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.
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 above on I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.
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
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.
Charles, 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.
Upon the formation of her band, once called the S.E.Charles Quartet and now notably referred to as SCOPE,made up ofJesse 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.
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 ofFree of Form, breaking down boundaries, the impact of being a teaching artist and the desire to affect change.
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.
But 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.
Sly5thAve 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
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!
For more about Samir Zarif aka FKAjazz go to fkajazz.com