Interviews

"I want to make a Country & Western album!" - GUITAR LEGEND JAMES "BLOOD" ULMER TALKS

Thursday, 17 November 2016 17:38 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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"I hate interviews," declares legendary avant-funk-rock guitarist JAMES "BLOOD" ULMER as he peers over his dark shades when I introduce myself to him. His distaste for being interrogated by journalists is expressed with such vehemence and so forcefully that I don't doubt his antipathy for a second. That doesn't bode too well for our scheduled conversation, which is about to take place in his dressing room backstage at Bethnal Green's Rich Mix venue. I laugh nervously but the skull-capped big man - who's elegantly attired in a dark suit which is coolly complemented by two-tone, snakeskin boots - instantly puts me at ease. "Oh, it's all right," he chuckles, in a deep melodious voice. "It's necessary. There's a lot of shit that is necessary. If you make records you got to do interviews."

He laughs heartily again but at 76-years-old, Ulmer - who also suffers, he tells me, from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and these days plays sitting down on stage - could be forgiven for being weary of the promotional rituals and press games that go along with working in the music business. But he's here in London not to promote a new album but perform live with his trio as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. From here he travels to continental Europe for a few select dates. "The next gig is in Austria," he says, in a strong, molasses-rich, southern American accent that reveals his South Carolina roots. "We're going about six little countries. I can't play these long tours no more but I don't want to eliminate them altogether."

Being in London brings back fond memories for the man who took Ornette Coleman's harmolodic principle - a unique system of improvisation brought about by key modulation - and applied it to the guitar. It was in London in 1980 that he launched himself on the international stage when his second album, 'Are You Glad To Be In America?,' was licensed by the London-based indie label, Rough Trade, and proved something of a cult sensation.  "That record got me started," confirms Ulmer. "I wrote the music for that record in England. I was thinking of leaving America and almost moved to London at that time I was having such a good time." The guitarist admits that he"really fell in love with London" but what stopped him from upping sticks permanently was the hedonistic nature of the music scene in the UK's capital city at the time. "I changed my mind because they had too many drugs in London," he discloses, "and I thought, 'oh no I can't do that, I'll wind up a drug addict....'"

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 November 2016 11:13

 

Memories of Dexter - Maxine Gordon talks to SJF about her jazz legend husband, who's the subject of her forthcoming biography.

Thursday, 10 November 2016 15:32 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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2016 marks the thirtieth anniversary of French director Bertrand Tavernier's jazz movie, Round Midnight - now regarded as a classic - which starred the great tenor saxophonist, DEXTER GORDON, in his debut acting role portraying fictional expatriate American musician, Dale Turner. Dexter's mesmerising performance understandably garnered him an Oscar nomination and succeeded in transforming the genial, 6' 6'' bebop icon, who was then 63,  into a veritable movie star. Though jazz was still undoubtedly his raison d'être, Dexter went on to star alongside heavyweight actors Robert Di Niro and Robin Williams in the acclaimed 1990 film, Awakenings, based on the work of British neurologist, Oliver Sacks (though sadly, Dexter passed away before the film was released).

Fast forward to 2016, and Dexter Gordon is back in the news. He features in a new movie, a Danish documentary called Cool Cats that chronicles both his and fellow tenor titan Ben Webster's stay in Denmark in the 1960s (Dexter lived in Europe between 1962 and 1976, eventually settling in Copenhagen). In addition to this, there have been selected showings of Round Midnight - to celebrate its 'birthday' - at various places around the globe.

But interest in Dexter Gordon doesn't end there. There's also a new album out. It's called 'Fried Bananas' - named after one of Dexter's  signature pieces - and features a superb live performance recorded in Holland in 1972. The album's released on vinyl LP by the British audiophile label, Gearbox, which is renowned for the excellent sound quality of its releases. The album's liner notes were written by Dexter's widow, Maxine Gordon (pictured above with the saxophonist) who was also his manager and is currently putting the finishing touches to a long-awaited biography of her husband. She also supervises her husband's estate - alongside her son Woody Shaw III - and runs the Dexter Gordon Society, whose aim is both to preserve and extend the saxophone giant's legacy.

In an exclusive interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Maxine Gordon discusses the new Gearbox album and tells us about her work with the Dexter Gordon Society...

Last Updated on Monday, 10 April 2017 21:55

 

Once Bitten, Twice Shy - Vintage R&B revivalist NICK WATERHOUSE, talks to SJF.

Monday, 07 November 2016 20:04 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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"It was incredibly surreal," laughs Nick Waterhouse, recalling his appearance last week on Jools Holland's live music BBC TV show, Later. "That's one of the only television shows I've always wanted to perform on and, on top of that, because of the lighting, in my sight line was José Feliciano, who I was playing to for the whole song. I've had some moments of strange eye contact with audience members but never have I watched somebody like him bopping his head and playing along to one of my tunes."

Evidently, then, the veteran Puerto Rican singer was digging Waterhouse's distinctive brand of music, which taps into a '60s-influenced, retro-soul and vintage R&B vibe that's in tune with a growing band of soul revivalists like Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Eli Reed, Leon Bridges, and the UK's  James Hunter Six. 30-year-old Waterhouse who hails from Orange County, Los Angeles, released his first record back in 2010, called 'Some Place,' which was a limited edition, private-pressing 45 that he put out on his own PRES label and which quickly became a collector's item.

After that, Waterhouse - who has also been in demand as a producer, helming records for Ural Thomas, The Boogaloo Assassins and Allah-Las - released his debut LP, 'Time's All Gone,' via the Innovative Leisure label. Amassing a growing army of followers, in 2014 the bespectacled, clean-cut auteur released his sophomore album, 'Holly,' and now follows it up with his third long player, 'Never Twice,' whose highlights include 'Straight Love,' and 'Katchi,' the latter featuring Leon Bridges.

In a revealing interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Nick Waterhouse discusses his latest album and also talks about the musicians, singers and records that helped shape his own musical sensibility...

Last Updated on Monday, 07 November 2016 20:34

 

The Return of Soul II Soul - Jazzie B speaks!

Friday, 04 November 2016 08:46 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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"What the f*** is this council and government doing?" asks an incredulous, angry and very impassioned JAZZIE B, who's working himself up into a righteous, tell-it-like it is, groove. The charismatic Soul II Soul main man and Grammy-winning record producer and DJ - who was awarded an OBE in 2008 and has had a statue erected in his honour - is in a combative mood and bemoaning the seemingly imminent death of club culture in the UK, especially in London, where it's estimated that over half of the capital's nightspots have shut their doors during the last eight years. It's an alarming state of affairs given that Soul II Soul emerged from the very scene that is now in terminal decline.

"This country is built on being innovative and creative," explains Jazzie, who is extremely disconcerted by the prospect that the musical world that nurtured him and gave birth to one of the UK's finest R&B collectives is close to dying. "How can they be closing down the clubs, the very scene that is helping to bring in revenue? When I was a young man there was somewhere to go where I was able to express myself. Clubs were an important platform that people like me had. If those clubs didn't exist, I wouldn't be here."

Furthermore, 53-year-old Jazzie believes that the current situation if it continues will have a profound impact on the music industry in the UK. "We're talking about a crisis," he says. "If there's nowhere for people to perform, how can we see and hear new music and new bands? Where am I going to see a new Soul II Soul?"

Indeed. Soul II Soul was a unique musical collective that began as a travelling sound system in the early '80s that eventually evolved by the end of that decade into a proper band. Nurtured in the fertile hot house of the London club scene, they went on to conquer the world with their infectious and distinctly UK take on R&B.

The band's influence has been wide and far reaching and after a long hiatus they're now back in action. With singer Caron Wheeler back on board, the aggregation return with a new double album box set in early December called 'Origins: The Roots Of Soul II Soul.' It contains performances of some of the band's most iconic songs and was recorded live at Metropolis studios in London, where it was cut straight to vinyl. It's a subject that brings a broad smile back on Jazzie's face. "I've got to say I'm really happy with the outcome," he laughs. "It's the first time that I've ever recorded live and been on the other side of the glass. Usually I'm the king of the control room but on that occasion I wasn't, so that was a bit weird. But it's pretty good."

In an exclusive interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Soul II Soul's charismatic leader talks in detail about making the new album and also reflects on his long and illustrious  career....

 

Last Updated on Monday, 21 November 2016 08:12

 

HEART TO HEART... THE LINDSEY WEBSTER INTERVIEW

Thursday, 03 November 2016 20:33 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altOne of last year's best, proper soul albums was LINDSEY WEBSTER'S album, 'You Change'. The set was Ms Webster's sophomore long player and it won acclaim right across the soul spectrum for its stately, smooth, sophisticated take on modern soul. Lindsey has just released her third album.... another acclaimed set of tunes, 'Back To Your Heart' but despite the success of 'You Change', not too many people know too much about Lindsey Webster, so to rectify that we tracked down the lady. Of course we wanted to know all about the latest album but to get started we asked Lindsey to fill in the key biographical details......

I grew up in Woodstock, NY, and for those who are not familiar; it is a very artistic and musical town. Many of the most famous musicians we know today sought out Woodstock as a creative place to be. So, I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in such a forward thinking town with progressive parents (aka hippies). My parents had a vast collection of records. They were really into stuff like Todd Rundgren, George Harrison, Elvis Costello and a lot of other classic rock. When I stared buying my own albums, though, it was Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston and singers of that nature. I really enjoyed hearing the acrobatics of their voices and melodies. The passion and soul that they emanated took me over.

You attended LaGuardia School for the Music, Art & Performing Arts, I believe, tell us about that...

Well, as a high school student, I unfortunately didn't make a lot of time for classes if they didn't involve music. So, whenever I made it there, it was just for orchestra (I was playing Cello and wasn't singing as much at that point). My second semester there, though, I did take a voice class. About half way through that semester, we ended up moving back upstate, so although it was short lived, I had such a great time experiencing NYC and the hustle and bustle of it all. I actually still have friends who I met there, too.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 November 2016 15:06

 

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