Chris Rob is No Doubt on The Soul Seen

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 anchrisrob3 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 officialbootname 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 Chris_Rob_31-400x394Award 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.” 

Bert Caldwell

 

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

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JSWISS reveals the irony of fame on his powerful new song, Famous

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 JSWISS0789_HiResyoung 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.

JSWISS1297_HiResArtists 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”.

Check out the impressive track, FAMOUS on Spotify here or purchase here on iTunes.  And be sure to watch the compelling and emotionally charged, must see lyric video complement above.

Bert Caldwell  Photos:Robert Adam Mayer 

 

For more on JSWISS go to Jswissmusic.com

teddycrockett’s going to Sell The World on his new EP

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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

Marcus Machado proclaims “I Can’t Lose” with his new single

 

“I Can’t Lose” is the new single from swiftly rising, virtuosic guitarist Marcus Machado featuring soul smothered vocals from Jermaine Holmes most notably of soul star, D’Angelo’s stellar crew, The Vanguard. It is also the first single from the upcoming film and soundtrack, “Blue Diamonds” directed by Patrick House. 

Machado, a past featured artist here on I SPY SOUL, has steadily been wowing audiences and turning industry heads with his high-powered, eclectic style molded with rock, soul, jazz, blues, and hip-hop influences, since even before grabbing Rolling Stone magazine’s “Next Young Gun” honors in 2014. In addition to heading his own shows and projects, the guitarist and producer has become a sought after musician putting it down with artists like Robert Glasper, Jamie Lidell, and  Pete Rock, as well as with Daru Jones (Jack White, Slum Village) and legendary bass player Doug Wimbush (Living Colour) established the killer squad, DMD.

Check out the single below on Spotify and our video feature on Marcus Machado by clicking here  

Purchase the track on iTunes here or Google Play here

And for more on Marcus Machado go to officialmarcusmachado.com

Video Interview: Singer/Songwriter Chantae Cann

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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.

chantaejgIt’s surely the quality noted and award- winning artists she’s collaborated with over the years like collective Snarky PuppyThe 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 chantaesolTarriona “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

Video Interview: Shelley Nicole

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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

 

 

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The first single from Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe, Punanny Politixxx is out and available now iTunes and Spotify. Click the links to check it out or purchase

Video Interview: Guitarist Mark Whitfield

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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

B.Caldwell

Photos: Deneka Peniston