Monday, 27 July 2015

'Bassmentality 3' by Amp Fiddler [Review]

The Detroit funk and soul legend has kept himself busy since ‘Bassmentality 2’ last year with appearances on French horn trio’s funk-filled release, #wooof, and also returning the favour to ‘Bassmentality 2’ contributor, Daniel Crawford and his album, ‘Awakening’.

…Which bring us back to ‘Bassmentality 3’ and the six tracks that have proved an excellent surprise for this year – featuring two brilliant Yam Who? Remixes (including a 9+ minute “Boogie” version of ‘Send A Message’ to close the EP out, Amp delivers in typical Amp style: funky fresh R&B/soul with a hint of the soulful house he so freely dips into.  The Yam Who? Contributions are standouts as is the excellent track ‘All In A Dream’.  Check out the playlist below and pick up your copy of the release on Bandcamp

1. Nothing Can Keep Me
2. Funny When
3. Send A Message "Yam Who Edit"
4. All In A Dream
5. Energy
6. Send A Message Yam Who's Boogie

Monday, 20 July 2015

"I write songs and sing them": Julia Biel [Interview]

“I write songs and sing them...”.  The brief bio on Julia Biel’s Twitter profile displays the charming nonchalance of someone who may very well have no idea how good she actually is.  Her immeasurable talent has been bubbling away for many years now and the brand new release of her sophomore album, ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’, 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. 

It was our sincere pleasure to have caught up with Julia to talk music and the new release...

Who were some of your earliest musical influences?
I had my first massive song crush on 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)' by Eurhythmics which blew my young little mind but I was also really excited by the music of The Police, Neneh Cherry and Michael Jackson among others.  I was having my very first piano lessons at that time so I was probably equally influenced by the Grade 1 piano ABRSM arrangements of classical music on a subconscious level, it all goes in after all.

You must be thrilled with the incredible response to 'Love Letters and Other Missiles'?
Myself, Idris Rahman and all the amazing musicians I worked with on 'Love Letters...' put in so much love and hard work to make the album a reality that it makes it all the more special that audiences and critics alike have taken in the way that they have to what we created.  It's truly wonderful to be getting out and about all over the place performing these songs, I am always pinching myself.

What made you settle on 'Love Letters and Other Missiles' as the album title?
Of all the titles I came up with, "Love Letters and Other Missiles" seemed to best bring together the overall impetus for writing the songs – all these songs are inspired by feelings arising from every day occurrences that hit hard.  Things that hit harder often than they should and harder than the people responsible can ever imagine most of the time.  I wanted a title that reflected that everyday emotional violence that we do to each other.

How would you say this album differs from your debut, 'Not Alone'?
In a way, for me ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ feels more like my debut as it is the first album to feature my fully self-penned material. Because of that, musically and thematically I had total freedom and it truly represents my own musical voice in the fullest possible way andthat was a hugely important step for me.  I'd say it turned out to be a lot less folky in its instrumentation and subject matter than ‘Not Alone’.  ‘Not Alone’ featured songs I wrote in collaboration with folk/jazz guitarist Jonny Phillips and so the challenge on that album was to find the place where we met in the middle musically and thematically at that time and represent that.

How does the process of writing and producing new music work for you and your collaborator Idris Rahman?
Mostly I write the songs on my own at the piano or on the guitar and then play them to Idris who is extremely open about saying what he thinks about them at that stage.  He has a highly attuned radar for anything that isn't working about a song and an opinion that I trust as much as my own almost, so his angle is always invaluable to me – if there's any corners that need a little extra work, he'll give it to me straight. We generally agree completely but he pulls me up if I am being lazy.  At that point we'll play the songs together and he'll put bass to what I am doing until we're both happy with the outcome.  By that stage, the mood and structures of the songs are set and so when we get together with Saleem Raman, who is just the most fantastically intuitive drummer, things can just flow.  We can record these 3-piece band versions and embellish them with overdubs in the studio afterwards adding what we think will help enhance the vibe so at that point you can start to experiment and have a whole lot of fun.  We'll talk about what the overall feeling of the particular song is supposed to be and Idris is brilliant at coming up with things to add into the arrangement so that I can't hardly imagine how the song existed without his input afterwards.

YouTube boasts such a great collection of your live performances: how do you enjoy transferring your music from the studio to the stage?
I love performing live and musically, it's like completing the circle for me – there might be some parts we came up with during the production phase that became absolutely essential to the song as a whole so we need to include them somehow in our live performances even though they weren't present when I originally wrote the song.  Also when I'm thinking about live performances it's all about energy that you're giving to the audience – it needs to be carefully distributed throughout so you can create the overall dynamic you need and that's not the same dynamic you need necessarily for an album so you have to think afresh.

Who would be a dream person for you to collaborate with?
Wow, I'm already really happy musically but... I would love to work with Nigel Godrich (Radiohead's producer) someday and see what would come about.

Which one song from your catalogue would you play to introduce a prospective new fan to your music?
That's so hard to answer – it feels like being asked to say which of your children you love the most! 'We Watch the Stars' is the song I put up on Soundcloud so I guess at one time I thought that was the most representative but as I've learnt many times over, you can't really judge an artist on just one song – so sorry if it's a cop-out but I'd have to say give the whole album a listen and see what you think then.

Is there a song (by another artist) you wish you'd written?
Oh my... There are too, too many songs I wish I could have written.  Right now the first one that comes to mind is one I am doing at the moment with a student of mine – ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley.  So lyrically and sonically fresh and addictive when it came out, it certainly hit me like a steam train when I first heard it and it really caught the zeitgeist.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

GetToKnow Episode #10: Jay Dee

This milestone episode of our 'Get to Know' series sees us turning our spotlight to the magician that is James Yancey (Dilla, Jay Dee). Obviously more known for his impact on the hip-hop landscape, we're focusing upon his soul, R&B and jazz compositions and hopefully are able to put you guys on to one or two numbers you may not have heard before.

(Make sure you stay tuned throughout the whole thing as there are surprise treats thrown in throughout.)

Below is the tracklist for the show and feel free to check out the show's accompanying blog:
'Reminisce' - Bilal f/t Mos Def & Common
'Dollar' - Steve Spacek
'Didn't Cha Know' - Erykah Badu
'Find A Way' [Jay Dee Remix] - Nine Yards f/t Jay Dee
'Love Jones' [Extended Mix] - J Dilla
'Sometimes' [Jay Dee Remix] - The Brand New Heavies f/t Q-Tip
'Think Twice' - Jay Dee f/t Dwele
'Oblighetto' [J Dilla Remix] - Brother Jack McDuff
'Me & Those Dreamin Eyes Of Mine' [Jay Dee Remix] - D'Angelo

Thursday, 2 July 2015

What I'm listening to...

'The Wiggle' by Ferry Ultra & The Homeless Funkers f/t Kurtis Blow
This German boogie and funk release from 2012 is a surprising new discovery from me but I'm just glad that I have actually now discovered it.  The self-titled release features brilliant guests throughout including Roy Ayers and Gwen McCrae, and this excellent number featuring rap icon, Kurtis Blow...


'Don't Play Around' by DJ Nu-Mark f/t Aloe Blacc & Charles Bradley
Another release from 2012, this time from Jurassic 5's DJ Nu-Mark, from his album 'Broken SUnlight', here's a song that frankly needs no introduction from me at all.  Charles Bradley.  Aloe Blacc.  On the same song.  What are you waiting for? Press play...

'Blue (I'm Still Here With You)' by Incognito
I sometimes don't think Incognito get the credit they deserve for consistently delivering the incredible standard of soul music since 1981.  This song comes from their 2002 release 'Who Needs Love' (which was the first Incognito album I ever picked up) and features Kelli Sae on vocals and Paul Weller on guitar and rhodes (which is pretty cool!).  Was listening to this one recently and had the urge to share...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

"The Capital Strokes Unchained!": Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes [Interview]

Continuing in a lengthy tradition of stellar funk and soul acts hailing from Italy – including worthwhile representation in recent years from Calibro 35 and Soulful Torino Orchestra (from independent Italian record label Record Kicks) – the debut album from Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes promises to carry that tradition from 2015 going forward!

Based in Rome, the band’s new release, entitled ‘CS’, is an open testament to the genre’s pioneers like Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Prince and George Clinton, but perhaps no bigger testament than to one of the pioneers of Italian soul music itself, Rocky Roberts.  Rocky Roberts was perhaps most well-known for having sang the original ‘Django’ theme from the 1966 movie, and subsequently having it reused in the Quentin Tarantino 2012 remake (‘Django Unchained’), and is also the father of The Capital Strokes’, Randy. 

Initially starting out as a covers band, The Capital Strokes soon evolved into creating music in their own right: the 12-piece band can boast performances at Italian music festivals including Umbria Jazz, Tolfa Jazz and Atina Jazz, plus members of The Capital Strokes have also provided session work for other notable soul acts including Tony Momrelle and Martha High.  With the wealth of experience the collective are able to boast, the timing seems perfect for Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes to take centre stage and assume that spotlight for eager fans worldwide.  The 13-track album draws upon the earlier listed soul and funk luminaries but the songs also introduce enough of the band’s only personality and charm to offer the scene and the genre that little something different.  Songs like ‘I Can’t Do Without Love’, ‘Do It Like The Strokes’ and the band’s lead single, ‘Oh Yeah!’, deserve your attention.

The Blue-in-Green Blog was lucky enough to catch up with Randy Roberts to discuss the band’s new project, ‘CS’.

How much of an influence was your father's music to what you and the Capital Strokes are now creating?
Well, actually my father is in every single move or decision I make, what I have as a vision, depends totally on what I saw during my childhood! The energy and power that my show has is exactly what I have in my blood just because of him!

How does the process of writing and producing new music work for you as a unit?
We don’t have any set rules for that.  We always feel the urge to create, to compose a song, to form a part of our show, rather than arrange a new song.  We 'let it flow'.  I guess I can say we’re very lucky because it so happens that we have three different composers in the band... and we’re always connected to each other, bouncing off ideas, new melodies, riffs, or guitar licks, helping each other, collaborating and working hard to obtain the best result.

Can you tell us a little about what went into the making of 'CS’?
We played the rhythmic instruments all together trying to obtain the same groove that we have when we’re onstage. Then, we played the horns section, always together, then I recorded all of the voice parts in my studio. The funny thing is that of all the interludes we have in 'CS', '3AM' is a kind of an inside joke I had with Jorma (guitarist). In a corner of the studio where we worked on the rhythmics there was a weird pedal owned by Alex Di Nunzio, our precious sound engineer. I told Jorma there was no way he could find a way to incorporate that in our music! Of course, it was a challenge that he accepted immediately, he plugged in the pedal and he played what you’re listening to on that track. Alex pressed REC and Jorma played that astonishing riff. The next day I was in the studio and laced up the rest of it!!! The other interludes are simply the warm up of the second day of our recording session, I told Alex to record the warm up, I brought all the tracks home and I edited 'Ghost' and 'Tomei’s Joint'. 'Doo Wop' is just me freely creating something with the 'Do it Like The Strokes' theme.

The video for 'Oh Yeah!' seemed like it was a lot of fun to make: what made you settle on 'Oh Yeah!' for the single release?
'Oh Yeah!' is one of the most representative songs of 'CS', that’s it! we thought we needed a fresh, powerful introduction to let people get to know us so, it turned out we picked 'Oh Yeah!' rather than 'Do It Like The Strokes' because it's a little easier to digest at first.

Who would be a dream collaborator for Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes?
Right now I’m thinking of Mark Ronson, but the answer is every artist who can give us what we don’t have now.

How does the music from the album translate to the stage?
If you’re asking me what kind of impact our songs have, the answer is they make you move, they make you happy, they make you stop thinking about everything that's bothering you. ... I’m a workaholic and you know what, I need to listen to what I love, that makes we want to listen and listen and listen and listen more, it means creating a connection, an interplay, a groove, that with passion gets refined in every detail, it's an obsession for the improvement, 12 people playing in the same direction to get more than what we have on 'CS'.  We’re entertaining before everything else, and to be entertaining we have to feel it!

Which one song from 'CS' would you play to win over a prospective new fan?
'Do It Like The Strokes' for sure.  In our shows, every fan sings it! Somebody once sang it to me when answering the phone!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

'Born In Black & White' [Limited Edition CD] by Myles Sanko

We do love a bit of Myles Sanko - an incredible torchbearer for a new generation of soul music: his is an inimitable style paired with a relentless work ethic so as with any Myles Sanko post I make, I continue to urge listeners to get on the train. 

Currently touring his 2014 album release 'Forever Dreaming' (on Legere Recordings), Sanko has now paid the due respect to his earlier digital-only release, 'Born In Black & White', by releasing a CD version for the die-hards among us.  The CD version features two live recordings from Denmark plus an unreleased acoustic 'Rhodes & Vocal' demo recorded in 2010.  The inlay card also features images from the live session too.  If you're lucky... and I mean SUPER lucky... your CD will be signed as well :)

'Born In Black & White' is genuinely blissful summer soul so get your copy ASAP from


1. High On You
2. So Hard To Stop
3. Distant From You
4. Come On Home
5. Don't Let Me Down
6. Goodbye Lady Goodbye
7. Sea Of Fire
8. Save My Soul (Live)
9. Come On Home (Live)
10. City To Crumble (Original Demo)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

"Catch Me if You Can": Gizmo [Interview]

The prodigal talents of Kenneth “Gizmo” Rodgers can’t be over-stated.  The bassist (multi-instrumentalist really!), writer, producer and band leader, who is still only in his early-twenties, boasts two solo musical ventures under his belt, along with having chalked up performances with Meshell Ndegeocello, Marc de Clive-Lowe, Victor Wooten and Talib Kweli… pause for breath… Further to that, he has also assumed the role of musical director for artists including Lalah Hathaway and Bilal and cites Derrick Hodge and Meshell Ndegeocello as friends and mentors.  Credentials also come in the form of having studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music and having performed all over the country.  As I say, Gizmo’s prodigal talents can not be over-stated.

Furthering the tradition of the world-reknown Philadelphia soul movement, Gizmo unveiled his debut album, ‘Red Balloon’, in 2012 through Revive Music.  The album saw production by the aforementioned Derrick Hodge (bassist for the Robert Glasper Experiment) and featured guest spots from another Experiment affiliate, vocoderist and saxophonist, Casey Benjamin, vocalists Nick Hakim, Anna Wise, among a hefty handful of others.  The album’s concept cleverly likening a balloon floating skywards to the feelings of aimlessness, directionless and even loneliness we can often feel in our own lives.  It’s those intuitive and personal sentiments that the album focuses on and which make it a joy to listen to – particularly the ingenious title track.

The follow-up EP, ‘The Middle’, released in 2013, takes a very different approach, as the man himself will go on to explain below.  Excellent songs like’ White Walls’ and a complete reimagining of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ are equally pleasant and demonstrate Gizmo’s burgeoning skill.

Duke Ellington once declared, “Jazz is freedom”.  He also compared jazz to the type of man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with, and while the legendary composer and band-leader’s ahead-of-his-time insights both hold water, let’s focus on the former phrase for now: he actually went on to describe jazz as “the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet”.  ‘Red Balloon’ is the embodiment of that freedom – a piece of music free of musical confines or restrictions.  You could describe what Gizmo creates as music incorporating elements of jazz, hip-hop, soul, rock and Latin sounds, or you could say that at its heart, it’s a jazz record, realised in all its glory.

It’s such a win for us to have Gizmo take time out for a brief chat and, if his music is new to you, check out a couple of his videos here starting with the gem that is ‘Red Balloon’…

IMRAN: Who were some of your earliest musical influences that inspired you to start playing?
GIZMO: Meshell Ndegeocello, James Taylor, George Clinton, Sly Stone, Victor Wooten, Herbie Hancock, Tracy Chapman, Miles Davis… The list goes on and on.

How would you say the creative process of writing, producing and recording new music usually works for you?
The creative process is constantly changing.  Lately, I have been pushing myself to explore some alternative methods of producing and recording.  Usually it starts with my at home by myself, with a bass or piano.  I usually think of music first and lyrics last.  I don’t like to do too much pre-production.  I get in the studio with the musicians and we lay stuff down until we get it right.  Pretty old school that way.

Congratulations on the success of 'Red Balloon': did you have a clear idea of what you wanted the music to sound like at the outset of the project?
No, I did not have a clear idea at all.  The songs were recorded separately over about two years.  I wasn’t planning on making a record.  Just wanted to have ideas.  I ended up putting it all together though, just a collection of sounds from where I was at that point in my life.

Have you ever feared that creating such a diverse, genre-blending sound would work against you?
When I first started, I just wanted to make music that was true to me. I didn’t think that deeply. I just thought I had some cool ideas and wanted to facilitate some expression that I had lingering inside of me.  As I began to market the record, I realized  that it may be difficult with the “genre-blending” as you say.  So there were times I worried that people may not be receptive, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Can you talk about went into the making of 'The Middle' EP?
That was the opposite of ‘Red Balloon’.  I recorded the entire EP in one day.  We rehearsed for a couple hours the day before then I just went in the studio with the band and played music.  It was one of those moments where everything was in sync.  I wanted to try and make songs that were a bit more concise.  I challenged myself to “get to the point” with ‘The Middle’.

You've opted for such a diverse selection of covers (namely 'Use Somebody' and 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun'): what made you pick them? And, are there any others you'd like to tackle?
I think the words to 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' are incredible.  I like the lyrics, but the original track is so groovy that most people don’t notice. I decided to slow the song down and try to provide an alternative view into the song’s core.
'Use Somebody' is just one of my favorite songs.  I like to cover songs in my own way, so I just had fun with that one. It is one of my favorite songs to play live.  The song also reminds me a lot of Boston for some reason.

Are plans currently in place for a follow-up album or project?
Working on a new record now!!

Who would be a dream musical collaborator?
Dream collaborator – I really want to do a song with Nick Minaj and Tyler the Creator.  I think we could do something really cool together.  Can you make that happen? Lol

How does your music transfer to the live stage?
Live is totally different than the records.  We play in the moment and try to capture a vibe. We usually are louder and play a bit more aggressive live.  I try not to think about it too much and just have fun.