SUGARAY SPEAKS; The Sugaray Rayford Interview

Friday, 08 September 2017 19:07 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSugaray Rayford is a Texas-born blues and soul man who, after paying considerable dues, may just be about to win the recognition that his considerable talent deserves via his latest solo album 'The Wolrd That We Live In'. Released on Italian label, Blind Faith, the long player is winning plenty of friends in the soul copmmunty ... people who repect old school values of passion, committment and gospel-reared vocals. These proper soul buffs asked to know more about Mr Rayford. So, we obliged ... and having caught up with the big man we started by asking about some personal details....

I was born in Tyler, Texas. My mother was an incredible singer and this was my musical imprinting. Sadly she was fighting against a bad cancer when me and my brothers where just kids. She suffered and we suffered mightly, litteraly starving. It was an hard life, but taught me perseverance. Then our grandmother stepped in and literally saved our lives . We ate every day and we were in church every day too, which I loved. I grew up in gospel church and became a choir director. At 16 I was with the Inspirational Youth Choir, 300 plus members and I had the chance to work with some legendary gospel bands like "The Jackson Southernaries", "Mighty Clouds Of Joy" and many others. I learned so much from them. Those people can sing without a mic in front of packed churches and give you the chills. Beautiful memories.

What about secular music ... did you ignore that?

Gospel of course was not the only music that I liked at the time. When I was young, R'n'B and Soul music played a big role. Let me say also that I have always loved to dance. For a while I was a pretty good break dancer! I think that dancing makes your soul feel free. But then I relocated my life in California and used to be a bouncer, and a fulltime avocado farmer! One night, my wife heard me singing and out of the blue suggested me to join some band or musicians in my local area. It was 1999 and I never hit the stage in twenty years. My soul was missing something and when she pulled the trigger I realized that it was the music. At the beginning it was just for fun and on the weekends, but soon thanks to the power of word of mouth I became a professional performer with 4 solo albums on my shoulders, with thousands of gig performances all around the world and many awards as a blues singer and entertainer.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 September 2017 19:21



Friday, 08 September 2017 06:27 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Back in the 1960s and '70s, Memphis was the undisputed Mecca of southern soul. The so-called 'Bluff City,' which overlooked the snaking Mississippi river, was a thriving metropolis for African-American music and though there were several notable record labels based there - including Willie Mitchell's Hi stable, which gave the world Al Green and Ann Peebles, and Quinton Claunch's smaller Goldwax company -  there was one that was considerably mightier and more influential than the rest. Its name? Stax Records.

Stax was a curious paradox among record labels. It was set up by two white Southerners in the heart of Jim Crow country  and yet came to represent the sound of black America during the Civil Rights era. Also, it offered a progressive  vision of equality and diversity - white and black, young and old, men and women, rural and urban - in an area of America where any kind of integration was anathema.

The seeds for what became Stax were sown in 1957, when Jim Stewart, a former bank clerk who was also an aspiring musician (he played with a band called The Canyon Cowboys), decided to set up his own independent record label in Memphis. He called it Satellite, and based out of his garage, its first releases were country and rockabilly singles. "Jim came from Middleton, Tennessee, to the Memphis area to get going in the music business," remembers Booker T. Jones, a multi-instrumentalist who became indispensable to Stax in the 1960s. "He was a fiddle player and the younger brother of Estelle Axton, who was a teacher. She mortgaged her house to get the money to build a studio."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 12:51


COMING GO ROUND AGAIN - The 360band's Hamish Stewart talks to SJF

Friday, 04 August 2017 15:44 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

          altHamish Stuart's name is a familiar one to seasoned connoisseurs of funk and soul. He rose to fame, of course, as a singer, guitarist and occasional bass player with arguably Scotland's finest musical export, the Average White Band. That was during the 1970s when they became one of the world's biggest R&B acts on the back of numerous hit singles (including the perennially popular and much-sampled 'Pick Up The Pieces') and several notable LPs. He stayed with the band until 1983 and then embarked on a solo career. He was also in demand as a sideman and in 1989 began a four-year period touring and recording with Paul McCartney (he appeared on five of the ex-Beatles' albums, including the acclaimed studio opus, 'Flowers In The Dirt') and later, in 2006, he found himself working with the other surviving member of the 'Fab Four,' when he toured with Ringo Starr.

Today, at the age of 67, this affable Glaswegian could comfortably rest on his laurels and take it easy like The Eagles but playing in a band is a bug that he finds hard to shake off. As a result, Stuart is back in the groove with the 360band, whose nucleus comprises himself along with fellow former AWB members Molly Duncan (saxophone), and Steve Ferrone (drums). The trio's debut album, 'Three Sixty,' is due for release later this month and is distinguished by the same kind of classy, soulful R&B vibe that infused the Average White Band's best recordings back in the day. 

"The idea of coming full circle was the initial thought," says softly-spoken Stuart referring to the significance of the band's name. "Or it could be just three guys over 60," he quips, which he follows with a hearty, self-deprecating chuckle. He reveals that the 360band came about principally because of Steve Ferrone, who became a sought-after session drummer after he left the AWB. "He was being honoured in the drummer's Hall of Fame in LA a couple of years ago," explains Stuart, "and asked everybody who was in the Average White Band to play with him but only Molly and I could make it because the other guys had other commitments. We had such a good time that we said we've got to do this again."


Last Updated on Saturday, 05 August 2017 09:46


ICE COOL ALEX - soul legend ALEXANDER O'NEAL talks ahead of his UK show at Quaglino's

Thursday, 27 July 2017 11:59 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                altEver since Alexander O'Neal scored his first UK chart entry back in December 1985 - with 'Saturday Love,' his anthemic duet with Cherrelle Norton - he's enjoyed what can only be described as a special relationship with the British public, whose devotion remains steadfast even though 30 years have now passed since the singer's biggest UK smash, 'Criticize,' crashed into the nation's Top 5.

Now back in England to perform at Mayfair's trendy but intimate nightspot, Quaglino's, on Thursday 27th July, 64-year-old O'Neil professes that he feels a lot of  affection for the country where its people took him to their hearts. "It's so wonderful to be back here," he enthuses. "England is my favourite place in the world. I have a lot of great fans here. They're people who grew up with me but also want to grow old with me, which is different from America. I just enjoy coming here and performing for my fans. They've given me so much love over the last 30 years, and if they continue to do that then I'll be very happy."

London, too has a special place in his heart. "Without doubt, it's my favourite city. When I'm here, I'm not homesick because I feel at home. I don't miss anything and I don't miss anybody because I have friends here and family too - my daughter moved here from Canada. So it definitely feels like a second home to me."

Last Updated on Friday, 28 July 2017 12:49


Doing his dance in the UK - saxophonist KENNY GARRETT speaks to SJF ahead of his headline performance at next weekend's Ealing Jazz Festival.

Monday, 24 July 2017 19:01 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


As a graduate cum laude of the legendary Jazz Messengers - drummer Art Blakey's famous long-running group dubbed the 'Hard Bop Academy' - KENNY GARRETT can attest to having had one of the best educations that jazz has to offer. But Blakey, whose group ran from 1954 to his death in 1990, wasn't the only master that the Detroit-born alto saxophonist received valuable experience and pearls of wisdom from. Although he spent two years with the drum meister, he enjoyed an even longer period - five years to be exact - with arguably the greatest band leader of them all in jazz: the mighty Miles Davis, during his late electric period. He joined the trumpeter's band in 1986, toured the world with him several times, and also played on several albums, including 1988's late masterpiece, 'Amandla.'

Garrett remembers those days fondly and is deeply appreciative of what he gleaned from that time. "I learned so much from him," he says with a tincture of solemnity and reverence in his voice. In his prime, Davis could be a hard, enigmatic taskmaster - he once punched John Coltrane for nodding off on the bandstand - but Garrett found the opposite was true. Perhaps the 'Dark Magus' had mellowed with age. "Anyone who gives you 10 or 15 minutes solos must have a lot of respect for you," opines the 56-year-old Detroit saxophonist recalling his time with Davis...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 09:25


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