Conya Doss makes it CLEAR, she’s back

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, funky and infectious single, “I’m Trying.” Needless to say, anticipation was set in motion. More singles have followed like the conyadcleargroove – filled, sure “Stepper” lure, “Back to Us”  and more recently,  the loving declaration wrapped in a classic R&B vibe, “Until” stoking the fires of desire for Ms. Doss’ return. Well alas , the wait is now over with release of her new project, CLEAR. 

Speaking with Doss earlier in the year just after dropping, the single, “I’m Trying” and thereby sounding the alarm for what has resulted in CLEAR, she enthusiastically described the project in relation to her others, as  “a combination of everything.”  She then also went on to note with equal excitement, “I had the honor of working with a couple of other producers outside of the two gentlemen that I normally work with. Of course, they’re still on the team, but it was just nice to get a different feel. Just venture out.”

The initial introduction to Conya Doss came while she was in New York City for an in-store performance at the iconic Macy’s Herald Square to promote her debut CD, A Poem For Ms.Doss back in 2002. Touting a pretty good memory during the talk with Doss about that time, she affably reminisces, “Oh my God! You’re taking me way back. Wow! That’s definitely been a minute.” conyapoem

You could say that opportunity to be heard by scores of listeners at the world’s most famous store was indeed a sign of things to come. The stirred crowd of enticed spectators that day was consistent with the growing buzz around this Cleveland bred, singer/songwriter because of that splendid, now hard to find, debut – a choice brew of heartfelt sentiment, compelling grooves and fertile melodies straight out of the rich r&b/soul tradition with Doss’ engaging tone and passionate delivery emitting a life-lived authenticity.  Boasting gems like the seductive “All Because Of You”, the warmly introspective “Meantime” and the classy remake of the Norman Connor’s hit, “You Are My Starship”, Doss’ entry onto the scene was strong indeed.

She fast became a notable artist in the then burgeoning movement known to many as “Neo-Soul”-  A spirited crusade driven greatly, though not exclusively, by a legion of amazingly talented independent artists bent on keeping their artistic vision intact and ownership of their work. 

conyaDropping a succession of widely acclaimed projects that followed (Just Because, Love Rain Down, Still, Blu Transition, A Pocket Full of Purpose and Seven:VII ) with many of the resulting tracks breaking through to coveted commercial radio air, Doss’ success has grown so notably on the soul scene that it has prompted many to dub her fondly, “The Queen of Indie Soul.”  CLEAR is a fitting new chapter in her musical story, but indeed consistent with her past. One that will likely endear her to both new and faithful fans with that, now trademark, engaging tone and compelling delivery, felicitously immersed in a true, soulful, R&B vibe. 

What’s also still consistent is Doss charting her own creative direction without much or any compromise.  It’s certainly something she is used to doing and not only enjoys having the freedom, but insists on it. It’s something that now a legion of aspiring and even notable veteran artists count as the major impetus for releasing their music independently. Over the years the growth of the internet has made this even more attractive and viable. But has it made it easier?  

“I think it is, to a certain degree, easier,” says Doss “But still, I always say it just depends on what you want.” She goes on to explain, “I stand by the fact and feel that being an independent artist means independently being able to creatively think and produce things the way I want to. I think it just allows for more freedom.” 

3S6A3175-EditYou could imagine the time it takes for an artist, let alone an independent artist, to achieve the great deal of success Conya Doss has. So you’d certainly assume she can’t have time for much else right? Well that actually couldn’t be further from her reality.  That’s because to this day she continues to do the thing she had been when she started her recording career – Teaching – Full time. 

“Absolutely, but the beauty of it is that now I’m teaching at a performing arts school that is my alma mater and I really enjoy it,” says Doss.  “I’m able to do the academic side, but be involved with the arts side as well, even though I don’t teach music there. But I’m always there as a soundboard for the students. It’s just a really good feeling to be able to have that balance.” 

This all sounds good, but still might have some scratching their heads. Many artists given what she has accomplished and the window of opportunity to jump into the game full time would and have. Notable names on the soul and R&B scene who were on the come up with Doss have made that choice. To that, Doss sincerely states, “I have much respect for those other artists. We just have our different paths through life.”   

“I’m going to blame it on my Gemini sign,” jokes Doss  “It’s just me. I just feel, I don’t want to confine myself to a box. I have to be able to have that flexibility where I don’t feel like I have to just do that.”  She admits, “I’ve definitely had opportunities to go full 3S6A3171-Editfledge music on quite a few occasions. But I’ve been blessed to be able to do both and touch people lives through music and through teaching. So I just think that’s my calling. That’s exactly what it is,” she declares. “I just think I’m able to do both, why not do both”

But something new in Doss’ life since our talk years ago is that she is a proud mom of a seven year old son. “Oh yeah, and he’s a piece of work,” says Doss affectionately. And it goes without saying he has had an impact on all parts of her life including her music. “A lot of songs people may be thinking I’m talking about a man or something and I’m like, no this is for my son,” she admits. “Definitely my whole perspective on life is different. The way I work, I’m doing this not just for me now. It’s just a whole different ballgame.” 

For the established and desirous fans of Conya Doss she says of CLEAR, “They’re going to see some flexibility in my music.” She further explains,“ I think every time that I create more music they’re seeing a different side because as life progresses we progress and things change and we [artists] write about our own experiences. I think for me, this go around they’re going to hear a lot of clarity, vulnerability and just, more and more of myself.” And for all including the new ears that come across it?  “It’s definitely going to be a feel good project and I know there’s something on there for everybody.”

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To purchase the new project CLEAR from Conya Doss click here or to stream click here  

And to learn more about her and tour information go to Conyadoss.com

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SIMPLY JAZZ on I SPY SOUL takes a look back at legend Rudy Van Gelder

If you’re a jazz fan to really any degree, from knowledgeable and ardent to casual or novice you know the work of legendary recording engineer, Rudy Van Gelder.  There really is no way you can’t.  Actually, if you’re an aficionado of the hip hop game, that also holds true. Considered by many to be the greatest engineer in the history of jazz, the list of recordings he helmed for legendary, trailblazing labels like Savoy, Bluenote, Riverside, Prestige, and Impulse from, in particular, the 50’s and 60’s is staggering and represent many of the most groundbreaking, influential gems, from music’s most iconic musicians and artists – Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Donald Byrd, Oliver Nelson, Max Roach, Bud Powell, Coleman Hawkins – just simply every amazing jazz musician of the time.  His treasured, guarded and masterful techniques perfectly captured and help define the sound of modern jazz recordings and the genre itself.

In this rare, on air interview from a 1994 episode of SIMPLY JAZZ shot on location at this historic studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Van Gelder, who passed away in 2016,  shares some time and insights about his beginnings as an engineer and his love of doing it. bc 

For a list of the many recordings engineered by Rudy Van Gelder click here 

Photo. Francis Wolff

Video Interview: Vocalist and violinist Rini

Rini weaves newness into the sounds of home

Vocalist, composer and violinist, Harini S Raghavan or Rini as she is now most known, is rini sidean 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

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

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