Interviews

LIVING THE TWI-LIFE: US saxophonist Marcus Strickland talks to SJF about his new album 'Nihil Novi' ahead of his April 30th appearance at the UK's Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Friday, 15 April 2016 12:58 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Marcus_Strickland_2After seven well-received albums released on a series of different indie labels (including his own Strick Music venture) between 2001 and 2011, Florida-born multi-reed man, MARCUS STRICKLAND, has landed his first major label deal, joining the roster of the prestigious Blue Note imprint. His debut album for the company is the curiously titled 'Nihil Novi,' his first long player in five years. Leading a fresh incarnation of his long-running Twi-Life band - comprising keyboardists Mitch Henry and Masayuki Hirano, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, bassist Kyle Miles, drummer Charles Haynes and singer, Jean Baylor - 37-year-old Strickland (who has an identical twin brother called E.J., who plays drums) has moved away from straight ahead jazz to arrive at an elusive, ineffable sound and style that defies categorization but which references hip-hop, soul and R&B as well as improvised instrumental music.  "I approached this record without thinking of genres," explains the saxophonist. "I'm tired of saying, 'yeah, it's music but it has a little hip-hop, a little soul and everything.' All these things come from the same source, which is the blues. So it's almost pointless to try and keep them separate. They're all meant to be mixed together anyway, so that's what's going to happen."

The album was produced by bassist/auteur Meshell Ndegeocello and features cameos by noted keyboardist Robert Glasper, bassist Pino Palladino, and ubiquitous drummer, Chris Dave (who's played with everyone from Mint Condition, and Maxwell to Anderson Paak and Adele). The album is going to figure prominently in Strickland's set list when he and Twi-Life appear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in Gloucestershire, England on Sunday April 30th.

In an exclusive interview with SJF before his UK trip, Marcus Strickland talked to Charles Waring about his life in music...

 

Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2016 13:25

 

COMING TO THE LOVE SUPREME FESTIVAL IN JULY - FRENCH HORN BLOWER ERIK TRUFFAZ TALKS

Friday, 18 March 2016 12:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

 

Erik_bigFor over twenty years now, Swiss-born ERIK TRUFFAZ has been making music sans frontieres. Those that like to pigeonhole music would describe him as a jazz musician, perhaps, but in truth the softly-spoken 55-year-old trumpet player makes music that is difficult to classify - yes, there's arguably a palpable jazz dimension to the soundscapes that Truffaz creates but his embrace of and immersion in hip-hop, drum-and-bass, ambient electronica and world music as well as pop and rock results in a unique and anomalous stylistic hybrid that is hard to define. This musical pathfinder spent many years at the Blue Note label where he gained notoriety for albums like 'The Dawn' and 'Bending New Corners' in the late-'90s which took Miles Davis's concept of fusing jazz-with rock further by incorporating rap elements.

For the curious and those wishing to gain further insight into Truffaz's singular style, the trumpeter and his quartet - which comprises longtime members bassist Marcello Giuliani and keyboardist Benoit Corboz, plus new drummer, Arthur Hnatek - are due to play two nights at London's legendary night spot, Ronnie Scott's, next Monday and Tuesday, 21st and 22nd of March. He's also just been added to the line up at this July's Love Supreme festival at Glynde House, Sussex. There he'll be showcasing songs from his latest album, 'Doni Doni' - released in January via Parlophone - which is arguably one of his most satisfying artistic statements yet. Featuring award-winning France-based Malian chanteuse, Rokia Traoré, on four cuts, it melds edgy urban tone poems with African grooves and mellow mood pieces.

Ahead of his UK appearances, the French trumpet maestro talked to SJF's Charles Waring...

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 March 2016 12:24

 

STILL MOVING ON UP - GROOVIN' WITH NORTHERN SOUL'S POSTER GIRL LEVANNA McLEAN

Thursday, 17 March 2016 12:09 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Lev_Move_On_Up_2"I think young people are getting tired of the electronic music that's being put out there" - Levanna McLean

In the twelve months since Universal's 'Move On Up' compilation was released, the album's cover star, 'Northern Soul Girl' and YouTube sensation, LEVANNA McLEAN, has become what showbiz types call 'hot property' and has had her life completely transformed as a result. The nineteen-year-old Bristol music student-turned-dancer and DJ - whom SJF first spoke to in March 2015 - suddenly found herself thrust into the public eye as the album that she helped to promote struck a chord with the UK public and rocketed to the summit of the UK album charts.

"When 'Move On Up' came out it went ballistic," laughs Lev - as she's known to her friends - who's talking from her mother's holiday home in Spain. "It went to number one and I did a lot of TV and loads of interviews and that was great, really fun. People would come up to me and say 'oh, you're on the cover of that CD' and I got to play a lot of DJ gigs as well."

With the commercial success of 'Move On Up,' in the spring of 2015, later the same year, Lev fronted her own 2-CD compilation, 'Express Your Soul.'  That, too, was a huge success and now four months on, she returns as a consultant for a second installment of 'Move On Up' which is released by Universal on 18th March. Like its predecessor, this companion package features three discs of classic Northern Soul tunes, including evergreens from familiar names by the likes of Edwin Starr, the Impressions, the Spinners, Jackie Wilson and The Four Tops alongside more obscure acts such as Jackie Lee, Shane Martin, Velvet Hammer, Judy Street and The Apollas.

Ahead of the release of 'Move On Up Volume Two,' Levanna McLean talks to  SJF's Charles Waring about the new compilation as well as her thoughts on the Northern Soul scene. She also reveals exciting developments in her own career, including the launch of her own YouTube channel, 'Soul Bug TV'....

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 March 2016 16:36

 

BEHIND THE NORTH SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL - its director, Jan Willem Luyken, talks to SJF about this year's exciting line-up...

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 19:20 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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Held every second weekend in July, Holland's North Sea Jazz Festival is without doubt a veritable talent magnet that attracts the biggest, brightest and best names in popular music - not only in the realm of jazz, its core genre, but also from the adjoining worlds of soul, funk, hip-hop and even pop.

Originally established in The Hague in 1976, in 2006 it relocated to Rotterdam, where it's been ever since, occupying the Ahoy convention centre, an enormous arena in which 15 stages will be contracted to present over a thousand different acts during an intense and hectic three-day period. The festival director, Jan Willem Luyken, admits that in terms of logistics, the festival is, by its nature, problematic. "It is a challenge, it's a big puzzle, " he confesses with a wry chuckle. "It's a broad musical spectrum we try to present and the basis, of course, is jazz - we have a lot of jazz - but we also do all of the jazz related stuff like soul, funk, hip-hop, and even pop music, especially the big acts, who go to all of the festivals across Europe. So you have to be smart, you have to save money and be good with your timing. Every year it's a difficult puzzle but on the other hand it's a very nice puzzle, of course, to make. So we're not complaining."

This year's festival is scheduled for the weekend of July 8th, 9th and 10th and although the final line-up has yet to be announced, Willem reveals to SJF's Charles Waring those acts already confirmed. It's a mighty impressive bill.  "For Friday 8th July, we have The Roots, Diana Krall, Buddy Guy, Snarky Puppy with the Metropole Orchestra - they won an Grammy - and then we have a very special theme evening presented by the Brainfeeder label and that features Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington  - who also will perform with the Metropole Orchestra - Kneedelus, Thundercat and the Jamezoo Quintet. And let's not forget Christian Scott and Dr Lonnie Smith." Saturday July 9th offers an equally impressive line-up: "We have Earth, Wind & Fire, Level 42, Miguel, and it's very good to have Pat Metheny back again," says Luyken. "Also (legendary jazz bassist) Ron Carter, and the hip-hop of today will be there, Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals. (Grammy winning chanteuse) Cecile McLorin Salvant will be there and Stephen Wilson, the guy from Porcupine Tree, with his solo project. (Japanese pianist) Hiromi is appearing also and the Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling. And we have the Steps Ahead reunion band..."

Add to that already impressive list Mick Hucknall's Simply Red, blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa, R&B poetess Jill Scott, and jazz cat in a cap, man of the moment, Gregory Porter - who all play on Sunday 10th - and you have a mouth-watering array of talent in one venue...

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 March 2016 19:41

 

GREAT SCOTT! Jazz FM awards nominee, trumpeter CHRISTIAN SCOTT, talks to SJF...

Thursday, 10 March 2016 12:26 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Christian_scott_front"I'm elated and honoured," gushes the loquacious and erudite New Orleans horn blower, CHRISTIAN SCOTT, referring to his receiving two nominations (Album Of The Year and Jazz Innovation Of The Year) at the upcoming Jazz FM awards, which are being held at London's Bloomsbury Ballroom on 26th April. "When you get nominations you can see that people are actually aware of your work and respect what it is that you bring to the table," explains Scott, who is no stranger to accolades having picked up two prestigious Edison awards in 2010 and 2012. "It's always something that is very humbling for me, so I'm just excited to get to the UK and hang out with a bunch of folks and really just enjoy the moment."

It's fourteen years since Christian Scott, a Berklee School of Music graduate, took the jazz scene by storm with his eponymous debut album in 2002 for the Impromp2 imprint. He then spent a fertile six-year spell at major label Concord that resulted in half-a-dozen albums, including most notably,  'Yesterday You Said Tomorrow' (2010), 'Ninety Miles' (an Afro-Cuban extravaganza also featuring  Stefon Harris and David Sanchez, released in 2011) and 2012's 'Christian A Tunde Adjuah,' the latter a sprawling, kaleidoscopic double album where Scott fused several musical styles together in a seamless cross-genre intersection that seemed to challenge the very notion and definition of the word 'jazz.' Four years later and Scott is back with 'Stretch Music,' an album released on his own label via Ropeadope, whose title is an apt description of what he is trying to do musically and aesthetically - to extend and expand his personal musical vocabulary and describe music that goes beyond the limitations of the genre labels that record companies conveniently use to market music.

Released last September, 'Stretch Music'  - which spotlights rising star, flautist Elena Pinderhughes and also has an accompanying interactive music app designed by Scott to help young musicians practice and hone their skills - has been garnering rave reviews and is nominated in the Album Of the Year category in Jazz FM's 2016 awards (Scott's ingenious app has also resulted in him being nominated as a Jazz Innovation). The 32-year-old horn meister is up against stiff competition, pitted against major albums by the likes of saxophone sensation Kamasi Washington, Grammy-winning arranger/composer Maria Schneider and the groundbreaking bands Hiatus Coyote and Snarky Puppy. But Scott, who seems laidback, philosophical and down-to-earth, doesn't see his fellow nominees as rivals or competitors.  "I understand it's an award show as a competition," he clarifies, "but I don't really do it for those reasons. I'm friends with Kamasi and know the guys from Snarky Puppy. To me, this is what an album of the year in the jazz category should look like. It's not that everything that is in the category is straight down the middle. All of these groups and musicians we are talking about here have their own sound. They're not cookie-cutter jazz groups. These are all bands that take a different walk and that seem to me are going about the business of building bridges back to audiences and I think that's a very important thing during this time period. I'm excited to actually get a chance to see some of my friends there. But I don't see it as a competition. It will be great news whoever ends up winning."

During the rest of his interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Christian Scott (aka Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah) talks in detail about the concept behind 'Stretch Music,' as well as the app that he's developed to help young musicians, his upcoming gigs in the UK in May, and ambitions for the future...

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 12 March 2016 10:54

 

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