Interviews

SHE'S WORTH IT - UK-BASED US SINGER/SONGWRITER JUDI JACKSON TALKS

Wednesday, 06 December 2017 14:39 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

        altFrom the city of Roanoke in south west Virginia you can clearly see the smoky-hued Blue Ridge Mountains which encircle it, rising majestically in the distance. It provides a picturesque rural backcloth that contrasts with the high-rise urban structures and shimmering neon signs of a busy modern American metropolis that boasts one of the best concert halls in Virginia - the Jefferson Center, a former high school converted into a state of the art performance space that plays host to classical, jazz, and pop concerts. It was there in 2007 that a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl called Judi Jackson who dreamed of being a performer - herself a Roanoke native - had a serendipitous meeting with jazz trumpet maestro, Wynton Marsalis, after a show he did.  "I met him there and he sent me some music afterwards," recalls the young singer, now 24, who has since relocated to London, a mere 3,800 miles away from her hometown. Wishing to encourage young Judi's aspirations to be a singer, Marsalis mailed a collection of music to her as a Christmas gift and it transformed her life. "He really changed the way that I heard music and thought about music," she reveals. "I studied it academically and really intensely. I learned about Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Mahalia Jackson, and lots of lovely artists."

Seven years after that - on January 31st 2014 to be precise - Judi, then 19, actually got to perform at the Jefferson Center in the Shaftman Performance Hall alongside US jazz/funk/soul aggregation Snarky Puppy. She performed who own song, 'Only You,'  accompanied by the band's leader, Michael League, on acoustic guitar, and keyboardist, Bill Laurance. But being something of a restless soul, eventually Judi's trajectory took her to the United Kingdom, where she now lives. She's about to launch her career as a recording artist with a classy 7-track EP called 'Blame It On My Youth.' It's been causing quite a stir in soul music circles thanks to the killer track, 'Worth It,' which has already notched up 40,000 hits on Spotify. It's a real earworm and features Judi's beguiling ethereal vocal floating on an irresistible, Maxwell-like groove driven by a sinuous bass line.

'Worth It' is a song written from personal experience and whose theme is perseverance and hope triumphing over despair - ultimately, a case of love conquering all. Explaining her song's message, she says: "I struggle with social anxiety sometimes and it's something that people don't always want to talk about, because they're ashamed. They think they're alone and they're the only ones that feel that way but I know that there are other people that are dealing with it as well, so I'm curious to just put this song out there to support each other and say love will keep us hopeful so keep going, it's worth it; you're not alone and you can make it."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 December 2017 16:14

 

A BRAND NEW ARETHA: The interview….

Monday, 13 November 2017 14:23 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThroughout the year, there have been all kinds of rumours about ARETHA FRANKLIN. First, we heard she was set to retire; next we learned she was working on a new album with people like Elton John, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder. Who konws? Anyway, in the meantime, we were told that the curators of her classic Atlantic back catalogue decided it was time to revisit some of her very best recordings as a way of celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Majesty joining the famous old label. Atlantic/Rhino execs, it's said, decided that it would be a "good idea" to create new musical settings for 14 of Aretha's best loved recordings and to help them flesh out the idea they drafted in top music producers NICK PATRICK and DON REEDMAN (pictured above) who'd done something similar with a batch of Elvis Presley classics. So, once again - as with the Elvis project - Nick and Don called in London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and over a sixth month period, ensconced in the legendary Abbey Road studios, they created lush and lavish new backing tracks over which they grafted The Queen Of Soul's celebrated original vocals. The result is the just released 'A Brand New Me' album (see our review section) and since the soul community has generally been impressed by the project, we decided to discover how it all came about. So, hooking up with producers Nick Patrick and Don Reedman we started to dig. First though we needed to know a little about their music credentials....

NICK PATRICK

Well, I started my production career producing world music artists in Paris with artists such as Mory Kante, Youssou N'Dour, Salif Keita and The Gypsy Kings. I then produced many classical crossover artists including Russell Watson, Katherine Jenkins, Amici Forever and Il Divo. Recent projects have included the Elvis Presley Symphonic albums, 'If I Can Dream' and ‚'The Wonder of You' and I've also worked on material from Roy Orbison, Marvin Gaye , Tina Turner , Seal, Michael Buble, Ball and Boe, and Placido Domingo.

DON REEDMAN

I started my career in music in publishing and moved on into record companies – in particular, K-Tel, where I started my production career producing the 'Classic Rock' series with the London Symphony Orchestra and the 'Hooked On Classics' series with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I produced four albums with Michael Crawford and a duet with Michael and Barbra Streisand. Albums by Jane McDonald and Tom Jones followed, and more recently the Elvis Presley albums which Nick mentioned.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 November 2017 15:16

 

DEEP THOUGHTS FROM A JAZZ WARRIOR - COURTNEY PINE TALKS

Wednesday, 25 October 2017 12:31 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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"I've been trying, haven't I?" laughs COURTNEY PINE, when I remark that he's enjoyed a long and varied career. "There were a few doubts when I started but I was determined then and I'm still determined now," declares the OBE- and CBE-decorated multi-reed player and radio broadcaster, whom many regard as a British national treasure. "Luckily for me, jazz is not about two singles, a ballad, and then the album, or even chart positions - jazz is about going to play the Montreux Jazz Festival and going to places like São Paulo to play ...and the next thing you know, it's almost 30 years later."

Indeed, it's 31 years since a 22-year-old Pine exploded on the British music scene like a supernova with his debut album, 'Journey To The Urge Within,' which dented the UK Top 40 albums chart and made the Paddington-reared musician an overnight sensation. Now 53, the short hair and cool, sharp-suited jazz image of his youth has long been replaced by dreads and a more Bohemian look, which also reflects the more exploratory nature of his music, and its multifarious influences and inspirations. His latest opus, 'Black Notes From The Deep,' released this week by Freestyle, is his sixteenth long player and is significant in that it marks his return to the tenor saxophone, the instrument he began with back in the day.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 October 2017 16:31

 

AN AUDIENCE WITH AFROBEAT'S RHYTHM KING - Tony Allen talks to SJF

Monday, 02 October 2017 16:44 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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Dressed all in black, with a cap to match, Tony Allen looks sharp but is smaller than I expected. Perhaps that's because his drumming is so powerful - and the kinetic grooves that he creates seem so much larger than life - that it leads you to assume that he would be a big, burly man with bulging muscles. Not so. His hands, too, when we shake each other's on greeting in a trendy London bar, surprise me - they're soft and gentle and not, as some might assume, rough and calloused from almost sixty years of non-stop drumming. Evidently, then, Tony Allen is a man who shatters preconceptions. He sits opposite me exuding the cool demeanour of a benign guru and though he's 77, you wouldn't guess it from looking at his skin, which is ebony smooth and seems to belong to a much younger man. Though softly spoken - you can't ever imagine him shouting or working himself into a lather - he is not at all diffident, and though he likes to talk at length, he only occasionally grows animated with passion.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Allen is Afrobeat's undisputed master drummer. He rose to fame in the 1970s as the percussion dynamo driving Fela Kuti's legendary Africa '70 band, a huge ensemble that became the trailblazers for a style of music called Afrobeat, a unique musical hybrid  that blended the vocabulary and polyrhythms of African highlife music with American jazz and funk. Allen left Kuti in 1979 - "I just got tired," he says - and eventually landed up in Paris, where's he's lived since the mid-1980s. He's made around twenty albums under his own name and his latest, called 'The Source,' and just released by Blue Note Records, is one of his best yet.

"I was always dreaming of doing something on Blue Note," says Allen, who confesses that he listened to American jazz when he was starting out in the early 1960s. Indeed, the album is Allen's most overtly jazz-influenced long player yet and the title, he says, refers to "the roots of my music. I'm doing jazz on this record but it's not standard jazz." On previous albums he has also supplied vocals as well as the rhythm track but that, he says, is a thing of the past. "I've been doing singing on my albums for some time but I don't want to be singing anymore because I want to concentrate on my drumming. I want to evolve more. Singing is another thing for me but I think it's confusing for people. I'm a drummer first so this new album is all instrumental." He pauses then says "Just call a spade a spade," and then laughs heartily. "That means I just stay as I am."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 October 2017 09:11

 

DREAMING BIG - CÉCILE McLORIN SALVANT TALKS TO SJF

Monday, 25 September 2017 06:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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"My memory is not the best," confesses 28-year-old Cécile McLorin Salvant, one of jazz's fast-rising young stars, whose voice and music is not easily forgotten once heard.  Her admission is followed by a melodic peal of laughter. She's scheduled to perform at London's Ronnie Scott's venue for two nights on the 11th and 12th October and is trying in vain recall details of her previous, critically-acclaimed, appearance at the legendary jazz club back in 2015. "I don't remember the concert so much," she admits, "but I remember the things that happen around the concerts. So I remember walking through London and then going to the stage, but to be fair, I don't even remember what we played there. But I do know that it was a really great time. I'm looking forward to being there in October and offering a little bit of what we do now and showing how we've evolved since the last time we were there."

Certainly, her career and music has moved on considerably since the last time she was in London. She won a Grammy award last year for her third album, 'For One To Love,' and is now about to unleash her most ambitious project yet - a sprawling double album called 'Dreams And Daggers' via Mack Avenue Records. Fusing live performances of jazz standards, recorded at Greenwich Village's legendary Village Vanguard venue during a residency there at the tail end of last year, with brand new studio recordings featuring a string quartet, it's an album that dares to be different. Cécile also devised the album's striking cover art,  which combines provocative photographs taken in her own bathroom with illustrations she's done. It's a thrilling example of a young artist exercising total and uncompromising artistic control in the realisation of her musical vision.

"I don't think of myself too much as someone who has really big concepts," she laughs, when quizzed on the central idea behind the album. "A lot of it is unexplainable and instinctive - or just what feels right. But also the album celebrates contrasts and is really playing with that idea -  contrasts in texture, themes, intention, and sounds. Another thing about the album is that the songs are connected in different ways. The songs I wrote with the string arrangements were sometimes written in connection with the songs that we performed live. They're like comments, counter-ideas or create a dialogue in between the songs, so the order is very much important in listening to the album because it's a story that unfolds with those songs."

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 08:58

 

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