Interviews

THE GODMOTHER OF SOUL - THE LEGENDARY PATTI LABELLE TALKS TO SJF

Wednesday, 08 July 2015 10:31 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

patti_recent"I'm 71 years old and my voice is still strong," declares a feisty Patti LaBelle. "I'm not patting myself on the back but I still make sense on stage: I'm not crazy, I can still move and ...I look pretty cute." The double Grammy-winning Philadelphia-born singer then lets out a mischievous, playful laugh. She's doing press and promotion junkets for her forthcoming concert at Wembley's SSE Arena as part of the star-studded 'Great Voices Of Soul' package scheduled for November 15th, which also features The Whispers, the S.O.S. Band, Meli'sa Morgan, ex-Rose Royce singer, Gwen Dickey, Soul II Soul and Loose Ends. It's quite a line-up and represents Patti's first trip to England for a decade. Indeed, the singer admits that she's neglected the UK. "It's been too long," she says with a tinge of regret in her voice but then jokingly says her UK fans can expect "nothing but greatness. I've been singing for 52 years so you'll get music from everywhere, from all of my old albums."

Certainly, Patti LaBelle, born Patricia Holt in 1944, has a lot of material to draw from. She scored her first hit back in 1963 leading the Blue Belles, a Philly-based group comprising Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash and Cindy Birdsong. The latter left to replace Florence Ballard in The Supremes in 1967 and then in 1970, the remaining trio changed their name to Labelle, got themselves a British manager (Vicki Wickham) and morphed into a sassy, theatrical rock-soul outfit attired in space-age costumes who supported groups like The Who and the Rolling Stones. The group didn't experience any meaningful commercial success until 1974 when they scored a US chart-topper with the risqué proto-disco groove, 'Lady Marmalade' (it was also a Top 20 UK smash). In 1977, the group dissolved and all three members began solo careers. Initially signed to Epic, Patti LaBelle didn't really set the charts alight until she released 'If Only You Knew' for producers/songwriters Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International label in 1983. A switch to MCA in 1985 resulted in a slew of big hits in that decade and the early '90s, including 'On My Own,' her classic duet with Michael McDonald.

Patti won her first Grammy in 1991 for her album 'Burnin',' and her second seven years later for the long player, 'Live! For One Night Only.' She's also appeared in several movies and featured in a raft of TV shows, including  most recently, 'Dancing With The Stars,' which is the US equivalent of the UK's 'Strictly Come Dancing.' Not content with that, Patti is an author of several bestselling recipe books and has even created her own brand of cooking sauces. SJF's Charles Waring recently spoke to the singer about her long and varied career...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 11:00

 

THE TIN MAN TALKS... THE AARON PARNELL BROWN INTERVIEW.

Saturday, 04 July 2015 15:51 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

aaronparnellbrownWithout doubt one of the truest "SOUL" albums of 2015 so far has been 'The Tin Man' from AARON PARNELL BROWN. The complex but concise nine tracker has won the hearts of underground soul lovers since UK soul scribe Toby Walker (see www.soulwalking.co.uk) discovered the self-released album earlier in the year. With regular plays on Jazz FM, the lead track 'Just Leave' has drawn comparison with Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway and because of the buzz on Aaron, Ralph Tee (who knows a thing or two about proper soul) has stepped in and signed the album for exclusive release on his Expansion Records so that everyone can now have the opportunity to enjoy the subtle soul gem. With the release scheduled from July 24th, what better time to learn a bit more about Mr. Brown.... so here we go, an exclusive interview with soul's newest star and, as ever, we start with some background....

I grew up for my first eleven years or so in Philadelphia where much of my family is from. While in elementary school I started playing music on the flute. After moving to South Carolina in middle school I transferred to the trumpet which I really loved. I really fell in love with jazz and soul music when I started playing the trumpet. My Dad was a big soul and jazz lover and he introduced me to jazz greats such as Clifford Brown (from nearby Wilmington, DE), John Coltrane (who lived in Philly for awhile), and, of course, Miles Davis. He also introduced me to all the soul music he loved from the 70's such as the great Philly acts - The Stylistics, The Delfonics, Teddy Pendergrass, and Blue Magic – as well as other great soul acts such as Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, New Birth, and Enchantment. In high school I had a bad basketball accident where I got hit in the mouth and wasn't able to play the trumpet well after that – which lead me to picking up the guitar and singing. I never really thought I had a great voice, but I just loved to sing because in many ways I thought it was similar to playing the trumpet with regards to finding and singing great melodic lines. I guess my ambitions growing up were to play professional basketball or baseball. I loved both sports, especially basketball, and worked tirelessly to make that happen, but unfortunately I just wasn't good enough. Growing up music, was more of just something I really enjoyed doing. I played music all the time just because it really made me feel great, not because I wanted to be a superstar or anything.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 July 2015 16:18

 

HIATUS KAIYOTE IN THE UK - 'FUTURE SOUL' SIREN NAI PALM TALKS!

Thursday, 02 July 2015 10:12 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Hiatus_3"We attract the nerds...but that's cool," laughs Hiatus Kaiyote's siren-like singer, the charismatic and slightly mysterious Nai Palm, who is talking to SJF on the eve of the Australian band's appearance at the Glastonbury festival. "We're looking forward to it: it will be really fun and the fact that we're on super-late should mean that it will be well and truly chaotic by then. It should be cool."

The Melbourne-based quartet - the other members are instrumentalists Paul Bender, Simon Mavin, and Perrin Moss - play another UK gig this Saturday 4th July at Islington Assembly Hall and are due to appear at the Love Supreme festival the next day. They're over here as part of a summer-long European expedition having just finished a gruelling American itinerary but they won't be off the road until next year. "It's all systems go," laughs Nai, the group's main lyric writer, who seems to be relishing the band's time in the spotlight.

Their hectic, globetrotting tour schedule is a reflection of the group's rising popularity, particularly in the USA, where their latest album, 'Choose Your Weapon,' recently peaked at #11 in the R&B albums chart. Some have described their music as neo-soul while others have dubbed it 'future soul' whereas Nai Palm, herself, has described the band's music as "multi-dimensional polyrhythmic gangster shit." Confused? It's difficult not to be. The truth is, though, that their unique sound and allusive style simply defies categorization - there are identifiable elements assimilated from different genres of music (soul, pop, funk, jazz, hip-hop, drum and bass, and even Japanese Anime soundtracks) but they've been combined and distilled into something wholly unclassifiable and totally original which is often brilliant and uplifting.

Led by Nai Palm's distinctive astral vocals - which has hints of Erykah Badu and Billie Holiday in its timbre and phrasing - Hiatus Kaiyote issued their first album, 2013's 'Tawk Tomahawk' independently before being snapped up by producer/A&R executive Salaam Remi (renowned for his work with Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill) who signed them to the Sony imprint, Flying Buddha. Prior to the release of their second album, 'Choose Your Weapon,' the group were nominated for a Grammy for their song 'Nakamurra' featuring A Tribe Called Quest's talisman, Q-Tip. That placed them firmly on the world stage and since then they haven't looked back.

In conversation with SJF's Charles Waring ahead of the band's Glastonbury appearance and their July 4th and 5th UK gigs, Nai Palm gives us the lowdown on Hiatus Kaiyote, talking about their inspirations, collaborations, and their most famous fan, one Prince Nelson Rogers...

 

Last Updated on Monday, 06 July 2015 17:19

 

HE'S GOT IT COVERED - ROBERT GLASPER TALKS

Friday, 19 June 2015 12:17 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

glaspernew1Robert Glasper is undoubtedly the man of the moment. The 37-year-old Texas-born pianist and two-times Grammy winner has just released his sixth Blue Note album, 'Covered.' He also features heavily, playing keyboards, of course, on Kendrick Lamar's acclaimed new hip-hop album, 'To Pimp A Butterfly,' and is the producer of a soon-to-be-unveiled star-studded Nina Simone tribute album, 'Nina Revisited,' due for release via BMG next month. Not content with that, he's also contributed to the soundtrack to actor/director Don Cheadle's forthcoming movie Miles Ahead, a cinematic portrait of iconic jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis, during his 'lost years' of the mid-to-late 1970s.

Though he started out as a fairly orthodox straight-ahead jazz pianist, Glasper has never liked being pigeonholed and isn't afraid to experiment. The two Grammy awards that adorn his mantelpiece he won as an R&B artist - he took the Best R&B Album award for his long player 'Black Radio' in 2013 and earlier this year grabbed another 'gong' alongside collaborators Lalah Hathaway and Malcolm-Jamal Warner  in the category of Best Traditional R&B Performance for their potent version of Stevie Wonder's 'Jesus Children.'

His latest opus, 'Covered,' is different again and finds the affable pianist reconvening his acoustic jazz trio in a live setting in front of an invited audience at Los Angeles' famous Capitol Studios. His repertoire, though, only includes one standard - 'Stella By Starlight' - and instead draws from the worlds of rock and pop. Talking to SJF's Charles Waring from a hotel room somewhere in Japan, Robert Glasper discusses not only his new album but also other musical projects that he is working on and, perhaps more significantly, talks candidly about the racism and police violence that is impacting African-Americans in the USA today...

 

Last Updated on Friday, 19 June 2015 17:34

 

THE POWER OF SOUL... ACCORDING TO RASHEED ALI

Sunday, 14 June 2015 19:05 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

FistOne of this year's most intriguing and truest soul album's is '1968; Soul Power' from  "1968 featuring Rasheed Ali". The 18 track album is a serious attempt to look at the key issues that dogged America in the late 60s.... the Civil Rights argument, the Vietnam War, urban unrest and much more. The soundscape of the long player is an authentic recreation of the era of James Brown, Sly Stone and countless other 60s soul and funk luminaries. Little wonder that the album is quickly winning favour with serious students of soul and as its underground reputation builds, '1968; Soul Power' is all set to become one of 2015's biggest albums. Time then to find out more about its creator.... New York-born Rasheed Ali and of course his musical crusade as set out in '1968; Soul Power'. We recently caught up with Rasheed and began by asking about his background.....

I grew up in a low-income housing project in New York City, in an area called San Juan Hill. It was a very interesting, tough little neighborhood. The jazz great Thelonious Monk lived on the next street over and I grew up with both his children. Knowing that Monk was a worldwide star hit home for me as a kid, when he was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Monk's sartorial elegance and iconic presence was a counterbalance to the sordid characters we had in the neighborhood: drug dealers, heroin addicts, serial criminals, etc. The cultural mix in my neighborhood provided me with big ears for music. Half of the people in the neighborhood were Black folks who migrated from southern states like South Carolina and the other half were people who migrated from the Caribbean; like my family. That meant I listened to Calypso, merengue, Bomba and Plena at home but I listened to Soul music with my American friends.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 June 2015 14:05

 

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