Interviews

FINDING NINA - ALAN LIGHT, author of WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?, talks to SJF.

Monday, 30 May 2016 09:55 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Alan_light_nina_bookIt only came to light recently that Nina Simone suffered from bipolar disorder, which for those that knew or worked with the singer, went some way, perhaps, to explaining her abrupt and inexplicable mood swings and seeming emotional instability. Indeed, Simone, is generally perceived as a deeply troubled and volatile character who was not only fighting against the racism and sexism that confronted her every day as she strove to forge a singing career but also battling with her own inner demons. Appearing imperiously strong one moment and yet vulnerable and helpless the next, she was defined, it seems, by contradictions.

She was, then, a complex character and though she died thirteen years ago, her music and life continues to exert a fascination for the public. Her life has been the subject of three films recently - one is a movie called Nina with Zoe Saldana cast as the singer - which has engendered controversy due to its casting and purported inaccuracies - while the other two, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and The Amazing Nina Simone, are both documentaries. Following in the wake of those comes a new biography of the North Carolina singer by Alan Light, whose book, What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography is a tie-in with the recent acclaimed documentary of the same name.

The author, who's also written books on Prince and Motown, recently talked about his latest project with SJF's US writer, John Wisniewski...

 

Last Updated on Monday, 30 May 2016 10:07

 

HIGHER ELEVATION - The S E L Interview...

Friday, 27 May 2016 10:16 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

ElevationsleeveS.EEMMA LOUISE HARRIS is a North London soul singer but she's known to the soul cognoscenti as S E L (Soulful Emma Louise.... geddit?). Those same soul cognoscenti are predicting that by the end of the year S E L will be out there, known and recognised in the mainstream. The evidence? Well, it's there on a recently released EP – simply titled 'UK Soul EP', and the lead tune, a shuffling 'Elevation' is winning plenty of airplay and filling lots of DJ boxes. The cut has just a hint of Soul II Soul about it, hardly surprising since S E L is currently working with Jazzie B and his Soul II Soul review. With such a buzz about Emma, we felt it was about time we found out more. After tracking her down we started, logically, by asking how she got into the crazy world of soul music in the first place....

My dad was a soul music lover and you could always hear Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye playing in our house. I fell in love with Luther's voice when I first heard it. Having said that, the first time I really heard Soul music that spoke to my soul. The first time I knew it was going to be a major part of my life...Well, when I heard Soul II Soul's 'Back to Life'. I was glued to Caron Wheeler's voice and I loved the whole flava! They were not afraid to be different, which is what I loved about them. Plus, it was the first time I heard soul music that I could relate to as a black British person - It was very British!

You've called your new release 'UK Soul EP" ... why?

I decided on 'UK Soul' because I wanted the listeners to know what to expect from the EP...taking that authentic UK Soul sound back to its grass roots.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 May 2016 10:26

 

FEEL THE POWER! The Rasheed Ali interview….

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 15:31 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

2016-1One of 2015's most acclaimed albums was '1968 Soul Power'. The provocative long player was crafted with passion by Rasheed Ali, a native New Yorker who wanted to explore , through, his music, issues that affected Afro-Americans in the late 60s/early 70s. For his soundscape Rasheed authentically replicated the sounds of 1968 and in doing so he made the message in his music that much more relevant. We were told that '1968 Soul Power' was part 1 of an ongoing trilogy and the second instalment ... '1968 Black. Power' has just won release. Its messages are just as hard-hitting while the music offers many of the same flavours... the funk of James Brown, the complexities of Norman Whitfield, the sensitivity of Curtis Mayfield and the ingenuity of Sly Stone.

We recently caught up with Rasheed to learn more about his remarkable music odyssey and we began, logically, by asking did the critical success of '1968 Soul Power' create real sales or, indeed, did the success create a new confidence in what he was doing....

I'm really not sure how to answer the first part of this question, I'm not sure I can determine what "real sales" are in your mind! The album has produced sales and I am thankful. I don't have any idea about the threshold for realness though. Sales in this big United States have been small, since I remain mostly an unknown commodity here. Did the combination of critical acclaim, international radio airplay and sales give me more confidence? Surely! For the first time in my life I felt like there would be some anticipation for the second album in The 1968 Trilogy. That engagement creates more than just confidence though. It creates a mandate for me to be as good or better next time out. Even though the three parts of the work already had their respective 'lanes' in place, I still had to make sure that my new audience didn't feel as though it was a repeat of 1968:Soul Power! To me, art should always evolve and hopefully gain clarity and depth as it evolves. For me, this is a kind of contract between artist and listening public and I must hold up my end of things.

 

LIVING THE HIGH LIFE - Martha High talks about her new album and her experiences with James Brown!

Thursday, 12 May 2016 12:17 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Martha_main_2'The Hardest Working Woman' is one of the song titles on Martha High's new album, 'Singing For The Good Times.' It's an apt description of the Washington DC-born singer, herself, now seventy-one, who has been toiling in the music business since the early 1960s when she was a member of a group called The Four Jewels.

High's strong work ethic was something she picked up from her longtime former boss, funk and soul legend James Brown, the man who described himself as 'the hardest working man in show business.' It wasn't the only thing she learned from the man they dubbed 'Soul Brother Number One,' though. High confesses that like Mr Brown (as she still refers to her ex-boss), she rehearses constantly and is a hard taskmaster when it comes to directing and drilling her musicians. "I don't want to do anything without the best rehearsals that I can get out of the band and they have to pay attention and keep their eyes on me when I'm on the stage," she says. "I don't fine anybody like Mr. Brown did but I let them know that I know when they make a mistake - and the reason they make mistake is because they don't have their eyes on me."

Like James Brown did, the singer says she'll change something up at the drop of a dime during her performance and therefore likes to keep the band on its toes. "Mr Brown never did a show the same way twice," she reveals. "The songs weren't in the same order all the time. It's the same with me. I don't know what song I'm going to do even though I give the band a set list but sometimes I might want to change it because of how I'm feeling my audience. So, I learned that from him." Fortunately, it seems, the softly-spoken and affable Martha High - who laughs a lot and sees the humour in life - doesn't have Mr Dynamite's explosive temperament though she does confess that "I have a few other ways of his, like handling business."

Perhaps that's why, then, she's survived and continues to work while many of her peers and contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. Admittedly, she spent many years cocooned in James Brown's soul revue but elected to leave in 2000 to see if she could go it alone. It was a brave move but sixteen years on she has no regrets. She has some fine albums under her belt - including 2009's 'It's High Time' and 2012's 'Soul Overdue' (with Speedometer) - and now unleashes a new long player, recorded in Rome with songwriter/producer Luca Sapio.

Here she tells SJF's Charles Waring all about her latest project and also recalls her early years, and, of course, her experiences working for a certain James Brown...

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 May 2016 07:58

 

FROM THE CHURCH TO SNARKY PUPPY AND THE FUNK APOSTLES - KEYBOARD WIZARD CORY HENRY TALKS

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 18:16 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Corey_HammondQuietly spoken, laidback and amiable, Brooklyn-born and church-raised CORY HENRY exudes the relaxed demeanour and easy nonchalance of someone who's supremely confident in his ability and knows what he wants to do in life as well as exactly where he's going. Though prodigiously talented as a keyboard player - he started playing the organ in church at two years old and by the time he was six he was competing in Amateur Night at the legendary Apollo Theater - he hasn't let his special gift go to his head and possesses a well-formed and disarming sense of humility. A core member of Grammy-winning jazz-funk-fusion group, SNARKY PUPPY, his CV includes sessions with everyone from P. Diddy, Yolanda Adams and Aretha Franklin to Kenny Garrett, Michael McDonald and Bruce Springsteen.

Recently, 29-year-old Henry released his third solo album, 'The Revival' via Ground UP. It was recorded live at the Greater Temple Of Praise in Brooklyn, the place of worship where Henry honed his chops on the Hammond organ as a youngster and finds the keyboard maven going back to his gospel roots with a largely solo organ recital. From a technical perspective, Henry's pyrotechnics are awe-inspiring but, crucially, he music is highly emptive and infused with profound feeling. His repertoire, though, isn't restricted to church music and includes songs by John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder and The Beatles. "I've listened to all types of music my whole life - when I was in the house and even when I was going to the park," says Henry, explaining his eclectic taste.  "Once I listened to it, I figured I could play it on the organ. I think everybody's influences come out in their music if they listen to them long enough." He admits, though, that inspirational music - his sonic foundation stone - played a huge part in his musical development. "It's very, very important. It gave me a chance to learn music in ways other people can't," he divulges. Indeed, some might imagine that the gospel environment could be musically restrictive one but young Henry's interest in other forms of music was never curtailed or frowned upon. "I was afforded opportunities to play all different types of music at every church that I played for - and not a lot of people can say that," he says with a tinge of pride in his voice.

In conversation with SJF's Charles Waring ahead of his upcoming four-date tour of the UK, the keyboard player talks about different aspects of his life and music, including his role in Snarky Puppy and the formation of his own band, THE FUNK APOSTLES...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 18:34

 

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