Wednesday, 6 July 2016

5 Songs About: Erykah Badu guest appearances

‘Poetry’ by The RH Factor featuring Q-Tip & Erykah Badu
‘Hard Groove’, 2003, Verve Records
Having immersed himself within the soul and funk of D’angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ (and subsequent tour) and songs for Badu’s ‘Mama’s Gun’, Hargrove appeared inspired enough to create his own funk-soul outfit, The RH Factor, and release ‘Hard Groove’ in 2003.  An incredible guest list graced the project including Anthony Hamilton, D’angelo, Shelby J, James Poyser, Pino Palladino, Renee Neufville and many others, but it’s ‘Poetry’, which pairs Hargrove with Badu and Q-Tip that may very well be the show-stealer of the lot.

‘Come Close’ [Jay Dee Remix] by Common featuring Erykah Badu, Q-Tip & Pharrell Williams
2003, MCA Records
‘Come Close’, produced by The Neptunes and featuring Mary J Blige, was the lead single to Common’s ‘Electric Circus’ album.  Already that song boasts an impressive line-up of artists but it pales in comparison to the dream-team assembled for the remix…

‘Maiysha (So Long)’ by Robert Glasper featuring Erykah Badu
'Everything’s Beautiful’ by Robert Glasper, 2016, Blue Note Records
Brand spanking new – with an accompanying video to boot – Badu continues the trend as a friend and frequent collaborator for Robert Glasper by appearing in another of his star-studded album line-ups.  The album ‘Everything’s Beautiful’ was Glasper’s ode to Miles Davis’s music and the two rekindle their chemistry with ‘Maiysha (So Long)’, a song that Davis would probably have summed up as… “Cool!”

‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ by Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu
‘The Electric Lady’, 2013, Bad Boy Records
This song is probably a collaboration people would have craved but not necessarily thought they’d actually get: it very much seems a case of two worlds colliding as Erykah Badu takes a trip to Metropolis for another of Monae’s outings as Cindi Mayweather… and the results are otherworldly!

‘Plenty’ by Guru featuring Erykah Badu
‘Jazzmatazz vol.3: Streetsoul’, 2000, EMI Records
While many criticized Guru’s third ‘Jazzmatazz’ outing for its distinctive lack of jazz in comparison to the two efforts that preceded it, ‘Streetsoul’ was Guru’s astute attempt to stay ahead of the curve of neo-soul’s success by featuring many of its luminaries including Badu, Angie Stone, Amel Larrieux and Bilal.  ‘Plenty’ is another case of the Badu contribution stealing the show as she and Guru go back-&-forth for a charming and innovative duet.

Monday, 27 June 2016

"Lost and Found": Shola Adisa-Farrar [Interview]

Already boasting an incredible line-up of funk and soul artists including Setenta and DjeuhDjoah & Lieutenant Nicholson, the "afro soul & tropical funk label", Hot Casa Records, can now boast the brilliant debut album by jazz vocalist, Shola Adisa-Farrar.

US-raised with Jamaican heritage and now residing in Paris, Shola studied at The American Conservatory Theatre and Black Repertory Theatre of Berkeley before achieving her Bachelors Arts degree in Music from New York’s Fordham University.  Currently residing in Paris, the passion for her craft has taken her to stages in America, France, Mauritius and Jamaica and now to the release of her debut album which sees her paired with the Parisian Florian Pellissier Quintet, helmed by pianist Florian Pellissier.

As a collective, the Quintet have three albums already to their name since 2012 (‘Le Diable Et Son Train’, ‘Biches Blues’ and ‘Cap De Bonne Esperance’) and now their style of hard-bop and spiritual jazz is taken to exciting new territory with this incredible new release for 2016.

A project that’s been two years in the making, the music on ‘Lost Myself’ is punctuated by an understated elegance born really of the chemistry between Shola and Pellissier’s Quintet.  Shola is hugely adept at conveying her warmth, charm and personable nature through her writing and particularly through her vocals, leaving Florian Pellissier & Co the task of providing an exquisite musical backdrop.  While the majority of the album features original compositions, it seems only fitting that this “exploration into jazz” feature sprinkles of outside inspiration: an impressive bossa-esque re-imagining of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ is included, along with an interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s ‘I Have A Dream’, but the most exciting cover comes courtesy of a seminal Jay Dee (Dilla) production for his one-time hip-hop group, Slum Village… ‘Fall in Love’.

It really is our great pleasure to have secured time with Shola Adisa-Farrar as she sits on the cusp of ever-increasing success.

Congratulations on 'Lost Myself': you must be thrilled with the response to the album so early in its release?
I am!  It was nerve racking at the time of the release.  My biggest fear was that no one would say anything, but once the first review came in, raving about it, I felt relief.  I receive messages almost daily as people from around the World discover the music.  I am happy and excited about the future of this album.

Who were some of your musical inspirations growing up?
Patti Labelle!  Her version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ was on repeat and I would sing as loud as I could trying to belt out those notes.  Mariah Carey was huge for me; I owned video tapes about her life, her music, her voice. What I liked was that I always had to practice to be what I felt was anywhere close to what Mariah was during the ‘Vision of Love’ era.  She gave me something to reach for; to aspire to – that vocal control, those dramatic pauses and high notes.  Anita Baker... According to my mom, ‘Your Bring Me Joy’ was the first song I ever sang publicly at the age of three at a concert in UC Berkeley.  There were so many others: Toni Braxton, even Shirley Temple as she was able to act and sing and I watched her collections of films every summer when I visited my aunt in Southern California. Then around the time that I was in middle school I learned about Josephine Baker and Lena Horne.  I loved Josephine's journey to Paris and how she reinvented herself, being not only a performer but a champion for human rights.  Lena Horne was a singer and actress – absolutely beautiful and graceful – and she was a pioneer being the first black woman performer to break many racial barriers.

How did you connect with the Florian Pellissier Quintet?
I had a year-long residency performing at a Parisian music venue, Le Resevoir for their Sunday Jazz brunches.  Hot Casa Records DJ Duo who organizes the talent for the brunches heard me and eventually decided that they wanted to do a project with me. At this point they introduced me to Florian Pellissier sensing that we would musically complement each other.  Out of this connection, in July 2013, our musical collaboration began.

How would you describe the creative process between the two of you?
When Florian and I started working together we began by pure improvisation in his studio and exploring the sound we created together.  We would block out a couple of hours at a time to just jam/freestyle together to see if we came up with anything interesting that could later be developed.  For the majority of the original music, that’s how it was created.  We had a very easy-going approach to creating music: let it flow and if it doesn't, move on.

What was the inspiration behind the covers selected for the album?
Florian is hugely influenced by Herbie Hancock so he brought the idea to me to write lyrics to this famous melody, ‘I Have A Dream’, as it hadn't been done before and he felt that I could connect with the intention of the song.
‘Feeling Good’ is a song that has long been a part of my repertoire and one that I’ve always enjoyed singing.
‘Sorrow Tears and Blood’ as well as ‘Fall in Love’ were both suggestions by the producer, Julien Lebrun [DJ and Hot Casa Records Founder].
Both of these songs he presented to us for different reasons: one linked some of my personal history and convictions (recent trips to Africa and my political activism) and ‘Fall in Love’ fit into the vibe of the album, while using the composition of a beloved Producer/Rapper and continuing to mix genres, as we have done in this album with Afrobeat, Reggae and with this track Hip Hop.

How does the music from the album transfer to a live stage? 
There are six musicians on the album, seven including the guitarist on ‘Blue Chords’.  We just had our first show since the album release and we were six on stage: piano and Rhodes, bass, drums, sax and trumpet who both also play the flute, and myself.  You can get the full album sound with this formation, but we are also working on a smaller formation to increase international touring opportunities.

Who would be a dream collaborator for you to record or perform with? 
This question is quite difficult because I have very eclectic musical tastes and there are many people whose sound I love.  But right now I would love to work with Kamasi Washington, I absolutely love the full layered sound of his music and his West Coast flavor. Robert Glasper, ?uestLove… always admired them and enjoyed their musical collaborations.  Vocalist Buika, Lianne la Havas... Major Lazer to get a cool Reggae or ReggaeDancehall track. Little Dragon, love their sound – the mix of Yukimi's soulful voice with the electronic instrumentation and effects is perfect!

'Lost Myself' is available to purchase from Hot Casa Records now, and for more info on Shola Adisa-Farrar, please visit:

Monday, 20 June 2016

'The Reflex Revisions' by Henri-Pierre Noel [Review]

Aside from their already talent-heavy roster, encapsulated by artists like Bev Lee Harling, the Gene Dudley Group and The Milk, London-based record label Wah Wah 45s can now proudly champion the bygone treasures of Haitian jazz-funk pianist Henri-Pierre Noel.

Initially granted a limited release of ‘Piano’ in 1979 and ‘One More Step’ in 1980, Wah Wah’s 2012 reissues have done more than just unearth those gems for prospective new fans… they’ve gone that step further and breathed new life into some of his compositions which is where French DJ and producer, The Reflex, comes in…

Tackling four tracks from Noel’s catalogue, The Reflex (famed for his own Reflex Revisions series) possesses the ability to take these songs in numerous different directions but respectfully, Henri-Pierre Noel’s skill on the ivories is still very much the focal point within these reworkings.  While Noel’s originals already leant heavily towards incorporating sounds from jazz and funk along with heavy doses of Latin flavours, The Reflex adds just the right amount of disco into the mix to make these worthy floor-fillers.

While these four “Revisions” serve to enhance anyone’s 2016 music collection, I would still urge listeners to explore the back catalogue of Henri-Pierre Noel, thankfully now fully available from Wah Wah 45s and embrace the jazz-funk that even after nearly 40 years later, sounds as fresh and dynamic as it would have done upon its release.

Henri-Pierre Noel : The Reflex Revisions
01: Funky Spider Dance (The Reflex Revision) (07:01)
02: A Fifth of Beethoven (The Reflex Revision) (07:29)
03: Back Home... Sweet Home (The Reflex Revision) (07:29)
04: Diskette (The Reflex Revision)

Monday, 13 June 2016

"Going Deeper": Nick Pride & The Pimptones [Interview]

Nick Pride & The Pimptones formally introduced themselves through their debut album on Record Kicks in 2011, ‘Midnight Feast of Jazz’.  In itself the album was an inspiring concept record: a soul band’s interpretation of jazz music – and it’s a concept that served the group well.  ‘Rejuiced Phat Shake’ subsequently followed in 2014 which was the group’s first collaboration with Légère Recordings, and saw them flourish within their natural aesthetic as a soul and funk band whose music was brought to life by an array of excellent vocalists.

The Newcastle-based collective have now seized the opportunity of a third record as a chance for further reinvention...  so in an extension of their excellent collaboration on ‘Rejuiced Phat Shake’ (‘Why Does My Man Got To Be So Tough’), the powerful vocal force of Beth Macari boasts the distinction of being the first vocalist to be paired with The Pimptones for a complete album. 

And hopefully it’s the first of many!

Whether you’re watching the video for the album’s lead single, ‘Gotta Leave The Lady Alone’, or hearing her purely exquisite vocal on ‘Go Deep’s opening number, ‘What The Heart Wants’, you can only hope to have a lot more from Beth in the future, as well as this match-made-in-heaven musical union.

It was alluded to earlier but Nick Pride & The Pimptones never make the same album twice.  They don’t need to.  They’re a band brimming with creativity and confidence so while we take the time to bask in ‘Go Deep’ as a solid representation of their proficiency and skill, we can’t help but ask the question… “What will they do next time?”

IMRAN MIRZA: 'Nick Pride & The Pimptones' are amassing such a body of work now: do you still feel the pressure of releasing new material?
NICK PRIDE: I really do want to release as much material as possible, I'm a little bit addicted to it! I remember when I was first getting into music and discovering new bands. I would hear a song that I loved by a band I hadn't heard of, so I would search out which album it come from, then listen to absolutely anything else I could find by that band. It's exciting when a band has loads of weird and wonderful things for you to discover, so that's what I want the Pimptones to be like. ‘Go Deep’ is our third studio LP, but it's really our fourth album as we recorded another CD called ‘It's The Pimptones’ back in 2009 before we had a record deal. Then on top of that there is an album of remixes called ‘Remixed Feast of Jazz’ from 2012, plus last year we released an album of bootlegs and mash ups and also a 40 minute live radio session which are both on our Bandcamp page. So there is plenty of Pimptones music for people to discover.

How did you hook up with Beth Macari, and what prompted the decision to collaborate on a whole album?
Beth was one of many, many singers who guested on our previous album ‘Rejuiced Phat Shake’. We worked for a while with lots of different vocalists but with Beth it really clicked and suddenly felt like a band! So it was just a natural development for us to keep working together. Before now, the idea of not settling on a permanent singer was that I was very keen to clearly establish the identity of the band based on the sound of the whole band and the tunes we played. I wanted people to buy into where we were coming from rather than just focusing in on one aspect of it, usually the lead vocals. Now that we've done that, I felt like we were ready to settle down with a regular singer.

Can you talk a little about what went into the making of 'Go Deep'?
Each record we make is usually the opposite of the previous one. So ‘Rejuiced Phat Shake’ covered a lot of genres and had loads of guest musicians and singers. With ‘Go Deep’ I wanted to focus in on writing strong soul songs and keep it all in house. I wanted a strictly retro deep funk vibe. I actually wrote the material on this record much faster than I normally do. We recorded it really quickly too, most of it was live. I think that that sense of urgency gives the recording a lot of energy.

What made you decide on 'Go Deep' as the album's title?
I decided on the album title before I'd even written most of the songs.  It's a nod to Deep Funk which was the sound I was going for, but it's also a broader point about not being superficial. As a songwriter, I wanted to think a little more deeply than I usually do.  I liked the name so much that I even managed to get it into one of the lyrics: "Do these feelings go deep?" in the song ‘Don't Break Her Heart’.
But with me there is always a play on words hidden somewhere, I love that type of humour. So ‘Go deep’ is a bit of an American Football reference. It's a bad joke but it makes me happy!

Was the creative process of writing and producing different with Beth on board?
Actually the process was pretty much the same as it's always been, I like to write songs on my own and have them mostly complete before I play them to anyone, so I was bringing finished songs to Beth to learn which is how I usually work. But it was fantastic working with a regular singer and writing a whole album specifically for that one person. It meant that I could write to her strengths and we could work together on getting the details right. Beth delivers some real knock out performances on this album, I think that's the confidence which comes from knowing the tunes inside out and playing regularly with the band. You don't really get that when someone is just sitting in temporarily. For me, that was the big difference.

There's an excellent video for 'Gotta Leave The Lady Alone': what made you decide on that as the lead single?
I actually had no strong opinions about what should be the lead single, which is very unusual for a control freak like me!  But it was an instant and unanimous decision by the label and I think they were dead right. The reaction to the song has been terrific! The video was a very happy accident. I was having trouble thinking of ideas for a video when the opportunity to film a live session came up at just the right time. Maybe we were taking a bit of a risk by actually performing the song live on what would be the official video, but I was much happier just playing instead of trying to make a video with a story line. I'm a terrible actor!

You deliver new concepts with each new album: any thoughts yet as to what a follow-up to 'Go Deep' would sound like?
We certainly do try to do that. Yes, as soon as any album is finished and sent off to the label then I'm already thinking about the next one. I already have very clear ideas about how I'd like to record it. With ‘Go Deep’ I set myself a very strict deadline to write and arrange all the material. I really enjoyed that pressure and I'd like to repeat that approach, but on the other hand, I'm also thinking about going the opposite way and really taking my time. So who knows?! I actually have a lot of material written for a side project which I've been keen to do for a long time but life and other albums keep getting in the way! Maybe this would be the ideal time to focus on that.

What have been some of the highlights for the band so far?
We've been so lucky to get the opportunity to travel to some wonderful places to play our music, that's something I'll always appreciate. All thanks to some amazing support from some crazy lovers of music scattered far and wide. We did some incredible gigs in Spain last summer including a festival amid beautiful mountains, but then also found ourselves back in the UK recording in an underground nuclear bunker.  I loved them both. We're always releasing new material and making new contacts, our live show is getting better and better but I feel like our best work is still ahead of us, which is pretty exciting!

‘Go Deep’ on Légère Recordings is available to buy now. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

5 Songs About: Infidelity

'Contagious' by The Isley Brothers
Eternal, 2001, DreamWorks Records
Probably most notable about this song is how a story was able to stretch over the course of four songs and seven years, 'Contagious' features the two main protagonists in this story, R Kelly and Ron "Mr Biggs" Isley, marking their third outing with a spat over Chante Moore.  The tension reaches critical levels as, in true soap opera fashion, the two lovers are caught in the act.

'S##t D##N M##### F####R' by D'angelo
Brown Sugar, 1995, EMI Records
Undoubtedly the darkest song taken from the bible of what was neo-soul music.  The genius of this somber jazz number lies in its simplicity.

'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' by Gladys Knight & The Pips
1967, Motown Records
Most associated with Marvin Gaye, we thought it would be fun to include Gladys Knight's version, which came out a year before Gaye's.  Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, the song was initially recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, as well as The Isley Brothers - both versions of which were not passed for release.

'Smooth Operator' by Sade
Diamond Life, 1984, Epic Records
Sade's first top ten hit in the US, this is probably the song that depicts the ultimate playboy fantasy - a man who flies across the world leaving a broken heart at every stop.

'Just Be Good To Me' by The SOS Band
On The Rise, 1983, Tabu Records
Another song that's had its fair share of covers, this time by Mariah Carey, Beats International and Shayne Ward, the list couldn't be complete without this definitive 80s classic.

Friday, 27 May 2016

'blackSUMMERS'night' artwork + tracklist + video


Well, I say 'finally' but it isn't actually here yet.  Although it seems unlikely that anything can stop the release of the album that is already 7 years too late.

To give some background, after an 8-year hiatus, soul-singing legend-in-the-making Maxwell returned in 2009 with the first of a planned trilogy of album releases: 'BLACKsummers'night', 'blackSUMMERS'night', 'blacksummers'NIGHT'.  Following the huge success of 'BLACK...', '...SUMMERS'...' was due the following year, but that sadly turned into 7 years.

But none of that matters now, 'cos it's here.  Nearly.  blackSUMMERS'night will hit stores on July 1st and we now have a video for the new single 'Lake By the Ocean' to enjoy as well along with the tracklist.
1. All The Ways Love Can Feel
2. The Fall
3. Ill
4. Lake By The Ocean
5. Fingers Crossed
6. Hostage
7. 1990x
8. Gods
9. Lost
10. Of All Kind
11. Listen Hear
12. Night

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

What I'm listening to... (May 2016)

Well, the immediate answer of what I've been listening to over the past few weeks is a steady flow of Prince records... Yes, I'm doing no better with dealing with that news at all, so aside from 'Sign O'The Times', 'Purple Rain', 'For You', 'Crystal Ball' and numerous other albums and songs, I have managed to extend my musical therapy with a few other sounds that I was keen to put your way...

'Into Forever' by Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra featuring Josephine Oniyama
Stumbled onto this one by chance and I'm very happy that I did.  This is an excellent song - the title track from an excellent album which really captures more of what this song delivers.  Make sure you check out this video because the visuals are brilliant.

'Fascinating, Devastating Man' by Eleanore Mills
This comes from one of two Soul Brothers reissues that the label will be riding high with this year: This Is Eleanore Mills.  It was a complete toss-up as to which of the albums I'd highlight here so it's only right that we name check Eramus Hall's Your Love is My Desire as well.  Pick up both for some classic connoisseur soul.

'Luvlite' by Hidden Jazz Quartet featuring Bajka
Hidden Jazz Quartet are doing well this year following the release of their 'Raw and Cooked' album which is generating a solid buzz.  Apart from this track, highlights also come in the form of the Omar-assisted 'High Heels' which is a great northern soul-esque number.