BASS IS THE PLACE - CHRISTIAN McBRIDE brings his big band to the UK in May

Monday, 02 April 2018 12:25 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

     altThe ubiquitous Christian McBride is still relatively young - he'll be 46 in May - but in terms of the amount of recording sessions he's contributed to, he's a true veteran, having played on several hundred  albums during a career that stretches back to 1991. That might be a drop in the ocean compared with fellow jazz bassist, Ron Carter - who has made the Guinness Book Of Records for appearing on over two thousand recordings - but McBride's achievement is impressive none-the-less. But he is the first to admit that Carter's amazing feat is unassailable. "I don't know if that's even possible anymore (to do that) just because the recording world doesn't exist the way it used to," he laughs when I ask him, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, if his ultimate aim is to overtake Carter. "I caught the tail end of the recording scene. At one point, throughout the '90s, I was probably averaging about 20 albums per year, which was not that many compared to what most people were doing in the '50s and '60s. I think for my generation it was a lot, but I'm not nearly doing that kind of studio work anymore."

The reason for that situation, he explains, is the way that music industry has changed due to technology, which has resulted in the closure of many of New York's big, professional studios. "Just about 5 or 6 months ago, Avatar, one of the largest studios in New York closed," he reveals. "Who can imagine New York City without a major recording studio? There's a lot of small studios still active but a lot of people are recording at home doing projects on the fly."

But while some things change - and for the worse, perhaps - other things that are declared dead and gone in the music industry have a knack of being resurrected. Take vinyl LPs, for example. Who'd have thought they would have made such a big comeback?  Another - but smaller - case in point is the jazz big band, which first dominated popular music in the swing age of the 1930s but has been in terminal decline ever since. But it hasn't shuffled off its mortal coil just yet. Christian McBride is one of just a handful of musicians keeping big band jazz off death row. In 2010, he put together a large ensemble and released the album, 'The Good Feeling,' a year later. Last year, in 2017, he followed it up with a second big band, album,  'Bringin' It.' Needless to say, both albums grabbed a Grammy award. Those living in the UK who have yet to witness McBride's seventeen-piece ensemble up-close will get the opportunity this May when the bassist brings his band to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

Last Updated on Monday, 02 April 2018 15:30


Retirement? It's just hearsay, says ALEXANDER O'NEAL, on the eve of his British 'Resurrected' tour

Saturday, 31 March 2018 13:23 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                altWhile a small percentage of the British public (those, no doubt, unfamiliar with R&B music)  will undoubtedly recognise Alexander O'Neal from his appearances on primetime UK TV shows like Weakest Link, Celebrity Wife Swap and Big Brother, the majority will know him for what he does best: singing. Boasting a powerful yet expressive voice  - imagine the silkiness of Nat 'King' Cole crossed with  Otis Redding's soulful rasp - Alex was conquering the charts around the world thirty years ago with big hits that ranged from smooth ballads like  'If You Were Here Tonight' to tough dance floor smashes such as 'Fake' and 'Criticise.' 

Now in his 65th year, the man originally from Natchez, Mississippi, is still going strong. The hits may have dried up but his enthusiasm and commitment to making music hasn't left him. Though, given his age,  he's now eligible for retirement,  Alex isn't contemplating a sedentary life defined by a pipe, slippers, and a stair-lift just yet. "I'm just trying to keep busy," he tells me, "because I'm still enjoying doing my thing and still getting a buzz out of it."

Following in the wake of his recent 'Hearsay 30' album released at the end of last year, the softly-spoken singer is due to undertake an eight date tour of the UK, beginning on the 6th of April in Glasgow and culminating with a show on 25th of that month at London's prestigious Palladium venue. O'Neal, as many American performers have discovered over the years visiting the UK, that British fans offer unwavering support and fealty.  "I think they're more loyal and they love their R&B music. In America, you're only as big as your last hit record and they treat you that way. So it doesn't matter if you're a legend or if you had a bunch of hit records, they forget, but over here, on this side of the water, it seems they remember you. They grew up with you and get older with you and they still come out and buy your music and come to the shows. I've been coming over there 30 years and what I love about my fans over here so much is that they've endeared me into their hearts and lives over the years, so there's a lot of memories, and it's just great to be seeing them."

In fact, Alexander O'Neal is so smitten with the UK that he's decidedly to live here - in Manchester. "My new management and production team is up here in Manchester now and I also use a great band out of Manchester called Mamma Freedom. It's a lot like Minneapolis/St Paul in Minnesota in the States. The pace is about the same and the weather is kind of the same. I'm living in Manchester these days and it's really nice."

Last Updated on Saturday, 31 March 2018 13:57



Monday, 26 March 2018 15:10 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince the start of the year an insidious little tune called 'Hero' has been all over the place.... club plays and radio rotation has caused a buzz about the artist, GIZELLE SMITH. Seasoned sleeve note readers will recognize Ms Smith's name from her time with the Mighty Mocambos. Now, though, she's well and truly out there on her own and with an album. 'Ruthless Day' set to drop at the end of this month, we thought the time was right to find out more about Gizelle..... First some background....

Well, my name is Gizelle Smith and after studying forensic science, hairdressing and god knows some other iffy career options, I decided to do an MA in composing for film. I'm originally from Manchester but moved to London where I landed a job as co-composer and vocal coach for a youth theatre company based in Camden, in-between touring with The Mighty Mocambos. I always wanted to be a performer but my mother did that ill-informed thing and insisted I had a 'fall-back option', hence the above initial career choices. I was super confused growing up because nothing I chose to do felt right and there was always this nagging at the back of my mind that I should be doing music but I was very shy and it wasn't till I met the right people who pointed me in the right direction, did I make that step towards my true path.

I believe your father was in the music biz – tell us about that and did he influence you in any way.... indeed did he encourage you or even discourage you!

My father Joe Smith was a guitarist for the Four Tops after they moved from Motown Records to ABC. He has always been a big part of my life spiritually. I didn't grow up with him unfortunately but I've had a very strong connection with him since I was a baby and being around him at a very young age has been enough influence to cause me to pursue a career in music. Or then again, has it? I guess it's a play on the whole nature/nurture debate. Maybe I'd always have gone into music regardless of who he was... who knows! He was always wary of the idea of his children getting into the industry but it turns out, I'm the only who did and he's super pleased and proud. I need to call him actually.

Tell us about your early days in the business.... and your time with the Mocambos.

Hooking up with the Mighty Mocambos was my first step into the business as an artist. I was performing before that, on a low key level, with a couple of residencies in restaurants, singing with a pop choir and playing trumpet and singing in a jazz big band. I met my producer Steffen 'Def Stef' Wagner on my course at University and he introduced me to his brother Bjoern who owns Mocambo Records and runs The Mighty Mocambos. I lived with him in Hamburg for a few months whilst I finished my dissertation and we both toured with Indra Afia – a German soul artist, where Bjoern on guitar and I was on bv duty. Soon after, I was gigging with the Mocambos, playing mostly covers and we were approached by a booker who suggested we put an album together. So we did, with no expectations whatsoever and it seemed to hit the spot in the funk scene. Our first single 'Working Woman' was picked up by Kenny Dope and we spent a couple of years touring UK, France and Germany.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 March 2018 18:38



Tuesday, 20 March 2018 19:19 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altUS singer LINDSEY WEBSTER made her name with her 2015 'You Change' album – a classy amalgam of smooth soul and jazz lite that resonated with lovers of the intimate singer/songwriter format. Ms W's 2016 long player 'Back To Your Heart' grew her fan base and won a slew of awards – including being named Billboard contemporary jazz artist of the year for two successive years – 2016 and 2017. Lindsey's latest album, 'Love Inside' has just won release and like her previous efforts it's enjoying critical acclaim, radio play and commercial success. We last spoke to Lindsey last year on the back of 'Back To Your Heart' and with the new set really taking off we spoke again and began by asking what the last couple of years have meant for her......

Since 2016 a lot has happened: we stayed busy after 'Back To Your Heart' came out, playing lots of shows and festivals all over. We travelled all around the U.S., performed in London a few times, also in Holland, Belgium & Germany. While in London, we shot some live video with music streaming service and, most importantly, throughout all of this, we started writing the material for 'Love Inside'!

Yes, tell us about your visit to the UK..... was it your first, how did you find the audiences, were you surprised that they were aware of your work?

We have actually been to the UK 7 times now, and are scheduled to leave for our 8th visit next week! The first time I visited London was in August of 2015, when we were over the pond to record our first session of videos with . While we were there, we played at a high-end restaurant called Le Caprice for an event sponsored Sennheiser (head phones)and Martell Cognac. That was our first official UK appearance! We have now played at multiple Pizza Express locations, Cadogan Hall, and Ronnie Scott's, and the crowds are always warm and welcoming for us. I truly enjoy visiting and getting to play our music there and can't wait to come back!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2018 20:22



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 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


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