Tag Archives: Jill Scott

Stevie Wonder-Happy Birthday!

Stevie Wonder - Copy

Thus far? 2015 has proven itself to be an important year for Stevie Wonder. He was the beneficiary of an all star Grammy tribute that included the likes of John Legend,Janelle Monae,Jill Scott and India.Arie. In addition he has recorded on two major records this year in-including “Crack In The Pearl Part II” and “Uptown ‘s First Finale” on Mark Ronson’s massively successful album Uptown Special, as well as on the latest collaboration between Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams Bush-playing and singing on the opening song “California Roll”

In addition to all this powerful musical activity? It’s been announced that Stevie is planning on releasing two separate albums this year. One is said to be a gospel album and the other a collaboration with David Foster. It’s unknown as to whether these or any other album project from Stevie is actually on the horizon. But one thing that’s been uppermost in my mind,as Stevie Wonder turns 65 today? It’s the prevailing attitude today that,much as James Brown was The Godfather Soul? It would seem that Stevie Wonder is now considered something of a godfather of neo soul.

One excellent example of this is the 1999 song “All That I Can Say”,performed by Mary J. Blige and composed by Lauryn Hill.  The multi layered,jazzy and melodic synthesizers and the easy going percussive rhythm define the songs core. And those are both signatures of Stevie Wonder’s musical approach: utilizing new electronic technology to create brand new structures of sound that could be emotionally felt as well as heard. Of course neo soul in particular hasn’t always come to grips very well with the strong control Stevie has over his idiosyncratic vocal approach. And that soft yet powerful rhythmic fullness only comes into the music on fairly rare occasions.

In the end? It all comes down to a conversation Rique and myself have had over and over again. That the most positive creative flower of Stevie Wonder’s musical influence comes from those inspired by his musical approach, rather than his vocal one. Composing music with the type of jazz phrasings Stevie tends to use broadens songwriting possibilities for contemporary musicians. And his emphasis on modern electronics to create emotional textures of sound is extremely useful as well. Since the past decade or so seems to showcase Stevie’s instrumental and compositional talents rather than merely less than satisfactory imitations of his vocal ones? The man’s influence,at least at present,seems to be in very good hands. Stevie Wonder,happy birthday to ya’!

 

 

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Filed under 1970's, India.Arie, Janelle Monae, Jazz, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Mavis Staples, Neo Soul, Pharrell Willaims, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder

Andre’s Amazon Archive 4/4/2015- ‘Experience: Jill Scott 826+’ by Jill Scott & Fatback Taffy

Experience_-Jill-Scott-826+-Disc-1-Live

Although originally inspired by jazz and funk’s incorporation into hip-hop the neo soul movement of the early/mid 90’s had certainly taken some interesting and unexpected turns by the beginning of the millennium. And no question this was part of that. After her debut Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 rocked the music world in such a huge way she released this album independently and at a reduced price. It did pretty well with fans who’d stuck by her before her years of recording I’m sure and likely did the same with those who’d been wowed by her debut. All the same this album was almost set up to be a nonevent in other ways. It disappeared off a lot of record store shelves shortly after release and is probably not her biggest seller. But it does present a wonderful and sound musical concept that has a strong appeal.

Basically what one gets here is a double album;one disc of a live concert featuring her band Fatback Taffy and another of demo level unreleased material. The live set on the first disc stands out the most. For one thing her band has a rich,creamy sound overall. Fatback Taffy have the advantage of being about to get that retro soul thing down to a tee while retaining much of hip-hop’s brooding spareness. She moves in and out of extended pieces such as “Love Rain”,”Do You Remember”,”It’s Love” and “Gettin’ In The Way” almost effortlessly as the songs thick,shuffling jazz styled funky soul textures flow from one tune to the next.

Musically the most fascinating and funky cuts is the high octane uptempo Latin percussion styled “He Loves Me” which brings to mind,of all things Stevie Wonder’s classic “Another Star”. Her overall attitude in the between song banter is one of confidence and wit. Retaining hip-hop styled musings regarding people “with naturals always supposed to be positive” she also adds she sometimes is,other times not while explaining away some easily misinterpreted lyrics from “Gettin’ In The Way”. The song titled after the band is done in a great old fashioned gospel styled rave up.

The studio disc is a whole other matter. Focused far more on the hip-hop side of her “Gotta Get Up” finds Jill having one of her self dialog about the world of duty versus personnel need. Of these tunes the chunky funk of “Gimme” and the uniquely vocally chorded “Be Ready” are the most individual of these songs but for a disc of unreleased music at this early point in a recording career,one really can’t expect complete musical evenness. That being the case one thing this album definitely isn’t lacking on is Jill’s type of self expression. She doesn’t possess the in-your-face attitude of many female hip-hop/neo/retro soul type artists. Instead she comes more from the 70’s OG era in terms of keeping her actual feelings just slightly guarded-choosing to express a more worldly outlook than an inward one. Her internal dialog is only occasionally expressed and that makes it an important element of her sound. The moody rhythmic and melodic side of her music also expresses this well. Even though she started out with a bang this album represents her intent on focusing on her music as art more than as a commodity.

Originally Posted June 24th,2011

Link to original review here*

Stay tuned to Andresmusictalk for a new weekly feature,inspired by friend and blogging partner Rique,called Anatomy of THE Original Super Heavy Funk. This will be focused on classic funk/jazz/soul songs from the early 60’s up through the disco era. And for now will be posted the first and last Monday’s of every month. Thank you!

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Filed under 2001, Fatback Taffy, Funk, Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, Jill Scott, Neo Soul, OG's, Soul, Stevie Wonder

Stevie Is Wonderful: Inner Visions Of Songs In The Key Of Life-An All-Star Grammy Tribute To Stevie Wonder

Janelle,Jill And India Pay Tribute to Stevie

On Presidents Day evening,the Grammy Awards association aired a television special on CBS featuring contemporary artists,many of them award winners themselves,in order to pay tribute to Mister Stevie Wonder. Not only was this a tribute to an artist I completely admire creatively. But someone who won awards and earned his success and fortune through the true innovation of sound. It was an event filled with many surprises. And today I would like to talk about what I saw,sung,laughed and danced to watching that night right along with so much of America!

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The evening began with Beyonce performing a medley of Stevie’s first hit “Fingertips” and “Master Blaster” joined by guitar player Ed Sheeran. The highlight of this intro was from the guitarist Gary Clark Jr,who played a rocking blues electric guitar solo on a rendition of “Higher Ground”.

LL Cool J

LL Cool J was of course MC’ing the entire affair as he has the previous two Grammy Award ceremonies. He began by talking about Stevie Wonder’s effect on his life-as many of the artist this night did. Wonder was visibly moved to tears by this level of affection for his art. Towards the end of the special,LL asked the audience all over the world to close our eyes for a moment to contemplate the level of vision Wonder projects into his music. A very meaningful gesture.

Gaga doing I Wish

Lady Gaga’s performance of “I Wish” moved me perhaps the most on this special. Playing the Fender Rhodes electric piano with the help of keyboard maestro (and former Wonderlove member) Greg Phillinganes, Gaga was moved to move rhythmically to the music as Phillinganes took over the keyboard soloing. Not only was this a pronounced celebration of the instrumental ability of an artist mainly acknowledged as a performer. But was a pretext to a beautiful shout out and citation to the often very unsung talent of Greg Phillinganes himself-especially as a participant in Stevie’s ascent into iconic status in music.

Annie Lennox Stevie Wonder Songs In The Key Of Life - An All-Star GRAMMY Salute

Annie Lennox took on “My Cherie Amour”,vocally taking on a full bodied understanding of the emotional juxtaposition between passion,flirtatiousness and awkwardness expressed in this song. Jill Scott,Janelle Monae and India Arie-pictured at the top of this blog paying tribute to their favorite Stevie Wonder albums,gave a truly powerful group duet of the song “As”. Not only did they successfully pay tribute as presenter Mary Wilson indicated of the classic girl group dynamic? But each of them took a try at imitating Stevie’s famous growled vocal bridge of the song.

ryan_tedder_pharrell_stevie_wonder_tribute_h_2015

Pharrell Williams and Ryan Tedder did a spirited duet version of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing”-pointing out that often a song intended as a singular expression by an individual can be reflected by two as well.

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson bought her powerful gospel fueled pipes to a passionate take on the renowned ballad “All In Love Is Fair”. She maintained the flavor of the song as a secularized romantic hymn until the very last note was sung. Stevie’s daughter Aisha joins Ne-Yo in a duet of “Isn’t She Lovely”-essentially paying it forward to her fathers musical tribute to her birth.

andre-bocelli

Andrea Bocelli shares physical blindness in common with Stevie Wonder and for this particular occasion? He gives his own vocally expression rendition of “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. Ed Sheeran did an acapella/guitar rendition of “I Was Made To Love Her” showcasing Wonder’s talents as a multi instrumentalist.

ariana-grande-and-babyface-stevie-wonder-tribute

Relative newcomer Ariana Grande performed “Signed Sealed and Delivered” in an acoustic bluesy soul flavored rendition with Babyface performing the vocal duet and playing acoustic guitar in accompaniment. Another example of a song intended from one person’s point of view-this time taken from a male/female dynamic.


Overall this was a very impressive tribute. All of the participants did something totally unexpected with Wonder’s songs. And most importantly? There was a great deal of understanding of the man’s musical visions from them as well. Paul McCartney made a brief guest appearance sharing personal reminiscences of knowing “Little Stevie” as a teenager. And perhaps Tony Bennett before his performance of “For Once In My Life” said one key artistic point-that Stevie Wonder’s vocal and compositional spontaneity made him one of the best jazz artist Tony’d ever heard.

Perhaps the best observations came from Stevie Wonder himself. Having been cited for his often unsung importance as the public consciousness of the crusade to make Martin Luther King Jrs birthday a national holiday in 1980? Stevie played a medley of his fusion instrumental “Contusion” and “Sir Duke”. He than spoke to the audience about how the only way humanity could deal with it’s present cultural clashes would be to come together with our differences,not use them as a wedge. The fact Stevie’s views on humanitarianism have remained consistent throughout the years says the most important thing about the interconnection between this man and his musical offerings.

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Filed under Andrea Bocelli, Annie Lennox, Ariana Grande, Babyface, Beyonce', Ed Sheeran, India.Arie, Janelle Monae, Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott, Lady Gaga, LL Cool J, Paul McCartney, Pharrell Willaims, Ryan Tedder, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett

The Anatomy of THE Groove 6/13/14 Riques’ Pick: “So in Love” by Jill Scott & Anthony Hamilton

Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton have bulletproof reps in the modern soul and R&B arena as artists of great talent as well as integrity. Those reputations both help sell records as well as limit those sales to those who still have some appreciation for “artistic integrity.” 2011’s funky spring to summer hit, “So In Love” provided both of them with something different, a #1 R&B smash that rocked barbecues, dance classes, parades, wedding receptions, lounges and karaoke bars. Scott and Hamilton successfully transfered their heartfelt earnesty and top notch vocal skills to a fun dance groove. Hamilton in particular has a reputation for singing about the downs of love perhaps a tad more enthusiastically than he sings about the ups, but “So in Love” finds him luxuriating in a groove both aesthetic and practical.

The song begins with an acoustic guitar playing an arpeggiated suspended pattern with a sound very reminiscent of a harp. The guitar is supported y a Rhodes tone. Percussion backs this harmony setting intro as A Hamilton vocalizes soulfully, with syllables sans words. After 4 seemingly quick bars of this breeze by, we’re introduced to what is in my opinion, one of the best funky soul bass lines of the past 15 years. It’s a descending pattern built off funky eight notes, sharp, funky and short. It’s the type of pattern that would be essential for a younger player just beginning to learn, in terms of its lack of complexity but maximum groove factor. The drums are also bare bones funky, a funky disco era drum beat replete with backyard hand claps. At the end of the cycle, the drummer plays huge gated orchestral sounding drum fills, a la Stevie Wonder’s drumming on the chorus of 1982’s “That Girl.”

Hamilton’s verse is filled with working man earnesty. He sings a tale in the manner of a hardworking man, delighted to see his special lady for the value she adds to his being. After a chorus of “So in Love with you”, Miss Jill Scott makes her grand entrance, her bright alto providing a sharp conrast with Anthony Hamilon’s molasses dripping baritone. I was always impressed by the thought Scott expressed in her vocal, a thought of a woman admiring her man from afar, watching him and his interactions with his male friends and colleagues. It reminded me of a woman looking at you from across the room and smiling, and if you were inexperienced, you might not know why, but Jill spills the beans on what that smile is about here, “I see you cross the room/talking to some men/I love your mannerisms baby/the way you handle them.”

The bridge hits at around 1:35 into the song, and it shifts textures a bit to a solid, steady rhythm, with the bass line playing stern quarter notes lined up with the drums, and the hi hats of the drums playing the classic disco hi hat pattern. And this section does give us a soulful disco vibe, with much in common with the feel of R&B inflected late ’70s smooth disco, like the sound of Scott’s hometown of Philadelphia. Following the bridge is a drumless breakdown with Jill putting her spoken word skills to use, describing the beneficiary of her affection as a “breath of fresh air”, among other things.

From here, quite uniquely and in an obvious funky soul throwback, the song ends out on a long vamp, without another verse of lyrics from Scott and Hamilton. Instead, backed up by choruses of “So in Love with You”, Scott and Hamilton work their vocal magic, ad libbing, as the bass also has more room to stretch out and try different patterns, and the drummer adds in fills to keep the groove moving. At one point, Jill lets out a sexy, playful giggle. The song breaks downs and ends on a vamp without drums, a long vamp backed by percussion and finger snaps, with the guitar playing it’s broken chord pattern. The deletion of the drums in particular allows you to hear the movement of the guitarists hands across the strings. Jill sings in a cool after glow, terms of endearment for her love, also backing herself with a track of high vocals, with Hamilton riffing along soulfully.

With the passage of Maya Angelou earlier this month and Ruby Dee yesterday, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about who is going to replace them in our current generation, who’s going to carry their legacies on. This would be not merely in terms of talent, but also moral authority and inspiration. Of course, we all have to live our own courses, but Jill Scott has always been one of my top choices since she came on the scene in 2000. Her albums with songs such as “Golden” and “Is it the Way”, and other hits, and her acting roles such as her Mama Rowatse in “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”, as well as her poetry have always presented her as a woman of depth and class, with the sparkling ability to make sense of her experineces, whether they be ecstacies, agonies, ponderings or actions.

The video for “So in Love” is also special and captures the music perfectly. “So in Love” basically has an old school groove, that is in a ’70s style but actually reminds you of any time period from the ’60s to now. A backyard barbecue, family reunion, parents having a party downstairs type of vibe. The video focuses on Hamilton and Scott as a couple, Hamilton getting off work to go see Scott. But it also has a multi generational vibe, as they seem to be present at a renewal of vows for possibly, Scott’s mother. Seeing the older couple energizes Scott and Hamilton to keep going on  along the vibrant romantic path they find themselves on. There is also a cool dancing scene that features different generations, sons dancing with moms, getting down with aunts, daughters cutting a rug with fathers, older and younger people all together under a groove.

One of the reasons this song is so refreshing for me is that at times I think about current black music and I wonder how you could ever play it for your children. I remember when I was a kid and the “Bad” video debuted and our whole family watching it together, as well as my dad who was 55 at the time playing that album just as much as he played his Jimmy Smith or Crusaders, along with Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross and other artists of the ’80s. There was always music that was off limits as well, such as certain Prince songs, but there was a lot to choose from that could be enjoyed as a family. I hate to think of the same thing being done with Lil Wayne’s music. “So in Love” is a definite throwback to that feel good family music. It’s not corny, because the emotions and sentiments are not easily understood by children either, but the groove is something that’s uplifting, as is the intent. It’s one they can groove to now and appreciate more later, as was much of the music I grew up on. The video’s dance scenes reminds me that the kids have grown up and  are dancing (living, working, moving, being responsible) with the parents now. Scott and Hamilton also have a great deal of fun, with Hamilton doing some playful, goofy popping moves. So as we lose artists and entertainers who have stood tall as luminaries of human feeling, responsibility and positive action, I celebrate those among us today like Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton, and I’m sure they will be remebered as great artists often are, with even more love and appreciation in the future than they are currently, after the cream rises to the top that is.

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, 1990s, Blogging, Funk, Funk Bass, Late 70's Funk

Andre’s Amazon Archive for May 17th,2014: Incognito-‘Amplified Soul’

Amplified Soul

A Celebratory Album For Incognito!

When I first discovered Incognito when my own mother purchased their 1999 album No Time Like the Future album in a budget bin at the now defunct Wild Rufus records on Coastal Maine,who could’ve guessed that by that time there would be a decade or more of catching up to do with them. There was no internet in our household at that time. So all there was to pay attention to was the music. Since then I’ve been able to learn what a journeyman musicians career Bluey has had since he first recorded as Incognito in the early 80’s and reformed the outfit a decade later. I call them that because its never been a totally formalized band. Many members have come in and out over the years. Yet since 1991 they’ve maintained a very consistent schedule of album releases,touring and appearances on other artists records. They represent not only a modern day jazz-funk band,but a similar spirit to the originals in the sense that much of the “acid jazz” genre,which encompasses that ethic,seems to revolve around them in some kind of way. And here we are,its 2014 and Incognito are celebrating 35 years as an entity. And this album represents part of that big celebration.

Normally I’d start such a review discussing the pluses. However,just to get it out of the way “I Couldn’t Love You More”,”Rapture”,”Day Or Night”,”Another Way”,”I See The Sun” and “The Hands Of Time” are not only highly repetitive of one another,but also of the sort of major/minor chorded horn based mid-tempo grooves that seem to comprise the bulk of much of Incognito’s albums since the beginning of the millennium. That being said,they are all wonderfully played and performed. “Hands Up If You Want To Be Loved” mixes it up with a rhythmic lilt and a bit of a slick gospel drenched juke joint type piano. “Hats (Makes Me Wanna Holler)”,with its 60’s era Crusaders/Ramsey Lewis/Young Holt uptempo hand clap-powered gospel soul/funk just cannot help but bring to mind a musical response to Pharrell Williams newly iconic hit Happy. “Silver Shadow” is my favorite song on the album,with its powerfully melodic chorus and glistening,high pitched dyno’d electric piano chords right out of the early 80’s sophistifunk school the band themselves came out of to begin with.

“Day Or Night” has a jazzy neo soul flavor very much in the vein of a Jill Scott or Erykah Badu. “Something ‘Bout July” gets into a Stevie Wonder style Latin soul/funk samba type groove while “Wind Sorceress” again provides that hyper melodic stop/start sophistifunk groove on a more instrumental end of things. “Never Known A Love Like This Before” is one of their always strong disco friendly uptempo dance/funk scorchers “Stop Running Away” is a cinematic type groove with Bluey singing in a captivating (at least to me) choked Curtis Mayfield style falsetto. The title song,presented in two parts,also continues in the cinematic funk vein. This would’ve been a near perfect album in every way since there is an overriding Chitlin’ Circuit style of chunky,gospel drenched funky soul-jazz about some of these songs that showcase a new instrumental direction with Incognito. Not to mention the uptempo Afro-Latin style percussion dance/funk numbers are among their best. Maysa,while an asset,is not present here however this I have no trouble with. The only thing that detracts from this album is something they’ve tended to do a lot: rely too much of minor chorded mid-tempo grooves that sound similar and make the album go on somewhat longer than it may need to. Still that doesn’t take away too much from the fact they are still here. And make it clear they have intentions on innovating their music and perhaps learning from their creative missteps in their bright looking future to come.

Originally Reviewed…Today

*Here is a link to the original review on Amazon.com. Please view and comment on site as well. Thank you!

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1WZCFV6ZK936J/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00J6CGDFO

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Filed under Acid Jazz, Disco, Funk, Incognito, Jazz, Memphis Soul, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Pharrell Willaims, Soul, Stevie Wonder