July marks seven years since the death of the raven-haired, beehive-wearing, soul maven Amy Winehouse. Only 27 years old at the time of her passing, she left behind an indelible musical legacy and a classic album, “Back to Black.”
On July 3, Charleston audiences can hear the full album reimagined with the backing of a 12-piece orchestra under the direction of storyteller, bandleader and soul revivalist Remember Jones.
The artist formerly known as Anthony D’Amato, a New Jersey native, first adopted the moniker in 2014 to distinguish himself from another emerging New Jersey musician who shared the same name.
“After a while, there was a lot of confusion, and I knew I could create a theatrical persona to separate myself from that. I kept saying I wanted a name people would remember and after a lot of brainstorming, and knowing this would be a throwback sound and style, I thought ‘How cool is Remember as a first name?’ ”
Jones was a natural addition, says Jones. It felt catching, like a "love jones," and offered a fitting homage to a long line of music royalty such as Quincy Jones and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.
Ironically, the word "remember" also has personal significance for Jones as it was the first word he remembers learning to spell as a child. But he also is very clear, that for him, to remember the work of artists including Winehouse or Joe Crocker and Jeff Buckley, whose albums “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” and “Grace” he has respectively interpreted, is not to simply cover their greatest hits.
At the “Back to Black” show, audiences can expect much more.
“This isn’t a tribute band ... but an exciting show band of skilled musicians who have been selling out venues throughout the country. I’ve been calling it a 'revival,' and want people to experience it as if it was the first time they’re hearing it ('Back to Black'). I can’t forget the first time I heard the album and how it made me feel. ... And that’s what I want to translate to audiences.”
A part of what drew Jones to Winehouse’s music was the way it connected people of all backgrounds and ages.
“That’s the best part about doing these shows: We see it everywhere and chat with people about how touched they were by the night.”
It's also a chance for audiences to hear the album, Jones says, in a way many did not get to hear during Winehouse’s life because of the singer’s well-documented struggles with drugs and alcohol, which often impaired her live performances.
Jones’ earliest experiences on stage were in musical theater, and you can see this flair for the dramatic and get a sense for his throwback, punk style in YouTube recordings of his performances as Remember Jones. Clad in black eyeliner, a white double-breasted vest, a checkered jacket and white rose boutineer, Jones commands the band and his backup singers channeling a circus ringleader a la "The Greatest Showman."
Neither is Remember Jones strictly a new take on old music. After many successful live shows, the band was able to crowdfund $20,000 to record their debut album of original music, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Remember Jones!” Since then, they’ve released an EP titled “Tranquilizer!” recorded at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville, Tennessee, which was produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Langhorne Slim).
Audiences should expect a high-energy show with an opening set of original music from an authentic throwback soul band, followed by the entire “Back to Black” album and other surprises, including "an amazing horn section, killer vocalists, Hammond organ, piano and high-energy musicians,” says Jones.