Interviews

TALKIN' THE BLUES - SHAD HARRIS SPEAKS!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016 13:25 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

slims2Multi-instrumentalist, SHAD HARRIS - who these days mostly sings while playing a 'keytar' (a portable keyboard)  - is well-known in California for leading a group called The Groovenators, a quartet that dates back to 2007 and plays a funky brand of old school blues. Now sixty-six, Harris's CV includes some impressive names - among them Horace Silver, Etta James, Eddie Harris, Hank Mobley, Charlie Musselwhite, and Tommy Castro - and recently he found time to speak about his life and music to SJF's US correspondent, John Wisniewski...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 13:36

 

STILL CUTTING IT - Legendary US singer, PP ARNOLD, talks ahead of this autumn's Maximum Rhythm N' Blues tour

Wednesday, 27 July 2016 10:21 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

PP_faceShe was a little girl with a big voice who took London by storm in the mid-60s. Barely twenty, she was undoubtedly a stranger in a strange land, but was surprised by how the British took to her - and even more taken aback that as an unknown American background singer, she was able to launch a solo career and have hit records in a country where racial segregation didn't exist. We're talking about PP ARNOLD (pictured left by Gered Mankowitz) who, when she first set foot on English soil, was known as Pat Cole, and was working as an 'Ikette' on Ike & Tina Turner's soul revue. Taken under the wing of Rolling Stones main man, Mick Jagger, and his manager and Immediate Records' label boss,  Andrew Loog Oldham, the singer adopted the stage name PP Arnold, and scored UK hits in the shape of the immortal 'The First Cut Is The Deepest,' 'The Time Has Come,' '(If You Think You're) Groovy,' and 'Angel Of The Morning.'

She recorded with Bee Gee Barry Gibb in the late '60s and early '70s for Polydor before moving into stage musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar and later Starlight Express) and session work (her credits during this period included Humble Pie, Nick Drake, Dr John, and Eric Clapton). In the late '80s she scored a Top 20 UK hit fronting the song 'Burn It Up' for The Beatmasters and in the '90s she worked with The KLF, ex-Pink Floyd man, Roger Waters, and the UK rock bands, Primal Scream, and Ocean Colour Scene.

No approaching her seventieth birthday, PP is still in fine voice and can be seen and heard alongside Manfred Man spinoff band, The Manfreds (featuring singers Paul Jones and Mike d'Abo)  and UK R&B legend, Zoot Money on the upcoming Maximum Rhythm N' Blues Tour, which crisscrosses the British Isles this coming October, November and December.

SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with PP to talk about the tour and her career....

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 10:50

 

MARVIN, MILES ... AND JOHNNY!

Sunday, 24 July 2016 14:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

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One of this year's most intriguing albums has been 'Marvin Meets Miles' by Louisville-born Johnny Britt.... a singer, songwriter, producer, trumpeter, arranger and composer who's maybe previously best known for his work with the duo Impromp2. 'Marvin Meets Miles' though is set to take Johnny to a new level. The album is winning plenty of airplay and causing intrigue as Johnny re-interprets a selection of Marvin Gaye classics in a way that Mile Davis might have done! Jazz purists are in deep debate while the soul congregation are delighted to have new and imaginative readings of tunes they cherish. So, surely, time to find out a little more about Johnny's big idea.... but first some personal background.....

I was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I was really introduced to music at my uncle's church THE HOUSE OF GOD. It was the there that I became the lead singer of the choir at age 4 and noticed my vocal gift. I chose the trumpet at age 12 because when I saw it, it only had 3 values and I figured that it couldn't be that hard to play. Cleveland had a heavy R&B scene with singing groups and bands actually Eddie Levert of the O'Jays lived right down the street from me. I then studied trumpet just outside of Paris, France at The Conservatory Of Versailles with Roger Delmotte principle trumpet for the Paris Opera. My musical influences are R&B, Jazz, Gospel and Classical. My heroes are Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Clifford Brown, Aretha Franklin and of course many more.

I guess the first time most folks came across you was with Impromp2... but you'd been in the business long before that hadn't you?

Oh yes very much so. I was a studio singer in Paris and Chicago before moving to Los Angeles. I was discovered by Otis Williams of The Temptations. I wrote songs for the Temps and then Otis hired me as their musical director I tour around the world with them. That led to becoming the co music producer and vocal coach for the Emmy Award Winning Mini Series Movie 'THE TEMPTATIONS.'

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 July 2016 15:26

 

TODAY GLASTONBURY, TOMORROW THE WORLD! ST. PAUL OF THE BROKEN BONES SPEAKS!

Thursday, 14 July 2016 14:57 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


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With their gritty and soulful brand of old school rhythm and blues, the Alabama seven-piece, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, are a band that sound like they've been teleported through time from the 1960s or 1970s to the present day. Seemingly channeling the music of Stax Records, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke,  they've been dubbed the doyens of retro-soul by some commentators but the group's charismatic front man, Paul Janeway (dubbed  'St. Paul' by the rest of the band due to his saintly nature and lack of personal vices) is eager to prevent the group from being typecast as one-dimensional, stuck-in-the-past soul revivalists. Their forthcoming second album - which is also their debut for Columbia Records and due to be released in September - is called 'Sea Of Noise' and sees The Broken Bones evolving musically from their debut LP, 2014's acclaimed indie release, 'Half The City.'

"I think for us, the whole kind of thing was to expand our musical palette on this new album a little bit so that you are not so trapped in the retro-soul thing," explains Janeway, who proves to be a personable young man who's blessed with a wry sense of humour and whose high-pitched, slightly maniacal laughter, which frequently punctuates our conversation, sounds almost Hyena-like. "If that's what you do, that's what you do," he says, acknowledging his group's soulful core sound. "There's nothing wrong with that but that's not fully us. I love that music and it's very influential but that's not fully us."

Indeed, a cursory listen to 'Sea Of Noise' would indicate the truth of Janeway's words. Certainly, there's enough of a faux vintage soulfulness in it to satisfy their existing followers but they are developing their sound with funk, country, folk and gospel elements and the presence of orchestral strings on some tracks takes their music to another dimension. And then there are Janeway's lyrics and his song's themes. The music might sound retro-steeped but the super-talented, gospel-reared Janeway brings a 21st century sensibility to bear on his material, proving that the band live in the present day rather than the past. One song in particular, the striking 'I'll Be Your Woman,' is a gender-reversal soul ballad that singers like Otis and Wilson Pickett would have probably objected to performing because it goes against the macho stereotype that they and others like them projected.

"It's just challenging the standard gender role thing, the 'I'm your man' and 'you're my man' kind of thing," says Janeway explaining the thinking behind 'I'm You Woman.' "In my experience, the woman's always been the strong person and is always the one who is the foundation. So it's a love song twisting it on its head and trying to challenge that a little bit."

The band, who've opened for the Rolling Stones in the States, were recently in the UK on tour and when SJF's Charles Waring spoke to Paul Janeway, they were preparing to get their wellies on and brave the mud of the legendary Glastonbury festival...

 

Last Updated on Friday, 15 July 2016 07:09

 

'WONDER WOMAN' BECCA STEVENS TALKS TO SJF AHEAD OF HER JULY LONDON CONCERT

Thursday, 23 June 2016 08:10 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Becca_Stevens_3244When Becca Stevens put her own indelible folk-jazz spin on Frank Ocean's R&B hit 'Thinking Bout You' in 2014, it was one of those rare cases of a cover version trumping its original source material - so much so, in fact, that Stevens' haunting rendition is regarded by many as the definitive performance of that particular song. 'Thinking Bout You' was just one of many standout cuts on  Stevens' third album, 'Perfect Animal' - attributed to the Becca Stevens Band - which cogently demonstrated how the singer/songwriter originally from the city of Winston-Salem is skillfully able to distil elements from folk, pop, rock and jazz to create a unique series of soundscapes and musical vignettes that elude easy categorisation. Such is the stunning artistry of this gifted 32-year-old North Carolina singer/songwriter, whose influences are wide and varied and whose music doesn't sit comfortably in any particular genre.

A former student of New York's prestigious and increasingly influential New School For Jazz & Contemporary Music - whose more recent alumni include Robert Glasper, José James, and Marcus Strickland - Stevens has the status of a go-to guest collaborator; her cameo appearances over the last couple of years not only also attest to the desirability of her musical talent in the eyes and ears of other musicians but also her broad and sweeping eclecticism - she's sung with Snarky Puppy (she appears on their recent album, 'Family Dinner Vol. 2'), wunderkind auteur Jacob Collier, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and singer José James - who's an old New School classmate of hers - in addition to jazz pianists Billy Childs, Taylor Eigsti and Brad Mehldau.

With a keenly-anticipated new album in the pipeline - titled 'Regina' and scheduled for an early 2017 release - Becca Stevens star is firmly in the ascendant and to underline the growing appreciation of her talent, BBC Radio 6's Lauren Laverne has named the singer in her line-up of 'Wonder Women' (which includes Roisin Murphy, Camille O'Sullivan and Gwenno) who will be doing series of summer concerts at London's Globe Theatre.

Ahead of her concert on Monday 18th July - which takes place at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, on the Globe Theatre site - Becca Stevens talked to SJF's Charles Waring about her upcoming London gig, her forthcoming album, some of her musical collaborations and that Frank Ocean song...

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 June 2016 10:46

 

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