and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” Originals are “It’s Not Like That,” “Card Dealer” and “Last Letter Home,” that latter a poignant song about those who serve in the military.
In Columbus County, her father, A.K. Gore, was the church pianist, and her traditional gospel background is still part of her music, she said. Gore attributes a lot of her stage presence to her grandparents. “My grandfather was a pastor, and my father was a deacon. … Seeing them deliver a message in a way that resonated with their audience definitely helped me with my stage presence,” Gore said. “I hold the microphone the way my grandfather holds the microphone when he preaches,” and she sings a lot like her grandmother.
In September, the band released its second recording, “The Herstory of Josephine Gore/Return of the Articulate Kinsman, Vol. 1.” She and the Alternative are working on some new original material. “I want to go back home and get some recordings of my grandparents,” she said. “I want to do more storytelling … about growing up in the rural South and being a person of color, growing up country in the ’80s and ’90s,” Gore said. “I already have some great ideas. I’m looking forward to getting that project going.”
Go and Do
WHAT: Jo Gore and the Alternative at the Warehouse Blues Series
WHEN: Friday, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Durham Central Park, 501 Foster St.