Interviews

I, ROBOT: THE MF ROBOTS INTERVIEW....

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 22:14 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince last January the soul world has been treated to a series of classy singles (and their remixes) from a new band, MF ROBOTS. "New", however, isn't really the appropriate adjective. You see the duo that comprise MF Robots are seasoned soul veterans. In the blue corner we have JAN KINCAID. Soul collectors will know that Mr K was a founding member of the Brand New Heavies and was with the band for something like 25 years! In the red corner we have DAWN JOSEPH – session singer extraordinaire (credits include Phil Collins, Michael McDonald and Cee Lo Green amongst others), solo performer and from 2012 lead singer with the Heavies. In 2015, Jan and Dawn jumped ship and decided to go it on their own and now, almost three years down the line, they're all set to release that all important debut album. So what better time to dig a little deeper and find out more about Jan and Dawn's robotics? Meeting up, we began by asking how that big break decision came about.....

DAWN: Obviously working so closely with Jan for 3 years, we discovered we had a mutual passion for music and knew that we wanted to develop a new project outside the band but it was all about timing. It was a natural progression. The time was definitely right to move on.

JAN: Yes, I was increasingly feeling a bit restricted by the Heavies formula musically and the way the band was being run and was ready for a change. Working with Dawn was a breath of fresh air but the stuff we starting writing together even within the Heavies time was sounding like it needed a new platform and didn't really fit in that imprint...so we created a new one.

OK.... now what everyone wants to know.... why that name? Do you prefer MF ROBOTS or MUSIC FOR ROBOTS? We've heard both being used....

JAN: Either is fine with us. The name is a tongue in cheek dig at the state of the music business and its current tendency towards Generic sounding music and safe song writing style ...there's a lot of style over substance and a lot of mediocrity and little in the way of anything sounding edgy or trying to sound a little different...we plan our music to be anything but generic.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2018 22:37

 

PAINTING PICTURES; THE ROBIN MCKELLE INTERVIEW

Wednesday, 07 March 2018 20:23 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altBack in 2013 Rochester, NY-born singer ROBIN MCKELLE took the soul world by surprise with her still-lovely 'Soul Flower' album. Amongst the long player's 12 tracks was the mighty 'Fairytale Ending' and the heart- rending duet with a still relatively unknown Gregory Porter, 'Love's Work'. That album was a marked departure from Robin's previous jazz albums but after 'Soul Flower' she went on to consolidate her position as a real soul contender with the 'Heart Of Memphis' and 'Looking Glass' collections. Next month Ms McKelle releases a brand new set – 'Melodic Canvas' - and previews reveal another subtle shift in musical direction so we needed to know where that direction was leading. Catching up with Robin we first asked what she's been doing since the 2016 release of 'Looking Glass'......

Well, I took some time off from touring and really focused on writing and working on a new album ... that , of course, became 'Melodic Canvas'. I also had the opportunity to perform with a few other groups in some interesting projects. After performing the European leg of the Jazz 100 tour with pianist, Danilo Perez, I was inspired to reconnect with jazz. I didn't limit myself in the writing or in the creative process though.

So how did you get all organized for the new project? I mean sorting/writing the songs, finding the musicians and producer and hiring a studio.... A big job!

After 2 years since my last release, I knew it was definitely time to get back into the studio. I think it's most important, though, to take the process step by step. I didn't get overwhelmed about trying to do it all at once. I wrote the songs, and then I stepped away from them for a while to think about how I wanted the album to sound. Once I decided on the instrumentation to have more of an acoustic approach, I worked on the arrangements. I produced the record myself so I didn't have to look far for that! Finding the right musicians was really just a matter of knowing what kind of sound and style I was going for. I just looked for musicians who had a soulful approach to jazz.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 March 2018 20:38

 

Dreaming Without Pain - New Jersey singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins opens up to SJF

Sunday, 04 February 2018 09:55 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

  altNicole Atkins released 'Goodnight Rhonda Lee' last summer. The record is a submersion in sonically and soulfully constructed nostalgia with Atkins bringing soul and blues from the '60s and '70s, and making it her own. There’s no imitation but rather a reimagining of soul music through Atkins’ musical and personal filter.

Atkins takes the warm ambience that Carole King so effortlessly created in 'Tapestry' and brings it to ‘Colors’, spinning an atmosphere so perfect that it brings you to right back to sitting on the floor listening to vinyl on your parent’s old record player.

I met Nicole on the evening of her show at the Seabright Arms last November. With dark eyes, long eyelashes, and draped in a sequin top, Nicole was funny, engaging and honest about 'Goodnight Rhonda Lee.' The writing and recording process, the influence of Carole King, and the futility of trying to manufacture soulfulness. In Nicole’s words, “It doesn’t come from the dirt, it comes from your soul and your spirit.”

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 February 2018 19:00

 

LIVING THE DREAM - R&B SENSATION BETTE SMITH TALKS

Wednesday, 31 January 2018 08:08 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

         alt

Bette Smith is talking excitedly to me from Rome, Italy, where she's been shooting a promotional video for her next single, 'I Found Love.'  There's a palpable frisson of wonderment in her caramel-smooth voice as she describes going to visit one of the Eternal City's most famous historical sites, the Colosseum,  earlier in the day.  "It's such a mind blowing experience," she enthuses. "It was surreal to be inside of the Colosseum. There's so much history, so much architecture here." She adds with a self-deprecating chuckle: "This is a Brooklyn girl that has never been to Rome before so it's such a wonderful experience. I'm really getting deep into the tradition and culture."

Bette's Italian sojourn reflects the fact that she's opened a new chapter in her life. She had toiled as a receptionist for many years in her native Brooklyn while doing music as a sideline - but now, thanks to producer Jimbo Mathus, who discovered her, and Big Legal Mess Records, who signed her, being a professional singer - her childhood dream - is now the main focus of her life. "It's a very beautiful, Cinderella story," laughs Bette, reflecting on how her life has changed for the good in the last year. Bette admits that she almost gave up music but was persuaded to continue by her late older brother, Junior, who "got very sick with kidney failure" and on his deathbed "told me that I should not give up my childhood dream of becoming a singer."

Last Updated on Friday, 02 February 2018 11:09

 

Just what the Doctor ordered! A surgery with Hammond hero DR LONNIE SMITH

Friday, 26 January 2018 09:22 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

             altDr. Lonnie Smith remembers vividly that he experienced what can only be called a life-changing epiphany when he first sat down at a Hammond B3 organ. It was in a music shop owned by a man called Art Kubera. Smith was in his early twenties. "You know when you open up a Bible, and you see that they have a picture sometimes with the rays coming from the sky?," the organist asks me. "That's what it was like for me. I was sitting at the organ and then everything hit me, and I could hear the voices and everything."

 For Smith, it was confirmation that playing the Hammond organ was going to be his manifest destiny. He started going to Mr Kubera's shop everyday to practice on the keyboard from opening to closing time. The proprietor didn't seem to mind but one day, intrigued by Smith's perseverance, asked him about his fascination with the big, chunky piece of musical equipment in his shop. Recalls Dr. Smith: "He said, 'can I ask you a question, son?' I said 'yes, sir,' and he said, 'why do you come in every day and just sit until closing time?' I said 'well, sir, I want to learn to play the instrument and if I can go out and play it, I can make a living.'" Smith recalls that seemed to make a deep impression with Mr Kubera who a few days later, closed up the shop early, beckoned the young organ grinder to the back of the store where "he opened a door and the organ was looking dead at me. He said, 'if you get this out of here, it's yours.'"

Smith, who was born in the city of Lackawanna, New York,  was incredulous at Art Kubera's generosity. "I didn't pay anything for it, and they were like over three grand back then," he says. "I call Art Kubera my angel.  He watched my whole career. He just passed, a little over a year ago. We were doing a documentary on me and he died the next day before he even got to tell a story."

Last Updated on Friday, 26 January 2018 15:21

 

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