Interviews

Over Here To Tempt Us - The Temptations' Otis Williams On His Love Affair With The UK, Norman Whitfield, And Singing With President Barack Obama

Tuesday, 25 February 2020 11:07 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

         alt"Life is good - I woke up this morning!" So says 78-year-old Otis Williams, accompanying his quip with a hearty, self-deprecating chuckle. As the last surviving original member of the legendary Motown group, The Temptations, the Texas-born baritone singer has quite a responsibility to shoulder, it seems, but remains philosophical about it. "I guess God felt as though I could handle it all and sixty years later, The Tempts are still carrying on, so that's something I've come to realise and accept. Somebody's got to do it, and I guess I was the chosen one."

The Temptations have been visiting the UK regularly for fifty-six years now and are set to return this autumn when they'll play eight shows in tandem with their old Motown sparring-partners, long-time rivals and forever friends, The Four Tops. "We've been coming to England since 1964," says Otis, explaining  The Temptations' enduring love affair with the British public. "I think we made a lasting impression when we first went there, making ourselves known by singing songs like 'My Girl' and wearing sharp suits and doing beautiful choreography. That embodied the thing that The Tempts did, and it became something that the British people expect to hear. And that's why I think we're so loved there."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2020 20:02

 

ALTERATIONS... the ROBIN McKELLE interview

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 15:29 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altListeners to the more savvy soul and jazz stations over the Christmas period would have heard a new, gorgeous version of Joni Mitchell's 'The River' from soul/jazz chanteuse ROBIN McKELLE. Not a Christmas song, per se, it does reference the festival and the sentiment, the sad tenderness and the sense of regret inherent in the song were beautifully delivered by Ms McKelle. The track is one of the many highlights on the singer's upcoming new album - 'Alterations'. The 10 tracker marks something of a departure for Robin. You see 'Alterations' is a "covers album" and when soulandjazzandfunk hooked up with Robin for an update the first thing we needed to know was why a covers album?

Yes, 'Alterations' is a covers album. It features music from celebrated women of song from different genres interpreted in a jazz idiom. After recording a few albums of my own original music, I wanted to record an album of covers because I wanted to focus on my singing. My first passion was singing, interpreting music and lyrics. I think this is my jazz background coming into play but I am also storyteller and writer. I choose songs that really spoke to me and evoked a feeling and distinct emotion.

Second obvious question... why did you choose those particular songs?

I chose each song by female artists who are songwriters and performers like me from different genres and styles. Taking inspiration from my jazz background I wanted to recreate a different sound and feel to these songs. That is also what inspired the title, 'Alterations'. It features songs by Dolly Parton, Sade, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Janis Joplin, Carol King, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, and Lana Del Ray. I just let the song speak to me and I let my voice carry out the ideas. Usually I knew within the first 8 bars of the songs if it was going to inspire me to make it my own.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2020 16:29

 

Underground Disco Diva Donna McGhee Talks About Her Classic LP, The Fatback Band And ... Heavy Breathing

Friday, 20 December 2019 13:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

          altFor people of a certain age, the word "disco" is synonymous with the image of a white-suited John Travolta strutting his stuff in the blockbuster movie Saturday Night Fever while the hirsute, shiny-toothed Bee Gees squawked 'Staying Alive' with impossibly-high helium falsettos. However, as true connoisseurs of that much-maligned musical genre will know, there is much more to disco than the mainstream hits that brought what became a cultural as well as musical phenomenon a big slice of immortality.

But for every big disco hit, there was a stack of mirrorball-oriented singles that for various reasons, did not connect with the public at large but which enjoyed some healthy notoriety at a cult and underground level. Such was the case with Donna McGhee, a young, fine-voiced Brooklyn singer who made a superb single and a fabulous LP in the late '70s, but whose name is not a familiar one to those who think the Gibb brothers were gods of the dancefloor. Donna recorded what turned out to be one of the most collectable disco records ever: an album called 'Make It Last Forever.'  Released by a small, New York-based indie label (Red Greg Records), the LP was a quality product packed with great tunes but perhaps lacking the distribution clout and promotional machinery of a more affluent major label, failed to generate the kind of interest it undoubtedly deserved.  

Now, though, Donna McGhee, who is 65 and still working, is back in the limelight thanks to We Want Sounds' reissue of 'Make It Last Forever,' a record that in its now rare original US pressing commanded a three-figure price. Talking to SJF's Charles Waring from a rainy Portland, Oregon, where she was due to perform, Donna says she is elated by her album's revival. "I just got my copy the other day so I'm very happy that it has been reissued because now I have a new generation of people that appreciate it," she says. "It's had a good lot of good write-ups so I'm very pleased." 

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 December 2019 16:23

 

Singer Vanessa Rubin Talks About Life, Jazz, and Tadd Dameron. "Over time, you live, and you have stories to tell," she says.

Wednesday, 06 November 2019 14:15 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

        alt"Life happens while you're a jazz singer," laughs Vanessa Rubin, explaining her long absence from the world of recording. For those mystified by her sudden disappearance back at the dawn of the 2000s, she says "I never stopped singing," adding, "but you can't be on stage all the time. I'm happy to have had time to be with family and do some normal things, instead of just travelling and focusing on my performance."

Now, six years after her last LP, the independently-produced 'Full Circle' - an organ-driven soul-jazz collaboration with saxophonist, Don Braden - Vanessa Rubin returns to the fray with the ninth album of her career, 'The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron.' Vanessa will be promoting it when she travels to the UK to perform later this month as part of London's EFG Jazz Festival. She'll be appearing at the Chelsea venue, The Pheasantry, between Thursday, November 21st and Saturday, November 23rd. Though she can't give too much away about what her show entails, the singer says that she'll be serving up "some classic standards, blues and originals." She'll also be accompanied by a trio that includes US pianist, Danny Grissett. "Danny is wonderful," reveals the 62-year-old chanteuse. "He's a fabulous piano player. When he first moved to New York, I gave him his first gig there, so he's like my little brother. We're like family and have a really great connection and chemistry together. I love working with him. A couple of years ago, he married and moved to Austria. So when I come to Europe, I usually work with him."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2019 20:46

 

João Gilberto: The Shy, Quiet Genius Behind Bossa Nova

Monday, 08 July 2019 14:57 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

 

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The late singer, guitarist and songwriter helped to ignite bossa nova's quiet revolution in the 1960s.

João Gilberto was catapulted to international fame in the early 1960s as one of the principal architects of Brazil's popular bossa nova style. He patented a unique musical language, which with its sensuous intimacy, caressing melodies and gentle but insistent rhythms was both hypnotic and hauntingly beautiful. His death at the age of 88 on Saturday July 6th, which was announced via social media platforms by his family, brings the curtain down on the distinguished career of one of Brazil's most admired musicians.

Gilberto was born João Gilberto Do Prado Pereira De Oliveira in a small town in Brazil’s northern Bahia region called Juazeiro on 10th June 1931. He was given his first guitar by a relative when he was fourteen and quickly sought to master the instrument and become a singer. He moved to Bahia's capital city, Salvador, endeavouring to establish himself as a resident crooner for local radio stations, though without much success. In 1950 he went to Rio de Janeiro, ostensibly to join a vocal harmony group called Garotas Da Lua, though he was later fired for unreliability and tardiness. Even so, he cut a couple of 78 rpm singles in 1951 though they failed to launch his fledgling music career. He then left Rio and for several years afterwards, his life seemed to drift aimlessly along, much to the dismay of his father,  who genuinely thought his seemingly work-shy son needed psychological evaluation and got him admitted to a mental hospital. Gilberto stayed there a week for tests and was then released without further investigation.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 July 2019 07:25

 

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