On this summer-themed release, saxophonist Dave Koz teams up fellow reed players Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair to revisit songs that marked their youths, giving them a contemporary flavor. The record kicks off with a funky take on Ronnie Laws’ “Always There” that features individual moments from all four players and sets the tone for the disc. A soul-tinged take on the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” follows, one of the few songs ever recorded by the Fab Four to actually feature a horn section. The arrangement here is a bit closer to Earth Wind & Fire’s 1978 single, and the players seem to have a ball with it, swapping solos around the basic melody. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Benedict Smith
The perception of Lonnie Smith as an organ deviant stems from a variety of career choices. Being plucked up outta Buffalo by guitarist George Benson and incorporated into his funky quartet, Smith came to prominence amid the bandleader’s combination of swing and grace. Of course, the sporadic covers worked up by the quartet, including “All of Me” from 1966’s “The George Benson Cookbook,” made for some shoddy territory. And while Smith hasn’t taken to the mic to regale listeners with favored lyrical numbers, he has laid into “Sunshine Superman.” Wading into popular music didn’t relegate “Boogaloo” Joe Jones or “Groove” Holmes to lesser-known status, but the industry’s constraints weighed on Smith, stifling his ability to move beyond genre limitations his early career helped define. From the mid-1960s through the following decade, Smith released visually and aurally singular works—his “Think!” remaining one of the strikingly designed Blue Note albums of the era. Read the rest of this entry »
The British duo formed by keyboardist Andy Connell and Corinne Drewery had a string of hits during the late eighties and early nineties, including memorable tunes like “Am I The Same Girl” and “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool.” Twenty-five years later, they continue to tour and record regularly.
On “Private View+2,” they revisit their early hits and some mostly unknown songs. By listening to the album, you can see how they have evolved—they have embraced more jazz-influenced sounds that are probably owed to their past collaboration with musicians like Luis Jardim (percussion).
The album has more of an acoustic direction—“Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool,” for instance, is devoid of any electronic instruments. Connell inserts a snippet of the Doris Day classic “Once I Had a Secret Love” and Drewery sounds very comfortable in this more relaxed atmosphere. The cover of The Delfonics’ “La-La Means I Love You” is arranged around the acoustic bass, and has more of a light-jazz feel. Read the rest of this entry »
Performers have forgotten over the last few decades how useful it is to have a point to your music. Innocuous tunes about booze and boning are always going to have traction, but recordings from the Staple Singers remain an unmatched body of work that touts determination and tenacity. Mavis, her father Pops and a cadre of sisters performed from the 1950s through the eighties. They used music to connect their own community and worked to unite every thoughtful person in the country. Along the way, Mavis worked with everyone from Bob Dylan to the Stax house band alongside her family and during solo endeavors. It took her about sixty years to be awarded a Grammy—she may deserve a few more—but it was a hard-earned piece of recognition. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Rod Patrick Risbrook
This Guyana born, Chicago-based singer-songwriter is an artist of many facets. Though his music is heavily inspired by neo-soul, he also draws inspiration from the sounds from his native country and the Caribbean. For instance, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and the activist “The Gay Warrior” song have a reggae-like flavor, while “I Like That” could be described as an American soul tune with a Latin vibe.
His approach toward music focuses on the music first: “Usually I start with a track, and then I develop the melody and the words that belong to the song,” he explained in a telephone interview. “If it feels sad, happy, encouraging or like a love song, I feel like songs are alive. I think I’m more in tune with this stage of music—I’m listening more to what the music tells me instead of trying to force things.”
Nhojj is also very vocal in his activism on gay rights and bullying. He believes that acceptance toward alternative lifestyles (he is openly gay) is a slow process, but that is how things are sometimes. Read the rest of this entry »
Some stories have to be discovered before they can be told. In most cases, when reaching back forty or fifty years in search of the right pieces that make a story whole, this means getting creative. For nearly ten years, the gents from the Chicago-based archival record label Numero Group have found success tracking bountiful amounts of long-lost musical antiquity. We can all thank Tom Lunt, Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley (Numero Group founders) for a world with more soul, R&B and gospel that otherwise would’ve most likely remained overlooked. Their desire to find these hidden recordings and the stories that go along with them have led them to an assortment of towns and cities across the United States. In their business, travel tends to be the easy part. Most of us would deem searching for what is no longer there a near-impossible feat. Read the rest of this entry »
On her debut US release “Fall to Grace” (Epic), British-born singer/actress/songwriter Paloma Faith brings an eclectic mix of songs that show influence from Amy Winehouse and Duffy mixed with her own personality. A handful of songs are clearly meant for the dance floor, such as the neosoul-inspired “Let Me Down Easy” and especially the retro-sounding “Blood Sweat and Tears.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Piper Ferguson
By Dave Cantor
“I don’t know if an artist can really consider himself part of the industry–I think your fans make that decision for you,” Booker T. Jones says of his six-decade career as a keyboardist, producer and arranger.
Booker T. usually has “& the MGs” tacked on the end, but lately his name has been followed simply by the surname Jones. While that quartet’s Memphis soul stew still looms large over just about anything affiliated with funk, Jones has been writing and recording new music for the past few years, first offering up 2009’s “Potato Hole” and then last year’s “The Road from Memphis.” Read the rest of this entry »
Electronic/Dance, Funk, Latin, New Music, Pop, Psychedelic, R&B, Rock, Samba, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, World Music
Céu/Photo: Renan Costa Lima
Throughout her career, São Paulo-born Céu (pronounced SEH-uh) has been inspired by electronica and American soul music, but on her recent release “Caravana Sereia Bloom” (loosely translates as “Mermaid Bloom Caravan”) she goes into a different direction. The music is influenced by various elements of Brazilian regional music. An example is the lead single “Retrovisor” (“Rear View Mirror”), a tune whose main rhythm is reminiscent of the sounds commonly heard in countryside nightclubs around the country’s southeastern region. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Arthur Shim
By Dave Cantor
“There’s a certain scene on the East Coast,” drummer Alan Evans says. “The Northeast, there’s just a whole crew of musicians that roll together. It’s a tight-knit family.”
Evans, who’s sat behind the kit in Soulive over the last thirteen years, should have a pretty good handle on what’s happening in the coastal funk, soul and jazz scenes. Coming up with his brother Neal, Soulive’s keyboardist, and Eric Krasno, the group’s guitarist, there’s a tangible brotherhood thing going on beyond blood relations. So Alan taking the time to assemble his own trio speaks highly of the folks he’s decided to include. Read the rest of this entry »