US jazz and soul vocalist Nicole Henry will visit the UK in October to perform a series of shows in celebration of the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Nicole will be accompanied by a UK six-piece band led by Musical Director and guitarist Nick Fitch. Band members are: Michael Underwood [saxophones]; Freddie Gavita [trumpet]; Nick Fitch [electric & acoustic guitars]; Joe Hill [organ/piano]; Jack Tustin [bass]; and Luke Tomlinson [drums].
Henry’s 2017 London Jazz Festivalshows, also performing the music of Aretha, were sold out and these shows, which are hugely anticipated, will no doubt do the same.
Dates: PizzaExpress Live Maidstone Thurs Oct 10th 32 Earl Street, Maidstone, ME14 1PF Performance 8.30pm Tickets £25
Windrush Festival Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London June 13-127 Although the scandal of the Windrush deportations may be out of sight it is by no means out of mind among many black Britons who were outraged at the most heinous consequence of the Tory government’s ‘hostile environment for immigration’. As a countermeasure there have been calls to celebrate the achievements of West Indians and their descendants, and this festival is most welcome, especially as it takes place in an arts centre that bears the name of Bernie Grant, the indefatigable Guyanese MP who did so much for Tottenham citizens black and white.
Highlights of the fortnight long event include a talk by the man who campaigned for the Windrush victims, David Lammy MP while Margaret Busby, editor of New Daughters Of Africa, hosts an evening of literature by women of colour that includes Andrea Stuart, Dorothea Smartt and Zadie Smith. The season concludes with a screening live from the National Theatre of the adaptation of Andrea Levy’s award-winning Small Island. [Kevin Le Gendre]
Massive Attack Out Of The Comfort Zone The Story of A Sound, A City And A Group Of Revolutionary Artists [Tangent]
By Melissa Chemam What is not in the title is ‘Bristol’, but chances are that most people will be able to work that out under their own steam. After all, Massive Attack have come to symbolize the creative verve of the west country burgh, so it makes much sense, certainly from the point of view of marketing, to present them as the backbone of the text. Chemam, a French journalist and broadcaster, has thoroughly researched the M.A. story, charting its ‘80s incarnation as The Wild Bunch through to the ‘90s breakthrough album Blue Lines and beyond, to recordings such as Mezzanine and 100thWindow. Extensive interviews with Robert Del Naja [3D] give a sense of the motivations and challenges faced by him, Daddy G and Mushroom, as well as early collaborators such as Tricky, in pursuing their goal of forging a new sound from the raw materials of dub, hip-hop, soul and electronica, which subsequently became weighed down with the naff, journalistically lazy baggage of trip-hop.
By way of introduction there is a general overview of Bristol as a city shaped by immigration from the West Indies and European countries like Italy, before Chemam discusses the foundations laid by legendary punk and reggae bands such as The Pop Group and Black Roots. It is written in relatively short snippets, which lends a brisk pace to a lively text, though there are moments when an interesting analytical door is opened but not fully walked through. The English translation from the original French could also be sharpened on occasion.
Inevitably, the overriding focus on Massive leaves less space for some of their peers and successors, and a central hurdle for Chemam is how to convey the importance of other works in the greater scheme of Bristol’s musical history. Sadly, that means a major artistic statement like Roni Size Reprazent’s New Forms is pretty much glossed over, and the idea of the sound of a city is somewhat obfuscated. Still, there is enough insight in the prose to make for an engaging, mostly informative read. Kevin Le Gendre
Steve Nichol, founder of the acclaimed London soul pioneers Loose Ends, is back after a 30-year hiatus and working on a new solo album project, SON One.
Due in early 2020, the new set will feature production and writing collaborations with UK soul artists Soulpersona and George Anderson, as well as US acts, including Parice Rushen. Vocals will be supplied by such Ellene Masri [who featured on Dangerous Romance, an advance cut that appeared on Expansion Records’ Luxury Soul 2019collection] and Debby Bracknell. Former Loose Ends partner Jane Eugene will also figure.
Meanwhile Steve is embarking on a UK tour this summer – find him and his full band at:
Birmingham,Pizza Express[June 8]; Maidstone,Pizza Express[June 15]; TubbStock Summer Soul Festival[July 6]; London, Pizza Express, Holborn [July 19]; and Margate Soul Festival [August 4].
Lasperanza are to play their first ever live date at the Hideaway, Streatham, SW16 on July 4.
Mainman Rico Garofalo reports the show will see the whole of the Seeds album performed – and eight of the nine vocalists featured on the album will be on stage.
The Ends Festival, due to take place over three days at the end of May/beginning of June in Croydon’s Lloyd Park, has been adding more star names to the extensive line-up. Here’s the up-to-date run-down:
Friday, May 31 Headliner Nasplus De La Soul, Ghetts, A2, Kojey Radical, Nadia Roseand Rachael Anson.
Saturday, June 1 Headliner Wizkidplus Wande Coal, Maleek Berry, Kojo Funds, Kranium, Donae’o, Teni The Entertainer and Juls.
Sunday, June 2 Headliner Damian Marleyplus J Balvin,Burna Boy, Nao, Masego, Mansur Brown, The Compozers, Jaz Karisand Croydon FM.
The Ends Festival is also partnering with Croydon Music and Arts Council to promote local and homegrown talent. Thus they will be running The Croydon Council stage, which will feature local artists across the festival weekend. The objective is to provide a platform for 14-30 year old musicians in the hopes that they can follow in the footsteps of those who came before them.
“It feels a bit like I’ve been in a time machine. Or like we went to Mars and came back 18 years later,” Paul Tucker, half of Lighthouse Family, tells me with a chuckle.
Listening to the duo’s ‘comeback’ album, Blue Sky In Your Head, instantly you know what he means. The trademark anthemic songs, the uplifting grooves, that unmistakable lead vocal from Tunde Baiyewu… it sounds like they’ve never been away.
The return of Lighthouse Family after almost two decades – yes, really – has taken many of us by surprise, not least, it seems, the two people at its core. The latter because, not to put too fine a point on it, for a while there they needed to be away from each other…
The realities of life on the road for most improvising musicians are rarely discussed. Audiences see performances rather than the prelude to them, which in some cases can be fraught with untold stress, if not tension, mostly as a result of logistical nightmares. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis has many stories to tell about the challenge of taking to the stage with an instrument that has been damaged in transit, but perhaps even worse is the fallout of a schedule that goes wrong right in the middle of a tour.
As we sit down for mid-morning tea in central London, the 58-year-old needs little prodding to head off in the direction of a dark anecdote on recent airport drama…
Little Simz’ career started with a sustained bang. She released four mixtapes from 2010 to 2013, followed those swiftly with seven EPs, then gave us two albums, A Curious Case Of Trial + Personsand Stillness In Wonderland. She’s been busy. During that time, she received MOBO nominations, an AIM award, got a co-sign from Kendrick Lamar for Curious Case, then went on tour with Gorillaz. Some artists might need a breather after such an intense burst of activity, but Simz seems to thrive on it.
“When I get a push,” she begins in her soft-spoken but firm voice, “that puts more fire in my belly. It makes me wanna go harder, it makes me wanna step my game up. I don’t think, ‘Sick, I’m comfortable, I’m chilling’. If anything, it makes me wanna turn the volume up. Because I have a message; I want people to hear what I have to say.
Jamaica’s blessed with talented young female artists right now, singing everything from roots to dancehall. Khalia made her debut alongside Tifa on Ride Up– a stiff test for any newcomer – but it was My Namethat got her noticed last year, and led to tours of Jamaica and Latin America.
She’d just finished a lengthy film shoot for latest single Designerwhen we spoke. Her voice is hoarse, but Khalia’s excited about the video, which was shot in Port Antonio and she describes as “Jamaican dancehall fashion meets high-fashion.” The Jamaican born young Londoner is signed to Tony “CD” Kelly’s K.Licious label, but isn’t fazed at working with dancehall legend Kelly, who’s produced a stunning playlist of hits over the years, featuring many of the genre’s biggest names.
“This latest video, it’s been a collaborative process with Tony, the directors and everyone involved,” she explains. “We all talk about it and share ideas but I don’t have a stylist, so I choose what I’m going to wear and how I’m going to look, and I also spend time thinking about what kind of emotion and expression I’m going to bring to my performance… ”
Jen has further dates throughout the year too. If you can’t get to this month’s London gig, check her at one of these:
London, Under The Bridge [July 5]; Southend-on Sea, Village Green Festival [July 13]; and Luton, Wardown House [September 8].
New Daughters Of Africa: An International Anthology Of Writing By Women Of African Descent. Edited by Margaret Busby[Myriad]
With more than 200 black women writers in its 700 eventful pages, this inspiring collection punches above its very considerable weight. Editor Margaret Busby, who was at the helm for its predecessor 25 years ago, proves again to be as discerning and adventurous in her choice of contributors, as well as the genres in which they express themselves. The result is great diversity within a supposed minority, a resounding statement of the infinitely rich life experience of the ‘sisters’ drawn from Africa and the Diaspora. As was the case with the acclaimed first edition there is a commendable balance between those who are known and those who are unknown but nonetheless have illuminating things to say. There are thus few surprises about the excellence of Bernardine Evaristo’s On Top Of The World, a wonderful piece of prose that melts down any expectation of what a British-Nigerian could have in her DNA by way of an impassioned homage to icebergs in Greenland. On the other hand the poignant verse of Zambia’s Ethel Irene Kabwato will be a revelation, as will the luminous narrative and penetrating character studies of African-American Jesmyn Ward. Needless to say a host of other writers of varying profile, from Zadie Smith to Catherine Johnson, Mailka Booker, Jane Ulysses Grell and Attilah Springer, to name but some, also contribute work of a very high standard. Busby has grouped the texts by decade, reaching right back to the pre-1900, which results in a clear and vivid sense of evolution in both style and subject matter. It is timely to learn that Haiti, defined by western news in the 90s and 2000s as a blighted land of dictators and hurricanes, produces poets with the strength of a tempest, such as Anais Duplan. Her forensic depiction of blackness in a world where too few questions are asked is indispensable.
Koffee is the name on every reggae fan’s lips right now. The 19-year-old from Spanish Town was a popular choice for Reggae Newcomer Of The Year in 2018, despite having only released a handful of tracks since being discovered by the world champion runner Usain Bolt just 18 months ago. She’s been living in the fast lane ever since – and especially after signing to Columbia Records late last year.
Koffee, real name Mikayla Simpson, knew a few chords on guitar but hadn’t been thinking of a career in music when her teacher suggested that she write a song about a hero – someone she really respects. Her mum was first choice – “She was a single parent and she was the only person I basically knew,” she says – but Usain Bolt is Jamaica’s biggest hero after Bob Marley and so she wrote a song about him instead, called Legend. She then posted a video of herself singing it on Instagram, Bolt reposted it and, by the time she entered the studio for the first time a few weeks later, she had 15,000 followers…
As much as Donald J. Trump’s ongoing term of office has seemed like the sourest of jokes on the world, at least we’ve been able to find a degree of refuge in the cultural response to his continued shithousery. He’s easy meat for the comedians and satirists, of course, but the musicians have lately been stepping up to the plate too.
Alicia Olatuja’s newest album, Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women, for example, can definitely be seen, in part, as a reaction to the misogynistic and generally abusive treatment of females that have famously found recent expression in the Pussygrabber-in-Chief’s off-podium antics, as well as the career-long [and now -ending] behaviour of such as Harvey Weinstein.
“Absolutely,” agrees Alicia, as we speak ahead of her recent European tour dates. “It’s often conflict and unrest that unleashes a wave of creativity…
Since she’s already an accomplished and award-winning songwriter, it’s perhaps a little curious that, for her debut single as a solo artist, Oakland-born soul singer Conesha “Ms. Monét” Owens should elect to release a cover of Billy Vera & The Beaters’ all-American prom-night staple At This Moment,instead of choosing one of her own. Especially given that her credits include co-writing the Lucy Pearl hit Don’t Mess With My Man, the less well known [but equally fantastic] Can’t Stand Your Motherand Leela James’Rain. Surprising, that is, until you actually hear her take of Vera’s ‘80s chart-topper, which is turned from a slight, pop-soul standard into a showstopping five-and-a-half octave gospeldelic belter – the kind of gazump that cover specialists Donny, Aretha or Whitney would have relished.
“Well, I wanted to do something as Ms. Monét that represented me now,” she explains on the phone from her new place of residence in Las Vegas, Nevada. “It had to sound timeless and classic: a song that I could recreate, but do it in this soul fashion… ”
Over the years writers have been referenced many times by musicians, usually because the words of the former can somehow resonate with the thoughts [and notes] of the latter. London pianist Sarah Tandy has put her own stamp on this lineage by way of the thought-provoking title of her debut album, Infection In The Sentence.
“It’s a play on inflection,” Tandy says. “I first came across Inflection In The Sentenceas a chapter of Madwoman In the Atticby Sandra Gilbert; it’s originally a quote from an Emily Dickinson poem. What appealed to me was that I liked the wordplay on ‘inflection’ and ‘infection’, because of my experience. When I moved back to London and engaged with the jazz scene I found myself sharing the stage with people from different backgrounds, and learning something from their own use of language… ”