Interviews

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

 

A BETTER MAN...BRIAN McKNIGHT TALKS ABOUT HOW LOVE TRANSFORMED HIS WORLD

Wednesday, 02 March 2016 10:56 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

brian_mcknight_shaded"I thought that true love was a just fairytale but I have it and it's pretty amazing," declares an elated and seemingly genuinely love-struck BRIAN McKNIGHT, the Buffalo-born R&B singer/songwriter who has just released his sixteenth album, 'Better,' via the Kobalt label ("it's a venture between my publisher and myself," explains the singer, who has previously recorded for Wng/Mercury, Motown and E1 Music).

It doesn't seem that long ago that Brian McKnight was being touted as the new R&B kid on the block. But time flies and now its twenty-five-years later. While the majority of R&B stars from 1992 have long gone, Brian McKnight is still here and making music that continues to be valid and relevant. With twenty-five years of recording history behind him, the softly-spoken and articulate singer/songwriter- who's been nominated for a Grammy sixteen times but never won - has achieved a remarkable longevity in a genre where fame is usually a fickle mistress and careers are mostly excruciatingly short.

He's had a chart-topping single and album - 'Anytime' in 1997 - and been a consistent performer in the R&B arena since 1992, when his silky smooth, gospel-reared tones were introduced via his striking debut single, 'The Way Love Goes.'  A quarter-of-a-century on, McKnight is still singing and writing songs about love and romance but this time an enriched sense of personal experience informs his material on 'Better' - and the irony is not lost on the singer. "After all the love songs that I've written, it took me till I was forty-two to actually find a real love," he laughs. "This whole album is really the story of my relationship with my girlfriend, Leilani, and 'Better' itself is really the anchor of how I feel, considering that I didn't think real love really existed. You can tell this album has a far more optimistic view of life in general than any one I've ever made."

Talking exclusively to SJF's Charles Waring, a rejuvenated McKnight sheds light on the background to his new album and reflects on his past and different aspects of his career...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 March 2016 11:30

 

TONY TALKS... THE TONY MOMRELLE INTERVIEW

Thursday, 18 February 2016 17:14 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1toneLondoner TONY MOMRELLE is acknowledged by business insiders as one of the UK's finest soul singers. His voice will be familiar to many...he's done sessions and live BVs for people like Elton John, Terry Callier, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Janet Jackson, Sade, Gary Barlow, Andrea Bocelli, Gwen Stefani, Gabrielle, and Robert Palmer. More importantly, though, is the fact that for some years he's been one of the signature voices in Incognito.

Now with the launch of an acclaimed solo album 'Keep Pushing', maybe the time's arrived when people will know not just the voice but also the name, Tony Momrelle. With solo success beckoning we met up with Tony and, as ever, began by wanting to know a little bit about his personal background....

I was born in London in the 70's. My mother is Jamaican and my father is St Lucian. I grew up in South London, loved music from a very early age from going to church with my mother and my grandparents so music was always with me.

OK, so growing up, who were your heroes and musical influences?

Heroes? Well there are way too many to mention.... Jesus, Martin Luther King, my parents. Influences? Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Fred Hammond.

When then did you start singing professionally... what made you take up the business?

I started singing professionally around the age of 23 on and off as I had a full time job in marketing and sales so I guess it was more of a hobby back then. I decided to go full time after a few key recording sessions that opened my mind to the world of music.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 February 2016 17:36

 

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