When listening to singer songwriter ArinMaya you’ll be hard pressed not to conclude that her artistic, if not life’s, mission is to be a “beacon of light.” From the inviting tone of the Chi-town native,… More
In 1993, SIMPLY JAZZ, a half-hour program created to present Jazz in a contemporary format unlike most programming presented up to that time, was born. The acclaimed program, that ran for three years, was shot on location at acclaimed jazz clubs throughout NYC, and included produced segments as well as rare interviews with venerated figures and then burgeoning stars in the world of jazz. Now through the retrospective SIMPLY JAZZ on I SPY SOUL, a look back is provided at some of these interviews.
Legendary jazz drummer, bandleader, and pioneer Chico Hamilton not only blazed trails on the jazz scene, but his music stretched beyond it into film, the worlds of rock, hip-hop, and the dance music scene with hits like, “Conquistadors” and “Strut” as well as through samples and remixes. Over the course of his illustrious career, the LA native and a bedrock of the West Coast jazz scene of the ’50’s and 60’s, laid down the pulse for jazz luminaries such as Lionel Hampton, Lester Young, Count Basie, Gerry Mulligan and Lena Horne to name a few. He also raised eyebrows and gained wide-spread attention, shocking the jazz world with his own innovative crew that featured cello and flute. The heralded “Chamber Jazz” sound was featured in the acclaimed films, The Sweet Smell of Success and Jazz on A Summer Day. Proving a keen ear for talent, his bands throughout the years became the launching pad for eventual legends in their own right such as Jim Hall, Eric Dolphy, Charles Lloyd, Ron Carter, Gabor Szabo and a host of other stars helping to carve out new musical lanes and pushing the jazz envelope all the way up to his passing in 2013 at the age of 92. I SPY SOUL is pleased to take a look back at legend, Chico Hamiltion on SIMPLY JAZZ
bc Photo: Todd Boebel
For more information on Chico Hamilton click here
It’s a magical thing when a creative kinship is discovered. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of and just as exciting to witness. Needless to say, the tangible result of such a partnership is most often extremely cool because the creative conditions are inherently right.
Hip Hop artist JSWISS and guitarist/producer Marcus Machado seemed to have discovered this kind of kinship. Both exceptional, acclaimed and burgeoning talents independently, the two have become frequent collaborators on stage and in the studio. The fiery, rock- tinged recent release, FAMOUS, from JSWISS was a recorded introduction to the teaming up with Machado in M-Drix production mode.
Now the two have hooked up again to release the truly dope EP, Black Summer, boasting straight-up hip hop jewels, showcasing the lyrical prowess JSWISS has quickly become heralded for on a musical canvas of fire beats deftly crafted by M-Drix.
More is sure to come from this dynamic musical duo, lucky for us! bc
Check out Black Summer below:
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
The expeditiously growing respect and acclaim for skill-laden, hip – hop artist JSWISS is very clear, well – earned and certainly deserved. The NY native whose work has previously been featured here on I SPY SOUL, has gone about building his rep the old fashioned way, through steady grinding and his undying desire to hone his craft. He’s a young artist from an old school that teaches those practices will earn him a seat at the table with the very best and keep him around for more than a minute. His efforts are paying dues putting him on notable stages with elite musicians like Maurice Brown, Daru Jones and Marcus Machado and opening for legends like the God emcee Rakim or renowned hip duo EPMD. It’s also encouraging packed out shows and cranking the buzz about his talent louder and louder.
His sound ability and charisma is also showing through on his acclaimed releases that simultaneously get folks moving and thinking. It is the signature that is perhaps most intriguing about JSWISS and aligns him with the rap games most revered. He is a storyteller and life observer bringing you good times and motivation — like his anthemic, Dedicate Love Somethin’ whose visual complement was chosen for the 2018 Hip Hop Film Festival— but also other things you should hear, be reminded of, and not just know about, but should want to do something about.
With his powerful new release, FAMOUS, JSWISS is focused for sure on those last objectives as he shines the light on the grave injustice and hot-bed issue of african-americans, many young, killed at the hands of law enforcement.
Famous is a riveting, first recorded collaboration between JSWISS and stellar guitarist and producer Marcus Machado ( under the producer pseudonym M.Drix). Machado, also a past featured artist here on I SPY SOUL, along with JSWISS represent two ingredients in a bubbling renaissance of a diverse music scene coming out of New York City.
The talented emcee’s approach to this issue is incredibly astute, drawing on the social media ruled times we now live in where folks will seemingly do anything for their 15 minutes in the spotlight. So a hip-hop artist on the come up proclaiming “I don’t wanna be famous” from the opening line is not only ironic, but could seem a bit disingenuous. But JSWISS’ declaration doesn’t come from one denouncing fame from accomplishment, but that as a young black man and in recognition of countless people of color like him who have unwillingly become trending topics as victims of police brutality and a oft-corrupt system. The concept is a new take on a long existing offense made painfully transparent in recent years as more cell phones and body cams bring the truth to light.
Artists chiming in on injustice either through their work or in statements is not new. With now Twitter and Facebook just a swipe away for most doing so is not only expected, but silence is often perceived as an insensibility to important topics. As a person who doesn’t waste words on public platforms JSWISS kept comments on the low until he felt he could contribute something new and of value to the conversation.
“What finally struck me was the laundry list of victims names — from adults with futures still ahead of them to kids who hadn’t even fully developed an identity — known by millions throughout the United States and internationally, not for what they’ve done with their lives, but for what was done to them,” says JSWISS. A broadcast journalism grad from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, with writing credits in papers including the New York Times, his instincts to look at a story from different angles no doubt fueled his approach to crafting, “Famous”.
Bert Caldwell Photos:Robert Adam Mayer
For more on JSWISS go to Jswissmusic.com
teddycrockett — Many may not be familiar with the name of the super cool, singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, but he’s far from new to the music scene. If you fancy yourself an ardent, soul music maven plugged into its eclectic vastness, especially on the vibrant independent tip over the last decade plus, you’ve heard his funky licks, soaring guitar and top-notch production skills. You might have caught him blazing the stage with venerated UK soul star Omar, Common, Bilal or Alice Russell; on stage and recordings with the incredibly talented, fly duo of Casey Benjamin and Nicole Guiland, admiringly known as Heavy; or adroitly holding down production duty for his sis, Ms Diva Blue herself, captivating vocalist, Alison Crockett.
Now teddycrockett has officially moved to the forefront with the release of his three song EP, Sell The World, a hip, and flavorful mix of blues – tinged soul, pop, classic rock, and electro – funkiness with TC at the vocal helm. Sell The World is a well crafted mosaic of sounds and influences that conjure up music heyday nostalgia from 70’s Al Green- like flavor and Prince-ly, Minnesota vibe to a Steely Dan-ish lean, with a slick, and modern approach.
The wonderful eclecticism of the project was an inevitable result from Crockett. As he explains, “My dad was a musician and he considered there were actually only four genre’s of music: jazz, rock, gospel and classical. Anything with a back beat he considered rock, so this included the entire diaspora of R&B, soul, classic rock, punk, hip hop, etc. He listened to it all and so I grew up believing pretty much all music was related.” He continues, “With my new songs I hoped to tap into the timeless songwriting styles that I grew up loving. I think solid, tuneful songs will never go out of style. I’m not afraid to wear my influences openly on my sleeve, ‘cause none of the cats I look up to— Jimi, Prince, Marvin, Sly, etc — hid where they came from either. I think I heard that Miles use to repeat the adage, ‘the good ones borrow but the great ones steal’ and I def seek to reach towards greatness.”
Sell The World is a welcome intro to teddycrockett with more waiting in the wings, poised to follow. Check out the full EP and enticing, beautifully shot visual for the title song directed by Daniela Zoe Croci above.
Bert Caldwell Photos: Shawn Hanna