Monday, 27 February 2012 08:03 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

robertglasper2AG275Some listeners know him as an up-and-coming New York-based jazz pianist but on his third Blue Note CD, 2010's critically-lauded 'Double Booked' Robert Glasper demonstrated his versatility by devoting the second half of the album to exploring state-of-the-art contemporary urban music. Now, in 2012, the genial, laid-back, keyboard maestro is back with his fourth Blue Note long player, an impressive opus called 'Black Radio,' which represents his first full-length foray into the realms of R&B and hip-hop.

Intended as a showcase for the keyboard player's Experiment band, 'Black Radio' is a glistening, star-studded affair, featuring substantial contributions from singers Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Bilal, Ledisi, Musiq Soulchild and Mint Condition's front man, Stokley Williams, as well as cameos from rappers Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco and Shafiq Husayn. Glasper's choice of material, too, reflects his wide and eclectic taste; ranging from Mongo Santamaria's jazz standard 'Afro Blue' (beautifully rendered by a superb Glasper arrangement that spotlights the wispy vocals of Erykah Badu) to a lush reading of Sade's 'Cherish The Day (with Lalah Hathaway guesting) and jazzy R&B retoolings of rock classics (namely David Bowie's 'Letter To Hermione' and Nirvana's grunge anthem, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'). It's unequivocally an album that shows Glasper's talent in a vastly different light. It might not please diehard jazz fans who were expecting another piano trio record but its accessibility will certainly deliver his music to another – and potentially younger and larger - audience.

Recently, Texas-born Glasper ventured to the UK for a handful of gigs and also to undertake some promotional work in aid of the new album. While he was here he talked at length to SJF's Charles Waring. Amiable, laidback and laughing a lot, he revealed how a few stiff drinks loosened him up in the studio to get the relaxed vibe he was seeking for 'Black Radio'...




Thursday, 23 February 2012 19:29 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

GP_1Gregory Porter is that rare commodity in jazz – a singer who writes most of his own material and isn't wholly reliant on reheating well-worn jazz standards as a means of musical self-expression. In 2010, Porter's impressive debut outing for the Motema Music label, 'Water,' gained notoriety by garnering the unknown Californian-born singer a Grammy nomination in the 'Best Jazz Vocal' category. Now, in early 2012, the personable singer/songwriter from Brooklyn who blurs the boundaries between jazz, gospel and soul, is back with his second long player, 'Be Good.'

Less esoteric and more accessible than its predecessor, it's a terrific album and already on SJF's shortlist for album of the year – and with a bit of luck, perhaps, it should even grab a Grammy this time next year. But evidently Porter isn't a man who's motivated by the prospect of awards - rather, he just lives and breathes music, and if he happens to pick up accolades along the way, then that's just a welcome bonus. He's appeared on British TV a couple of times recently – on Jools Holland's famous New Year's Eve rave up, the 'Hootenanny,' and also on a BBC 4 tribute to the legendary singer/songwriter, Carole King. British audiences can catch up with Porter in person soon as he's due to appear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in late April/early May of this year. He recently had a flying promotional visit to London, where SJF's Chares Waring caught up with the man whose expressive voice and articulate yet soulful songs are the talk of the jazz world...


Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 10:58


STILL PEACHY – Veteran soul diva Melba Moore talks to SJF.

Thursday, 16 February 2012 21:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

MelbaNewPiccopyThere was a time when MELBA MOORE was a frequent visitor to the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. She enjoyed five UK chart entries between 1976 and 1983, breaking into the British Top 10 with the rousing Van McCoy-penned dance anthem, 'This Is It.' But it was in her native America where she experienced most success, racking up an astonishing thirty two hits on Billboard's R&B chart during a fertile fifteen-year period spanning the years 1975-1990.

Blessed with a supple multi-octave voice and renowned for sustaining a single note for a lung-bursting amount of time – exemplified on her signature song, 1976's 'Lean On Me' or on the 1986 R&B chart-topping ballad, 'Falling' – Melba began her career as a background vocalist before successfully auditioning for the stage musical 'Hair' in 1970. A stint in another Broadway production, 'Purlie,' followed, for which she earned a prestigious Tony award. A year later, in 1971, at the age of 26, she signed with Mercury Records and received a Grammy nomination for her debut LP, 'I Got Love.'

It was at Buddah Records in the mid-'70s that Melba began to accumulate hit records, her first being the plaintive romantic ballad, 'I Am His Lady,' in 1975. A productive session with the legendary soul music producer and songwriter, Van McCoy, in 1976 yielded two of Melba's most enduring records – 'This Is It' and 'Lean On Me.'  A label switch to Epic in 1978 witnessed a US Top 20 smash with a soulful interpretation of the Bee Gees' 'You Stepped Into My Life.' In 1981, Melba joined EMI America briefly – a deal masterminded by her then husband, Charles Huggins – before switching to its parent company, Capitol, where she stayed until 1990. That phase of her recording career was the most productive in terms of commercial success and saw her scoring two Stateside number one records – 'A Little Bit More,' a duet with Freddie Jackson, and the impassioned ballad, 'Falling.'  In addition to that, infectious groove-based songs such as 'Mind Up Tonight' and 'Love's Comin' At Ya' established her as the queen of early '80s dance floor R&B.

The 1990s witnessed Melba Moore drop off the soul radar as changing tastes in music and the record industry's obsession with youth pushed mature performers into the background. Fast forward to 2012 and Melba Moore – who returned to recording with 'Gift Of Love,' a duets album with Phil Perry in 2009 - is preparing a comeback. Not only is there a new solo album in the pipeline but she's also just announced that she's visiting the UK and will perform here for the first time ever (at London's Jazz Café on April 29th).

SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with Melba, who talked excitedly about her new recording venture as well as her keenly-anticipated trip to the UK and also looked back at key events in her long career...



Tuesday, 03 January 2012 18:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

sarah_2As 2012 begins, the big guns of the music industry have already started to talk doom and gloom. Once again the major players are listing the problems they're facing, but what about the people at the sharpest end of the biz.... the artists trying to get a start? And trying to get that start the old-fashioned way – by mastering their craft, playing live whenever possible and financing their own recordings rather than taking the quick route via the TV talent shows. One such artist is Yorkshire-based singer/songwriter SARAH BRICKEL. At the back end of last year she released her second full album, 'Music Box' – a pleasing mix of original songs and well-chosen covers that some reviewers felt had the light soul-jazz feel of CORINNE BAILEY RAE. We caught up with SARAH to find out just what it's like to try and get a start in the UK biz, but first we wanted to know how she was bitten by the whole music bug.......

It all started at school. I learnt to play a few different instruments at primary school and then it led on to singing. There was a lot of music and performing going on and I got involved in all the different shows and concerts. I just loved music and sang all the time. My music and performing arts teachers were very supportive and encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts. From there I went and trained at LIPA in Liverpool and I carried on from there.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 January 2012 19:11



Sunday, 04 December 2011 16:03 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

Ronnie_Mac_with_hatRONNIE MCNEIR is one of soul's true gentlemen and I know he won't mind me calling him a veteran. He himself readily admits he's been around the block a few times but that experience allows him to craft some wonderful music. Though he's now a permanent and valuable fixture in the FOUR TOPS, he still pursues his successful solo career.... a career that began back in the heady days of the early 70s. Then, proper soul fans became hooked on classics like 'Wendy Is Gone' and those same fans have stuck with the man ever since, assured that he keeps the "real soul" flag flying high. Earlier this year RON released his latest solo album, ' Living My Life' (check out the review in our archive) and with the set riding high on the CD Baby charts we though it high time we reconnected and the best place to start was to ask the man about that new album......

My new CD is called 'Living My Life' and it's something I'm really proud of... even though it took me two years to complete... but I like to take my time. I need to get things just right. I called it 'Living My Life' 'cos a lot of the songs on there are about my life while there's songs about other peoples' stories too... people who have been a part of my life. You could say it was a tribute to myself!!!(Here RONNIE laughs)

Two of the album's many high spots are covers of MARVIN'S 'I Want You' and CURTIS MAYFIELD'S 'Gypsy Woman'... why did you choose those songs for the album?

Both those artists have always been big favourites of mine. I mean I've been with them since I was a kid! I loved MARVIN right back to 'Hitch Hike ' and all that, and 'Gypsy Woman' is just one of my favourite songs and I always wanted to record a version of it. Matter of fact when I was a youngster I was in a number of vocal groups and we always sang it... but sang it in the original style. Now, years later, I decided to do it my way... it's a little different. Even with 'I Want You', I tried for something different... just a different groove but hopefully I've retained the same special magic. A lot of people are liking these new versions.


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