With a considerable and enthusiastic fan base eagerly waiting, the acclaimed and award-winning soultress, Conya Doss, suggested at the end of last year a brand new project was brewing with the release of her soulful,… More
It really is fair to say that all artists are storytellers. No matter the medium they are sharing what’s on their minds. Sharing things they’ve seen or felt; things that have had an impact on them and maybe even you. Sometime those stories are emotionally charged and tragic. And sometimes they’re light-hearted and flat-out funny. Like life itself, sometimes they are all of that.
When you speak with filmmaker Patrick House you quickly home in on the fact that he’s influenced by those full life stories and interested in telling them with authentic portrayals of the real life cast of characters that play them out. Artists, of course, often spin those stories to create some interesting, clever, thought- provoking, whimsical and, yes, flat-out funny scenarios as well. House’s latest film, Blue Diamonds, is indeed an enjoyable and well executed example of all of that.
The award – winning, Blue Diamonds is a full production, film short currently showing in notable film festivals around the country, garnering rave reviews and critical acclaim. In the entertaining film House, who now calls NYC home, calls upon the tales and characters of growing up in his native Chicago to craft an entwined, two prong plot – perfectly cast, scripted and enacted – boasting a soulful, retro-vibe a la 70’s Blaxploitation film classics with a cool comedic lean. Blue Diamonds also comes complete with a felicitous, soul – slathered soundtrack to match – a high priority for filmmaker House – splendidly provided by ace guitarist, producer and an I SPY SOUL featured artist, Marcus Machado.
We caught up with the talented Patrick House to learn more about the impetus for Blue Diamonds, the influence of his Emmy-winning dad, his approach to making films and the portrayal of African- Americans in film. Check out this video interview and all others on the I SPY SOUL Youtube Channel.
Keep an eye out for screenings of Blue Diamonds at a film festival near you. To contact filmmaker Patrick House for further information or interest in the film go to Patrickhousefilms.com
Rini weaves newness into the sounds of home
Vocalist, composer and violinist, Harini S Raghavan or Rini as she is now most known, is an artist unabashedly proud of her heritage and its rich soundtrack. It is the bedrock of her compelling sound. But she’s also discovered that wonderful things can happen when you thirst for, explore, and are open to incorporating new ideas beyond the “tried and true” traditional ones at hand. The gifted artist, born and bred in the Indian city of Chennai, but who now calls NYC home, adroitly weaves Carnatic, the classical music of her home, with western strands of Jazz, Rock, Pop and Electronica to create a vibrant and beautiful musical tapestry. It’s a sound that boast top-notch musicality with moments reminiscent of mid-seventies fusion a la Mahavishnu Orchestra or Jean Luc Ponty – punctuated by her deftly played violin and adorned by vocals with an angelic tone, delivered with the indigenous, mesmeric lilt of her musical upbringing.
Rini and the brew she’s crafted, aided by a cast of superb musicians, is beginning to intrigue, impress and reel in a burgeoning fan base of keen enthusiasts as diverse as her sound is eclectic. An observer of, in particular, her high energy live performances, could easily be moved to proclaim her a star on the rise. The assessment would serve as a more than fair bet.
In our video interview on the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel we caught up with the affable artist on a hot summer day amidst the bustling NYC landscape for informative sit down to talk growing up in India, her musical influences, the changing tide for women and her mother’s delightful take on her music. B.C.
To learn more about Rini, her outstanding band and to hear and purchase her music go to Rinimusic.com
As the saying goes, timing is everything. A plan was already set to revisit, as part of retrospective series, The Soul Seen, our past interview with the uber – talented, Chris Rob. So imagine our surprise when not only would we, by chance, run into him, but that he would grace us with a heads up to his brand new single, No Doubt.
Catching up with the crazy busy and ubiquitous, vocalist, multi -instrumentalist and producer is in itself quite a coup. In addition to headlining his own high energy shows across the country he can be found touring and recording at a myriad of places literally around the world with a host of A-list artists including, Stevie Wonder, Talib Kweli, Common, and popular band headed up by his talented brother, comedic actor, Craig Robinson called the Nasty Delicious (more examples of who he has and continues to roll with on the regular are in our piece) – But then we checked out that track and confirmed that chance meeting was indeed of divine order because it is a gem – No Doubt! Check out the piece below and this joyfully swinging, slice of true R&B goodness to get you all caught up!
The Soul Seen is a retrospective of past features that provide a snapshot in time in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of these very talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find, still resonate today.
From the original I SPY SOUL feature segment, Watch Closely 2003
Chris Rob Call him,What you like!
To merely say singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Chris Rob has steadily been making his presence known on the music scene, is putting it quite mildly. The talented Chicago native, who now calls the “big apple” home, has lent his dazzling chops to live performances and recordings as well as notched Music Director duty for an impressive array of celebrated artists, hit-makers and emerging talent – Artists like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Anthony Hamilton, Kanye West and currently with young chart-topping sensation, John Legend. They all must have recognized that beyond his virtuosic skills lies a chameleon-like ability to shift through a myriad of musical styles and sound always at home – always impressive – Be it soul, hip hop, or jazz – funked up or smoothed out. Attribute that to not only innate ability and solid training, but to a wealth of varied musical influences spanning the likes of James Brown, Prince, Miles Davis and Coltrane to Steve Miller, The Police and A Tribe Called Quest to name only a few.
Needless to say, Rob weaves those same influences into a unique and funky, groove-filled sound of his own, displayed on his EP, The Official Bootleg Of Chis Rob Vol. It’s a glimpse at a sound he himself is reluctant to tab, but has deemed, “electronic soul” – a name he believes speaks fittingly to the sound and the direction of the music. “Electronic Soul is a fusion of funky grooves over hip-hop beats incorporating elements of jazz and elements of classical. It’s a futuristic sound,” explains Rob “I’m still incorporating my influences, but I’m going a step further. So it’s not like just revisited. It’s not retro. It’s not neo. It’s going in a new direction.” This musical brew is brought to a boil especially during live sets that often feature a full-scale band complete with righteous horns and Rob wooing the audience with “JB” type flair and bouncing from impressive vocal flights to keyboard wizardry. Here he is in his element and it’s obviously clear to see – for his performances are what have spawned opportunities to not only work with some of the industry’s best, but to also headline elite clubs like the Blue Note and SOB’s in New York or to be tabbed to perform for famed entertainment attorney, Londell McMillan’s celebrated pre-Grammy soiree.
Chris Rob has been charting a musical course since he was a child growing up in Chicago – no doubt catching the music bug from parents who were themselves accomplished musicians. Piano was the first love, but he ultimately found his way to become adept at other instruments as well such as guitar, bass and drums with accolades and acknowledgement of his talent coming early on – A talent that fittingly took on prodigy status. One amongst many shining honors received by Rob as a kid and perhaps a “crystal ball” gaze at his musical future was his receipt of the Sony Student Innovator Award in 1992. A scholarship brought the then sixteen year old to college for music in Chicago and upon completion then set his sights on building the impressive resume he now enjoys with more certain to follow.
But what he admits may have solidified the pursuit of music as a career, was a movie with a Prince-ly star. “I knew for sure I would do something with music after I saw Purple Rain”, recalls Rob. That was pretty much it for me! From then I was drawn to that imagery – to the spotlight.” Needless to say he’s been doing his thing in pursuit of the goal ever since.
“I like to really just make music”, says Rob. “The overall feeling I like to leave the audience with whether I’m doing a side thing or doing my own thing is that they’re left with an experience. I like to leave people talking. I like to leave them with the feeling that they’re glad they came out. Whether I’m doing jazz or if I’m doing funk – something rocked out or something soulful.”
As far as the defining labels go Chris Rob has a simple solution. “I guess I’ll let the listener’s decide. To me it’s just music.”
To purchase No Doubt click here at iTunes or at leading music outlets
To learn more about and follow Chris Rob go to chrisrobmusic.com
There are things that no matter what seem to always bring a smile to your face – A fond memory, dancing with your sweetheart or the eyes of that brand new fluffy puppy you just got. You might also add to that list, a voice. In particular the voice of accomplished songstress and songwriter, Chantae Cann. It’s the kind of voice that evokes a sense of calm and a rush of assurance that somehow, someway everything will be okay – Engagingly warm, beautifully comforting, and oh yes, highly adept. Perhaps the perfect voice to console you in your time of despair yes, but also wonderfully ebullient when it wields words of inspiration and encouragement to pursue your dreams and love yourself.
It’s surely the quality noted and award- winning artists she’s collaborated with over the years like collective Snarky Puppy, The Foreign Exchange, and more were attracted to. And many more came to discover it by way of her highly-regarded debut project, Journey to Golden that reached #1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts and #7 on Billboard’s Jazz Charts.
Cann’s followup, Sol Empowered, featuring guests looks from Snarky Puppy, and Tarriona “Tank” Ball from Tank and the Bangas, has garnered similar excitement and success because of course, it features that enchanting voice served up in an infectious, soulful vibe. But because it also offers even more messages of self-acceptance, self-love, and self-empowerment. As she shares in our interview, it’s insight into her own personal evolution and process towards realizing those things. To hear about her being Sol Empowered, the joy of working with Grammy® award winning soulstress, India.Arie, and Grammy® nominated artist, Maroon 5 member and long-time friend, PJ Morton and more, check out the video above on the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.
For more about Chantae Cann go to website Chantaecann.com
Check out the news of her new collaboration with Kia Motors America in promotion of her new Kia Sol Empowered Tour on The Soulnar™
The provocative, fiery sound and style of singer, songwriter and bassist, Shelley Nicole has through the years become trademark for the talented artist through her own work with band BlaKbüshe and the revered Burnt Sugar Arkestra. She’s bringing it hard as ever on her anticipated new project, I Am American, produced by guitar beast and founding member of legendary rock squad, Living Colour, Vernon Reid.
On the doorstep of release in all its spirited, soulful and “no holds barred” glory, Nicole returns to ISPYSOUL for a chat, an overdue follow-up to our first meeting upon the release of her acclaimed debut, She Who Bleeds . . ., to share the impetus for I Am American, the lure of “Punanny Politixxx” and more in the video below on I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.
For some background on Shelley Nicole’s BlaKbüshe check out our previous interview by clicking here
Acclaimed guitarist Mark Whitfield was enthusiastically introduced onto the jazz scene in the early nineties as part of a then new wave of “young lions”; An esteemed, impressive and packed class opting for the more swing based, traditional form of the idiom. The Berklee College of Music grad went on to produced a string of lauded releases while also sharing the stage with revered artists on the regular the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, and Jimmy Smith, solidifying his own renown.
During the course of his career Whitfield has also successfully done his share of genre blurring hooking up with artists like Sting, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, and John Mayer as well as on ground breaking projects from D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige
But there are some other things Whitfield is understandably most proudest of. Those would be his two sons. Both musical wunderkinds and alumni of their pop’s alma mater. Both ironically, now part of the current class of heralded “young lions” (and lionesses!) shaking up the scene.
With a new segment we call I SPY SOUL On the Spot, we caught up with the busy guitarist just before his gig at the jazz room, Django in NYC for a quick, but insightful chat about the joy of playing with his sons, sound advice from mentor, George Benson, an Italian kid named D’Angelo and more! Check it out above and more on the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel
Photos: Deneka Peniston
Julius Rodriguez is an accomplished jazz musician on two instruments, piano and drums. If you know or can imagine what it takes to achieve the highly skilled and respected status on just one instrument you have to consider it quite impressive to achieve it on two. But what makes this story even more impressive, even more remarkable is that Rodriguez, who hails from White Plains, NY, has been holding it down on both – swinging with luminaries and talented cats on the jazz scene in noted venues and festivals for many years now and he’s only nineteen. Needless to say, prodigy is the title this young man would most accurately fall under.
Currently studying jazz as a sophomore at the renowned Juilliard School, Rodriquez or Orange Julius as he’s referred to by many of his colleagues, has amassed a resumé many aspiring musicians several years his senior would love to boast. He’s performed around the country and the world to places as far as Russia, Japan, and Australia. He’s shared the stage with revered artists such as Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Carmen Lundy, Andra Day, recent Grammy nominee, Jazzmeia Horn, acclaimed crew, Onyx Collective and more. He headlines shows at noted jazz hubs and revered theaters like Jazz at Lincoln Center on the regular as well as touted in the pages of notable publications like Vanity Fair as being part of a bountiful crop of gifted young “lions” ascending on the scene.
We caught up with the busy Julius Rodriguez to talk about how the fires of his talent were stoked early on, his love of jazz began and what his ultimate goal as a artist is in our feature above. Check out the interview above on I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.
For more about and to keep up with the talented Orange Julius go to Orangejuliusmusic.com
Also check out his splendid release noted in the feature, Introducing Orange Julius and the Big Beat