Interviews

BRIGHT NEW DAY

Sunday, 24 May 2009 05:54 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

BRIGHT NEW DAY

BRIGHT NEW DAY

By common consent JAMES DAY'S 'Natural Things' album is one of 2009's best modern soul releases. Its delightful and varied grooves have wowed the worldwide soul crowd, but, surprisingly, for such an acclaimed album little is known about its enigmatic creator. To put that right www.soulandjazzandfunk.com set its soul sleuths the task of tracking down MR. DAY. The genial Bostonian was delighted to talk with us. He told us that he was born in the famous fishing town of Rockport but lived in New York in his late teens and twenties where he immersed himself in the magic music of the Big Apple. Dogged, as he was, by all kinds of adversity, JAMES was determined to make music and he's now rightly acclaimed … but first we wanted to know more about his musical background… so what about favourite artists and those all-important influences?


..The first album I ever owned was NATALIE COLE'S 'Inseparable'. It was given to me by my grandfather. But the other influential albums, songs, writers, producers and artists of my childhood were ASHFORD and SIMPSON, DIANA ROSS ( especially 'The Boss' album), CHAKA KHAN, ROD TEMPERTON and QUINCY JONES, BACHARACH/DAVID, GOFFIN and KING, GAMBLE and HUFF, BARRY GIBB … even COLE PORTER, GERSHWIN and IRVING BERLIN.

But what about a particular favourite … the biggest influence?

That's kind of hard, but when I was at college - training to be to be a singer and dancer- I lost my hearing and balance from Menieres Disease…yet even after surgery which removed my hearing and balance function from one ear, my love for music continued and I resolved to be a songwriter. So I was kind of different and needed to be free of my own life struggles; two songs therefore really impacted on me - DONNY HATHAWAY'S 'Someday We'll All Be Free' and his 'Little Ghetto Boy' … I was a different kind of boy, an outcast in a different kind of ghetto…but I knew what DONNY was feeling and when he sang 'everything's got to get better' I needed to believe him…


Did that finally make you take up music as a career?

Well, after a little success in NYC as a dancer in a nationally syndicated TV show and appearing in a couple of videos including one by CHAKA KHAN, the Menieres syndrome finally took my hearing and balance on one side and my dream of singing and dancing went with it. After a period of believing music would no longer be any part of my life …I even covered my albums in sheets because they were too painful to look at (my bedroom looked like a cemetery) Then I slowly let music back into my life and began writing songs…mind you, I was in a school for sign language and deaf studies and bear in mind I lived with a 1 in 4 chance of the same thing happening in the other ear…but nevertheless I kept writing and eventually won first place and grand prize in both the Billboard Magazine and JOHN LENNON song contests (Gospel and R&B categories) and The Songwriters Hall of Fame/National Academy of Popular Music presented me with the ABE OLMAN Award for Songwriting Excellence which is given to the most promising up and coming songwriter chosen by ASACP. One of my heroes, music legend HAL DAVID presented me with the award. It was at that time I knew I was good and went on to pursue some major labels - but mostly in the teen pop genre which is what was available to songwriters at that time.

Tell us more about how you create your music…

I write lyrics and melodies first, then arrangements and production ideas come into my head and I share them with the musicians, co-writers, and producers I work with and we build up the track together. I also like to be very involved in the vocal arrangement, vocal recording/production and mixing. The vocal is KING!

… And how do you record it?

I believe in the old fashioned way of making albums…not the modern way - one man behind a computer with samples and beats. You need to start with a great song and if you've got great songs, you'll get great singers. Then, build a great production letting everyone do what they do best…singers sing, writers write and the players play.

Tell us how you hooked up with Expansion Records?

UK DJ ROGER WILLIAMS and his wife LETTIE discovered my music online and started spinning 'Don't Waste The Pretty' …it became a single, then appeared on an EP - 'Remember When'; then Expansion put out the full length album 'Better Days'. Expansion is a great supporter of mine and I couldn't have made this new album without them. And I originally chose Expansion based on the quality of their catalogue which I think speaks for itself

Any views on the current state of soul music?

In my opinion it's just beats, samples - tracks with random mindless words slapped on top … computerized oral noises. It doesn't work for the mind, body and soul - which is what real soul music does for me. Most of the stuff masquerading as soul doesn't even penetrate my mind for a full minute. There are exceptions though - notably the great LALAH HATHAWAY and WILL DOWNING

What about your plans for the future?

Simple - I need a wealthy soul music devotee who wants to invest in my future so I can continue to write and produce songs and other projects at an even higher quality and in greater quantity and at faster speed. More immediately though, I am very excited about a song I recently wrote with LALAH and I'm looking forward to her next release. I'm also hoping to come over to the UK with one of the great singers from my album performing some of my songs.

JAMES DAY'S 'Natural Things' album is out now on Expansion Records. Check out the review on our review pages and for more information and the latest news from JAMES go to www.myspace.com/jamesdaysongs

 

STILL RIDING HIGH

Friday, 06 March 2009 03:46 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

STILL RIDING HIGH

The Motor City soul legend Leon Ware talks candidly to Charles Waring about love, music, life, death and his new Stax album 'Moon Ride.'

"I love the age of sixty nine because it's a precious number," announces soul music's durable love man, Leon Ware, who then breaks into a raucous laugh that sounds like a mixture of a Mutley-like wheezy chuckle and a low-pitched hacking cough. Despite the fact that he'll be seventy next year, the veteran Detroit singer/songwriter has not let go of his youth entirely - he confesses he still possesses a boyish streak and has a penchant for saying provocative things: "I can't tell you how much joy I get from saying something shocking and which makes people say 'what did you say?' It was part of my spirit as a kid. I was a mischievous little boy - I was pulling the girls' hair and peeking up under their skirts…and nothing's changed!" Ware starts laughing again. It's hard not to share his mirth. His sense of joie de vivre is certainly infectious. But then Leon Ware has a right to be happy about his life these days. He's lucky to be alive for one thing. Three years ago he was diagnosed as having prostate cancer.
"I was given six months to live," he reveals in sombre whisper. "They found lymphs that were affected and operated. They closed me up and gave me six months. The Doctor said 'there's nothing we can do for you.'"
Sadly, cancer has claimed several other members of Ware's family: "My daughter passed away three years ago. She had cancer as well. Cancer has taken my father, my mother, two of my sisters and three of my brothers. I've had, if you want to call it that, a relationship with that particular disease or affliction - but I'm not afraid."
Thanks to his friend and fellow songwriter, Adrienne Anderson, Ware found a surgeon who worked "outside the box" and after another operation his symptoms subsided and his disease went into remission. "I'm going into my third year now and every time my Doctor looks at me he sees I've gained weight" states Ware. The songwriter's experience has made him want to help others: "It makes me want to say things to people that are going through the process of living with a disease or getting ready to make the transition - because I don't call it death. I may be able to say something that will help them deal with it a little better."
Musically, Ware feels re-invigorated and for the first time since he was at Elektra in the early '80s he is back with a major record company - in this case, the re-activated Stax label, which is distributed by Concord (Ware reveals he signed to Concord initially, with Stax's involvement coming later). 'Moon Ride' is in fact Ware's first album since 2004's 'A Kiss In The Sand' and follows his recent cameo appearance on a re-make of his Latin-infused classic 'Rockin' You Eternally' on the Jazzanova album 'Of All The Things.' 'Moon Ride' follows the same stylistic trajectory manifested on his previous work - the subject matter mostly focuses on sex and romance while Ware's sensual vocals are framed by richly textured grooves. "It's a continuation of my adventure," reflects Ware, who once declared to me that "sex is my religion" in a previous interview a few years ago. "It's a romantic album," he continues, "and it's sensual - I flow in and out of certain different levels of nastiness, you know. It's another serving of my romantic and sensual delicacies."
Leon Ware, as you'd expect, is vociferous when it comes to the subject of love and romance. He sees himself as an ordained minister of erotic love. "The earth needs romance" he declares. "We don't have enough of it. It doesn't touch a lot of people. Maybe the people it doesn't touch are untouchable. But I'm an optimist and maybe in my devoted service to that process I'll reach them." Certainly, Ware believes in the redeeming power of music: "Music has become medicinal. It's become therapeutic and it's become a religion."
But for all his optimism, Ware admits that planet earth and its inhabitants are on a potentially perilous path: "The world is in a state - not only from a financial perspective but a spiritual one also. We're not looking at a world which promises young children a future that they can stand up and get really excited about - it's a world where a digit is much more important than a human being. We are at Hell's doorway and the devil is having his day. In that light, I look at what I'm doing as much more than entertainment."
Ware's association with Stax - "I couldn't be more honoured" he says - may mean that his musical and philosophical message have a greater potential for being heard and making a telling impact on a larger number of people. He's certainly excited about the liaison with a big label but as for the music business as whole, he expresses deep reservations. "The music business is filled with opportunists and superficial artists," he laments. "And their whole agenda is about making money - not about making art. But what can you say? It's the world we live in."
Undoubtedly, Leon Ware is not a superficial artist. His CV as a songwriter, producer and singer speaks for itself and is replete with a long list of significant R&B recordings - ranging from his crucial involvement on Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" and Quincy Jones' "Body Heat" LPs to memorable recordings of his songs by Michael Jackson, the Isley Brothers, the Main Ingredient, Bobby Womack, and numerous others. Even Madonna, Robert Palmer and Todd Rundgren have covered his songs.
A new 19-track CD on Expansion Records called 'Leon Ware & Friends' is a compilation that features a mixture of performances by Ware and host of other people who've recorded his songs during the last thirty-six years. It includes Donny Hathaway's awe-inspiring rendering of "I Know It's You," an intensely soulful ballad which the Chicago singer/pianist recorded for his 1973 Atco album, "Extension Of A Man." Says Ware: "I can remember walking across the A&M lot heading for the studio when someone said 'Leon! Leon Ware! Come here, you gotta hear this.' Atlantic Records had sent a demo before the song had strings on for us to hear. Everybody in the office was floored. I had tears in my eyes - it was a song I'd written to my mother because she was extremely religious. I want you to know that that was one of the most pleasant days in my life. Donny did it so good that nobody else has ever touched the song. Roberta Flack made it very clear to me in a conversation with her one-time many years ago after it was already a classic and Donny had gone. She said 'the reason nobody has touched that song, Leon, is because Donny peed on it.' Ware laughs again, a deep husky chuckle. He's understandably proud of the fact that Donny Hathaway - who also wrote some decent songs himself - recorded one of his tunes: "When you service another writer, that doesn't put a feather in your cap, it puts another hat on your head as far as I'm concerned. There's no greater honour than to have your peers to do your work, especially somebody who can do it by themselves."
Ware's collaboration with another long-gone soul great, Minnie Riperton, is also represented on 'Leon Ware & Friends.' He worked on her 1975 album, 'Adventures In Paradise,' which contained the classic slow-jam, 'Inside My Love.' "That was a song that was written out of a request from Minnie that she wanted to write something that was provocative" explains Ware regarding the song's birth. "Oddly enough, it happened at a time when I was playing with an idea that came from my childhood. I was in the Church seven days a week with my mother until I was nine or ten years old and every night we would go there after she came back from work. The pastor would stand in front of the congregation and say 'won't you come…won't you come inside the Lord.' It was so compelling and the people were almost in a hypnotic trance. So when I told Minnie the lyric 'come inside my love' she had this look on her face. Then she said 'do you know what they're going to think?'"
Riperton may have been initially horrified by the risqué sexual connotations of 'Inside My Love' but recorded the song and it became a Top 30 US R&B hit. Says Ware: "The first week it was out I was driving down La Brea in California and a DJ was playing it on KTLH. He played the record and then stopped it almost before it got to the end and said 'hang on, let's run this back again. I want you all to listen to this. I'm not sure if I'm getting this. Is Minnie really inviting us inside her?' I laughed but then I was kind of slightly pissed because I wanted people to reach for the better part of it."
As for Riperton, who died of breast cancer in 1979, she has a special place in Leon Ware's heart. "I had the blessing and the gift of her friendship and she was a fan of mine," he says. "She became a large part of my family. I was with her when she made transition. We were very close. She was like a sister - she was sweet, very loving, and a very maternal woman. She mothered the world that was in her presence. She still lives with me. In my mind, Minnie and Marvin (Gaye) are never gone: their essence, their spirit, their whole being is a part of your psyche, a part of your soul and a part of everything that you are."
Despite having a fascinating past, Leon Ware's primary focus is now the future. To the relief of soul music fans, he's not contemplating retirement just yet, and is wholly devoted to his art: "As long as the oxygen flows through my system I'll be putting out music" he says defiantly. He's already contemplating the follow-up album to 'Moon Ride' - "I have half my next project in my head" - and reveals he's preparing to publish a book. "It's actually a children's adventure book that I've been writing for several years that I'm about to finish," he discloses. "I have a Parisian co-writer and a Dutch illustrator so it's going to come out in three different languages."
With his creativity undimmed and a clean bill of health, there's no doubt that Leon Ware seems to be enjoying the ride of his life. Long may he continue to do so.

'Moon Ride' is out now on Stax/Concord.

 

FIVE WORDS - AND MORE - WITH TRISH ANDREWS

Thursday, 05 March 2009 08:10 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

FIVE WORDS - AND MORE -  WITH TRISH ANDREWS

TRISH ANDREWS' 'These Five Words' is currently one of the hottest indie soul albums. Tracks like 'Comfort Zone' are wowing the modern soul rooms while other cuts from the LP are being regularly rotated by some of the most discerning soul radio DJs… www.soulandjazzandfunk.com felt the time was right to catch up with TRISH and we began with the obvious and asked about her musical background and influences…

I've been singing since I was in the 3rd grade. The first song I ever learned was "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell... I've had years of vocal training and worked on song writing skills with my vocal coach Janetta Deavers. I love all types of music, but favour Neo-Soul. Influences? Well - Jill Scott, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Maxwell, James Brown, Bobby Caldwell, Dianne Schurr, Musiq Soulchild, Raphael Saddiq to name just a few - but the list could go on and on. Above all, though, I enjoy performing live and getting up close and personal with my audience… to get that natural high from a responsive crowd. With this passion for music I began singing in talent shows, festivals, local venues and with jazz bands, blues bands, and top 40 bands. But I always wanted to have my own style and be my own person so I sorted out my own musicians and became Independent Artist Singer/Songwriter Trish Andrews. Now I find myself opening up for nationally-known artists such as Eric Benet, KEM, Walter Beasley, Mike Phillips, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Cameo, Whodine, The SOS Band and so on.

'These Five Words' is your debut album… Why did you decide the time was right for you to record a whole LP?

I first started out with a 3-Single CD titled "Can't Keep Running". Once everyone heard it they loved it and wanted more songs to listen to… but I didn't have any!. So I teamed up with my producer Rodney Shelton to do an 11 song album project and end it with a bonus track, which was a remix featuring Eddie Owens. We would make the first 3 songs on the album the cuts from the 3-Single CD but we redid them to match the new ones. I wanted to have a little something for everyone on this album so it became a great mix of Jazz, R&B, Soul, and Hip-Hop.


What was the inspiration behind the collection?

I already knew the whole project would be about love and positive relationships, with grown up yet sexy lyrics. I would say 80% of this CD is sexually-driven but with clean sexual content in a round about way! I do think that a lot of today's music is missing that "Real Music" and "Real Lyric" feel. No one hardly talks about real love anymore. In my mind, I feel love still exists so through my music and lyrics, I wanted to bring that magical feeling back. For me, love should be spontaneous, fun, serious, exhilarating and emotional. On the album therefore, the song "You Know What You Do To Me" is about fun sex, while "On My Mind" is about serious sex. Then again "These Five Words" praises the whole natural high/spontaneous type of sex while "Making Love" focuses on emotional sex. These types of intimate moments are driven through everyday love and relationships and this is what helps keep that special fire burning within one another… so very important to help build a strong and healthy relationship! So through my songs, I expressed it all without being too vulgar… I hope!


Do you write all your own material?

Yes, I write the melody lines, the chorus, and the verses. And my producer Rodney Shelton writes the instrumentation. With the exception of "Can't Keep Running", "Feels Like Heaven", and "Already". Those three we wrote together.

Tell us more about your producer, Rodney Shelton.

Rodney's major role was as arranger of the tracks and getting the whole team together - my engineer, background singer and live musicians and then making sure all my mixes were exactly right. Rodney has already worked with many greats such as James Brown, Shirley Caesar, Keith Washington, Billy Griffin, Howard Hewitt and many more.


What are your hopes for the album and your immediate ambitions?

Well I hope to perform the album world-wide. And I definitely want to perform live in the UK. Soul lovers in the UK have shown me and my music so much real love and support . My dream would be to get on a major tour with someone like Maxwell, KEM, or Eric Benet... I think their style and my style are somewhat similar.

….. And the future for Trish Andrews?

To run my journey on this album and start my next journey for the next album. What will I write about next? I'm anxious to see what album 2 brings out of me.

TRISH ANDREWS' These Five Words' is out now and available via the usual internet outlets - or go to www.trishandrews.com

 

MUSICAL CRUSH ON ANTOINETTE

Saturday, 14 February 2009 07:49 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

MUSICAL CRUSH ON ANTOINETTE

NORMAN CONNORS' 'Star Power' album is one of the first big indie soul releases of 2009 and one track in particular is proving that real soul music is still alive and well. The cut in question is 'Where Do We Go From Here' - a shimmering duet between HOWARD HEWETT and the song's writer, ANTOINETTE MANGANAS. CONNORS was so impressed with ANTOINETTE'S performance that he recorded her on two other key tracks - covers of 'Walk On By' and 'Sweetest Taboo'. Now residing in Pittsburgh, Ms MANGANAS also has her own album out. Called 'Verbal Crush', the 12 tracker is a relaxing mix of modern soul and smooth jazz with that man CONNORS taking production responsibilities on three of the selections. The album's so impressive www.soulandjazzandfunk.com tracked ANTOINETTE down to find out more about her album and aspirations. We began by asking about her musical background…..

I wanted to be a singer since I was a child. I came from a musical background. My father, Reolando Nunzio Conte was a singer and played every instrument from the clarinet, to sax, to guitar and banjo. My mother would accompany him as a vocalist. They were also very "old school", being that my father was born in Belmont, Calabria, Italy and my mom in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They had many plans for me but singing and being a performer was not one of them. They had that "old school" mentality where you get married and raise your children and the man provided. That being said, it never hindered who I was or my love for music and performing. In my home we had all kinds of sounds going on from all different rooms. My father was a barber (at home) and he listened to Gladys Knight, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Carlo Butti, Lena Horne, Elvis, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and Rod Stewart. My brother listened to the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Hall and Oates. My sister listened to Chicago, Anne Murray, Donna Summer, Peter Frampton and I listened to Chaka Khan, Frankie Beverley and Maze, Earth Wind and Fire, Shalamar, Michael Henderson, Nancy Wilson, Michael Jackson and Sade.


How did you get involved in the Norman Connors 'Star Power' project?

I met some people that came to see me perform here in Pittsburgh. They contacted these friends of theirs from Atlanta where I was later on introduced to Norman. That is how I came to meet him, Bobby Lyle, Herman Jackson, Donald Tavie, Johnny Britt and Howard Hewett…and the rest was "Magic"!

Why did Norman choose your song 'Where Do We Go From Here'?

As soon as Norman heard my song, he LOVED it from the start! Then, he asked Howard Hewett to sing the male part 'cos he knew that Howard and I would make a great mix! He said that our vocals complimented each other's.

What was it like to work with an established star like Howard Hewett?

I was first introduced to Howard at a restaurant in LA. We got along right from the start. He even ate my food! I don't let anyone eat my food! I must have liked him! We had such a musical chemistry …and a personal one…I felt like I grew up with him and was reuniting with my high school buddy again! He is so cool! I am his soul sister and he's my soul brother! I LOVED it because he knew exactly what to do on this song…..Very professional…..and he has a smile that is infectious!

Why do you think Norman choose you to take lead vocals on two other tracks…. Do you think he was having a 'Phyllis Hyman moment'?

I truly believe in my heart that these tracks were "Special" to him and he was looking for the singer with a certain tone in her voice, a kind of sultriness and the right amount of soul to pull them off! At one point when we were in the studio, we were listening to 'My Love Is All That' (a song from 'Verbal Crush') while mixing it and I said "THIS SONG IS SO BEAUTIFUL"!!!!! Then I leant over and kissed him on the cheek…(my way of saying thank you for even letting me sing this song), and he had a tear coming down his cheek! I know that was his way of saying, "you're welcome"…you made me proud! That made me teary eyed!

Tell us something about your own album ?

Well, my own CD is called 'Verbal Crush'. I named it that because people would tell me that my voice was alluring and addictive. So, if you can't see me to have a physical crush, then you can listen to me and have a Verbal Crush! I was fortunate enough to have Khari Parker, John Blessucci, and Larry Kohut as musicians on the album and producers like Larry King, Norman Connors and Donald Tavie from Lakeside. Bobby Lyle also plays on several of the tracks ….

There are a lot of covers on the album…. 'Déjà Vu', 'It's Too Late', 'Could It be Magic' and so on …. why?

Being a GEMINI, I LOVE A CHALLENGE…I've grown up with these songs and heard them sung by the most incredible and talented singers and I wanted to see if I could do them…and do them as well as they do…I guess that was my challenge. Plus, I never heard a woman's version of one of my favourite songs 'Sara Smile' by Daryl Hall and John Oates and I wanted to do that..

What do you hope for the album and what are your immediate ambitions?

Simple …that the whole world will get to hear 'Verbal Crush'! I know that people are hungry for old school music - music that tells a story or a ballad that can be delivered vocally for pure romance. Back in the day it was about romancing someone before you got the prize! Unfortunately today they seemed to have skipped that part. I am hoping the whole world will have a VERBAL CRUSH and appreciate the love and determination and dedication that went into both mine and Norman's CD! Then I'm hoping to tour the world with my CD and hopefully they will fall in love with me like I have with my music!!!

…. And what about the future?

WRITE… WRITE … AND KEEP WRITING! I take things that I necessarily don't know how to react to but it happens in my life so I put a song to it! Then I'm hoping one day that someone like Babyface comes to me and say, "I WROTE THE PERFECT SONG FOR YOU ANTOINETTE"….Would you please do me the honour of singing it?? MY DREAM … MY DREAM……Who knows????

ANTOINETTE'S 'VERBAL CRUSH' IS OUT NOW ON PYRAMID RECORDS AND IS AVAILABLE FROM THE USUAL INTERNET OUTLETS.

 

HEARING THINGS WITH JEFF LORBER

Wednesday, 12 November 2008 13:43 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

HEARING THINGS WITH JEFF LORBER

Philadelphia keyboardist JEFF LORBER is a doyen of the smooth soul scene. Indeed he was in the business long before the term was even coined. With 18 solo sets under his belt, JEFF'S just launched a brand new collection - 'Heard That' - his first album for Peak Records. BILL BUCKLEY of www.soulandjazzandfunk.com recently caught up with JEFF to talk about the album but couldn't resist kicking things off by asking him about his early years in the City Of Brotherly Love and wondering if that city's unique musical heritage had any impact on the young LORBER ….

Unfortunately I was too young to participate very much in the music scene in Philly when I was growing up, but I heard a lot of great stuff on the radio and when I was in high school I was very lucky to see quite a few amazing musical performances come to town - people like Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd and a number of Miles Davis' bands. I also went to the original Woodstock. Many of those experiences were incredible and made some very strong impressions on me regarding how powerful and creative music can be. Much later I did get to play at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios. I filmed a session for something called 'Studio Jams' in there, just before it was closed down. Also one of my father's friends was Bernie Lowe who was a writer, very much involved in the Cameo-Parkway thing, so I did hear indirectly about the business from him.


What about other influences on your work? What musicians did you really rate?

I love all the fusion music from the late 60s - through the 80s …. Like Return To Forever, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and anything from Miles, Weather Report and all the great stuff coming out from Fantasy Records…Tower of Power, Average White Band, Earth Wind And Fire… I could really go on and on. Today I don't hear a lot of current stuff that I'm crazy about but I do follow some producers like Timbaland and Pharrell. I love Keith Jarrett also; his phrasing kills me.

Tell us now about your latest album…… and why the title 'Heard That'?

'Heard That' is just a catchy phase that kind of fits with the very bluesy, R&B flavoured stuff that Rex (Rex Rideout, co-producer) and I came up with. We were referencing a lot of the early Jeff Lorber fusion grooves as well as some of our favourite bands from the 80s like the Brothers Johnson, Chic and Pleasure.

How did the tunes come about?

Most were collaborations with Rex, though I had two tracks that were previously written (although still new) - the title track and 'Don't Hold Back'. Then of course, there's 'Rehab'. That was a last minute addition.

Some people might be surprised that you chose to work on the Amy Winehouse tune. What made you go for it?

I thought it would be fun because it's got a cool rhythmic feel and the melody translates well for piano. Though, I have to say I wasn't too sure at first that it was a good idea. But people have been really enthusiastic when we play it live - so now I'm a little more confident.

The song's quite transformed. In some ways it harks back to the way Ramsey Lewis treated material like 'Hang On Sloopy' and 'Hard Day's Night' in the 60s. Would you agree? If so, was this a conscious thing or did the groove just evolve?

YES… Ramsey Lewis … I'd VERY much agree with that…however it wasn't intentional. It just kind of happened

The track's been featured on a new UK compilation from Jazz FM - a re-launched radio station that's trying to keep the smooth jazz flag flying… though some critics say its output is too bland. How would you answer people who say that smooth jazz is little better than elevator music?

Those people are right … well, sometimes anyway. However, I'm always trying to push the envelope. I like to think of what I do as contemporary jazz; trying to keep the spirit alive of some of the more adventurous musicians - like those folks I mentioned earlier.

Finally what would you say has been your greatest musical achievement and what ambitions have you left?

Probably sounds a little conceited, but achievement-wise I think I've written some pretty cool songs and for the future - well, I'm just starting to play more internationally and I really enjoy that. The crowds in Europe and Asia are younger and more hip than in the USA… in some ways anyway.


 

JEFF LORBER'S 'HEARD THAT' is released on Peak, Concord on 17 November 2008

 

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