SPREADING HIS WINGS: Grammy Winning Birdman Soundtrack Composer Antonio Sanchez Talks Drums, Bad Hombres, And Pat Metheny Ahead Of His May Barbican Concert

Monday, 18 March 2019 18:15 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


There's never been a movie soundtrack quite like the one that Antonio Sanchez created for the 2014 Hollywood movie, Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance), helmed by the much-lauded Mexican director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu. That's because it consisted solely of improvised drum patterns played by its composer, who used the instrument's array of percussion sounds to reflect the many moods and mindset of the film's troubled central protagonist, Riggan Thompson. Superbly played by Michael Keaton, Thomson is an actor famous for his portrayal of a masked, crime-fighting superhero character (Birdman) but doesn't want to be typecast and instead desires to be taken seriously by drama critics. The film, a mordant black comedy with some surreal fantasy elements sprinkled in it, charts Thomson's attempts to become a bona fide thespian by starring in his own Broadway stage adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story.

If you've seen the film - which deservedly garnered a plethora of awards, including four Academy Awards - you'll know that Sanchez's drum soundtrack is an essential component of the whole Birdman experience. On Saturday May 4th at London's Barbican venue - as part of the capital city's keenly-anticipated Latin music festival called La Linea - the British public will get an opportunity to see the Mexican-American drummer/composer play the complete soundtrack live in sync with a screening of the film. It promises to be nothing less than a singular immersive spectacle and to tell us what to expect when he takes to the Barbican stage, Antonio Sanchez talked exclusively to SJF's Charles Waring...

Last Updated on Monday, 18 March 2019 19:48




Friday, 01 March 2019 13:17 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                   alt"I can still feel the jetlag from the first time that I came to London," laughs a radiant TAMIA, who is casting her mind back 24 years to 1995 when as a 20-year-old ingénue she accompanied Quincy Jones to Europe to promote the legendary record producer's silky ballad, 'You Put A Move On My Heart,' which she sang lead vocals on. "It was surreal," she remembers. "We went all over the world - even Japan - and it was such an amazing learning experience."

 Fast forward to 2019 and six-time Grammy nominee Tamia Hill is back in London to promote her seventh album, 'Fire Like Passion,' which she'll be supporting with a much-anticipated live show at Camden Town's KOKO venue tonight on Friday March 1st. The angelic-voiced soul chanteuse is older and wiser now - she'll be 44 in May - but as the title to her new project confirms, her commitment to her craft and music is still burning as brightly as it did back in 1998 when she released her self-titled debut album. "I wanted people to know that I'm still as passionate about music as I was when I made my first album," she tells me a propos the new album, as I sit opposite her in a reception room in an upscale West London hotel. "The best part of doing new music is being able to get out there and promote it and connect with people through it. I want to see what the songs do to people and how it makes them feel."

Unlike some visiting R&B singers, Tamia won't be backed by a UK pick-up group for her London show. "I've brought my own band," she reveals with a sense of pride. "We've got keys, drums and two background singers. I've been with them for over 15 years so we've been touring forever and we're pretty in sync. If there's something that's spontaneous that I feel like doing they know where to follow me. We love performing, so any time we get up there on stage, we have a good time for ourselves and the audience." 

Tamia's keen to emphasise that her performance will be a well-conceived and properly thought-out show. "We're not just going out there singing five songs that take 45 minutes," she says. "We'll be putting on a show. I want to take you on a musical journey from the beginning of my career to where I am now." 

Last Updated on Friday, 01 March 2019 16:08



RAINING LOVE: The Lee Fields interview....

Thursday, 28 February 2019 18:38 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLEE FIELDS is proud to call himself a proper old school soul man. He's been in the business for almost 50 years. He's had ups and downs but he's still going and stronger and more popular than ever. Indeed he's about to unleash a brand new album. 'It Rains Love' is set for release on April 5th, so what better time to, find out a little more about Mr Fields.... a singer held in esteem by savvy soul fans but a unknown in the mainstream, so we started by asking Lee to tell us a bit about his background....

I won a talent show at my high school in 1964 and from there joined a band called the Dave Bryant 5. My intention wasn't to become a singer; I wanted to be a businessman. I was about 13 yrs old and I had a paper round but I loved to singing along with my transistor radio. A buddy of mine dared me that I wouldn't enter this talent show and the band that was playing there hired me. My early heroes and influences were Sam Cooke, Jimmy Hughes, Beatles, and O.V Wright. I was always interested in music that moved people.

So what was it really like for an aspirational soul, singer in the 60s and 70s – the so called Golden Age of Soul... was it so golden for people like you? And why do you think you never quite made it to soul's major league?

It was just good music at the time, about things that people related to. Today I feel like the media is so big and they can dictate that this is what people like. I think the public has lost its sensitivity to what they truly like, they just listen to what the mass media says. It seems people liked what they liked back then a bit more, despite the media. Everybody today is much more susceptible to what the media suggests. I think I appeal to people who really think for themselves and are not as prone to programming. The reason I didn't get the shine was that I'm a guy of the future. I've always been like that. Not to be pompous, just something important to note. I do sing of that time, but my thoughts and feeling were of the future, therefore I was never in sync with the time. The stuff I was writing about, I was always referring to the future. I don't regret my views because I had a great life and I'm having a great time now. Many people who got to shine back then are talking about that time still today, but I'm talking about today! My heyday is now! I wouldn't do it any other way.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2019 19:09



HORN OF PLENTY - Randy Brecker Talks About Big Bands, Reminiscences About Art Blakey, And Recalls How The Brecker Brothers Sprang From A Solo Project.

Friday, 15 February 2019 15:26 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


"Music is a mystery," laughs the Philly horn maestro Randy Brecker, talking to me from deepest Germany. Given that he's been playing the trumpet for 65 years, since he was eight, and is revered as a master of his chosen instrument, that might seem like a curious thing to say, but Brecker is in a philosophical mood and reveals that musicians, even great ones like him, are not robots or automatons. Even they have their off days. Though he has appeared on hundreds of recordings - from albums by jazz greats such as  Horace Silver and Stanley Turrentine to rock stars Lou Reed and Aerosmith - he confesses that he has endured times when his muse and ability to play his horn seemed to have deserted him altogether.

"Sometimes it feels great, but sometimes, like yesterday in the afternoon, for instance, I could barely play," discloses the 73-year-old, recalling a German jazz festival he performed at the day before this interview. "We were rehearsing and my chops felt terrible," he confides. "I had come from France and hadn't had any sleep so I got very nervous for the gig at night because I was so tired and in the dressing room I kept falling asleep." It got to the point where Brecker felt so bad that he felt he couldn't perform. "Right before the concert, I kept saying, 'I can't do this,' but then, lo and behold, we went out there on stage and it sounded great. My chops came to life. I could play anything and the band, the Cologne funkateers with whom we had just briefly rehearsed, sounded great."

Perhaps it's not so much that music is a mystery, then, but that its creators, human beings, are a mystery. But there's nothing remotely mysterious about Randy Brecker's long and illustrious career, which has brought him numerous accolades and a Grammy award. He was a child prodigy who was born into a music-obsessed Philadelphia family. Raised on jazz, he rose to become one of the most accomplished trumpeters of his generation. As a young man, in the late '60s he played in the big bands of Mel Lewis & Thad Jones, Clark Terry and Duke Pearson before enjoying stints in the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. His career began just as hard bop was being eclipsed by jazz-rock but he made the transition to the new and exciting fusion genre via the groundbreaking group, Dreams, with whom he recorded two LPs. After that, plenty of session work kept him busy and then in the mid 70s, he led the Brecker Brothers, alongside his saxophone-playing brother, Michael, and altoist, David Sanborn. The group's distinctive brand of brassy jazz-funk led to a US hit single ('Sneakin' Up Behind You') and six albums for Arista Records between 1975 and 1981. Although Brecker had released his debut solo album as far back as 1969 for the Solid State label - it was called 'Score' and produced by Blue Note stalwart, Duke Pearson - he didn't resume his solo career until almost twenty years later, in 1987.

Since then, Brecker has released solo albums at regular junctures - his 1997 LP, 'Into The Sun,' won him a Grammy - and now he is just about to unleash a new project recorded in tandem with Germany's NDR  big band. It's called 'Rocks' and features his saxophone-playing wife, Ava Rovatti, as well as saxophone legend, David Sanborn. In an exclusive interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Randy Brecker shed light on his new venture and talked at length about his storied career...

Last Updated on Friday, 22 February 2019 16:49



LIFE LESSONS - Ben Sidran Talks About Performing, America's Cultural War And The State Of Jazz.

Monday, 05 November 2018 20:18 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

             alt"Renaissance Man" and "polymath" are just two of the epithets that have been applied to BEN SIDRAN in an attempt to describe his impressive multiplicity of talents. On the music side, he's a noted singer, songwriter, pianist, producer, and even a record company owner (he ran the label Go Jazz between 1989 and 2003 and now oversees a newer company, Nardis) but if that isn't impressive enough, he's also an author (to date, he's written five books), a respected cultural commentator, and an award-winning broadcaster. He is, then, a man who wears many hats, though he's certainly no dilettante or a jack of all trades: rather, everything he puts his hand - or mind - to, he masters completely and with apparent ease.  

Though Sidran is primarily regarded as a jazz musician, early on in his career he was a member of the American rock group, the Steve Miller Band, and co-wrote their classic track, 'Space Cowboy,' and also did sessions with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. His own solo career, though, which began in 1971, saw him plough a unique stylistic furrow, melding pop and funk with bebop and an appreciation of wit and wordplay inherited from his hero, Mose Allison.

Now 75, Sidran, who has recorded almost forty albums (his last one, 'Picture Him Happy,' came out in 2017), is the focus of a new, lovingly-curated retrospective which distils forty years of live recordings down to 3 CDs and 27 songs. It's called 'Ben There, Done That: Ben Sidran Live Around The World (1975-2015)' and captures the singer-songwriter on stage in Japan, Europe (England, Italy, Spain, and France) and his native USA. It functions like a sonic time machine that transports the listener back to different junctures in Sidran's storied career, ultimately painting a vivid portrait of an artist evolving over the years. On some of the set's earliest performances - like an incendiary1975 version of Dizzy Gillespie's 'Birk's Works' -  Sidran is musically on fire, playing febrile, bop-inflected piano lines, while on later tracks - a 2015 rendition of 'The Groove Is Gonna Get You,' for example - he is perceptibly more relaxed and at ease on stage; and crucially, settling into a deeper, more luxuriant groove, seemingly both in music and in life.

SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with Ben Sidran, who not only shed light on his new album project but also talked at length about different aspects of his long career...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 November 2018 19:18



Page 4 of 57