Routes to success in music are many and varied. A well-trodden path in the soul world might typically once have begun with, say, the musically precocious preacher’s child who, in their teens, swapped Sunday morning worship for Saturday night dalliances with the devil’s music; vocal groups and bands providing stage experience until some local entrepreneur produced a contract heavily weighted against them, but too good to turn down. In modern times you could replace a lot of that with the early and private pursuit of numbers across social media, the more communal live performances coming later: becoming an online or streaming star being now far more central to the plot.
Then there are the outliers. It wasn’t until the early 21st century, for example, that we encountered the likes of Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, two remarkable late bloomers who lived most of their lives out of the limelight, only enjoying the fruits of their undoubted musical talents at an age when most musicians had long been contemplating retirement. Even then, their popularity usually came about as a result of the enthusiastic cajoling of a younger musician or producer, some ‘student of music’ who ran across them by accident and had easy access to a studio and a band. Thus has it been with Robert Finley…
Jazz artist + strings is a formula that has been well refined over time. Master horn players, from Charlie Parker to Ornette Coleman to Wynton Marsalis have all flown high when flanked by violins and cellos.
The lush sound clouds can be a fabulous stimulus for brass or reeds. But now a bassist – Avishai Cohen – adds to this lineage with his new CD Two Roses, which features the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
As far as Cohen is concerned the collaboration is long overdue.
“I have been thinking a lot of music that I write has the nature of some movements; some stuff that I write having a total connection with the nature of classical music,” says the 50 year-old Israeli.
“It took some years to assemble the right music and the right arrangers or orchestrators to arrange my music, as my music is very specific. So I had to be involved, but also give the freedom to the writers to arrange the music. It was always a dream to do this.”
Alborosie calls himself “The Reggae John Lennon” and with good reason. Not because he likes slogans or writes songs dripping with sentiment like Imagine, but since he’s willing to use the platform that his music and popularity provides in the service of causes he believes in strongly, come what may.
“Maybe it takes a reggae John Lennon to talk certain things, because other people, they don’t say it,” he says knowingly, during a call to Jamaica.
His latest album, For The Culture, has just been released by VP Records, who’ve been putting out his music for years; dub albums and spin-off projects like The Wailing Souls’ Back A Yard set included. Although born in Sicily, he’s now a naturalised Jamaican citizen who’s lived on the island for nearly two decades, ever since his band Reggae Tickets were asked to perform at Reggae Sunsplash one year and he decided to stay, despite speaking very little English. He was an engineer at Gee Jam studios on Jamaica’s north coast before moving to Kingston, hooking up with former manager Clifton “Specialist” Dillon, and launching his solo career…
Her five-month-old daughter safely tucked up in bed, Gizelle Smith accepts my 9pm call and switches seamlessly, almost superhero-in-phone-box style, into the role of recording artist, ready to discuss her new album. A friendly west-of-the-Pennines accent right away reminds me of her geographical roots, though on this occasion she’s speaking from Tunbridge Wells, a home that places her, at least for the time being, closer to partner bassist Joseph Sam’s family, as she adjusts to her new role of motherhood.
As it goes, adjustment and evolution now features prominently in Gizelle’s musical life too: the new set for Jalapeno Records, Revealing, as its title hints, represents something of a change in emphasis for an artist previously known to attract tags such as ‘Funk Princess’ for her previous doings. Having made her debut as long ago as 2009 with German deep funk outfit The Mighty Mocambos and then, almost a decade later, followed it up with another funk ‘n’ soul inspired project Ruthless Day, Gizelle has, on her third album, opted to let some of her other influences and interests permeate both sound and direction.