Interviews

SAXSTAR - DONNY McCASLIN talks about his new album, 'Beyond Now,' and his experiences of working with the late David Bowie...

Thursday, 13 October 2016 12:59 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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As DONNY McCASLIN will no doubt attest, once you've played with David Bowie, your life is never going to be quite the same again. Just twelve months ago the 50-year-old Californian saxophonist and woodwind maestro (who already had eleven albums to his name) was known only to a relatively small but dedicated band of serious jazz heads but that situation changed irrevocably in early 2016 with the release of the late David Bowie's critically-acclaimed 'Blackstar,' which McCaslin featured heavily on. Consequently, the Santa Cruz horn blower found himself in the unremitting glare of the mainstream media spotlight. Of course, they were more interested in his association with the recently-departed 'Thin White Duke' but as a trade-off for their attention,  the modest and unassuming McCaslin has benefitted in that his own solo career and artistic endeavours have received a welcome jolt. As a result, he has a much larger audience eager to follow his next move. Frankly, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Or a more talented one.

Accomplished multi-reed man Donny McCaslin has been making albums since 1998 but it was in 2010, when he released 'Perpetual Motion' on trumpeter Dave Douglass's Greenleaf label that he began experimenting by fusing jazz improv with electronica and creating a new style for himself. It was the beginning of a sonic journey that would eventually lead him to join forces with David Bowie in 2015.

Given 'Blackstar's' phenomenal success, expectations for McCaslin's new long player, 'Beyond Now,' are understandably high, especially as it features the same rhythm section from the Bowie record.  SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with the American saxophonist while he was on tour as a sideman for pianist Florian Weber in Germany. He talked in depth about his new album, 'Beyond Now,' and also shed light on his work with the man who gave the world Ziggy Stardust...

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 October 2016 13:26

 

This Girl's In Love...The RUMER interview.

Thursday, 29 September 2016 07:07 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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The last time SJF spoke with RUMER, she was at her home in deepest Arkansas. This time, however, she's back in London, her old stomping ground, to promote her new album, 'This Girl's In Love: A Bacharach & David Songbook,' which is released by Warner's East West imprint on October 21st.

"I think London is the greatest city in the world," says the 37-year-old singer/songwriter. "It's nice to be back here. What strikes you when you come from Los Angeles, where I was for a while, is just the general proximity you have to other human beings every day and how many people you see going about their business. In LA everything is car-centric and from the point of view of the steering wheel of a car so you really don't see much. But in London there's really so much more to see. There's so much more culture, noise, music and life here."

Having said that, Rumer doesn't feel the need to return permanently to the UK's busiest metropolis. "I don't want to live here anymore but I still think it's the greatest city in the world," she declares. But what about the USA where she lives now? Does she feel that she's immersed herself in the American way of life?  "No, I don't think it's possible," says the singer who left the UK to set up camp in deepest Arkansas with her husband and musical director/arranger, Rob Shirakbari. "I don't think I'll ever do that. You can't really immerse yourself because to do so would mean that you would have to subscribe to activities like getting a gun. We're talking about Southern ways ...and I don't think I could ever be a Southerner."

Our conversation inevitably moves on to 'This Girl's In Love,' a collection of songs penned by the redoubtable songwriting partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  Its twelve tracks range from immortal classics such as 'Walk On By,' 'A House Is Not A Home,' and '(They Long To Be) Close To You' to less familiar B&D songs like 'Balance Of Nature' and 'One Less Bell To Answer.' The album has received the seal of approval from none other than Burt Bacharach himself, who appears on one track and is quoted as saying: "When you are gifted by an artist doing an album of your music you accept that as a compliment but then you get to hear it and it's so damn good. The lady has a golden voice and the vocals are clean and clear with great sincerity and Hal David's lyrics shine through. There are some songs I've almost forgotten about and Rumer has given them new life. I thank you for this gift Rumer, it's special."

In a conversation with SJF's Charles Waring, Rumer talks in depth about her new album and also looks beyond it to her next project...

 

Last Updated on Friday, 30 September 2016 08:19

 

THREE'S THE MAGIC NUMBER - MADELEINE PEYROUX TALKS ABOUT HER TRIO-BASED NEW ALBUM, 'SECULAR HYMNS,' AHEAD OF HER UK TOUR DATES

Wednesday, 21 September 2016 10:36 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

  alt The first thing that strikes you about MADELEINE PEYROUX'S new album, 'Secular Hymns,' isn't the Georgia singer's gorgeous, honey-toned voice or the captivating vulnerability of her emotional delivery - though these two qualities are certainly evident in abundance - but rather, her music's sense of space and the conspicuous absence of a rhythm track. Indeed, drums are off the musical menu for the chanteuse's seventh long player - which is also her first for the reactivated jazz label, Impulse! - with Madeleine preferring a stripped-down trio sound (two guitars and a stand-up bass) - over an ensemble with an orthodox rhythm section.

"A lot of people think of drums as being absolutely essential to most music," explains the 42-year-old French-American singer/songwriter, who delivers the whole album in the company of long-time collaborators, Steely Dan guitarist Jon Herington and bass player Barak Mori. "I think perhaps because I played music on the street without the luxury of having a drum kit was part of the attraction of this approach," Madeleine says, alluding to her teenage years before she had a recording contract when she busked her way around Europe. "I feel like there's a lot more musical freedom with just the three of us and there's something very important to get from that intention of the beat without it actually being expressed - and  maybe it's also the fact that having a sense of rubato and silence is more musical in a way."

Clearly, the album's ambience is also an intimate one, with Madeleine putting her own distinctive spin on songs from a variety of sources - there are blues tunes (ranging from Joe Greer's 1952 R&B hit, 'Got You On My Mind' to Willie Dixon's 'If The Sea Was Whiskey' and Sister Rosetta Tharpe's 'Shout Sister Shout') to songs by Townes Van Zandt ('The Highway Kind'), Tom Waits ('Tango Till They're Sore') and Allen Toussaint ('Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky [From Now On]'). Intriguingly, Madeleine also covers Caribbean dub poet Lynton Kwesi Johnson's  'More Time' and turns her voice to interpreting 19th century American songwriter Stephen Foster's 'Hard Times Come Again No More,' which was written over 150 years old but whose message still has a profound resonance for denizens of the 21st century. It's an eclectic mix of material but without doubt the unifying factor is Madeleine's unique interpretations.

Despite its emphasis on American songs, 'Secular Hymns' was actually recorded in a 12th century Norman church (St Mary the Virgin) in deepest rural Oxfordshire, England - the result of a chance visit to the village of Great Milton - and represents the singer's debut as a producer.  Defined by a minimalistic, rootsy approach, the new album is a far cry sonically from the lush, orchestral opulence of her last studio album, 2013's Larry Klein-helmed 'The Blue Room,' which just from a logistical and pragmatic perspective means that 'Secular Hymns' is a far easier - and less expensive - project to tour and promote.

For those wishing to catch Madeleine and her trio in concert, the singer starts touring in November and lands in the UK on Sunday 20th of that month, when she plays the Royal Festival Hall as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. A day later, on the 21st November, she can be seen at Birmingham's Symphony Hall and then on November 30th at Saffron Hall in Essex.

In an animated chat with SJF's Charles Waring, the singer talked in detail about 'Secular Hymns' and the musicians that helped shape it...

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2016 17:34

 

MUSIC, MAESTRO, PLEASE! Ace orchestral conductor/arranger, JULES BUCKLEY, previews his upcoming Proms concerts with Jamie Cullum, Quincy Jones and Kamasi Washington.

Monday, 08 August 2016 07:18 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Jules-Buckley-23-cropped-1024x672-1024x672What have Jamie Cullum, Quincy Jones and Kamasi Washington all got in common? Well, besides the fact that they are all noted jazz musicians, of course, they're also connected by their association with JULES BUCKLEY, who will be working alongside them during August as their orchestral conductor. The London-born conductor/arranger, who is the director of the redoubtable Dutch orchestral ensemble, METROPOLE ORKEST, is the coolest hot property in pop at the moment. Like a lightning rod, today's most electrifying acts are drawn to his unique talents. Indeed, his CV reads like a Who's Who of cutting edge jazz, pop and rock - he's worked with everyone from Laura Mvula, Arctic Monkeys, Lalah Hathaway and Caro Emerald, to Snarky Puppy (with whom he won a Grammy earlier this year) Tori Amos, Razorlight, Emile Sandé, Professor Green and Massive Attack.

The workaholic conductor is currently preparing for a trio of concerts in which he'll conduct three different orchestral ensembles at the Royal Albert Hall. All three performances are scheduled as part of the current summer season of Sir Henry Wood's famous Promenade concerts (a British institution that's better known as 'The Proms,' of course). 'The Proms' are almost exclusively associated with classical music but this year jazz is getting a look in.

On Thursday August 11th, Jules will be leading the Heritage Orchestra (an ensemble that he helped to establish in 2004) as they accompany British singer/pianist Jamie Cullum. Eleven days later, on Monday August 22nd, Jules gets to work with the bona fide jazz legend that is Quincy Jones, conducting the Metropole Orkest on a varied selection of the producer/composer's music. When that's finished, Jules has to prepare for a late evening Kamasi Washington gig at the Royal Albert Hall where he'll be waving his baton in front of the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as they play material from the American saxophonist's acclaimed 'Epic' album.

"With these sort of projects you do the rehearsals close to the date of the concert," explains Jules. "For all of these different concerts, the music's being prepared at the moment by the arrangers, myself and different people and then the rehearsals for the Jamie Cullum concert begins on 10 August, Quincy begins on 18 August and then Kamasi begins on 28 August."

The 36-year-old London music maestro - who currently resides in Berlin but works in Holland masterminding the Metropole Orkest's activities - also reveals that with one-off concerts like those that  he'll be conducting, there's limited rehearsal time. "It varies but generally you wouldn't get more than about four and most of the time you only get two rehearsals," he says. To the lay person, perhaps, that situation may sound like it's cutting it a bit fine but as an experienced conductor and arranger, Jules knows what he's doing and makes the necessary preparations to ensure that everything goes smoothly: "You make a game plan and then you figure out how many minutes you've got and what you can get done and then you pitch your battles and then isolate the hardest bits. Obviously everybody's professional and working all the time so the standard is high and it's just a case of making sure that the vibe is right."

In an fascinating conversation with SJF's Charles Waring, Jules Buckley talks not only about the eagerly anticipated Proms concerts but also reflects on his life as a conductor and his groundbreaking work with the Metropole Orkest...

 

Last Updated on Monday, 08 August 2016 07:48

 

Looking Skyewards - Morcheeba chanteuse Skye Edwards talks about her new project Skye Ross

Friday, 05 August 2016 08:48 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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It's exactly twenty years since Morcheeba first hit the UK charts with their single, 'Tape Loop,' taken from their debut LP, 'Who Can You Trust,' on China Records. Led by Skye Edwards' velvety haunting vocals, which floated ethereally over a mesmeric trip-hop-style groove played and produced by brothers Ross and Paul Godfrey, the track established a sonic template for the London-based trio, who would go on to make an indelible mark on the UK music scene over the next few years.

Between 1996 and 2003, they racked up twelve single chart entries (the biggest of which was the Top 40 smash, 'Rome Wasn't Built In A Day,' in 2000) and released four notable albums. All of them notched up huge sales with 1998's 'Big Calm' achieving platinum status in the UK. But in 2003, interpersonal tensions ripped the group asunder and Skye Edwards left to pursue a solo career while the Godfrey siblings carried on using a series of different vocalists. The singer returned to the fold in 2010, by which time she had released two albums under her own name ('Mind How You Go' and 'Keeping Secrets'). Reunited, the band issued the LP 'Blood Like Lemonade' in 2010 and three years later kept the momentum going with 'Head Up High.'

More recently, Skye and Ross Godfrey have been touring together, going under the name SKYE ROSS to distinguish their new project from Morcheeba. The duo have an album coming out via  Fly Agaric Records/Cooking Vinyl on September 2nd simply titled 'Skye Ross.' It has stylistic facets reminiscent of Morcheeba, certainly, but is more organic in its approach.

"It's slightly different," explains Skye Edwards to SJF's Charles Waring in a refreshingly frank interview. "We started thinking we'd be making an acoustic album and take it away from the Morcheeba sound with the hip-hop beats and rapping. And then it grew from there. We started putting live drums on it rather than programmed beats so I guess that's a different element..."

 

Last Updated on Friday, 05 August 2016 09:33

 

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