Wednesday, 26 August 2015

'Issues of Life' (Features and Remixes) by Gregory Porter

The fact that this compilation even exists genuinely serves as an incredible testament to Gregory Porter's furious work ethic.

Since his 2011 debut on Motema Records with 'Water', wasting no time at all he swiftly followed that release the following year with 'Be Good' before transitioning over to Blue Note Records and releasing the hugely successful 'Liquid Spirit' in 2014.  How he has found time in between these releases to record as many guest spots as he has is beyond me... but that's what this project is - an excellent compilation of his guest spots over the years.

The inclusion of Opolopo's boogie-infused remix to the classic and breakthrough Gregory Porter anthem '1960 What' is a wise inclusion here, as are all of his contributions to Zak Najor's funky-jazz Zbonics project ('Time To Do Your Thing') and David Murray's Infinity Quartet album, 'Be My Monster Love', from Motema Records which thankfully means that 'Army of the Faithful' is included here which is quite possibly the star of this release.

Purists be warned though - this compilation does not serve as the definitive collection for everything Porter has floating around.  Unfortunately, and inexplicably, both of his contributions to The Rongetz Foundation album ('Brooklyn Butterfly Session', 2012) are not to be found here which is a shame, his duet with Dianne Reeves ('Satiated') from her album 'Beautiful Life' (2013) also deserves to be heard, plus his two appearances on Nicola Conte's 'Love and Revolution' album sadly didn't find a home here and would have been strong numbers to have included, notably 'Do You Feel Like I Feel?'.

Here's the tracklist below for a truly excellent compilation by one of the shining lights in jazz music today:
1. Great Voices of Harlem - Moanin' (Radio Edit)
2. David Murray Infinity Quartet feat. Gregory Porter - Be My Monster Love
3. Zbonics & Gregory Porter - Issues of Life
4. David Murray Infinity Quartet feat. Gregory Porter - About the Children
5. Zbonics & Gregory Porter - Just in Time
6. David Murray Infinity Quartet feat. Gregory Porter - Hope Is a Thing With Feathers
7. Zbonics & Gregory Porter - Nowhere to Run
8. Zbonics & Gregory Porter - She Danced Across the Floor (automart Remix)
9. Gregory Porter - 1960 What? (Opolopo kick and bass rerub)
10. David Murray Infinity Quartet feat. Gregory Porter - Army of the Faithful
11. Zbonics & Gregory Porter - She's Gone
12. Kentyah, M1, Brian Jackson & The New Midnight Band feat. Gregory Porter - Song of the Wind

Thursday, 20 August 2015

What I'm listening to... (August 2015)

'Dear Simone' by Jacob Banks
Kicking this feature off with a heckuva great song by Jacob Banks - this one comes from his 2013 (digital-only) release, 'The Monologue', and is a great introduction to this UK talent.  There's actually a 2015 release called 'The Paradox' as well so if you're new to Jacob Banks, you'll need to act quickly before you fall too far behind.  (Quick warning that as excellent as this song is, he does get a little free and easy with the F-bombs in the second half of the song so be warned if you're not too keen on that kind of thing.)

'Take Care' by Nasimiyu
I love the history of this song so let's try and run through it as briefly as possible...
In 2010, Gil Scott-Heron put out his final album entitled 'I'm New Here', and the album featured a song called "I'll Take Care of You"... The following year, Jamie xx (from the band the alt-electronic/indie band, The xx) remixed the whole album (subsequently entitled 'We're New Here') and presented a standout version of "I'll Take Care of You"... Hip-hopper Drake went on to cover the remixed version, which featured Rihanna, and called the track, "Take Care"... Drake's version went on to receive its own plaudits and has even been covered by Florence + The Machine, but in our case here and now, we're focusing on Nasimiyu's acoustic covering of the song which was uploaded to SoundCloud a month ago.

Nasimiyu (who we've featured in this segment before) actually uploaded acoustic covers of the entire album that this song comes from (guess she's a Drake fan?!) and the best thing is the fact that she's kindly included that glorious little "download" button so feel free to check the song out and if you like what you hear, grab a copy for yourself :)

'Darling' by Sherryl Bako
Here's a brand new song - again about a month old - from Sherryl Bako.  She's only rocking her single at the moment and there's the hope that an EP will be ready by the end of the year.  You can purchase this through her Bandcamp page and hope you will feel compelled to do so...

Monday, 10 August 2015

"Our special guest tonight... Prince"

I thought I'd go with a somewhat random Prince post this week due to fairly random YouTube discoveries a few days ago that I felt compelled to share...

It's certainly no big revelation that compared to his expansive body of work since the 1970s, there's comparatively very little to find of Prince's music on YouTube - let's skip the fact that YouTube would probably need an entirely new server to cope with the amount it could house if everything was in fact green lit.  Having said that however, there are actually quite a few nuggets of Prince material to stumble on.

I'll start with the most exciting for me firstly - it's a dream combination that I genuinely never expected to take form in any context, but in 2011, for a bunch of supremely lucky really, really did when Prince was a guest for Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings...

Now, here's an excellent excerpt from a Q-Tip concert I think dating back to 2008.  It was widely-reported at the time that a shocked crowd witnessed Prince walking out on to stage, taking the guitarist's guitar and just start jamming to 'Vivrant Thing'.  What was even notably hilarious is that the surprise performance even took Q-Tip by surprise who was just as surprised when he turned round to see Prince as a part of his band.  Apparently, Prince didn't even wait til after the show and had left the venue by the end of the concert...

Our final clip serves nothing more than to make you smile.  Here's Prince's appearance's on The Muppet Show dating as far back as 1997, and riffing 'Starfish and Coffee' for the show...


Monday, 3 August 2015

Our Heroes' Heroes

Musical heroes.  If you’re a fan of music, it’s pretty hard not to have at least one artist whose music you connected with the most, or if you’re an artist yourself, somebody’s music would certainly have inspired you to pick that instrument or microphone up.  There have been a fair few who inspired the birth of this blog – and there are names we champion at any available opportunity – but this time, for this article, we’ve turned the playlist over to our guests… 

There’s a lot I’m proud of with this site and one of those things is the incredible list of names we’ve managed to secure interviews with – just check the ‘Interviews’ button at the top of the page and peruse the amazing lineup of talent that have given us their time.  Well, this article works as something of a ‘best of’ as we asked them all ‘who their dream artist to collaborate with would be’, and we’ve compiled all the responses below including audio/video clips so you can bask in the music of our heroes’ heroes.  Enjoy the read!

Emma Donovan

I’m a big fan of Lisa Kekaula, lead singer from The Bellrays.  I have seen her live in Melbourne at the Corner Hotel, and I am so in love with her voice and the way she performs.  She is the Boss!  A friend gave me her stuff last year and she inspires me, I am also a long-life fan of many India.Arie albums – I have followed her for years, and, of course, my very first soul dream vocalist, Renee Geyer.
Talking about all my favourite singers too I can’t help imagine if I ever recorded with my Nan, the queen of my heart, what it would sound like, her voice was royalty.

Jesse Fischer

Well, there are a few singers that I really would LOVE to collaborate with either in the studio or live on stage: KING (the group), Emily King, Laura Mvula, Chantae Cann, and of course Cassandra Wilson.  I’d also love to get a chance to work with Etienne Charles, Lionel Loueke, Julian Lage, Zach Brock and Derrick Hodge, among many others.  But most of all, I’m really happy to work with the guys in my regular touring band – they’re all amazing!

Myron & E

Well, before her passing, I wanted to work with Amy Winehouse, rest her soul.  I really liked what she did musically and enjoyed listening to her songs.  Others would be Raphael Saadiq, Norah Jones (her early releases) and Sheryl Crow.  There's more but I'll keep it short for now...

Pitch & Scratch (Suro & Mzuzu)

SURO: I have a special connection to music coming from England... There are a few artists I would like to work together with: one of them is definitely soul singer Alice Russell.  Over the years, some of her tracks have become favourite funk tunes of mine.
MZUZU: I would love to play with Fred Wesley or Wayne Henderson. I just love funky trombones.  On the vocal-side I would say Robert Moore, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones are great.  Amp Fiddler would be another choice.  I met him once in Hamburg, where he did a great show at the Mandarin Kasino.  The same with Joe Bataan.  There are many great artists out there…

Nick Pride

That’s a great question!  There’s an obvious crowd of ‘big name’ vocalists who seem to guest on almost everything – and while I think those guys are really good, I’m proud that we’ve established ourselves in our own right before working with anyone super-famous!  But there are so many people I’d like to collaborate with.
I would love to hear Ben Westbeech on a dirty break-beat funk track, and someone like Jamie Liddell would be an inspiration to work with, I’d be fascinated to see how he goes about making music.
I met Michael Kiwanuka on a gig in London a couple of years ago – he’s got a terrific soul voice and is starting to really break through now.
I’m a big fan of Laura Vane, Darondo, Choklate from Breakestra too.  And if Mary J [Blige] rang, I would probably be cool with that too.

The Baker Brothers

I would love to hear what Quincy Jones or Questlove could do with The Baker Brothers!

Myles Sanko

I would have loved to have worked with any of the Motown Records artists or would have just been happy to sit in the studio and watch.  Currently, I am a big fan of Gregory Porter and would love to do a song with him, or just share a stage for a night.  Also, Vintage Trouble have something really cool going on and a number with them would be pretty cool I think.

Sy Smith

I wanna collab with Jesus! I sent Him some tracks and called him on the main line, but I guess He's busy.  I'm just being silly... I've got cabin fever from this train ride.   I'd love to collaborate with Prince and Trent Reznor (from Nine Inch Nails).

The Soul Immigrants

Prince! His talent is boundless and his work ethic is manically despotic! Wake me up if it becomes a reality.  Actually you've given me an idea I'll send a CD to Paisley Park just as a wild punt – why the hell not?  Thanks! With this dream collaborator you are asking me to dream big!

Third Coast Kings

First person that comes to mind… Lee Fields!  The man is still doing it right, and we love it!

Kat Webb

There was a time when I felt like the highest musical achievement would be to be Jill Scott's backup singer.  She is just that amazing. I would love to work with her, even if I'm sure I'd be super intimidated. I also really enjoy Erykah Badu, because of her strong jazz roots. She is a bit darker and has more of a psychedelic edge than I do, but I admire her for her incredible lyrics and she is clearly so comfortable in herself that it's hard not to be in awe.

Hannah Williams

Any of my previously mentioned influences [Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Jill Scott, Minnie Riperton and Aretha Franklin] … AND SOME!!!
Again, there are too many to mention.  Many of them would be coming back from the grave too.
I would love to sing with Sharon [Jones].  Wow! That would be quite something!
I would also be really interested to sing with Adele.  I love her voice and what she’s done for the UK music scene.

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