Interviews

Getting Hi in Memphis - THE ROBERT CRAY INTERVIEW

Wednesday, 19 April 2017 08:40 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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At 62, ROBERT CRAY is now deemed a veteran of blues music, though it doesn't seem that long ago since he was a fresh-faced young man being touted as a rising star of the genre. But time, as it usually does, can plays tricks on the mind - in fact, 34 years have passed since the Georgia-born singer/songwriter/guitarist broke into the big time with his charting second LP, 'Bad Influence.' That was in 1983 and since then, the affable, quietly-spoken, musician  who is seen as a direct lineal descendent of legendary blues figures like Muddy Waters and Albert Collins has been steadily and quietly accruing a huge fan base around the world with his dynamic live performances. In that time he's recorded over twenty albums and worked with the likes of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker, Keith Richards, and Chuck Berry. While not a household name, perhaps, Cray has been much-feted by the music industry - to date, his work has garnered five Grammy awards - and in addition, his services to blues music were honoured in 2011 when he was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame.   

Cray has a nine-date UK tour lined up which begins later this month (and goes through until May 2017) and also releases his 22nd long player, 'Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm,' at the end of April. Helmed by the singer/guitarist's old sparring partner, producer/drummer, Steve Jordan, the 11-track set pays homage to Willie Mitchell's influential Memphis-based record label, Hi Records, which was responsible for putting soul singers Al Green and Ann Peebles on the map.

The Georgia blues maven made the record in Mitchell's hallowed Royal Studios in Memphis working alongside some of the venerable musicians that had played  on Mitchell's Hi sessions - namely, organist, the Reverend Charles Hodges, bassist Leroy 'Flick' Hodges, and keyboardist, Archie 'Hubbie' Turner. Cray blends fresh original songs - exemplified by the excellent 'You Had A Heart' - with a couple of songs apiece by Mac Rice (the writer of 'Mustang Sally') and Tony Joe White plus a sultry Memphis-style remake of Bill Withers' 'The Same Love That Made Me Laugh.' It's a soulful collection of powerful performances that like Cray's previous studio offering, 'In My Soul,'  dissolves the divide between blues and R&B music.

In an exclusive interview with SJF, ROBERT CRAY talks to Charles Waring about his upcoming tour, new album and other aspects of his long career...    

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 April 2017 11:30

 

SNARKY PUPPY'S MICHAEL LEAGUE TALKS TO SJF

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 13:10 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

altUndoubtedly, one of the most exciting bands in jazz right now is SNARKY PUPPY, who are due to make their second appearance at Cheltenham's Jazz Festival on Sunday 30th April.

Since 2003, this large, triple-Grammy-winning aggregation have been turning heads and turning-on ears with their unique mélange of jazz, soul, fusion, rock and funk flavours. They scored their first Grammy award in 2013 in tandem with singer Lalah Hathaway for their version of Brenda Russell's 'Something,' one of the highlights from their album 'Family Dinner Vol. 1.'  In 2016, 'Sylva,' their LP collaboration with Holland's Metropole Orkest, scored another Grammy while their most recent album, last year's 'Culcha Vulcha' picked up a Grammy award earlier in 2017 for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.  

Outside of Snarky Puppy, charter member, bassist/composer MICHAEL LEAGUE, has been busy in the studio as both a collaborator and producer (most recently he's worked with song siren Becca Stevens) while keyboardists Cory Henry and Bill Laurance have impressed with their own solo projects for the group's GroundUP Music imprint.

Ahead of Snarky Puppy's eagerly-anticipated Cheltenham concert, Michael League talked at length about the group to SJF's Charles Waring...

 

Last Updated on Monday, 17 April 2017 11:43

 

Q&A with triple Grammy winner, jazz drummer TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON

Monday, 10 April 2017 19:29 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

altIt's a sad and sobering fact, perhaps - especially in an era when feminism is a potent social and political force and equal opportunities are encouraged - but the world of jazz remains a musical landscape mostly populated with men. There have been plenty of noted female singers, of course, throughout the idiom's history but women instrumentalists have been much thinner on the ground. Even in these supposedly enlightened times, gender barriers still exist and it's still hard for women to make their presence felt in an environment that has traditionally been an all-male preserve.

But there are some women currently making big waves in jazz - Grammy-winning composer and orchestrator, Maria Schneider, immediately comes to mind, as well as the Japanese pianist Hiromi. Even more of a rarity are female drummers but another Grammy-winner, sticks maven, TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON, has been successfully plying her trade for over thirty years now.

As such, she's a unique figure in jazz - a pioneer, even - and certainly is an exemplary role model for aspiring female jazz musicians to be inspired by and emulate. Interestingly, the Boston, Massachusetts-born musician - she's a composer and producer as well as a drummer - is due to fly in to Britain's second city, Birmingham, for a concert on Sunday 21st May at its prestigious Town Hall venue. Terri Lyne will be bringing her own band and focusing on material from her most recent album, 2015's Grammy-grabbing 'The Mosaic Project: Love & Soul.'

For those wishing to get an insight into her playing, she will also be holding a drum master class-cum-workshop for local students and musicians the next day, Monday 22nd May. Both promise to be illuminating, must-see, events and have been curated by Birmingham's Jazzlines organisation as part of its 'Women In Jazz' project, which was initiated in 2014 to aid and encourage female musicians to get into jazz.

SJF's Charles Waring recently spoke to TERRI LYNE, who reflects deeply on her life as a woman in jazz and shares her thoughts about some of the experiences, challenges and judgements that she has faced ...

Last Updated on Monday, 17 April 2017 11:41

 

SOUL ON THE RUN: The Tanika Charles Interview

Saturday, 18 March 2017 10:00 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altLast year the soul community got to know about Toronto-based soul singer TANIKA CHARLES via a lovely ear-worm of a tune, 'Endless Chain'. Investigation revealed that the cut came from her album 'Soul Run' – issued on her own label. Well now that album has been picked up by European label Record Kicks and, hopefully, a wider audience can get to know 'Endless Chain' in particular and Ms Charles' talent in general! With Tanika on the threshold of greater recognition we felt it was time that we found out more. Meeting up, we started by wanting to know about her back ground and how she got into the crazy world of soul.....

I was born in Toronto and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. Growing up, we listened to a lot of music but JAZZ (my father's favourite) was at the forefront. Spyro Gyra, Bob James, George Benson, George Duke, those were my initial influences. Then later Earth, Wind and Fire, The Gap Band, Zapp and eventually transitioning to more current hip-hop and R&B. I used to love singing Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Well, mostly harmonizing ... those two are vocal BEASTS! Patti Labelle and Millie Jackson are my absolute heroes though. Millie with her raw and crass lyrics, Patti with her insane range and ability to maintain on stage when everything falls apart! This may sound cliché but music has the incredible ability to reach and touch us in so many ways. I truly enjoy SINGING - A career in singing was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to be a comedian or an actress!

OK, so when did you change your mind and decide to make a career from music?

I was living on a farm in Edmonton (long story) and watching a TV show about this band named Bedouin Soundclash. For some reason, I couldn't take my eyes off the television. I was just sitting there, while making and BURNING dinner, determined to meet them. I wasn't certain how, but something told me I'd be working with them. A couple months later, a girlfriend of mine called me from Toronto and said that Bedouin were holding auditions to sing BV's and I should fly down to try out. So, I did. And got the job. Decided to use that time to hone in on my skills and get comfortable on stage. Once we were off tour, it was on!

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 March 2017 10:21

 

HE DOES IT RIGHT - THE WILKO JOHNSON INTERVIEW

Thursday, 23 February 2017 13:35 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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With his po-faced demeanour, intense manic stare, Pyrex bowl haircut, and black-suited undertaker look, Wilko Johnson certainly caught the eye in the mid-1970s as the charismatic guitarist in the legendary Canvey Island R&B quartet, Dr. Feelgood. He was one scary-looking dude - perhaps that's why he was cast in the role of a mute executioner, Ser Ilyn Pane, in the hit TV series Game Of Thrones. But the way that he charged back-and-forth across the stage when he was in Dr. Feelgood wielding his guitar like a machine gun while firing off shard-like R&B riffs with deft, karate-like chops to the strings added to his mystique. He was sensationally fired from Dr Feelgood in '77 and co-founded Solid Senders - a short-lived, one-album outfit - before playing with Ian Dury's Blockheads. He then formed the Wilko Johnson Band, which recorded its first LP, 'Ice On The Motorway,' way back in 1981, and, amazingly and against the odds, the group is still going strong today in 2017.

The first thing that strikes you about Wilko Johnson is that he laughs a lot. Perhaps that's because he can't believe his luck - after all he's had the biggest reprieve of all and famously eluded the Grim Reaper's scythe when many others before him had failed. He'll be 70 later this year but four years ago he didn't think that he'd make it to that milestone. That was when Johnson had a life-changing bombshell dropped on him: he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a matter of months to live.

"I remember I was absolutely calm, dead calm" reveals Johnson, in an interview with SJF's Charles Waring. "I didn't freak at all ...and I wasn't expecting that." Instead of being gripped with fear and panic, he matter-of-factly accepted his fate, rejected chemotherapy treatment, and vowed to live his life to the full until his allotted time was up. He quickly embarked on a farewell tour - "we played some great gigs" he laughs - and recorded what was intended to be a valedictory album called 'Going Back Home,' with The Who's Roger Daltrey. That long player was going to be Johnson's musical epitaph but later that year, he underwent surgery to remove the tumour that was the source of his ill-heath. He ended up losing not only the tumour - which weighed in at a whopping 3 Kg - but also his pancreas, spleen and part of his stomach. The operation was a success and, miraculously, freed the guitarist from the dark spectre of cancer.  

69-year-old Johnson's recovery has been extraordinary and since then he's starred in a Julien Temple-directed documentary (The Ecstasy Of Wilko Johnson), written a well-received autobiography (Don't You Leave Me Here: My Life) and curated a superb compilation exploring the Chess Records vaults called 'The First Time I Met The Blues.' Now, he brings his own career under the microscope with this 25-track/2-CD solo retrospective called 'Keep It To Myself: The Best Of Wilko Johnson,' released on the Chess imprint.

In a candid and revealing interview with SJF, the legendary rhythm and blues maven talks about his new album, his time in Dr. Feelgood and his much-publicised battle with cancer...


Last Updated on Monday, 27 February 2017 19:11

 

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