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

JSWISS and M-Drix bring the heat with Black Summer

It’s a magical thing when a creative kinship is discovered. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of and just as exciting to witness. Needless to say, the tangible result of such a partnership is most often extremely cool because the creative conditions are inherently right.

JSWISS0789_HiResHip Hop artist JSWISS and guitarist/producer Marcus Machado seemed to have discovered this kind of kinship. Both exceptional, acclaimed and  burgeoning talents independently, the two have become frequent collaborators on stage and in the studio. The  fiery, rock- tinged recent release, FAMOUS, from JSWISS was a recorded introduction to the teaming up with Machado in M-Drix production mode.

marcusNow the two have hooked up again to release the truly dope EP, Black Summer, boasting straight-up hip hop jewels, showcasing the lyrical prowess JSWISS has quickly become heralded for on a musical canvas of fire beats deftly crafted by M-Drix.

More is sure to come from this dynamic musical duo, lucky for us! bc

Check out Black Summer below:

https://jswiss.bandcamp.com/album/jswiss-x-m-drix-black-summer-ep

 

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

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: 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: Expressionist Artist Tom Christopher

It is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that you’ve seen or come across the work of highly -accomplished, venerated artist, Tom Christopher, even if you’re not an art enthusiast.

Over the years you may have seen the music posters and covers he created for CBS, Verve, or RCA records. If you’re into cars you might have seen his work in Motor Trend magazine. Read the Wall Street Journal or New York Times? Yeah, his work’s been there too. How about those very cool ads for Absolut vodka? Yep, he’s done some of those as well that not only graced the pages of magazines, but also graced billboards and are now housed in a museum. And, there’s much, much more, you know like, paintings that have wound up in private collections and galleries around the world and stuff.

But if you’re a New Yorker or visited New York City, what Christopher might be most known for is what you’ve likely seen and marveled at and didn’t know he was responsible for. It’s his amazing Expressionistic renderings of the “city that never sleeps” in all its rambunctious, hip, cool, gritty and magnificent glory – In subway cars and stations around the city – on the cover of the official tourist guides that steer excited visitors all around town- on huge murals in places like Rockerfeller Center and on the side of the Roseland Ballroom.

The Hollywood, CA born, but long time New York resident has been tapped to represent NYC frequently, no doubt because of the way he masterfully captures the swag, the attitude, the organized confusion and yes, the heart and soul of the city, so well you can darn near hear taxis blowing in the background. But again, there’s so much more. We caught up with Tom Christopher at his studio in NY to find out more about his journey, his process and his objective as an artist. His insights are like his paintings- intriguing and genuine. BC 

Check out the interview above and others on the I SPY SOUL Youtube Channel

For more on Artist Tom Christopher go to tomchristopher.nyc

© ISPYSOUL 2017