“My sister’s boyfriend was watching me and said, ‘You don’t need that guitar, you need to be playing drums,’ ” he said. “I got my first set when I was 14.”
Stagner drew inspiration from acts from across the musical spectrum. He listened to Herb Alpert and Johnny Cash as well as R&B and jazz acts. Later, he discovered British percussionist Roger Turner, who became a heavy influence on Stagner’s style of playing and he now embraces the improvisational form in the same way Palmer does.
Stagner spoke about fan of the duo in Great Britain who said, “You have a really different sound and approach to music, but you really know how to bring it to the people. The music is very accessible and not trapped in a museum or concert hall.”
Stradling the line between accessibility and unconventional musical experience is key to the duo’s performance goals.
“Here in Chattanooga, we wanted to make something happen where nothing ever happens,” Stagner said, recalling the original aim of the society. “People don’t realize it, but so much of what happens here in the arts scene has been impacted or indirectly influenced by us.”
Palmer is full of hope about music. As far as his own band goes, he said, “Given the current cultural climate of intolerance, our music serves as a model for global relations. Improvisation asks both creators and audience members to participate in and embrace the unknown—risk! The thing that really excites me is anyone that comes out to our shows wants to experience the celebration of improvisational music to diverse populations and people of all ages.
“We can take our music to anyone of any age because it’s mostly sounds, and not so much defined music. We want to take our music to all people.”
SRLS On the Road
Be sure to check out the Shaking Ray Levi duo’s performances when the chance arises. The band will be in town May 13 for a performance and drum workshop at Who-Fest in Coolidge Park and at the Barking Legs Theatre on June 5. Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule:
• Wayne White and the Shaking Ray Levis (includes a screening of “Abstractiony Jones”), April 27, Detroit.
• Shaking Ray Levis at Finster Fest, May 6, Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens, Summerville, Ga.
• Shaking Ray Levis at Who-Fest, May 13, Coolidge Park.
• Shaking Ray Levis and Evan Lipson, May 18, Philadelphia.
• Gino Robair, Thomas Lehn, John Butcher, June 5, Barking Legs Theatre.
Check out the entire SRLS schedule online at shakingray.com