Interviews

A CAPTIVATING MARRIAGE OF JAZZ AND SOUL – SINGER/SONGWRITER ZENA JAMES TALKS

Friday, 15 October 2010 13:55 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Zena_bigAlthough West Country-born singer/songwriter ZENA JAMES (who grew up just outside Bath) studied languages during her time as a student (she read German and Russian alongside linguistics at the University of Surrey), these days her mind is focused on becoming fluent in an altogether different kind of language - a universal one called music.

The daughter of a keen guitar player, Zena was raised on a diet of '70s pop and soul as a youngster and harboured aspirations of being a singer. That was put on hold until 2003 when Zena – who was earning a living working for a public relations company - sent a demo tape in to Jazz FM. When it received a favourable response, she was determined to pursue a career in music and eventually her perseverance paid off with a record deal.

In 2007, Zena's debut platter, 'Tell Me More,' was released via indie label, Jazzizit, and garnered encouraging praise from not only some of the nation's specialist magazines but also from a UK broadsheet or two. Now, three years later, the young singer is back with her sophomore set, 'Captivated,' which stylistically melds the sophistication of jazz with the emotional directness of soul music. Thanks to Zena's emotive voice plus the work of her supporting musicians and guiding hand of producer, Derek Nash, it proves a compelling combination, which is made more potent by a soupçon of funk flavouring thrown into the mix to spice up the album's grooves. Zena's choice of material, too, is similarly eclectic; she applies a contemporary makeover to a mixture of jazz standards and vintage songs but also includes her own versions of songs penned by Stevie Wonder and the UK blue-eyed soul man, Lewis Taylor. She also penned a couple of songs herself – the opening title track and 'You Move Me,' both co-written with pianist Rob Taggart.

SJF's Charles Waring recently talked to Zena about her new album, which is released in December 2010 via Splash Point Digital...

 

Last Updated on Friday, 15 October 2010 14:17

 

BACK TO HIS ROOTS – JAZZ FLAUTIST MARK WEINSTEIN IN CONVERSATION

Tuesday, 28 September 2010 18:14 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

mark-weinstein-post Born into a Ukrainian Jewish-American family in Brooklyn, it's fair to say that flautist, MARK WEINSTEIN, isn't your archetypal Latin jazz musician. His musical career started to take off when he began playing trombone alongside Latin meister, pianist Eddie Palmieri (in the group, La Perfecta) in the '60s. After playing with Herbie Mann, he switched to flute and cut the album 'Cuban Roots' in 1967, a remarkable synthesis of jazz, Cuban music and African sounds that featured pianist Chick Corea. Now considered a classic, that album remains the pinnacle of Weinstein's long career. The flautist - who also enjoys a parallel career as an academic - recently took time out from recording a new album for the Jazzheads label to talk to SJF's US jazz correspondent, John Wisniewski....

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 18:27

 

IN THE MIX ...TOM MOULTON REVEALS ALL (WELL ALMOST).....

Sunday, 12 September 2010 18:28 BILL BUCKLEY E-mailPrintPDF

philly-re-grooved-tom-moulton-mixesOne of this year's best soul compilations by a good distance is 'PHILLY RE-GROOVED' on the Harmless label. It was so good for two main reasons – first the label had access to the riches in the vault of Philly Groove Records and, secondly, Harmless managed to persuade the legendary TOM MOULTON to remix the music. The result is a sparkling tribute to the sounds of a great label and a great way for Harmless to celebrate their 100th release. When the Harmless people asked if we'd like to talk with TOM MOULTON, we grabbed the chance and began by asking him how he got involved in this particular project....

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 September 2010 18:52

 

MUSICAL CHAMELEON - GEORGE DUKE SPEAKS!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010 20:29 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

F_George_Duke_Photo_By_Bobby_Holland_8x10Californian keyboard maven, GEORGE DUKE, has successfully straddled the divide between the worlds of jazz and pop for almost 40 years now. Born in San Rafael, 64 years ago, Duke began his career in the late-'60s as a dedicated jazz piano player before making an unexpected left turn into the world of jazz-rock and joining Frank Zappa's groundbreaking Mothers group in 1970. After an eye-opening stint with Zappa – "Frank tore the musical elitism out of me" says Duke, who also started playing synthesisers during that time – the keyboard player joined his hero alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley's band for a couple of years. He also found time to cut some solo albums for the German MPS label before rejoining Zappa for a couple of years.

In the mid-'70s Duke joined forces with powerhouse drummer Billy Cobham for the Billy Cobham-George Duke Band and in 1977 signed to Epic where he recorded a slew of successful jazz fusion albums (including 'Reach For It'). After a long spell at Epic, in the '90s he joined Warner Bros (five of his Warner albums have just been reissued in Rhino's 'Original Album Series'). In addition to his own recordings, Duke collaborated with bassist Stanley Clarke on three albums (under the name The Clarke-Duke Project) and established himself as a major (and also Grammy winning) jazz and R&B producer, helming tracks for artists like Dianne Reeves, Deneice Williams, Anita Baker, Regina Belle, 101 North, Jeffrey Osbourne and many others.

More recently, George Duke signed to Heads Up, releasing 'Dukey Treats' in 2008. His second album on the Heads Up label is the about-to-be-released 'Déjà Vu,' due in the shops on August 30th. SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with this versatile and highly respected musician who talked about his new project as well as reminiscing about some of the major highlights of his long and fruitful career.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 August 2010 20:38

 

FUSION TALKS ....

Thursday, 12 August 2010 18:22 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

lorberGenial piano man JEFF LORBER has enjoyed a long and distinguished musical career. The Philadelphian's time in the jazz biz began in 1977 with his band THE JEFF LORBER FUSION whose music – as the name implies – was that heady mix of jazz, rock, R&B, funk and electric sounds that people soon dubbed "fusion". In 1981 LORBER disbanded FUSION to concentrate on a solo career and since then he's been acknowledged as major player on the smooth/lite jazz circuit. Now with a brand new album, Grammy-nominated LORBER has resurrected the FUSION concept. With a core of players – JIMMY HASLIP, ERIC MARIENTHAL, PAUL JACKSON JR., VINNIE COLAIUTA and RANDY BRECKER – forming a new band, LORBER has recorded a batch of songs from the heady days of FUSION. The 11 tracker's called 'Now Is The Time' and jazzers who only know his solo work will be more than surprised with the results from this star-studded ensemble. When LORBER was recently in the UK we had the opportunity to ask him if the new band will have any degree of permanence..... or maybe the recording is just a one off....

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 August 2010 18:37

 

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