Interviews

LIVING THE HIGH LIFE - Martha High talks about her new album and her experiences with James Brown!

Thursday, 12 May 2016 12:17 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Martha_main_2'The Hardest Working Woman' is one of the song titles on Martha High's new album, 'Singing For The Good Times.' It's an apt description of the Washington DC-born singer, herself, now seventy-one, who has been toiling in the music business since the early 1960s when she was a member of a group called The Four Jewels.

High's strong work ethic was something she picked up from her longtime former boss, funk and soul legend James Brown, the man who described himself as 'the hardest working man in show business.' It wasn't the only thing she learned from the man they dubbed 'Soul Brother Number One,' though. High confesses that like Mr Brown (as she still refers to her ex-boss), she rehearses constantly and is a hard taskmaster when it comes to directing and drilling her musicians. "I don't want to do anything without the best rehearsals that I can get out of the band and they have to pay attention and keep their eyes on me when I'm on the stage," she says. "I don't fine anybody like Mr. Brown did but I let them know that I know when they make a mistake - and the reason they make mistake is because they don't have their eyes on me."

Like James Brown did, the singer says she'll change something up at the drop of a dime during her performance and therefore likes to keep the band on its toes. "Mr Brown never did a show the same way twice," she reveals. "The songs weren't in the same order all the time. It's the same with me. I don't know what song I'm going to do even though I give the band a set list but sometimes I might want to change it because of how I'm feeling my audience. So, I learned that from him." Fortunately, it seems, the softly-spoken and affable Martha High - who laughs a lot and sees the humour in life - doesn't have Mr Dynamite's explosive temperament though she does confess that "I have a few other ways of his, like handling business."

Perhaps that's why, then, she's survived and continues to work while many of her peers and contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. Admittedly, she spent many years cocooned in James Brown's soul revue but elected to leave in 2000 to see if she could go it alone. It was a brave move but sixteen years on she has no regrets. She has some fine albums under her belt - including 2009's 'It's High Time' and 2012's 'Soul Overdue' (with Speedometer) - and now unleashes a new long player, recorded in Rome with songwriter/producer Luca Sapio.

Here she tells SJF's Charles Waring all about her latest project and also recalls her early years, and, of course, her experiences working for a certain James Brown...

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 May 2016 07:58

 

FROM THE CHURCH TO SNARKY PUPPY AND THE FUNK APOSTLES - KEYBOARD WIZARD CORY HENRY TALKS

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 18:16 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Corey_HammondQuietly spoken, laidback and amiable, Brooklyn-born and church-raised CORY HENRY exudes the relaxed demeanour and easy nonchalance of someone who's supremely confident in his ability and knows what he wants to do in life as well as exactly where he's going. Though prodigiously talented as a keyboard player - he started playing the organ in church at two years old and by the time he was six he was competing in Amateur Night at the legendary Apollo Theater - he hasn't let his special gift go to his head and possesses a well-formed and disarming sense of humility. A core member of Grammy-winning jazz-funk-fusion group, SNARKY PUPPY, his CV includes sessions with everyone from P. Diddy, Yolanda Adams and Aretha Franklin to Kenny Garrett, Michael McDonald and Bruce Springsteen.

Recently, 29-year-old Henry released his third solo album, 'The Revival' via Ground UP. It was recorded live at the Greater Temple Of Praise in Brooklyn, the place of worship where Henry honed his chops on the Hammond organ as a youngster and finds the keyboard maven going back to his gospel roots with a largely solo organ recital. From a technical perspective, Henry's pyrotechnics are awe-inspiring but, crucially, he music is highly emptive and infused with profound feeling. His repertoire, though, isn't restricted to church music and includes songs by John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder and The Beatles. "I've listened to all types of music my whole life - when I was in the house and even when I was going to the park," says Henry, explaining his eclectic taste.  "Once I listened to it, I figured I could play it on the organ. I think everybody's influences come out in their music if they listen to them long enough." He admits, though, that inspirational music - his sonic foundation stone - played a huge part in his musical development. "It's very, very important. It gave me a chance to learn music in ways other people can't," he divulges. Indeed, some might imagine that the gospel environment could be musically restrictive one but young Henry's interest in other forms of music was never curtailed or frowned upon. "I was afforded opportunities to play all different types of music at every church that I played for - and not a lot of people can say that," he says with a tinge of pride in his voice.

In conversation with SJF's Charles Waring ahead of his upcoming four-date tour of the UK, the keyboard player talks about different aspects of his life and music, including his role in Snarky Puppy and the formation of his own band, THE FUNK APOSTLES...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 18:34

 

ALL ABOARD THE D-TRAIN! James 'D-Train' Williams talks to SJF about his latest musical enterprise with producer LENNY FONTANA

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 08:38 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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Brooklyn-born James Williams is best known to soul music fans as the legendary 'D-TRAIN,'the gospel-raised powerhouse vocalist who stormed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980s and made such memorable singles as 'You're The One For Me,' 'Keep On,' 'Music,' and 'Something's On Your Mind' for indie label Prelude before being signed by major label Columbia in 1986.

As James 'D-Train' Williams,  he recorded a couple of albums for Columbia ('Miracles Of The Heart,' which spawned the US R&B Top 10 single, 'Misunderstanding,' and 'In Your Eyes,' the latter including the Quiet Storm classic, 'Shadow Of Another Love'). Though the hits dried up as the '80s became the '90s,  D-Train continued to work and thrive, and during the next twenty-five years, his projects ranging from creating jingles for TV ads and working as an in-demand session singer (he's backed up everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Elton John) to being a martial arts expert, hosting his own radio show and performing in front of his eminence, the Pope.

'D-Train's' distinctive set of pipes can be heard fronting 'When You Feel What Love Has, ' the latest single by DJ-turned-producer, LENNY FONTANA, on his Karmic Power label. The two have recorded together before - on Fontana's floor-mashing jams 'Invincible' and 'Raise Your Hands' - and seem to have found the perfect chemistry, with D-Train's explosive vocals riding Fontana's pumping beats. "We met through a mutual friend of ours," explains Williams, talking in detail about his long career to SJF's Charles Waring. "He took me over to his house and we clicked right away. We became fast friends and started writing. 'Invincible,'  which we wrote a few years ago (in 2011), was the beginning of our writing relationship..."

 

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

 

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