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.

B.C.

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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

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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.

 

Bert Caldwell

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

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

Video Producer: Drummer/Vocalist James “Biscuit” Rouse

If your belief has been that drummers ONLY keep time, well for starters you may not truly understand how crucial that is to the vibe of a successful song or live performance. When you check the impressive resume of James “Biscuit” Rouse it’s pretty clear he’s quite adept at setting the “pocket” just right based on the array of notable artists who’ve tapped his talent like Bilal, Chaka Khan, Pharell, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Talib Kweli, or the recently lost to soon, Prodigy of the famed rap squad Mobb Deep. Some others who are boasted on that lengthy scroll of accomplishments are examples that firmly illustrate how truly pivotal the drummer’s role is and because of how very, very good “Biscuit” is at it, his duties are expanded to include the title of Musical Director as is the case with Lauryn Hill or Vivian Green.

But there is something else a number of fine drummers over the years have been known to do and do well and that is sing. Aside from legendary vocalists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass or Jeffrey Osborne – who few may know were drummers early in their careers, but gained fame known more as exclusively singers – Rouse is more akin to renowned artist Phil Collins or super talented contemporary, Anderson Paak, drummers who often share their vocal prowess from behind the kit.

Oh and there is another thing – Leader. Drummers are often that too! And somehow between the steady stints holding the beat down for A-list artists, Rouse is performing with his own stellar band and putting out projects like his recently released EP, Biscuit Street, a strong offering that adroitly flaunts his eclectic musical palette and ability.

In our video feature ISPYSOUL caught up with James “Biscuit” Rouse to find out about the new project and more

Check out the new EP, Biscuit Street on iTunes  or Spotify

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And for more about James “Biscuit” Rouse go to JamesBiscuitRouse.com 

 

Video Interview: Killiam Shakespeare

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Cheesesteaks, Rocky, and the Liberty Bell aside, the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, PA is chock full of rich history that rivals if not surpasses many other cities in the good old U.S. of A and that includes its phenomenal legacy of soulful music and incredible artists. It flaunts luminaries and pioneers like Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, architects of the renowned Philadelphia International, key in establishing the Philly sound – As well as legendary talents like Thom Bell, McFadden & Whitehead, MFSB, Bunny Sigler, The O’Jays, Patti LaBelle and so many, many more from its past – To the heralded catalysts of the resurgent soulful scene that exist today like Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, and The Roots.

A crew quickly carving their name into that hefty log of rich Philly music legend, powered in great part by the city’s storied soulful lore, is Killiam Shakespeare. Drummer Steve Mckie and keyboardist/bassist Cory Bernhard are at the helm of what on the face is a multi -faceted unit that’s part extraordinary band and part equally impressive and growing in-demand production team.

But there are other parts. Those that make what they are really as hard to define as their crazy cool, eclectic sound that molds elements of soul, jazz, hip-hop, funk, rock and more together with incredible energy and musicianship that’s off the chain.

With the release of their killer, self-titled debut project, Killiam Shakespeare and equally impressive follow-up, Killiam Season 1, plus a slew of production, performance and collab credits between them with artists that include Philly natives Jill Scott and Bilal, Common, John Legend, Snarky Puppy, Talib Kweli, and Marsha Ambrosia – and made even more stout by being personally plucked by turntable wiz, producer, soul music impresario and another Philly bred star, DJ Jazzy Jeff, to be a part of his noted Playlist Collective which graced us with the incredible Chasing Goosebumps – Killiam  Shakespeare has got the radars of cool music heads humming loudly and is absolutely capable of keeping the Philly rep high.

ISPYSOUL caught up with Steve and Cory at their studio in Philadelphia to find out what makes Killiam Shakespeare tick.

B. Caldwell

 

For more on Killiam Shakespeare go to KilliamShakespeare.com

Video Interview: Actress Sandra Daley-Sharif

It would be accurate to describe Sandra Daley-Sharif as a Renaissance woman for sure. The Jamaican-born, New York raised creative geyser wears a number of “hats” stylishly, proudly, impressively and effectively.

Once a burgeoning and successful fashion designer with notable stints, amongst others, producing her own line and working for the wrap–dress icon, Diane Von Fürstenburg – Daley-Sharif is now a veteran and accomplished actress of stage and screen.  Her long list of credits include work in noted theater productions both on and off Broadway and in small screen favorites including The Sopranos, Law & Order, Sex and the City, The Blacklist, Orange Is The New Black and most recently, Madame Secretary to name just a few.

However the very long list of credits Daley-Sharif has amassed over her career encompasses her work wearing those other  “hats” as well, which include Director, Playwright, Dramaturge and Producer. Those “hats” have garnered her and the ground- breaking projects and entities she’s founded critical acclaim and award –winning recognition. A few of the many sterling examples include The Liberation Theatre Company, a creative incubator for emerging black playwrights, and Harlem 9,harlem9 a collaborative theater production organization based in Harlem that received the prestigious OBIE Award in 2014 for their efforts.  In addition to it’s other wonderful productions Harlem 9 is also responsible for the innovative 48 Hours in … , which challenges six directors and playwrights to craft stage productions in yes, 48 hours. For her efforts in theater Daley-Sharif is also a recipient of  the 2015 Josephine Abady Award from The League of Professional Theatre Women.

It’s also important to note two other “hats” she’s been wearing in the midst of all the others that mean the most, and understandably so – that of wife and mother. The obvious common strand through them all is the love, passion and commitment she brings to them.

Through the years of building this impressive resume of experience, Daley-Sharif has tapped into another excellent innate talent – that being as a writer. As a vehicle to bring her words and the stories they tell to the world she has called upon some incredibly talented actors to bring them to life in a filmed series of monologues that out the box have attracted great acclaim and interest.

ISPYSOUL caught up with Sandra Daley-Sharif to find out more about the series, her career and in the midst of it all how she’s discovered what happiness really is. Check out the interview and others on the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channelbc

Below is the first of Sandra Daley-Sharif’s monologues:


Dreams Deferred by Sandra A. Daley-Sharif, featuring Bridgit Antoinette Evans

To check out the other monologues I Like Fancy Things and Take Flight click on the links.

 And for more about Sandra Daley-Sharif go to SandraDaley.com