The arena tour is practically a holy grail for artists seeking to ‘make it.’ With certified legend status haloing over him, Jazzie B, the mastermind of Soul II Soul, whose debut album Club Classics.Vol 1 is just reaching its 30-year milestone, was offered the big venue package for a forthcoming string of dates. Yet contrary to expectation the 55-year-old North Londoner opted for something that was much less on the frantic side.
“We’ve specifically chosen to do theatres because we’ve worked our way through all the venues and I’m always up for a challenge, so it will be a little bit more intimate. It’s me wanting to be different and not just like the 20th anniversary… and, for want of a better term, it’s like, ‘keep on movin’ with the times’.”
Kathy Kosins sure has some stories to tell. During a career now well into its fifth decade, the Detroit singer, songwriter and self-described “hustler” has worked with [amongst others] Michael Henderson and Was Not Was, cut solo dance hits in the eighties, seen in the new century recording and performing vintage jazz, and now finds herself, in the spring of 2018, enjoying success across the UK soul-jazz scene with her widely admired indie album Uncovered Soul.
One of those intriguing tales explains how Kathy came to record her latest project with Gregory Porter’s pianist, producer and arranger, Grammy winner Kamau Kenyatta.
“I was coming home from a jazz gig in Sacramento in 2015 in my rental car,” she relates, immediately setting the scene. “I’m driving along listening to Capital Public Radio and suddenly I hear this male singer – no idea who he was – and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, what a great voice!”
Jazz musicians are usually given a send off to the next life through sound. The memorial concert for Charlie Haden, the double bassist known for his work with Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett and Old And New Dreams, proved particularly moving for saxophonist Joshua Redman, whose father Dewey was a member of that iconic group. The good vibrations made him think about the importance of legacy.
“Yeah, [the service] was in January, 2015 at Town Hall in New York… that I was a part of, as were countless other musicians. I found myself, immediately after, listening to his music… [and a lot of music Haden made with my father], that music got in my ears again, it was really deep and powerful.”
As I write, Etana is at No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae charts with Reggae Forever, the Jamaican singer’s fifth album and the first for Tad’s International after her lengthy association with VP Records finally unravelled. The success of Reggae Forever means that she’s the only female artist to top the reggae charts with consecutive album releases – I Rise having got there three years earlier, at a time when she was struggling with career and management decisions.
These are now resolved, a new chapter has begun and Etana and husband Andre Morris have assumed the roles of executive producers on the latest album. This despite the fact that Shane Brown served them well on Better Tomorrow, and Clive Hunt had turned the production of I Rise into a master-class for all concerned, Etana included.
“I deliberately went for something different on this album… ”