Wednesday, 21 September 2016

5 Songs About: Record Kicks (Italian funk-soul record label)

'Waiting So Long' by Nick Pride & The Pimptones featuring Jess Roberts 
The album this song comes from ('Midnight Feast of Jazz') had a lot of songs to pick from but 'Waiting So Long' probably worked as the best introduction to the Sheffield-based funk and soul outfit.  Nick Pride told us a little about working with vocalist, Jess Roberts:
Jess Roberts is from the North East too but moved to London and is doing really well now.  She asked The Pimptones to be her backing band on some recordings recently so I said how’s about if you sing a Pimps’ track in return.  This was the track which really got us noticed, Jess is great to work with and she did an incredible job on that song.

'Work it out' by Hannah Williams & The Tastemakers
'A Hill of Feathers' is nothing short of a gem of an album and picking just one song seems something of a disservice to the project.  Filled with soul-drenched and string-filled ballads, Hannah Williams brings an aching authenticity to a beautiful backdrop painted by The Tastemakers.

'Give Me One More Chance' [Lack of Afro Remix] by The Diplomats of Solid Sound 
Lack of Afro remixes are typically beautiful things but he may very well have outdid himself on this one.  This mix was something of an exclusive to the Record Kicks compilation 'Mo Record Kicks Act 2', curated by Smoove from Jalapeno Records' Smoove & Turrell.

'Snap Back' by The Baker Brothers
The Baker Brothers are truly an iconic funk and soul outfit for the UK to be proud of.  This pick from the band's seventh album ('Time to Testify') comes courtesy of bass player, producer and band vocalist, Chris Pedley:
I would recommend they listen to ‘Snap Back’ from ‘Time to Testify’ (our latest album) as this song has all the main ingredients of The Baker Brothers: killer horns, riffs and rhythms.

'Rags to Riches' by The Liberators 
The 10-track debut album from Australian afrobeat and funk band, The Liberators, boasted this number as their lead single.  Percussionist and guitarist for the band, Nathan Aust, took some time to tell us a little about the making of the video:
The idea came from Bari sax play Andrew and his then house mates, the guys at Don't Look Back Pictures.  I'm guessing it was conceived during a late-night poker session.  I had no involvement in the shooting of the clip as my wife was having our second child at the time but I heard it was fun but hard work.  We had a lot of support from the actors.  I did the intro music in my kitchen.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

'Blood From A Stone' by Eric Krasno [Review]

We nearly covered a song from this album in last week's 'What I'm listening to... (October)' article but thought we could squeeze an extra word or two about it to form a full-fledged review instead.

While fans wait patiently for the new album from Soulive (of which Krasno makes up one-third of), guitarist Eric Krasno found time to unveil his second solo album within a 12 months that saw him deliver 'Crush' as a member of funk band Lettuce, produce his long-time friend and label-mate Nigel Hall's 'Ladies & Gentlemen...' album, and further develop his record label, Feel Music.

...That's definitely a mouthful.  How he's been able to be a part of so much music over a short span of time is reflective of his passion.  As fans, we can only bask in the results.

Krasno - and in fact Soulive - started as very much as a jazz band: signed to Blue Note Records, their albums 'Doin' Something' (2001) and 'Next' (2002) were contemporary jazz wonders that were progressive and hip-hop inspired.  'Break Out' in 2005 however shifted the band's sound to a more funk and soul aesthetic, and, now, with 'Blood From A Stone', Krasno has shifted that little bit further embracing an edgier side of blues and psychedlic rock, much like he did with The London Souls album 'Here Come the Girls'.

The biggest surprise though is that "guitarist" Eric Krasno, for this project, perhaps is better referred to as "guitarist and vocalist" seeing as he tackles lead vocals on all tracks for the very first time.  The story goes that the songs were initially intended to feature other vocalists but who better to sing your own songs than yourself?!  So he did.  And it's good.  The aforemention Nigel Hall appears on a handful of tracks playing a mix of piano, organ and backing vocals, Alecia Chakour (who we did cover in last week's 'What I'm listening to... (October)' article) appears on 'Wicked This Way' and Soulive's Alan Evans and Neal Evans appear on a song each near the album's closing.

Speaking of Alan Evans, on a slightly separate note, I not too long ago picked up 'Merkaba' (2013), officially by the Alan Evans Trio and thought this project would also be worth a mention.  Evans sees himself hooking up with guitarist Danny Mayer and organist Beau Sasser, and as the album’s writer and producer (and drummer), he takes us on a cosmic and space-age, jazz-tinged and funk-filled trip.  Like Krasno, Evans so rarely showcases his own vocals which is a shame as the standouts on ‘Merkaba’ are when he does take centre-stage: ‘Givin’ To You’, ‘Life Is Harder To Live’ and ‘Who Dare Knock’.  (For other songs featuring Alan Evans on vocals, check out ‘Kim’ from Soulive’s ‘No Place Like Soul’ album (2007) and ‘Tonight’ from their 2009 album, ‘Up Here’.)

The continual expansion of the Soulive dynasty continues so I would urge readers to get your hands on some of the aforementioned projects referenced throughout this review.  Both 'Blood From A Stone' and 'Merkaba' are available to purchase now.

Monday, 5 September 2016

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

'Like You Me' by Alecia Chakour
I’ve been seeing this name surface a lot recently – Chakour’s appeared as a guest vocalist on Nigel Hall’s album last year (‘Ladies and Gentlemen...’), Lettuce’s album ‘Crush’ and Eric Krasno’s recently released ‘Blood From a Stone’.  So, she’s a new vocalist? Not at all, Chakour’s been around for years as her 2010 digital release ‘Loomi’ indicates.

'Let Me Be Me' by Nite-Funk
Here’s an excellent number from the four-track EP ‘Nite-Funk’ by Nite-Funk: the group is comprised of Nite Jewel on vocals and Dam-Funk on production.  The charm of this one lies in the 1980s-inspired backdrop – reminiscent of those soundscapes infamously laid out by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam.

‘Seamonster’ by The Steve McQueens
A quirky and eclectic soul band from Singapore called The Steve McQueens.  Let every part of that sentence sink in for a moment.  Now listen to the title track from their debut album and tell me you’re not now hooked...

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

'Raios Do Sol' by Resolution 88 [Single review]

Splash Blue Music – home to The Steve McQueens and Joao Caetano – is proud to present brand new music from the UK four-piece, Resolution 88.

The band’s take on jazz–funk comes with a nice dab of broken beat thrown into the mix and the new single takes even further inspiration incorporating Brazilian rhythms as well.  ‘Raios Do Sol’ is the perfect teaser for Resolution 88’s second album, ‘Afterglow’ (due to be released 9th September), but if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, let’s see if we can entice you further…

The single and album is mastered by Bob Power, who, if you know your contemporary soul, then you know of his work with India.Arie, Erykah Badu, Macy Gray and D’Angelo’s seminal ‘Brown Sugar’ album, plus Dan ‘JD73’ Goldman (famous for his work with Morcheeba and The Haggis Horns) tackles mixing duties for the project.

And if you needed more of an incentive to check this out then you should know that ‘Raios Do Sol’ is available as a free download on Bandcamp so check it out below:

'Raios Do Sol' is available to download now and 'Afterglow' is available 9th September from Bandcamp

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Podcast #12: Get to Know... Stevie Wonder

Welcome to Episode 12 of our 'GetToKnow' series showcasing the work of some of our favourite producers and musicians, and this month, we visit the artist who was more than likely the inspiration to every artist we've ever showcased in this series... Stevie Wonder.

Our all-encompassing show features songs written by Stevie Wonder for other artists, other artists featuring Stevie Wonder, other artists covering Stevie Wonder, and other artists remixing Stevie Wonder. It's as all-encompassing as it gets!

Below is the tracklist for the show and we hope you enjoy the show:
'Visions' (The Randy Watson Experience Remix) - Stevie Wonder
'Expressions of Love' - Raul Midon f/t Stevie Wonder
'Girl Blue' - Mario Biondi
'Bring Your Sweet Stuff Home to Me' - The Pointer Sisters
'All I Do Is Think About You' - Tammi Terrell
'Never Give You Up' - Raphael Saadiq f/t Stevie Wonder & CJ Hilton
'Get Lucky' (2014 Grammies Live) - Daft Punk f/t Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers
'I Can't Help It' - Gretchen Parlato/Soul Cycle/Esperanza Spalding
'So What The Fuss' (Mario Winans Remix) - Stevie Wonder f/t Q-Tip
'Never In Your Sun' - Khari Cabral Simmons f/t India.Arie
'Perfect Angel' - Minnie Riperton
'Cold Chill' (Prince Remix) - Stevie Wonder

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: