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Battling Tendonitis, Brion Tiptoes Back Into Performing
For almost 10 years, noted producer and musician Jon Brion hosted a weekly residency at the Los Angeles club Largo, where any number of guests would stop by and help augment his whimsical one-man-bandFor almost 10 years, noted producer and musician Jon Brion hosted a weekly residency at the Los Angeles club Largo, where any number of guests would stop by and help augment his whimsical one-man-band act. But after being diagnosed with acute tendonitis in his right hand this past spring, Brion abruptly put his Largo performances on hold, with no plans to resume performing anytime soon.
But Brion's appearance over the weekend Chicago's Intonation Music Festival (abetted by keyboardist Benmont Tench and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche), his first solo performance since April 7, showed the artist is well on the road to recovery.
"There are a lot of things I didn't do, and a lot of things that are very difficult," Brion told Billboard.com after his set. "Finger-picking, that sort of motion. There's a lot of subtlety I've developed over the past years of playing that was not in evidence today. A lot of types of keyboard playing. But I can play drums for a couple of minutes at a time, no problem, and I play with a pick the rest of the time. I can play really simple piano chords, really close together.
"But you never know [when the tendonitis might flare up], and that's why I'm taking it very seriously," says Brion. "I've done my regular gig in Los Angeles for almost 10 years. It was very annoying, because next month was going to be my 10 year anniversary and I was going to play straight through, but it was aborted just a few months before that."
In the meantime, Brion has kept busy as a producer, working with the likes of Fiona Apple, Kanye West and Chicago rapper Rhymefest.
"Oh my God, I love him!" says Brion of Rhymefest. "That guy is absolutely for real. Rhymefest and I have done some work together that might come out in a little while. Some of the stuff he samples -- [on one track] he samples basically all the most famous rock things in the world: the White Stripes, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, impossible things to get the license for, changing tempo every 30 seconds from one iconic rock band to the next."
"As for myself, I think for years, whatever assumptions people have had, I would like to think by now they realize I'm not really in any camp whatsoever," says Brion, who has worked with artists as diverse as Brad Mehldau and Aimee Mann. "I'm not going to spend my life trying to sound like Big Star. I can still put on those records, bawl my eyes out and have a very wonderful experience, but it's a form of music that a lot of people who are into it can be very fascistic about. I think what few fans I had I pissed off a long time ago!"