Friday, 5 February 2016

Blue-in-Green Podcast#11: GetToKnow...DJ Jazzy Jeff


Welcome to Episode 11 of our 'GetToKnow: the producer' series showcasing the work of some of our favourite producers and musicians, and this month, we revisit Philadelphia's hot-bed of talent and unleash some soulful gems from DJ Jazzy Jeff. His work as a producer, DJ and head of the neo-soul production stable A Touch of Jazz is so extensive and we're basking in its brilliance over 60 minutes. (As usual, look out for the bonus treats!)

Below is the tracklist for the show so please check it out:
'Jazzy Jeff's Ntro'
'Touch Me With Your Hands' - Jazzy Jeff f/t Chinah Blac
'Exclusively' - Jill Scott
'The Next Movement' - The Roots f/t Jazzyfatnastees & Jazzy Jeff
'My Peoples' - Jazzy Jeff f/t Raheem DeVaughn
'Be Free' [Jazzy Jeff & James Poyser Remix] - Moonchild
'Well Done' - Kenny Lattimore
'Papa Was a Rolling Stone' [Jazzy Jeff & Pete Kuzma Remix] - The Temptations
'Another Phase' - V
'I Don't Know' - Slum Village f/t Jazzy Jeff
'Mirrorball' [Jazzy Jeff Remix] - Everything But The Girl

Thursday, 28 January 2016

"To The Moon and Back": Imelda May [Interview]

Interview originally carried out in 2009 by Imran Mirza from Liberation Frequency
With a career gathering more momentum as time passes by, Dublin’s very own Imelda May brought 2008 to a triumphant close, and is set to build on that success – in greater bounds – for 2009. Having developed and honed her craft for live performances from a young age, May’s career highlights currently range from being the recipient of the Irish Music Awards’ Best Newcomer title, appearing at Glastonbury, Cornbury, Innocent and Chiswick House Festivals, opening for Van Morrison, performing at the Royal Albert Hall, touring with Jools Holland, even appearing on the latter’s ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, as well as fronting her own tour in support of new album, ‘Love Tattoo’.

Inspired by jazz legends, Billie Holliday and Dinah Washington, May was as much inspired by the people around her, all of which she believes helped to shape her musically, “I worked with really great musicians, and they say you should work with musicians better than yourself because you eventually pull yourself up to a good standard, and I did do that when I was young as much as I could”.

Having had a natural talent that was nurtured by her family from a young age, May spent much of her childhood singing, and had been gracing the stage at blues clubs and pubs since 16 years old.  Initially avoiding ‘centre-stage’, opting to sing for other people’s bands, it wasn’t long before she developed the courage and self-belief to pull musicians together for her own project, “I got such itchy feet and I was feeling very, very creative and I needed to do something with that, so I asked the guys, who were different musicians from different bands and they said ‘yeah definitely’ … and it just worked”.  May further described the chemistry between the band members Steve Rushton (drums), Dave Priseman (trumpet), Darrel Higham (guitar) and Al Gare (double bass), “It just seemed to snap in to place very quickly and then I knew I had done the right thing”.

Billed as a jazz, blues and rockabilly artist, May is adept at skipping elegantly between these genres and styles of music, and capturing the incredible essence of each.  Throughout the songs presented on ‘Love Tattoo’, May’s unique ability to completely capture her listener’s attention is really what takes centre stage on this release – if she wants you to dance, the undeniable infectious rhythm of the opening number, ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’, will make you dance; and, if she wants to lure your imagination to the smoky blues club ambience of songs like ‘Knock 123’ or the beautifully written ‘Meet You At The Moon’, then that’s exactly the power that May’s capable of, and will effortlessly use to do with you what she will.
We’re looking at the same moon,
Though we’re miles apart;
We’re wishing on the same star,
When you’re deep in my heart;
I don’t know if you know,
But when we miss each other so,
Look up, I’ll meet you at the moon
Confidently, May assures us that these array of styles was something planned all along, “I kinda knew what I wanted it to sound like – I had gigged the songs as well so I was happy with how they had come out.  It was obviously a mixture of influences that I had – the blues influence, the jazz influence, and of course the rockabilly influence, which I had from an early age ...  When I went into the studio, I wanted it to sound as simple as possible.  I thought, if we could just grab the energy of it, then we’d be flying, and it seemed to work.”

It has been said that luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.  So, already having all the necessary tools to reach luminary status would tick the ‘preparation’ box, all May needed was the perfect ‘opportunity’, which would go on to present itself with ‘Later… With Jools Holland’.  Responsible for being a launching pad for credible musicians, Imelda May joins the list of artists that have benefited from the Jools Holland stamp of approval, “I think Natalie Cole was supposed to be on, and got ill, and he got us, we got a call saying we’d be on in two days.  We all screamed, so that was fantastic, and thanks to him, I owe him a huge amount”.

May’s 2009 currently has ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’ securing regular spins on Radio 2’s playlist, a tour schedule that sees her playing 27 dates through February and early-March, and the hope to return to the studio for ‘Love Tattoo’s’ follow-up in May.  Imelda May’s incomparable style and genuine artistry makes her an incredible talent to watch bloom through 2009 and for many years to follow.



Wednesday, 20 January 2016

'Eclectic Blue' by Eclectic Blue [Review]


Eclectic Blue have just delivered their self-titled debut album leaping into 2016 with an exciting and fresh blend of independent R&B/soul.  Producer, Jae London, who helms the project and has assembled the expansive collective of musicians and singers involved, has made the album an early standout for the year and an album you’d be doing yourself a disservice to pass up.

Ever since the group’s cover of the Luther Vandross classic ‘Give Me The Reason’ appeared in the inboxes of DJs and journalists amidst a mysterious puff of smoke, 15th January 2015 (followed by ‘Sunshine’ the month afterwards), with no ready-made explanation on the web of who ‘Eclectic Blue’ actually were, excitement quietly built for a full-length release which has now come just under a year later.

Although it’s taken the time it has for the album to have seen the light of day, ‘Sunshine’ was exactly the type of song that would have fans (im)patiently waiting for more: the sublime horn-layered production accompanied by the vocals of Chris Turner proved to be the perfect appetizer for what was to follow.  The album is packed with many of London’s long-term friends and collaborators including Turner, who also appears on the vast majority of the album’s songs, along with additional vocals throughout by the excellent Kimberly Marshall, equally shining any time she’s featured.  There should also be a lot of excitement to see the immensely talented Saunders Sermons appearing on the jazzy ‘Neo Soul’ and the interlude ‘Tyneshia’s Melody’.  Famed trombonist Corey King appears on the album as does saxophonist Kenneth Whalum… it genuinely is an album brimming with talent.

Standouts throughout the album include, naturally, the aforementioned ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Neo Soul’, as well as ‘Eclectic Blue’, ‘Love Has Come Around’, ‘Paradise Indigo’ and the brilliant back-and-forth between Turner and Marshall on ‘Please Be Kind and Rewind’.

If you’re a fan of the music here, make sure you check out Jae London’s The Discovery Album (released in 2010) as well, which features Chris Turner, Saunders Sermons and Kimberly Marshall along with other singers and many of the Eclectic Blue musicians delivering another stellar range of excellent R&B and soul.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

R.I.P. David Bowie [1947-2016]


We were met with the sad news this week about the passing of iconic pop & rock artist, David Bowie, following an 18-month battle with cancer.

Bowie’s career spanned six decades and he released 27 studio albums.  Although primarily considered a pop & rock artist, he was a huge proponent for black music, famously defending its absence in a discussion on MTV in 1982 and incorporating elements of jazz into many of his own recordings.

As fans, when a musician leaves us, we seek the solace that only their music can provide in that time.  When John Lennon passed, the world turned to ‘Imagine’; for Michael Jackson it was ‘Man in the Mirror’; For Bowie however, fans have the release of his ‘Blackstar’ album – an album realized during his cancer diagnosis and which has subsequently been deemed his parting gift to his fans.  An incredible testimonial revealing, as suggested by CNN, “a man grappling with his own mortality”.

Bowie was everything he was professed to be: an innovator, a pioneer, an icon, an artist.  His legacy is infinite as his music and his influence has impacted countless generations – a feat that will continue with his death.

I’ll leave you with a couple of songs to mark his impact on me: the new song and video, 'Lazarus', from the new Blackstar album, and my absolute favourite of his songs – the Nile Rodgers produced ‘Modern Love’.



Wednesday, 6 January 2016

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



Happy New Year all!  All of our extensive 2015 wrap-up posts are all now complete so let's kick things back into gear with a few things that have caught my attention and were not 2015 related...

'Hello' by Andy Allo
Our last one of these articles (November 2015) featured a cover of Adele's new song as sang by Joe, which is exceptional, but another has now surfaced that's totally grabbed our attention and it's by Andy Allo.  She very much makes this version her own - with a nice sprinkle of (90s) R&B thrown into the production.  If you're not completely tired of having heard Adele sing this "a thousand times" [see what happened there?] then this version is definitely worth a listen.  Click that download link too!




'Norwegian Wood' by Cecilia Stalin & Khari Cabral Simmons
I had waited a while now to hear the follow-up to Khari Cabral Simmons' debut album, 'Clementine Sun', and this has definitely been worth the wait... 'The Story of Love' sees the bassist and producer hook up with Swedish soul vocalist, Cecilia Stalin, for this 4-track gem of an EP, available from Bandcamp.  There's no weak spots here so let's go with their cover of The Beatles' 'Norwegian Wood'...


'Jazz in Motion' by Yusef Rumperfield
Heavy on the use of samples and hip-hop influences, this broken beat jazz record makes for a dreamy and hugely enjoyable listen.   Audio samples are a little scarce so visit the Bandcamp page to get a real feel for what the album's all about.  You won't be sorry.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas!


Just before we sign off for the year, we wanted to extend our gratitude to anyone that's ever visited our site and hopefully been put on to something new.

We've had an exceptional year and are unbelievably proud to say we can boast exclusives with Julia Biel, The Mighty Sceptres, Quarter Street, The New Mastersounds, The Haggis Horns and countless others.  So much is already in the pipeline for 2016 with a new article on Lack of Afro's LOA Records and a Prince feature that will give you 99 reasons to be a fan :)

We'd like to wish you all an excellent Christmas along with a healthy, happy and prosperous year ahead!  And what better way to do that than with a few choice Christmas cuts...

'Winter Wonderland' by Jesse Fischer f/t Solomon Dorsey

'Funky Christmas' by Maceo Parker

'Santa Baby' by Rene Marie

'12 Days of Christmas' by Olympic Cyclone Band

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

2015: Top 5 soul albums

#5

‘Day Dreamer’ by Jesse Fischer [Ropeadope Records]
Opting to almost completely abandon the ‘Soul Cycle’ moniker now, keyboardist and producer, Jesse Fischer unveils his new album which draws heavily on inspiration from 1970s jazz and funk.
There’s something about what Jesse Fischer does that just makes everything he do seem so easy –whether he’s producing, engineering or playing on projects for other artists, like Brenda Nicole Moorer or Rat Habitat, creating his own albums, composing remixes or maintaining his relentless touring schedule, he’s just always working and appears blissfully happy to be doing so.
For a fan… what more could we want?
‘Day Dreamer’ isn’t just a credible extension of his own discography but it’s one that stands perilously tall amongst his releases thus far.  Trumpeter, Takuya Kuroda, appears sadly on just one song, ‘Suite For The Blue Planet’, as does Snarky Puppy’s violinist Zach Brock on ‘Sangjee’ and steel-pannist, Leon Foster Thomas on the opener, ‘Nomads’.  But it’s vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles that could be set to see her own star rise following three great centre-stage contributions, the standout of which being a cover of Minnie Riperton’s ‘Loving You’.
The music on ‘Day Dreamer’ is charming, charismatic and very accessible – all a credit to Fischer’s talents and dedication.  Therefore, it sailed easily into one of the top slots for the year.


#4

‘Kiss Kiss Double Jab’ by The Rongetz Foundation [Heavenly Sweetness Records]
Headed up by French trumpeter, Stephane Ronget, The Rongetz Foundation have unveiled their fourth album release and are solidifying themselves as one of this site’s standout names in contemporary jazz music.
Never one to attempt to recreate the magic of his album’s predecessor, Ronget always aims to cast new spells on each of his releases so while his previous albums have always been a steady mix of vocal and instrumental tracks, this go round we’re introduced to pretty much an all vocal release.  Previous vocal collaborators have included Saunders Sermons, Gregory Porter and Renee Neufville but on ‘Kiss Kiss Double Jab’, we’re in the fine company of actress and vocalist Lilli Cooper who appears on a hefty number of tracks and only surrenders vocal duties on two songs in favour of the talents of spoken word artist Sonia Sanchez.
The Rongetz Foundation have always maintained their ethos of their brand of jazz music being a collaborative affair basking in the joys of a fusion of genres and styles and, once again, it’s something that’s been realized on this brilliantly-titled release. ‘Murilley’, ‘Hip Hop Muse’ and ‘Cab Samba’ among others point to a notably vibrant New York perspective throughout and the inclusion of Gart Bartz on saxophone rounds things off perfectly.
As always, being a staunch advocate for album hardcopies, it’s a must to make note of the brilliant artwork on this release courtesy of Antoinette Fleur who does a marvelous job with the front and back covers.


#3

‘Ladies and Gentlemen… Nigel Hall’ by Nigel Hall [Feel Music]
‘Ladies and Gentlemen… Nigel Hall’: the title almost hints at being an introduction from a brand new artist but Nigel Hall is as seasoned a talent as you could find.  Hall’s debut album, ‘The Face of Things to Come’, was released in 2006 but in the super long wait between releases, there has been plenty of music to tide fans over in the interim, including collaborations with longtime friends (and frequent collaborators) Soulive and Lettuce as well as a run with The Nth Power, which spawned the brilliant debut EP, ‘Basic Minimum Skills Test’, in 2013.  (We’re going to have to prep a separate post about Nigel Hall to fully commemorate our adoration for his talents so look out for one in the New Year.)
It’s predictable to say the new album was worth the wait – seeing that it swooped in to secure #3 on this list – but what makes it all the more special is that it’s everything it should have been.  It’s sweet, sweet soul music captured through Motown-esque numbers like ‘Gimme a Sign’ and ‘I Just Want to Love You’, the jazz-funk brilliance of ‘Try, Try, Try’ and the lush closing number, ‘Call on Me’.
Having been firmly cemented within the Soulive and Lettuce stable of musicians, they’ve all been brought along for the ride with a mish-mash of members appearing on each song, and guitarist, Eric Krasno, brought in as producer for the whole album (a perfect selection in its own right!).  ‘Lay Away’ for instance (a cover of The Isley Brothers song) features a dream team lineup including Krasno on guitar, Questlove on drums, Ivan Neville on Hammond organ and Dave Guy (The Dap-Kings) on trumpet.
Fingers crossed the next release doesn’t take as long to see the light of day but even if it does – we have the timeless release we’ve waited nine years for.


#2

‘In All Things’ by Columbia Nights [Record Breakin Music]
Following the release of their EP in 2012, ‘Dawn/Dusk’, Columbia Nights have gifted 2015 with their full-length debut album, ‘In All Things’.
The album’s title – In All Things – works as such an apt description of the music itself: it’s part electronic, it’s part jazz, it’s part soul… an incredible blending of these styles and genres that creates something wholly original and unique, defying any traditional conventions.  Probably the most distinct assessment anyone could make is how comfortable the whole album sounds – like making this music was the easiest thing for them to have done.  Despite it perhaps drawing from so many other influences, it flows exquisitely within a lane all of its own.
The production group, which comprises of members Jason Edwards, Hayling Price and John E Daise, see their vision realized with the help of vocalists Diggs Duke (an excellent choice!), Vaughn Octavia, Sarai Abdul-Malik, Aaron Abernathy, B.Jamelle and Siaira Shawn – some of these names may be familiar to you while others will be familiar in time to come.
If you’re taken by what you hear on the album, check out the EP ‘Dawn/Dusk’ plus the group’s SoundCloud page for a bunch of cover treats to download.


#1

‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ by Julia Biel [Rockit Records]
Truth be known, Julia Biel’s ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ has occupied the No.1 slot on this list since its release in March and it would have taken something fairly colossal to have dethroned it.
Julia's immeasurable talent has been bubbling away for many years now and the release of this, her sophomore album, is the perfect by-product of a distinct and unique musical vision.
Having won the Perrier Vocalist of the Year Award in 2000, the singer, songwriter, producer and musician, Julia Biel, debuted in 2005 with her album, ‘Not Alone’ (co-written with Jonny Philips), and subsequently went on to see Julia nominated for the ‘Rising Star’ award in the BBC Jazz Awards in 2006.  The long gap in between solo albums was filled with musical collaborations with Everything But The Girl’s Ben Watts, Stimming and as a long-standing vocalist with the reggae/afrobeat collective, Soothsayers.
‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ serves as an incredible musical opus and testament to Biel’s abilities.  The music is dreamy, mesmerising and at times even haunting – perfectly demonstrated by the extraordinary ‘We Watch The Stars’ – but there are also more assertive and versatile musical stylings to be found here as in ‘Playing You’ which with its sharp, stabbing, soulful horns and guitar licks, displays all the swagger of a gritty funk record.
While the music expertly sways and dances amongst different genres, with acknowledgements openly made to artists like Radiohead and Portishead, Biel’s voice in many ways roots the sound within jazz and it’s very much her unmistakable vocal which really shines throughout the whole album.  Much like legendary jazz vocalists, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, it’s Julia’s voice that makes that biggest connection with the listener and will build her an army of life-long devoted fans as a result.
November saw the release of the ‘Licence to be Cruel’ EP which sees songs from the album re-imagined into whole new electronic soundscapes by producers Son Lux, Triptyc, Wu-Lu, Yes King and Other Worlds so be sure to check that one out on BandCamp as well.
It was our sincere pleasure to have caught up with Julia earlier this year to talk music and the new release so be sure to give that a read here if you’ve yet to do so.