ICE COOL ALEX - soul legend ALEXANDER O'NEAL talks ahead of his UK show at Quaglino's

Thursday, 27 July 2017 11:59 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                altEver since Alexander O'Neal scored his first UK chart entry back in December 1985 - with 'Saturday Love,' his anthemic duet with Cherrelle Norton - he's enjoyed what can only be described as a special relationship with the British public, whose devotion remains steadfast even though 30 years have now passed since the singer's biggest UK smash, 'Criticize,' crashed into the nation's Top 5.

Now back in England to perform at Mayfair's trendy but intimate nightspot, Quaglino's, on Thursday 27th July, 64-year-old O'Neil professes that he feels a lot of  affection for the country where its people took him to their hearts. "It's so wonderful to be back here," he enthuses. "England is my favourite place in the world. I have a lot of great fans here. They're people who grew up with me but also want to grow old with me, which is different from America. I just enjoy coming here and performing for my fans. They've given me so much love over the last 30 years, and if they continue to do that then I'll be very happy."

London, too has a special place in his heart. "Without doubt, it's my favourite city. When I'm here, I'm not homesick because I feel at home. I don't miss anything and I don't miss anybody because I have friends here and family too - my daughter moved here from Canada. So it definitely feels like a second home to me."

Last Updated on Friday, 28 July 2017 12:49


Doing his dance in the UK - saxophonist KENNY GARRETT speaks to SJF ahead of his headline performance at next weekend's Ealing Jazz Festival.

Monday, 24 July 2017 19:01 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


As a graduate cum laude of the legendary Jazz Messengers - drummer Art Blakey's famous long-running group dubbed the 'Hard Bop Academy' - KENNY GARRETT can attest to having had one of the best educations that jazz has to offer. But Blakey, whose group ran from 1954 to his death in 1990, wasn't the only master that the Detroit-born alto saxophonist received valuable experience and pearls of wisdom from. Although he spent two years with the drum meister, he enjoyed an even longer period - five years to be exact - with arguably the greatest band leader of them all in jazz: the mighty Miles Davis, during his late electric period. He joined the trumpeter's band in 1986, toured the world with him several times, and also played on several albums, including 1988's late masterpiece, 'Amandla.'

Garrett remembers those days fondly and is deeply appreciative of what he gleaned from that time. "I learned so much from him," he says with a tincture of solemnity and reverence in his voice. In his prime, Davis could be a hard, enigmatic taskmaster - he once punched John Coltrane for nodding off on the bandstand - but Garrett found the opposite was true. Perhaps the 'Dark Magus' had mellowed with age. "Anyone who gives you 10 or 15 minutes solos must have a lot of respect for you," opines the 56-year-old Detroit saxophonist recalling his time with Davis...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 09:25



Monday, 17 July 2017 19:16 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Though his album is called 'Introducing,' the truth is that Stokley Williams needs no introduction to R&B fans that know their stuff. He's the voice of Mint Condition, of course, the brilliant, multi-faceted Minnesota band once championed by Prince, and who scored memorable Top 10 US R&B hits during the 1990s in the shape of 'Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),' 'U Send Me Swingin',' and 'What Kind Of Man Would I Be.' Now, though, 49-year-old Stokley is stepping away from the long-running band temporarily to embark on his first solo project during a career in music that stretches back almost 30 years.

He started out as a drummer, playing behind African dance troupes in his hometown, St. Paul, as a juvenile, and later, co-founded Mint Condition (with whom he played drums and sang) with some friends in high school. Influenced by soul, jazz, funk and both African and Latin music, he also fell under hip-hop's spell in the 1980s, forming a short-lived rap group, Royal City Crew. Though Mint Condition has always been his priority, Stokley has participated in a raft of extra-curricular activities as a drummer, vocalist and producer - which include studio and stage appearances alongside Janet Jackson, Karyn White, Johnny Gill, Toni Braxton, Prince, and more recently smooth jazz saxophonist Boney James, rapper Wale, and Robert Glasper Experiment. He also occasionally  plays with another group, the France-based Ursus Minor, when Mint Condition are in down-time mode and at the time of writing is touring the USA with Prince's legendary Purple Rain band, The Revolution.

"The whole project is me spreading my wings," says Stokley, talking from San Francisco, explaining the concept behind, 'Introducing,' his long-awaited debut platter. "I'm trying to say and do something different," he continues.  "It's very eclectic. I call it a blend of sonic art pieces. It reflects my upbringing and I just wanted to express that and try to make something that was cohesive as well as very genre-bending but still all one thread."

The album has a big cast of collaborators, which include noted Philly producers Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barias (known for their work with Jill Scott, Ledisi, and Musiq Soulchild) plus songwriters Sam Dew and the A Team. There are also guest spots for keyboardist supreme, Robert Glasper, British R&B singer Estelle, and two cameos from rappers Wale and Omi. The opening cut and first single, 'Level,' is an infectious mid-tempo song with an addictive hook that spotlights Stokley's soulfulness while the rest of the album ranges from impassioned R&B ballads to jazzy dance cuts and sun-drenched Caribbean grooves.

Via an in-depth interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Stokley - who considers himself "an analogue dude in a digital world" - talks about his first solo flight, sheds light on his rich musical background, and discusses the enduring influence of his late mentor, Prince...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 July 2017 18:33



Thursday, 22 June 2017 11:56 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


      altIt's more than probable that the first time most people in the UK came across the name MILES MOSLEY was after perusing the credits on Kamasi Washington's 2015 breakthrough album, 'The Epic.'  Mosley was the de facto bass player on that groundbreaking triple LP and has also accompanied the LA saxophonist on his tours of Europe. In case you didn't know, he's the shades-sporting, beret-wearing dude who brings a cool sense of savoir faire and gangster attitude to upright bass playing.

Like Washington, Mosley is a founder member of the Los Angeles collective called the West Coast Get Down (WCGD), a cadre of accomplished and versatile musicians who can seamlessly switch between hardcore jazz improv, rump-shaking funk, and silky smooth R&B. After previously appearing in England with Washington as a sideman, he's about to return to the UK this summer fronting a band composed of WCGD members to promote 'Uprising,' his super-funky debut album on Verve Records. He's playing at London's Jazz Cafe (June 28th), Manchester's Band On The Wall (June 30th), and the Love Supreme festival at Glynde, Sussex, on Sunday 2nd July.

"We pride ourselves on putting on action packed shows with high energy and we're always pushing ourselves to the limit," says Mosley in regard to his upcoming British live shows. "Nothing is prearranged. We provide ourselves with a framework to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for ourselves and the audience. I think you're going to hear a group of musicians that are in peak condition on their instruments, battling it out on stage and lifting everyone's spirits in the process."

Those who have discovered Miles Mosley via Kamasi Washington are in for a bit of a shock because he's not a newcomer but in actual fact has been around for a few years and worked with some of the biggest names from across the spectrum of popular music -  from Lauryn Hill (he once worked as her musical director), India Arie and Kendrick Lamar (he worked on 'To Pimp A Butterfly') to Jeff Beck, the late Chris Cornell and Joni Mitchell. And he's not just a bass player - he's a multi-instrumentalist who's also a singer/songwriter and is beginning to make his mark as a film composer.  Those who were expecting a straight-up jazz album from Mosley - based on their preconceptions of him as a jazz bassist -  will be utterly surprised by 'Uprising,' which is a hard-hitting meld of soul and funk flavours, with tinges of rock and gospel in its unique DNA. 

"I think we in the Get Down are an interesting lot," says Mosley, explaining the eclectic flavour of his first album. "Everybody has a different passions that they bring to the group. Having Kamasi being the first one out of the gate, and we all rallying around him and pushing 'The Epic' up the mountain as high as we could, I could see how people would think that all of our albums would sound similar. But what we really all share is a passion for improvisation and for hard-hitting live music and a connectivity within the group. Everybody brings in their other influences and for me it's the singer-songwriter aspect of it and the power of words and the celebration of melody in that way."

Ahead of his imminent UK shows, Miles Mosley, talks to SJF's Charles Waring about 'Uprising,' being part of the West Coast Get Down, and other aspects of his life as a musician...

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 June 2017 18:12



Tuesday, 20 June 2017 19:59 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altWay back in March the soul fraternity was well impressed with a lovely tune that seemed to herald spring. 'Morning Love' had a real buzz about it, though to many, the tune's creator, SIMON LAW, was a new "name". Old soul heads though knew differently. They knew that Simon in fact is a battle-hardened soul veteran... a key member of the Soul II Soul collective who'd worked on all their albums except one, producing and co-writing many of their UK hit singles and he still performs regularly with the band. However the keyboardist has also worked on plenty of projects of his own - producing, writing and teaching music all over the place.

Some months ago Simon finally decided that the time was right to have his very own album and at last that long player, 'Look To The Sky'(from which 'Morning Love' was taken) is about to hit the sales racks. We hooked up with Simon to discuss 'Look To The Sky' and we began with the most obvious of questions... why did he take so long to come up with an album all of his own?

Well, I'd been really busy working on other artists' projects as producer and songwriter. I've been doing some production music for EMI. I also have taught music in schools in Toronto, written and produced children's shows with casts of 100+! And for the last three years have been working with elderly folks with dementia at a Welllness Academy in Toronto. I had never thought seriously about doing a solo project until the opportunity presented itself at Dome Records through its owner Peter Robinson. There's a beautiful arc to it all because it was Peter who signed me and my sister to Chrysalis Records at the beginning of my career in 1988.

So how did you begin to put it all together?

Actually, about 80% of the songs on the album were already written - through not necessarily intended for a solo project. It's really my best songs from the last 25 years! In discussions with Peter I realized that the material accumulated was strong and could comprise a good album. Some of the later material came out of a burgeoning songwriting partnership with Lain Gray, formerly of NuColours, Wookie and West End musical fame (He's been in 'We Will Rock You' and 'Harder They Come'). Both of us are now living outside of the UK but working more closely than we've ever done! It also took time to all come together because I was coming out of a transition period in my personal life and by late 2015, when conversations began with Peter, I felt energized and ready to take on such a project. Finally, my partner Jen Schaffer and I have a band in Toronto (Jen Schaffer and the Shiners). That support and camaraderie has given me strong wings to do my own project.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 June 2017 20:25


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