Vocalist, composer and violinist, Harini S Raghavan or Rini as she is now most known, is an 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. Continue reading “Video Interview: Vocalist and violinist Rini”→
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
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.
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