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

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Photos: Deneka Peniston

Video Interview: Drummer/ Pianist Julius Rodriguez

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.

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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

Video interview: Vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles

It is probably fitting to consider gifted vocalist, composer and producer Sarah Elizabeth Charles what once upon a time or perhaps even still, by the standards of many discerning folks, to be a quintessential artist – An immensely skilled and creative individual. One that is driven by their own inner voice and curiosity, but who also soaks up the goings on around them and artfully weaves an impassioned view or even call to action into their expression. In tandem with the tireless hours of honing the technical components of their craft those aforementioned tendencies are what we oft attribute to the continued and really ceilingless growth of the quintessential into the consummate artist.

red440Charles, since her early years coming up in Springfield, MA, has been building, growing by leaps and bounds into the exceptional vocalist and artist she has become. She’s studied and worked with a list of  accomplished musicians and artists including  Nicholas Payton, Geri Allen, Dr. Billy Taylor,  Sheila Jordan, Cecil Bridgewater, Reggie Workman, George Cables, Carmen Lundy, and Jesse Fischer to name a few.

secinnerUpon the formation of her band, once called the S.E.Charles Quartet and now notably referred to as SCOPE, made up of Jesse Elder, Burniss Earl Travis II, and John Davis, Charles’ exploration and hence her growth has continued.  Her impressive projects from her debut RED, to her winning sophomore offering, Inner Dialogue come off as thrilling chapters in a clever suspense novel leaving you wanting more and wondering what will happen next. The latest chapter in the musical story or evolution of Sarah Elizabeth Charles reveals yet another proclivity of the quintessential or consummate artist and that is to challenge, not only themselves and the audience, but convention as well.

 

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With another co-production hand from acclaimed, visionary trumpeter, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Charles and band have given us the greatly impressive, emotionally charged and aptly titled Free of Form.   If there is anything right with the Grammys, this stunning project which features a haunting cover of the Cranberries 1994 release, “Zombie”, “Change to Come” inspired by the death of Eric Garner and “March to Revolution”,  should get at least a nod.

In our interview on the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel with the engaging Sarah Elizabeth Charles she talks about her progression toward the release of Free of Form, breaking down boundaries, the impact of being a teaching artist and the desire to affect change.

 

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Photo/Matthew Pandolfe  Styled by Mia Wright-Ross

 

For more about Sarah Elizabeth Charles and her band Scope go to www.sarahelizabethcharles.com

Video Interview: Sly5thAve

Multi-Instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer, Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II or as many now call him, Sly5thAve is another of the young, highly trained musicians blasting genre boxes apart and winningly fusing an eclectic assortment of influences with jazz as a bedrock to the excitement of a legion of desirous listeners.  

The Texas born, New Yorker has racked up an impressive resumé of work with noted artists and musicians such as  Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, James Carter,  Philip Lassiter, Maceo Parker, the whole Marsalis crew and oh yeah, Prince, to name just a few.

akumaBut in addition to his triumphant debut release, Akuma, inspired by a trip to Nigeria, the place of his family’s roots, that garnered high acclaimed and major looks, Sly5thAve has also become known for his lush, artfully cool orchestral takes on some popular tracks of the day. His interpretations of the Bruno Mars hit, “Uptown Funk”, Lil Wayne’s “Love Me” or Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” have been heralded by many of the “nets” hippest destinations and spun by tastemaker DJs because of his savvy approach that no doubt makes even jazz heads and the chamber music crowd smile.

slydreSly5thAve has now taken the concept full scale with his rendering of songs produced and associated with kingpin hip hop producer, Dr. Dre, first introduced live at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre with some of L.A.’s finest musicians which was attended by Dre himself.

We caught up with the affable, laid – back, incredibly talented artist to talk about the project, The Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute To Dr. Dre and more including his time touring with Prince, the impact of Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and what keeps his passion for creating music alive. Check the video above on the I SPY SOUL  YouTube Channel 

Photograph by Eric Coleman

JSWISS encourages all to Dedicate. Love Somethin’ in his new video

Fast rising emcee JSWISS releases a stunning new music video for his powerful track, Dedicate. Love Somethin from the acclaimed NO MUSIC EP. With this wonderfully shot new visual complement to the already impactful song, it’s poised to be embraced as a positive personal mantra to push through all things negative in pursuit of your goals.

“It’s a concept and song title that came to me months before I actually wrote the song,”Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 6.47.31 PM explains JSWISS about the catalyst for writing Dedicate. Love Somethin. “It comes from recognizing how fulfilling life can be when you love something or someone enough that you’re willing to deal with the hardships that might come with it.”

In addition to JSWISS, the video features internationally – ranked, champion USA fencers and siblings, Kamali and Khalil Thompson along with noted extreme calisthenics or “street workout” veteran and founder of one the movements pioneering squads, Barstarzz, Eduard Checo. These world-class athletes serve as the perfect examples of the song’s title and JSWISS’ compelling lyrics delivered with his now trademark dexterous flow to effectively share this winning message.

Check it out below and be moved to Dedicate. Love Somethin 

Video Interview: Saxophonist/Producer Samir Zarif

Saxophonist/Producer Samir Zarif aka FKAjazz represents a hefty number of young, talented artists and musicians whose palettes, influences and paths, although heavily draped by the imperial musical idiom that is Jazz, also count Soul, R&B, Hip-Hop and more as pivotal to their overall stylistic outlook.

Jazz cats being moved by popular music of the day is not a new thing – Think Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Donald Byrd or Grant Green, just to name a few. The irony? Well there are many but here are just a couple- Jazz was America’s first “Pop” music ( a fact definitely not lost on Zarif) – The music that was once the influencer and incredibly cool to be known as one of the genre’s practitioners. Another irony refers to the last point – that for many both in and out of Jazz circles, that swag-filled cred of entertaining, popular, and infectious musical exploration has been stamped by a narrow stereotype only covering a facet of the genre and quite frankly, the makeup of its audience. As a result, the new breed that may have gotten their starts under the label of Jazz, but now dart throughout the musical landscape of their upbringing often get pigeonholed as well – Another reality Zarif is well aware of.

Zarif, an accomplished saxophonist who has studied, performed and worked with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, and Jason Marsalis as well as Jill Scott and Chrisette Michele is also a skilled producer who built his chops as one half of the electronic music production duo Pax Humana and beyond.  Now years removed from his acclaimed “Jazz” release Starting Point in 2010, Zarif as FKAjazz and with his upcoming anticipated release, musically and literally through the title confirms he’s one of the many on the scene like Robert Glasper, José James or Terrace Martin who challenge the label “Jazz” artist.

Stereotype Threat is what its aptly called and Samir Zarif explains the catalyst and concept as well as what FKAjazz means in our video interview on ISPYSOUL! 

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For more about Samir Zarif aka FKAjazz go to fkajazz.com