Tag: James Brown

Since their formation back in 2011 by founding members Alex “ALC” Lee-Clark and Brian “BT” Thomas, the Boston-based funk collective BT ALC Big Band, which also features a rotation cast of some of the Boston area’s best funk and jazz players, has developed a reputation for crafting compositions that are heavily indebted to the big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic and The Meters  —  but with a decidedly modern take, in what the band has dubbed Big Band Funk.

Recently, the Boston-based funk act signed to Alan Evans‘ label Vintage League Music — and their first release with their new label home,  “Bring Forth Change” features a collection of 18 credited artists, including Lettuce‘s Nigel Hall (vocals) and Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet) and Soulive’s Alan Evans (drums) was recorded remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The idea to record ‘Bring Forth Change’ was put in motion after Brian Thomas, Alex Lee-Clark and I were chatting about the possibilities of remotely tracking for a 18-piece band under the current social distancing protocol we are all following,”  Alan Evans told Relix Magazine about the single’s recording project. “They agreed that enough band members had the technological capabilities to get the job done. It’s always amazing being able to work with these amazing musicians and the addition of Nigel Hall and Eric Bloom from Lettuce was the icing on the cake!”

“Bring Forth Change” is a strutting bit of funk centered around an enormous horn line,  wah wah pedaled guitar, jazz-like drumming and a much-needed, uplifting message that brings James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud,” Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power and others to mind. As the song reminds us, now is our moment to go out there and collectively  change the world in a way that’s been long overdue.

“What I’m witnessing in this moment, with these protests, is unlike anything else I have ever seen before,” Alan Evans explains in press notes. “I’m 46, I’ve lived through many moments of protest in the face of police brutality—I remember when Rodney King was beat brutally by police. But what’s different today is that I see people from all walks of life out there, coming together collectively protesting that they’ve had enough, not just Black folks.

The cats on ‘Bring Forth Change’ are representative of this America I see today out in the streets—there’s Black cats, White cats, Latino cats playing together, singing this message. I’m not sure we’ll see the change we want to see without collective solidarity.”

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The rising Lincoln, NE-based soul and funk act Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal — Josh Hoyer (vocals, keys), Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar) Harrison El Dorado (drums) — formed back in 2012, and since their formation, the act, which features some of the Lincoln area’s most acclaimed musicians, has received attention nationally and internationally for a boundary crossing sound inspired by the sounds of Stax Records, Motown Records, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The Lincoln-based quintet have developed a reputation for being of the area’s hardest working bands: releasing four, critically applauded albums, including last year’s Do It Now, the members of the rising soul act have played hundreds of shows and have made several tours across the Continental United States and two European tours, opening for the George Clinton,Charles Bradley, Booker T. Jones, and Muscle Shoals Soul Revue and others.

Further cementing their reputation as one of the Plain States’ hardest working bands, the members of the Lincoln-based soul act will be releasing their Eddie Roberts-produced fifth later later this year through Color Red Records. “Hustler,” the album’s cinematic, third and latest single is a strutting bit of soul, prominently featuring Hoyer’s soulful, Tom Jones-like vocals, a commanding horn arrangement, a sinuous bass line, shimmering organ arpeggios and an enormous and rousingly anthemic hook. While seemingly possessing elements of The Payback-era James Brown, 70s Motown, Muscle Shoals, Daptone and Memphis soul in a seamless yet period specific synthesis, the upbeat track manages to be one-part much-needed proverbial kick in the ass and one part much-needed rallying cry for our unprecedented and uncertain moment, centered around the assuring yet forceful line “When the world wants you to sink or swim, I ain’t goin’ under.”

Things may be bleak right now but keep fighting y’all. There’s much hard and necessary work to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Montreal’s The Brooks Perform Their Funky New Party Anthem “Turn Up the Sound”

Montreal-based soul act The Brooks formed over eight years ago — and the act can claim a lineup featuring some of the French Canadian city’s most accomplished local soul musicians: Florida-born, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and frontman Alan Prater has toured with Michael Jackson and the band itself can trace its origins to behind the walls of the Motown Museum: Alexandre Lapointe (bass) has worked alongside Joel Campbell, the musical director for Tina Turner and Janet Jackson. Prater and Lapointe are joined by Maxime Bellavance (drums), Phillips Look (guitar, vocals), Daniel Thouin (keys), Sébastien Grenier (sax), Hichem Khalifa (French horn), and Phillipe Beaudin (percussion). 

Developing a sound that draws from James Brown, D’Angelo, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and J. Dilla, the members of The Brooks have developed a reputation for a songwriting approach that eschews rules and trends while spreading joy and funk — and for an energetic live show. And as a result, the band has built up a profile both across the province and nationally over the course of two critically applauded albums and an EP: Named the “best kept secret of Canadian funk” by La Presse, the band has received a number of nominations and awards at GAMIQ, Independent Music Awards, ADISQ, and others. 

The French Canadian soul outfit’s third full-length album Anyway Now is slated for a release this full through Duprince Records across North and South America and Underdog Records through Europe and Japan — and the album’s first single is the stomping, strutting and funky party anthem “Turn Up the Sound.” Centered around an arrangement that nods at The Payback-era James Brown, Dance to the Music and Stand!-era Sly and the Family Stone, the upbeat song was written to be played loud and to get you to get up out of your seat, escape your daily concerns for a few minutes and dance. Everything may seem canceled or postponed but music is still there to bring you joy — and to remind you that brighter days will come in time. “I just wanted to write a fun song to get you to escape from whatever you’re doing,” the band’s Alan Prater explains in press notes. 

The single is accompanied by a live footage of the band performing the song in the studio, and it manages to reveal the band’s creative chemistry while being an introduction to the band to new listeners. 

New Video: Introducing the Global-Spanning Sounds of Mayotte’s M’Toro Chamou

Located in the Comoros archipelago off the coast of Southeast Africa, between Northwestern Mozambique and Northeastern Mozambique, the Department of Mayotte is a French overseas region, which consists of two islands — the main island of Grande-Teerre (or Maore), a smaller island of Petite-Terre (Pamanzi) and several islets around the two. 

Initially populated by people from nearby East Africa, Arabs, who brought Islam came later on — and by 1500, a sultanate was established. In the 19th century, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Ibonia (which was in modern day Madagascar), and later by the neighboring islands of Moheli and Anjuoan before being purchased by France in 1841.  

With a decisive referendum on the independence  of the Comoros region in 1974, the people of Mayotte voted to politically remain a part of France. Another decisive referendum vote in 2009 led to Mayotte becoming a French Department on March 31, 2011 — and an outermost region of the European Union on January 1. 2014. Although the islands are a politically recognized French territory, the majority of its inhabitants speak Shiamore, a Sabaki language closely related to the languages spoken in the neighboring Comoros Islands, not French. Kibushi, a Malagasy language, which features two dialects — Kibushi Kisakalava and Kibushi Kiantalaotra is also spoken by a significant portion of the population. Interestingly, according to a recent census report, a majority of the population aged 14 and older say that they can speak French — with varying levels of fluency. 

As a new department, the island region currently faces some enormous problems: as of this year, its annual population growth is at 3.8%. Half its population is less than 17 years old. Unemployment is at 35%. 84% of its inhabitants live below the officially recognized poverty line. And as a result of an influx of illegal immigration from its neighbors, 48% of its population are foreign nationals. As you can imagine, much like everywhere else on the planet, things socially and politically on Mayotte are rather turbulent. 

Over the past few years, the Mayotte-born singer/songwriter and guitarist M’Toro Chamou has created a unique sound and musical style that he’s dubbed Afro M’Godro Rock, which meshes the traditional M’Godro, Shigoma and Chengue rhythms of Mayotte with more Western sounds — primarily rock and blues. In fact, he’s deeply influenced by BB King, John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, Ray Charles and James Brown, among a host of others. Thematically, his work exhorts people to come together as one rather than being torn apart by politics. Interestingly, his most recent album Sika Mila, which translates into English as “Preserve Your Culture” thematically focuses on the rapidly charging Mahoran culture while spreading messages of hope and unity to a fractious people. 

Chamou’s latest single “M’Godro Rebel” is a breezy and anthemic song centered around shimmering acoustic guitar, brief bursts of emphatic electric guitars, propulsive polyrhythm and call and response vocals. And while deeply rooted in traditional sounds, the song finds Chamou’s sound and approach nodding at Bob Marley-like reggae both thematically and sonically. As Chamou explains in press notes, the song is about the discrimination and oppression that limits the people of Mayotte and Black people everywhere. 

Directed by Lenz, the gorgeous shot and recently released video for “M’Godro Rebel” finds both the director and the Mayotte-born singer/songwriter purposefully highlighting the beauty, wealth and strength of African people: the video begins with Chamou and a cast of beautiful black people of all shades wearing 18th Century Rococo — or late baroque — style clothing, in opulent European-inspired settings that makes the first portion of the video seem indebted to the work of Kehinde Wiley. In the West, we rarely see Africa or Africans in such a proud, powerful fashion, let alone other Black people across the Diaspora — and it is defiant, boldly Black as fuck. During the video’s second half, we see the same cast wearing the vividly colored designs of South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo. The video says that Africans have a proud, rich history and an important place in the modern world. Simply put, everything about the video is black excellence.  

 

Professionally known as Kaleta, Leon Ligan-Majek is a Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer, who leads the up-and-coming local, Afro-funk act Kaleta and Super Yamba Band. Although the project is relatively new to the scene, Ligan-Majek can trace his music career back to Lagos, Nigeria, where Ligan-Majek spent his teenaged years playing in local churches. Eventually, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based signer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer caught the attention of renowned juju pioneer King Sunny Ade. “I was at Church when I heard King Sunny Ade sound checking one block away. By the time church service was over Sunny Ade’s gig was in full gear,” Ligan-Majek says of his first encounter with King Sunny Ade. “I infiltrated the gathering, snuck into the front row to watch the show. At the strike of the last note, right before Sunny Ade disappeared I went between him and his body guard and told him point blank my desire to play guitar for his band. He invited me to his house. I went the next day with a cassette containing songs and guitar riffs I wrote with him in mind.”

Kaleta went on to spend several years in King Sunny Ade’s backing band, recording four albums with the Juju pioneer before leaving the band to join Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and Egypt 80. Unsurprisingly, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer learned how to fuse elements from an electric array of West African genres and styles — including highlife, juju, Afrobeat, Afro-funk and Afro-dance.

In 1991, Ligan-Majek relocated from Lagos to New York after Fela Kuti and Egypt 80  completed the North American leg of their world tour. And almost as soon as he set foot in New York, he wound up being the co-founder of two Afrobeat ensembles, Akoya Afrobeat and Zozo Afrobeat — and as a member those acts, he had shared stages with the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Yellowman, and Lauryn Hill. “Lauryn Hill was rehearsing in the same music complex when she heard my music from another room,” Kaleta recalls. “She stormed into Zozo Afrobeat’s rehearsal, and two weeks later, I was on tour with her playing guitar and traditional Beninese percussion. . . we performed about 45 dates all over the world.”

While Ligan-Majek’s chops suited him well to back some of biggest names in music, he had an irresistible drive to create his own unique work. He searched for a band of his own but he knew that he needed a perfect combination  — an irrefutable explosion of creative energy that came from a dedicated, like-minded group of musicians. Interestingly, Ligan-Majek credits his ambition and his vision to his older brother’s massive influence. Ligan-Ozavino Pascal was an obsessive music listener, with a passion for funk and soul. And as the story goes, Ligan-Ozavino Pascal occasionally weaponized his record collection to teach his younger brother discipline. When Kaleta misbehaved, his older brother would lock him in his room with a pile of records. The price of his freedom? A careful listen. “I had to submit to his huge love for music,” says Kaleta. “He introduced me to James Brown, Otis Redding, and other American, French and Cuban music.”

The Brooklyn-based Super Yamba Band, comprised of Daniel Yount (drums), Evan Frierson (percussion), Walter Fancourt (sax), Sean Smith (trumpet) have long been students and devoted fans of vintage West African, psychedelic Afro-funk. When they met Kaleta, who sang and played guitar over roots-rhythms while bbringing his infectious style to the project, things clicked. “I loved the way they stick together as a team,” says Kaleta. “Their exuberance. Their love for African music, notably Benin funk… I found out they were listening to my idols, too.” Between the members of the project, it became obvious that they stumbled upon something rare, exciting and in need of further cultivation and exploration. The members of Super Yamba Band had the skill and dedication that Kaleta had long sought for his solo work — and in turn, Kaleta brought the heard-earned wisdom from four decades as a professional musician that he was eager to share with bandmates. 

Since their formation, the band has spent the past couple of years honing their material and playing live shows across town and elsewhere, including an opening set last year for Niger-based Afro funk/Afro pop act Tal National and an appearance at last year’s Barbes and Electric Cowbell Records Secret Planet APAP Showcase. Interestingly, the band’s “Mr. Diva” was remastered and re-released earlier this year — and as the story goes, the band was so encouraged by the success at recreating their live sound in the studio, that they set out to record what would eventually become their forthcoming full-length debut Medaho.

 

Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through Ubiquity Records, Kaleta and Super Yamba Band’s full-length debut derives its name from the Goun and Fon word for “big brother,” “elder,””teacher” — and the album is dedicated to the memory of Kaleta’s brother Ligan-Ozavino, who died earlier this year. Sonically, the material finds the band unabashedly paying homage to its massive influences, including James Brown, Fela Kuti, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego, The Funkees, among others — but interpreting their work, learning from it, deconstructing it when necessary, amplifying it, defying it and pushing it and the sound into the future.

Mèdaho‘s first single is album title track “Mèdaho.” Centered around a looping, wah-wah and other pedal effected guitar lines, a sinuous groove, propulsive percussion and Kaleta’s grunts and howls, the song manages to recall He Miss Road/Expensive Shit-era Fela Kuti, The Payback-era James Brown, as it possesses a similar grit and forcefulness — but unlike the period specific work that has influenced the track features a lysergic haze.

New Audio: Carlton Jumel Smith Releases a Swooning, Classic Soul-Inspired Declaration of Devotion

Last month, I wrote about Carlton Jumel Smith, a New York-based R&B/soul singer/songwriter, who emerged into the international soul scene with the release of his debut single “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” a 70s soul and R&B-inspired track that found him collaborating with the renowned Timmion Records production and house band team Cold Diamond & Mink. Building upon a rapidly growing profile within soul circles, Smith, who cites James Brown, Al Green, The Temptations, Sly Stone, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits as influences on his own work will be releasing his full-length debut 1634 Lexington Avenue through Timmion Records and Daptone Records.

Slated for release later this week, 1634 Lexington Avenue reportedly finds Smith and the Timmion Records crew carrying on in the tradition and sounds of Curtom Records, the Chicago-based studio and label founded by Curtis Mayfield; Memphis soul; and of course, by default Motown for contemporary listeners.  Now, as you may recall, album single “This Is What Love Looks Like!” while centered around a shuffling, two-step groove, a sultry horn line and Smith’s soulful crooning thematically and sonically drew from the classic soul and pop songs of the late 60s and 70s with the song’s narrator expressing his devotion to his life with a sweetness and passion that you’ll rarely here in contemporary music. Continuing in a similar vein as its predecessor, 1634 Lexington Avenue’s latest single “Woman You Made Me” is triumphant declaration of the narrator’s appreciation of the woman in his life, complete with the tacit recognition that love is complicated and hard — and that finding that special someone is both lucky and rare. Sonically, the song seamlessly meshes the classic 60s Motown sound with Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield psych soul.

“I sing the type of R&B and soul that I grew up with and I present it in a fashion that is designed to make one thing of love and loyalty, which as DJ Rogers once said ‘are not for sale,'” Smith says in press notes. 

New York-based R&B/soul singer/songwriter Carlton Jumel Smith emerged into the international soul scene with his debut single “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” a 70s soul and R&B-inspired track that found him collaborating with the renowned Timmion Records production and house band team Cold Diamond & Mink. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the New York-based soul, who cites the likes of James Brown, Al Green, The Temptations, Sly Stone, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits as influences will be be releasing his full-length debut 1634 Lexington Avenue through Timmion Records and Daptone Records.

Slated for a May 10, 2019 release, 1634 Lexington Avenue reportedly finds Smith and the Timmion Records crew carrying on in the tradition and sounds of Curtom Records, the Chicago-based studio and label founded by Curtis Mayfield; Memphis soul; and of course, by default Motown for contemporary listeners.  Centered around a shuffling, two-step groove, a sultry horn line and Smith’s soulful crooning, 1634 Lexington Avenue‘s latest single “This Is What Love Looks Like!” draws from the classic love songs of the late 60s and 70s — and as a result, the song’s narrator expresses his devotion to his love with a swooning sweetness and passion devoid of the cynicism and selfishness of most contemporary pop.

“Here is a guy that woke up and realized what he had before it was too late and he is only too happy to share this with the world and he proclaims and declares his love for the world to hear,” Smith explains in press notes. “He is talking directly to his girl…but loud enough for everyone to hear because he is so proud of his involvement with her.”

New Video: Up-and-Coming British Singer-Songwriter Yola Celebrates the Hard-Working Little Person with Big Dreams

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the up-and-coming London-based singer/songwriter Yola, and as you may recall she’s led a rather remarkable life — the sort that should eventually be made into an inspiring biopic: She grew up extremely poor and as a child was actually banned from making music. As an adult, she has overcome homelessness, being an abusive relationship, stress-induced voice loss and literally being engulfed in flames in a house fire, and all of those things inspired her Dan Auerbach-proudced full-length debut Walk Through Fire, slated for a February 22, 2019 release through Easy Eye Sound. 

So far, the up-and-coming British singer/songwriter has received praise from a number of major media outlets both nationally and internationally including NPR, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, The Tennessean, Refinery 29, Billboard, American Songwriter, BrooklynVegan, Nashville Scene, Paste and Stereogum. But perhaps much more interesting for you reader, listener and viewer, Yola has had a lengthy career as a backing vocalist, songwriter and guest vocalist on a number of pop hits — and she has opened for James Brown and briefly was a member of the renowned trip hop act Massive Attack before traveling to Nashville to work with Auerbach and a backing band that features musicians, who have worked with Elvis and Aretha Franklin.  

Walk Through Fire’s first single “Ride Out in the Country” was a Muscle Shoals-like take on honky tonk country that to my ears recalled Sandra Rhodes’ under-appreciated Where’s Your Love Been. Centered around twangy guitar chords, lap steel guitar, some Rhodes electric organ, a soaring hook and Yola’s easy-going and soulful vocals, the song is an achingly sad breakup song, written from the perspective of someone reeling from a devastating breakup, complete with the recognition that your former lover has moved on and that maybe you should be doing so too — even if it’s profoundly difficult for you. “Faraway Look,Faraway Look,” the album’s second single was a slow-burning and swooning, Phil Spector Wall of Sound, meets classic Motown Records track that was centered around a soulful, old school arrangement and a soaring hook while being roomy enough for Yola’s incredible vocal range to shine in a well-written and well-crafted song. 

Walk Through Fire’s third and latest single “Love All Night (Work All Day)” is a slick and soulful amalgamation of Motown and Muscle Shoals soul, with a dash of Nashville country and 70s AM rock  and it’s a perfect vehicle for Yola’s warm and effortlessly soulful vocals. Much like the preceding singles, “Love All Night (Work All Day)” comes from hard-fought and hard-earned experience, which gives the material a wisdom and honesty that can be so rare in contemporary pop songs. In this case, the song’s narrator details a  life of working multiple jobs to scrape by, having big dreams and at some point taking an enormous risk to achieve them. And what makes the song remarkable, beyond its well-crafted and well-written nature, is the fact that the song is a celebration of the little person, who’s out there busting their ass to get by, trying to maintain their dignity and sanity in the rat race. Keep on dreaming and keep on hustling. 

Directed by Dan Teef, the recently released video for “Love All Night (Work All Day)” was shot in a South London bar and is centered around a beautiful young, working couple with big dreams. “My new video for ‘Love All Night (Work All Day)’ was shot in a stunning pub in Peckham, South London,” Yola says of the video for her latest single. “I’ve lived all over London (including on the streets in East London at one time) but before that I lived in a shared house in South London and I think the area will always feel like my London home. The song celebrates a way of life. It’s a life I used to live, growing up in Bristol and working multiple jobs to get by as I started out in music. I love listening to music from people who’ve not just been on a conveyor belt to the big time and I think it is important to hear more music from the working class again.  People who, at some point, had no choice but to work all day long and maybe take a risk in pursuit of what they love.”